The Charlotte News

SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 1937

BOOK REVIEW AND EDITORIAL

Best Book About:

The Causes Of War

-- Reviewed By W. J. Cash

Site ed. note: Unlike his earlier article, "Who Nurtures War?" in April, 1928, this article becomes less philosophical and more practical in its pursuit of the "causes" of war and why the United States cannot afford, literally, to remain neutral when the continent of Europe, or any part of it, is threatened with violently enforced fascism. The arguments may yet ring true today in 1999 vis vis the conflict between the Kosovars and Serbian rebels. The question, as in all human conflict large and little, is how the goals of the two sides, if they be just, may be compromised short of war; and if they be unjust on one side or the other, how to talk the one side into sacrificing its unjust goals for the good of its own people in the long run. But, absent such compromise or sacrifice, prolonged instability and imperialism in Europe historically always redounds to the detriment of the United States and thus we must intervene and lend support. The article explains why.

A little book which ought to be required reading for the eminent statesmen who are currently engaged in ramming the Pittman Neutrality bill through congress is Clyde Eagleton's "Analysis of the Problem of War," published by the Ronald Press of New York at $1.50. Dr. Clyde Eagleton (I assume that he is a doctor of philosophy, though for a marvel, he says nothing about it in on the title page) is professor of government in New York University, and his book, running only to 132 pages, is by far the clearest and most sensible study of what we are up against when we propose to abolish war that I have seen.

The theory behind the current neutrality legislation, of course, is that war is a form of gratuitous wickedness peculiar (so far as the Western world goes) to the depraved and effete peoples of Europe, and that all we need to do to keep out of the thing is simply resolutely to make up our minds to stay at home, mind our own business, and have absolutely nothing to do with either side when the conflict breaks out. As a theory, it is just about tops in idiocy, even in a country where idiotic theories are certainly no rarity. For every one of its assumptions, explicit and implicit, is obviously and indisputably wrong.

War is damnable, certainly. But, as Prof. Eagle points out, there is virtually nobody in the world who is not convinced of that--and certainly no European. The Germans and the Italians? Oh, yes. Mussolini and Hermann (Das Schwein) Goering sometimes bleat out paeans in praise of the old god of the Oscans and the Umbrians and of the Saxons and the Danes but even in the case of such psychopaths, it may be suspected that what they really love is not war, but power. And as for the body of the Huns and the body of the Wops--Mr. Walter Millis has just written a book in which the distaste of the German and Italian people for war on a big scale is put forward as all but conclusive proof that there will be no great European conflict soon.

Yes, war is wicked, and everybody is agreed about that. But--it is not gratuitous wickedness, either on the part of the Europeans or the Japs or anybody else. War, Prof. Eagleton points out, is ultimately merely the use of force for the accomplishments of ends which a people consider to be essential, and for which no other means of accomplishment is available. In the absolute, these ends may be worthy or unworthy, depending on the viewpoint and the system of ethics from which judgment is made. They may be economic; in the modern world they are increasingly economic, but they are not entirely economic as the Marxists have it. They may be political, they may be religious, they may be ideological, they may be sentimental--as they mainly were in the case of the United States in 1917. But always, whatever their nature and whether they are worthy in the absolute or no, they seem completely worthy to the people to whom they belong--are always everywhere bound up with the notion of "rights." And the use of force for whatever seems worthy and for whatever is bound up with the notion of "rights" has always been, and probably always will be, thoughtfully justified by the generality of men.

Still granting that Europe will fight tomorrow, not out of gratuitous wickedness but because war seems to the various nations a necessary means to necessary ends, why can't we keep out of the struggle? Why don't the neutrality laws keep us out of it?

Well, in the first place, they assume that we are not a part, and a very pivotal part, of the world community. But that was proved false so long ago as the War of 1812, which, of course, was simply the backlash upon us of the tremendous struggle between Britain and Boney the Great. And it was proved infinitely more false in 1914-1917. When war comes upon Europe, the markets of the continent will fling wide open to us. But the neutrality laws will see to it that we don't use them? Yes, and then cotton will go plunging down, and steel and copper will go plunging down, and hundreds of factories will close up their doors, and thousands, even millions, will join our already overwhelming army of unemployed. And Southern farmers and Western farmers and industrial magnates and labor leaders will swarm upon Washington, screaming a blue fit. More yet, for our refusal to sell what we have the other nations will retaliate by refusing to sell us what we lack, and so--most of our little automobiles, for instance, will have to stand up in the garage for lack of rubber tires. And over the whole vast land there will be one mighty roar of discontent--a torrential flood of personal peeves and personal desires sweeping down upon the weak dam of an abstract assertion of principle.

Nor is that all. These neutrality laws assume also that we are human blanks, that we have no prejudices, that we will not care which side wins, that, for all our Fascists, most of us will not dance with glee when Hitler and the The Big Bad Man at Rome catch hell, and wax furious when our democratic confreres, England and France, come in for grief--that most of us will not view a possible defeat for the democratic powers as a contingency which strikes straight upon our own interests, and so as one not to be tolerated.

And worst of all, these laws make the assumption that Americans are actually going to be willing in practice to abandon all their historic "rights,"to give the belligerent powers carte blanche to slap us in the face, and take it lying down. It is an astoundingly silly assumption. For, however absurd the American people may sometimes be, it cannot be fairly charged that it has ever been either a craven or an humble people. "No one wounds me with impunity," is a device that fits no other national so perfectly as it fits the American, with the tradition of the old frontier still within him. Nobody is more jaded of the notion of "rights," and nobody gets his back up quicker.

Is there, then, no hope of avoiding war in the future? Is the blamed thing going to be with us always? Not necessarily--thinks Prof. Eagleton. There is, he believes, one possible way out. For what that way is I'll have to let you buy the book and find out.


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