From our archives: 1919 treaty blamed for European war threat

What we thought: 75 years ago

Published: Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 2:09 a.m. CDT

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following editorial appeared in the Telegraph on Sept. 14, 1938.

What will the

harvest be?

We have been listening by short wave radio to an English translation of a speech by the president of the Czechoslovakian republic [Edvard Benes]. It dealt with the present war crisis, and pleaded for sanity in international relations.

The president implied that the minorities problem could be dealt with better by conferences, in a spirit of mutual truth and amity, than by pointing guns, marching men, and hauling ammunition.

Such a calm speech, made at a time when others are either screaming defiance or whispering excitedly, seemed impressive.

But the time for such speeches was the year 1919, not the year 1938. The monster has been created, and such monsters are not pacified by calm reasoning. If Europe is to be made safe for peace, the monster must either be destroyed, or else Europe must submit to its demands.

Hitler, Mussolini and their two totalitarian states are symptoms of economic disease fostered deliberately by the World War allies.

The war at first was a European affair, and our only interest was protection of our international rights. We maintained those rights by throwing the balance in favor of the allies. Then we should have withdrawn, but President Wilson undertook to meddle in European politics and cure that which he knew nothing about. The allies took advantage of Wilson’s lack of information and made his idealistic program into a horrible instrument of revenge. They double-crossed the Italians and planted the seed of fascism on the peninsula.

Creation of Czechoslovakia and the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary was a method of revenge. Imposition of economic barriers and political restraints against Germany was a method of revenge. Remembering that every French and English home was in mourning, and that revenge is a human weakness to which all sometimes succumb, the world might have overlooked the spirit of revenge as it applied to the generation of Germans that launched the World War.

But the allies erred in extending their revenge against a generation of Central Europeans not yet born when the war started. Younger Germans, Austrians and Hungarians were not to be expected to submit tamely to allied domination of their lives, their waterways, their finances and their defense against political aggression from the east without striking back. Civilization recognizes no law that punishes children for the sins of their fathers.

The result was political demagoguery that put Hitler and Mussolini into power. These were the result of allied sins of commission.

There were sins of omission as well. The League of Nations covenant seemed to call for an era of peace which member nations were bound to foster at all times and enforce, if need be. It called for gradual disarmament of the allies to the point to which Germany already had disarmed. Instead of disarming in that period while Germany was trying to respect the Treaty of Versailles, the allies squandered their money on additional armaments while no enemy was in sight. They did this instead of paying their war debts. ...

The greatest sin of omission, however, was that of not doing a thorough humanitarian job of putting Central Europe into a position where it could not constitute a threat for an immeasurable time. Instead of creating a situation that cried aloud for rectification and at the same time leaving Germany the means of correcting it, the allies might have split Germany into small camps under allied governorships, making organized resurgence impossible.

Or they might, in the spirit of Christian charity that was hardly possible at the time, have worked out a peace program that would have given Germany no room for complaint.

As it is, they have done neither the one nor the other, and at the same time they have proved themselves unable or unwilling to live up to their own commitments.

What will the harvest be? Ten million dead again? Twenty million? Increased debts? A descent into anarchy or Bolshevism? More years of heart-breaking struggles on the front? Starvation and disease at home?

What have the common people of Europe, of all the nations, who desire only decent homes and food and prosperity, done to deserve that which threatens?

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