The obstacles to peace are not obstacles in matter, in inanimate nature, in the mountains which we pierce, in the seas across which we fly. The obstacles to peace are in the minds and hearts of men. In the study of matter we can be honest, impartial, true. That is why we succeed in dealing with it. But about the things we care for which are ourselves, our desires and lusts, our patriotisms and hates we find a harder test of thinking straight and truly. Yet there is the greater need. Only by intellectual rectitude and in that field shall we be saved. There is no refuge but in truth, in human intelligence, in the unconquerable mind of man.
Man's greatest advances these last few generations have been made by the application of human intelligence to the management of matter. Now we are confronted by a more difficult problem, the application of intelligence to the management of human relations. Unless we can advance in that field also, the very instruments that man's intelligence has created may be the instruments of his destruction.
Not more knowledge but better use of the knowledge which we now have, is perhaps the main educational need and the main educational problem which confronts us.
I would not hesitate to say that nine out of ten of the critics of the peace movement get the argument turned upside down. "You cannot change human nature" has become a sort of incantation with those critics. Perhaps you cannot "change human nature" I don't indeed know what the phrase means. But you can certainly change human behavior, which is what matters, as the whole panorama of history shows.
The fact that men are naturally quarrelsome is presumed to be an argument against such institutions as the League. But it is precisely the fact of the natural pugnacity of man that makes such institutions necessary. If men were naturally and easily capable of being their own judges, always able to see the other's case, never got into panics, never lost their heads, never lost their tempers and called it patriotism why, then we should not want a League. But neither should we want in that case most of our national apparatus of government either parliaments, congresses, courts, police, ten commandments. These are all means by which we deal with the unruly element in human nature.
In the modern world, material is only wealth if you can get rid of it. The British miner cannot eat his coal, nor clothe his children with it, nor build his house with it. If coal is to mean for the British miner food and shelter and clothing, he must get rid of it. Get rid of it, that is, to someone who has money, sell it. But how is that someone to get money? He can only get it by one means: By getting rid of his material to someone who has money, who can only get money by getting rid of his material round the world.
Within the state we have made defense of the individual the obligation of the whole community, and by that fact have established such preponderance of power on the side of the law that it could never be good business to challenge it. And that fact has, in large measure, swept highwaymen from the roads and pirates from the seas.
One great state says to others, as each in effect has been saying during the ten years of armament debate: "It is true that we ask for considerable power. Perhaps, all things considered, greater power than you. But it need not disturb you in the least, for we give you our most positive assurance that that power will be used purely for defense. And by defense we mean this: that when we get into a dispute with you as to our respective rights, when, that is, the question is whether you are right or we are right, what we mean by defense is that we shall always be in a position to be sole judge of the question. And so much stronger than you, that you will have to accept our verdict without any possibility of appeal. Could anything be fairer?"
Now, please don't misunderstand me. When I point out that all our wars for a thousand years have been fought in other people's countries, I do not mean that any of these wars was necessarily aggressive. They may well have been, everyone of them, defensive. But plainly they were not defensive of soil, territory. Of what then were they defensive? They were defensive of the nation's interests, rights; interests which may well collide with the interests of other nations in any part of the world ... Nations do so differ as to what their respective rights are and differ sincerely. And often the question, which of the two is right, is extremely difficult, as anyone who has attempted to disentangle rival territorial claims in the Balkans or elsewhere knows only too well.
To shut our eyes to the part that John Smith plays in the perpetuation of unworkable policies, in building up the forces of which he becomes the victim, is to perpetuate his victimization. The only means by which he can be liberated from the evil power of organized minorities is by making him aware of the nature of the impulses and motives to which the exploiters so successfully appeal. If such phenomena as nationalism, for instance, can assume forms that are gravely dangerous, it is because the nationalist appeal finds response in deep human impulses, instincts, in psychological facts which we must face.
Our evils are due mainly to the failure to apply to our international relationships knowledge which is of practically universal possession, often self-evident in the facts of daily life and experience.
Let us face squarely the paradox that the world which goes to war is a world, usually, genuinely desiring peace. War is the outcome, not mainly of evil intentions, but on the whole, of good intentions which miscarry or are frustrated. It is made, not usually by evil men knowing themselves to be wrong, but is the outcome of policies pursued by good men usually passionately convinced that they are right.
It is, of course, merely a truism to say that war, like other social or political evils, is the outcome of the bad management of human society, which is, in its turn, due to certain errors or deficiencies. But our task is to discern the sort of error or deficiency.
The prosperity of a people depends upon such facts as the natural wealth of the country in which they live, their social discipline and industrial character, the result of generations, of centuries, it may be, of tradition. In addition it depends upon a special technical capacity for such-and-such a manufacture, a special aptitude for meeting the peculiarities of such-and-such a market, the efficient equipment of elaborately constructed workshops, and the existence of a population trained to given trades.
This book endeavors to clear away the mists which prevent so many from seeing the road.