I Just May Have to Readmit Andrew Sullivan into Polite Society
links for 2009-10-22

Liveblogging World War II: The Economist: September 3, 1939

The editors:

For the Right: The answer is, of course, that a war does no good; but it has become the only way of preventing infinitely greater harm.

And why has it become the only way? That is a question that only history can finally answer. But one moral can be drawn now which history will not upset. We have had many chances of strangling in their infancy the forces of aggression and brutality which have now engulfed the world in war. As each issue has arisen, we have refused to meet the risks attached to the suppression of brute force. And, as issue has followed issue, we have seen the price of security rise, in a steady Sibylline progress, until now it has reached the most awful height that a nation ever had to face. Before we plunge into war, this lesson must be drawn from twenty-one years of uneasy peace: security cannot be attained by avoiding risks; a policy of limited commitments leads inevitably to the unlimited commitment of war; safety cannot be found without courage. Let us never again make the mistake of being involved in the maintenance of peace without being committed to its enforcement.

These considerations provide two of the pillars of the eventual peace settlement: it must bring the end of armed dictatorship; and it must provide for a world-wide system of enforcing peace. A third pillar must, of course, be the restoration of their independence to those people who have lost it, primarily the Czechs. But these three aims achieved, the fourth must be an avoidance of any merely vengeful or repressive provisions against Germany, which would provide genuine grievances for a new Hitler. If she is democratic, if she cooperates in the new international order, if she restores her unjust conquests, it will be to our interests at the end of this war (as we can now see that it was to our interest in 1918) to help her to unity, equality, wealth and self-respect. The only alternative policy would be one of permanent partition and garrisoning of a defeated Germany, for which the democracies have neither the strength nor the moral mandate.

These, then, are the four principles of peace: Democracy, an International Order, Restitution and Generosity. Their translation into precise details is a matter which cannot now be undertaken. But there are certain points to which it is essential that we should all now commit ourselves as publicly as we can, while our visions are still unclouded. There must be no annexations of German territory and no indemnities. There must be disarmament, but no expectation that Germany will remain disarmed while other nations are armed. There must be a genuine sharing of colonial benefits and responsibilities through the widest extension of the mandatory principle. There must be a new League of Nations, with the hesitations and half-commitments of the old removed. There must be an end of the more senseless forms of economic nationalism.

In the madness and the agony that is to come, we must cling fast to these principles. Only so can we be quite sure that, in defending democracy, we shall not betray it, and that the freedom for which we fight is that freedom for all men on which alone permanent peace can be built.