Helmuth von Moltke
Essays, Speeches, and Memoirs
We candidly confess our belief in the idea, on which so much ridicule has been cast, of a general European peace. Not that long and bloody wars are to cease from henceforth, our armies be disbanded, and our cannons recast into nails; that is too much to expect; but is not the whole course of the world's history an approximation to such a peace? When we look back to the earliest ages, do we not see the hand of everyone raised against his neighbour? And even in the middle ages, did not knights and barons, castles and towns continue to fight with each other till stopped by the princes, who claimed the monopoly of war for themselves? And today! Is a Spanish war of succession, or a war 'pour les beaux yeux de Madame,' possible in our times?
Would Holland be allowed to disturb the peace of Europe for the sake of a province, Naples for the monopoly of sulphur, Portugal for the navigation of the Douro? It is for a very small number of powers that the possibility of setting the world ablaze is reserved. Wars will become rarer and rarer because they are growing expensive beyond measure; positively because of the actual cost; negatively because of the necessary neglect of work. Has not the population of Prussia, under a good and wise administration, increased by a fourth in twenty-five years of peace? And are not her fifteen millions of inhabitants better fed, clothed and instructed today than her eleven millions used to be? Are not such results equal to a victorious campaign or to the conquest of a province, with that greater difference that they are not gained at the expense of other nations, nor with the sacrifice of the enormous number of victims that a war demands? And is there any European country that has not made similar conquests, though in most cases they have been on a smaller scale? When we consider the milliards which Europe has to spend every year on her military budget, the millions of men in the prime of life who are called away from their business in order to be trained for a possible war, it is not hard to see how these immense powers might be utilized and made more and more productive. May we not hope that Europe will, in the course perhaps of decades, perhaps of centuries, agree upon a mutual disarmament, and show us the reverse of the picture presented to us today by France, who wishes to sell her coat for a suit of armour?
It has been said that with the cessation of war, men would lose their moral energy and unlearn the virtue of sacrificing their lives for an idea, whether honour, loyalty, glory, patriotism, or religion. This fear may not be altogether without foundation, and the rarer war becomes in Europe, the more necessary will it be to find a field of activity for the surplus energy of the rising generation. England has found in every continent and on every ocean scenes of action, where the younger sons of her nobility are provided for, where the martial courage of her youths is tried, where new channels are opened to her commerce and new markets for her industry. France has sought an outlet for the often morbid excess of her energy in Algiers, and if her attempts at colonization have so far met with little success, we wish her endeavours the best results in the interest of civilization. But should not Germany gladly seize the opportunity of extending German civilization and energy, industry and honesty beyond the German frontier, when such an opportunity presents itself?