The Charlotte News

SUNDAY, MAY 2, 1937


Some Reasons:

Why We Went to To War

-- By W. J. Cash

Site ed. note: Cash appears to argue the obvious--that the British Empire cannot be sacrificed to Hitler's empire; but that was strangely an abstruse concept to many if not most Americans in 1937--28 months before Hitler invaded Poland. Indeed, John Foster Dulles,later Secretary of State to President Eisenhower, went about the country in the latter Thirties arguing, as did Charles Lindbergh and his wife Ann Morrow, that Nazism was the inevitable "wave of the future" in Europe--a kind of necessary evil to stabilize the economies of Europe and stamp out the peasant uprisings which would otherwise pave the way for Communism.

For a more philosophical discussion by Cash on the causes of warfare, penned nine years before this article, with specific reference to World War I, see "Who Nurtures War?" - March 18, 1928, a "Moving Row" column of The News.


Somewhere along back in the early 1920's a gal who was a good deal brighter than I was introduced me to John Kenneth Turner's "Shall It Be Again?". And about the same time I got hold of a little book by a Frenchman who said succinctly "They Land." And from the two, and worship of the gal, I emerged with the conviction that the Allies were more to blame for the Great War than the Germans and the Austrians--were indeed, almost entirely to blame--that we had absolutely no business in the struggle and that we should never have got there at all had Walter Hines Page 1 not been a congenital toady and Mr. Wilson half a soft-headed sentimentalist and half a servile politician under the sway of the munitions makers and the wicked Mr. Morgan.

Afterwards, I read Harry Elmer Barnes' "Origins of the World War" and Professor Fay's extended examination of the same theme. Then, really warming up to the subject, I read the Russian revelations and the German revelations and the Austrian revelations and the Serbian revelations and the English revelations and the Memoirs of Lord Grey--with the result that by 1928 or 1929 I was practically a monomaniac. I used to rave and roar and foam.


But today a more extended examination of the facts and a somewhat greater reflection have pretty well modified all that. I do not mean, surely, that I have come around to thinking that the Allied politicians were lovely little saints, or that the war was primarily anything so sweet as a crusade for democracy. I know very well that Edward Grey was as shabby an old Pecksniff as Stanley Baldwin himself. I haven't the slightest doubt of the scoundrelism of Poincare and Izvolski. There is no respect in me still for Walter Hines Page's incessant knee-bending at the court of St. James. And though I have come to have an increasing respect for Mr. Wilson, I still believe that he was too-much inclined to take words for realities.

Nevertheless, it does seem to me that the revisionist argument comes to little at the best. Granted that England did go to war to protect her empire and France for revenge and recovery of her lost provinces--what would one expect of England to do but go to war to protect her empire? And if it is perfectly natural that the criminal treaty made at Versailles in 1919 would have ended in the Hitler madness, was it not just as natural that the criminal treaty made at Versailles in 1870 should have ended in a French resolution to have revenge and to recover Alsace and Lorraine? Granted that the monkey-business of Poincare nerved the Russians to serve notice on Austria that the invasion of Serbia meant war. It is nevertheless true that it was the Austrians and the Germans who were on the offensive. It is true that it was the Germans who first declared war. It is true not only that troops were set in motion toward France before she had declared war, but also that the demand made upon her that she hand over the fortresses of Toul and Verdun as guarantees of her neutrality--an action that would have left her perfectly defenseless--was one of the most insolent ever heard of in the world.


The plain and inescapable fact that the Germans had for 50 years been planning to seize--not that ridiculous thing of world empire--but the hegemony of Europe, and steadfastly moving upon it, France and Russia were to be eliminated as serious contenders and then it was to be England's turn. And the preposterous demands made upon Serbia--preposterous despite the undoubted conniving of the Serbian government at the murder of Francis Ferdinand--were simply another step in the general scheme. For it was to give Germany supreme command of the Balkans. She expected war? She probably did not. Both Russia and France had been bluffed so often that she expected to bluff them again.

But the fact remains, and such being the case, it is difficult to see how the Allied leaders could have acted otherwise than they did. Soon or late, they had to call the bluff and bring things to a showdown or submit tamely to being crowded out of their accustomed place.


And as for our going into the war--we obviously had overwhelming good reason in the facts. Had we failed to go, indeed, we should have become a mere kicking-stock for whoever cared to kick. But it would have been best if the war had ended in a stalemate? Perhaps, though the interim would have been a mere armed truce, and the war we are now threatened with would be even more inevitable. But it would not in fact have ended in a stalemate. The Allies were beaten--by the submarine. That weapon destroyed 4,000,000 tons of British shipping in the first half of 1917 and England would have been shortly starved into submission if it had not been for the intervention of her navy--and our rapid building of ships to replace those sunk.

And like the British empire or not, our interests are indissolubly bound up with it. We could not then, and we cannot today, observe its defeat and destruction with equanimity. And certainly we could not indifferently observe its defeat and replacement by a German empire--by an empire under the sway of a political idea as completely at variance with our own as the Junker's will-to-power--an ideal which has reached its natural and inevitable flower in Hitlerism. There was indeed a modicum of truth in that old sentimental cant about a war for democracy. In some sense the same opposed philosophies which are lining up in the world today were already fighting there.

1 Walter Hines Page, a North Carolina newspaper publisher, founded Page & Doubleday publishing and in 1903 published friend Thomas Dixon's racist novel, The Leopard's Spots, which, with the 1905 bestseller, The Clansman, also published by Page, formed the basis for D.W. Griffith's 1915 film "Birth of a Nation", the runaway success of which for years afterward is considered to have given birth to Hollywood and the movies as a popular idol. Page told the story that he was so engrossed while reading the manuscript for The Leopard's Spots that he walked in front of a Manhattan streetcar causing his blood to spill all over the manuscript; perhaps, he should have noted the literary nature of that experience and relegated the manuscript to the trash heap. Nevertheless, Page also sought to effect change in the South in a positive manner in his newspaper editing and in his books, as duly pointed out by Cash in The Mind of the South.

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