Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No Regard For Prophets

"Fair warning had been given to all thinking people in the West by an English journalist named Normal Angell. In 1909 he had written a pamphlet entitled Europe's Optical Illusion. His thesis was simple: modern war between great powers means a dead loss for both victor and vanquished. The pamphlet attracted wide attention, which led to Angell to expand it into a fully documented work retitled The Great Illusion—A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage. In it he quoted the words of leaders on all sides who entertained the great illusion. He showed that the existing ways of international finance put the wealth of one nation at the mercy of another. Hostilities would ensure their common loss. Colonies were no asset but a subsidized expense; annexing them or some part of a defeated country, or occupying it to levy tribute was yet more wasteful. Besides, the cost of an up-to-date war would be ruinous. All the resources of all the participants would be drained dry. No nation and no individual would benefit from victory. A large-scale war in 20C Europe would be suicide disguised as self-interest.

The argument was so clear, temperate, and convincing that all who gave their minds to it believed it. But it is one thing to believe that one's previous idea is wrong and another to act on the newly revealed right. Habit, social pressures, a streak of fatalism conspire to keep action in the groove already dug. The Great Illusion was not heeded by enacted." P 705-706

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