Prologue to War

Prologue to War

Prologue to War

Prologue to War

Excerpt

THE Peace Settlement of 1919 was based upon the principle of self-determination, a principle which was inapplicable to Eastern Europe where centuries of savage conflicts had prevented the evolution both of mature national consciousness and of some machinery by which it could be in the least accurately expressed. Instead the natural greed of victors in a decimating struggle attempted to exploit quasi-tribal passion in the place of national feeling and hoped to justify its claims by holding semi-terroristic plebiscites in the name of natural choice. The men who really made the peace modified these evils as best they could and very conscientiously considered factors of every kind, and there can be little doubt that according to the Peace Settlement far fewer people were subjected to alien rule against their will than according to the frontiers existing before 1914. The great difficulty was that the nationalistic idea, which had never lost a fundamental relationship to political principle in the French Revolution, had, thanks to German influences, degenerated during the nineteenth century into the more primitive physical conception of racialism. In Eastern Europe, certainly, there was no satisfactory way of reconciling racial homogeneity with the territorial assumptions implied in the drawing of frontiers. For "blood and soil" involved a hopeless contradiction in terms. The peacemakers fell back upon strategic and economic considerations, and upon the hope that time and tranquillity would cause the . . .

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