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in the history of Europe; it was not, as is often so falsely suggested, the old system of the balance of power ; for it no single man (except perhaps Bismarck) was responsible. Originally it had arisen from the attempts to avert war; this was the primary cause of each stage in its growththe German-Austrian Alliance, the Triple Alliance, the Franco-Russian Alliance, the Entente. It was a system which none had willed and none, least of all those who had to use it, liked. Every one would gladly have done away with it; but this was impossible. It was there, and it formed the terrain on which each move had to be made. To deal with it made enormous demands on the intellectual and moral powers of those in authority. The remarkable thing is that they managed for so many years to handle the situation without a catastrophe; for this, above all, Sir Edward Grey is responsible, and we always find him, with sure tact, warning men off any hasty or ill-considered action.
To decipher every riddle, to watch and describe every move in the complicated play of forces, would be a fascinating task, but one of extraordinary difficulty. On the other hand, nothing is more futile or more misleading than, as so many do, to seize on an isolated episode, a few words in a single telegram, and to base on this the suggestion that, it may be, Russia or France, or even Germany herself, was deliberately heading for war. This is not the way in which history can be written or judgments formed.
The ultimate judgment on this epoch of European history will probably be that the real injury from this system of alliances was not that it brought about war, but that it made local and partial wars impossible. The result was that problems, instead of being solved, were allowed to accumulate, so that the whole atmosphere became overcharged. Had these alliances not existed, then Russia and Austria would have been able to settle their differences with one another, while the rest of Europe, standing aloof, could at the right moment have intervened either to prevent war or to stop it. And always the great danger came, not so much from the alliances themselves as from the intense rivalry of armaments by which they were accompanied. We have scarcely touched a fringe of the great mass of valuable material contained in this work. A fuller study would show how great were the difficulties which from time to time arose out of the agreement with Russia, especially with regard to Persia and the Baghdad railway. It is clear also that, throughout, the relations of Russia to Great Britain were very different from those of France. It was essentially a political agreement, and was not accompained by any close feeling of friendship and fellowship between the
the nations ; the strong antagonism felt to the methods of the former Russian Government by many large sections of this country always made real friendship impossible, as Benckendorff again and again explained. As a political agreement, it brought with it certain difficulties and dangers, the nature of which we have indicated. Russian diplomacy in the old days had a bad name; and no one could have been surprised if, when the secret archives were disclosed, much came to light which, had it been known at the time, would have been seriously distasteful to our Government. The disclosures have now been made, and from a source not friendly to the Entente; if we are to judge by them, then the only conclusion we can draw is that those in authority in Russia were on the whole working in a spirit of loyalty both to France and to England. And to those who even now are inclined to criticise adversely the policy before the war, I would address one question. How would it have been if a war had broken out between Germany and England, and in it Russia had been found not on our side, but in alliance with Germany ?
Art. 12.-THE NAVY AND THE WASHINGTON CON
THE Washington Conference constitutes an attempt to find some relief from the crushing burden of armaments which still weighs upon the world.
But the problem must be seen in its correct perspective. Armaments in themselves are not the immediate cause of war, whose origin must be sought in the spirit of rivalry, suspicion, and distrust which plays so large a part in human affairs. But, though armaments may rightly be regarded merely as a form of insurance against war, their growth tends inevitably to foment the suspicion and distrust which gave them birth; and they constitute a secondary sphere of rivalry whose natural outlet for expression is war.
And yet, by the very nature of things, disarmament is impracticable unless the parties affected can come to some reciprocal arrangement.
