Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance, and the Law

By Karma Nabulsi | Go to book overview

A natural right to liberty irrespective of the ability to defend it, exists in nations as much as and no more than it exists in individuals . . . Among reasonable beings right is for ever tending to create might . . . The better sort of men submit willingly to be governed by those who are nobler and wiser than themselves . . . and the rights of man--if such rights there be--are not to liberty, but to wise direction and control . . . As a broad principle it may be said, that as nature has so constituted us that we must be ruled in some way, and as at any given time the rule inevitable will be in the hands of those who are then the strongest, so nature has allotted superiority of strength to superiority of intellect and character; and in deciding that the weaker shall obey the more powerful, she is in reality saving them from themselves, and then confers true liberty when she seems most to be taking it.157

This quotation from Froude suggests there was little to distinguish this form of thought from German and Italian fascists in the 1920s and 1930s. However, Michael Howard argues otherwise: 'One can by a selective quotation from a very narrow range of writers present an alarming picture of pre-1914Britain as a proto-Fascist society, but in fact it was nothing of the kind. The ideas expressed by such writers as Maude existed generally in very mild solution,' and he believes that this 'pride in Empire, the belief in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon culture, the consciousness of military achievement in the past and the determination if necessary to parallel it in the future, all this was there, but without the rancour and fanaticism; still underpinned by a strong Christian ethic and leavened by values of Victorian liberalism'.158 From the demonstration that an ideology such as martialism could flourish within a liberal democracy, it does not follow that Britain was a 'proto-Fascist society'. However, the purpose here has not been to demonstrate the existence of pre-fascist thinking in nineteenth-century Britain, but rather to illustrate the very wide range of writing and popular thinking which gave form to the ideology of the 'martial tradition', which may go some way towards explaining the British ideological position at the Geneva Conference in 1949.


CONCLUSION

This chapter had three objectives: to establish a clear contrast between the broad doctrine of realism and a distinct tradition on war, which has

____________________
157
J. Froude, The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century ( London: Longman, Green & Co., 1872), i. 1-2, 5-6.
158
Howard, "'Empire, Race and War'", 353.

-125-

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