Lord Haldane in 1912 sought diligently for an agreement with Germany, and the Chancellor was ready to listen ; but the German admirals were difficult," and no basis for limitation could be found. Tirpitz would not give up his Navy Law." Proud of Germany and confident in her resources, be believed in the day' of his officers' vainglorious toasts, and could not see the real day waiting for them in the Firth of Forth. But in a colossal war fought to the bitter end, victory and defeat become merely relative terms. Victor and vanquished emerge defeated from a war which has shaken Europe to its foundations. The war spells the downfall of Europe's predominance. The old landmarks, material and immaterial, have disappeared. We have spent our wealth; and the one dominant note of our polity-monotonous as the tolling of a bell or the warning blast of a foghorn-must be economy. This must be the focal point of our policy, and it must be constantly emphasised. The question cannot be solved in terms of dreadnoughts' alone. Immersed in dreadnought arithmetic, we may forget the tolling of that warning bell, and the dull blast of the
• The Navy Law passed in May 1912, which inter alia increased the strength of the battle-feet from thirty-four to forty-one, and placed three squadrons (instoad of two) in active commission.
foghorn may fall on deaf ears. We have mortgaged most of our wealth ; and economy is an urgent necessity
With the downfall of Germany the whole conditions of naval strategy have changed. The Two-Power Standard was a corollary of North Sea strategy ; it was an answer to Germany's fleet building at our back door, and with the disappearance of Germany's fleet its meaning too has disappeared. The Pacific is 9000 miles from the North Sea,* and its problems are equally far removed. From the point of view of general naval strategy, the circumstances of the North Sea were peculiar. It may be accepted that a navy exercises a predominant degree of control in its own waters where the whole strength and resources of the nation are working close behind it. In the North Sea Britain and Germany's area of maritime control overlapped. Across a comparatively narrow sea, barely 400 miles f broad, two fleets stood opposed, one barring the other's road to the oceans; and behind each there stood, in close proximity, all its maritime resources and all its vast organisation of building and supply. In the Pacific very different conditions prevail; and here it is necessary to make a short digression on the influence of distance on naval strategy.
The maintenance of a fleet in any area involves a vast machinery of auxiliary services. A suitable anchorage must first be selected as a temporary base, easily defended and spacious enough for a large fleet. Repair ships and floating docks must be provided; a stream of oil ships, store ships, and ammunition ships will be moving constantly to and fro; and in the case of serious defects the ships themselves must return under escort to the great building yards. The protection of the base and the security of its approaches will involve the services of scores of mine-sweepers, trawlers, motor launches, and small craft, which can only with great difficulty make a long ocean journey. Now the greater the distance of such a base from the main bases at home, the more difficult becomes the work of maintenance.
* Honolulu is approximately this distance via the Panama Canal.
† 320 miles from the Humber to the Jade; 440 from the Forth to the Skaw.
The fleet approaching an enemy's coast drags behind it a lengthening chain of communications; and it may be accepted that a distance of more than 3000 miles (approximately 8 days at 16 knots) from home would be & severe handicap on the operations of a fleet of any considerable size.
But to operate effectively in enemy's waters a temporary base not more than 600 miles (approximately 38 hours at 16 knots) away from them will be required. Offensive operations by a fleet, therefore, involve the use of a base some 600 miles from the enemy's coast, and if possible not more than 3000 miles from its own. But, when oceans lie between the combatants, these conditions may be impossible to realise; and the fleet that wishes to maintain a force equal to an enemy off that enemy's coast must be prepared to take the sea with a force at least twice and possibly thrice as strong. A United States fleet operating against Japan and working from Guam would be some 5700 miles from its main bases of supply at home, with Japan still some 1350 miles off.
Great Britain, whether she elected to work from Hongkong or Singapore, would be 8000 to 9000 miles from home, a distance which would make it very difficult to maintain a large fleet at a high level of efficiency. In both cases the attacking fleet would be working at a grave disadvantage; and to maintain at the front a fleet superior to the enemy would require a force at least double the enemy's in strength. If, on the other hand, Japan elected to attack, she must face this terrible handicap of oceanic spaces. To attack Great Britain in European waters may be ruled out as impracticable; she could not hope to get further than the Indian Ocean or Australia. In the latter case she would find herself some 3600 miles from her main bases, and would have to mobilise a fleet at least twice as strong as that which the British Empire could assemble in Australian bases. If she advanced towards the American coast she would have to face a journey of 4520 miles.
It will be seen that in working at great distances a much greater proportionate superiority is required in order to maintain an approximately equal force in a distant arena of operations. The necessity for a large margin of strength depends not merely on the distance to