Iran’s Crisis of Legitimacy
An Embattled Regime Faces Mass Protests—and an Ailing Supreme Leader
GERMANY today is in such a state of ferment that it cannot but seem venturesome to point out the permanent bases of her foreign policy. If we look a little closer, however, we find that, after all, geographical position and historical development are so largely determining factors of foreign policy that, regardless of the kaleidoscopic change of contemporary events, and no matter what form of government has been instituted or what political party may be in power, the foreign policy of a country has a natural tendency to return again and again to the same general and fundamental alignment.
France, whose problems of foreign policy have been so brilliantly discussed in these pages by M. Jules Cambon,[i] one of the oldest and most experienced European diplomatists, may be cited as a pertinent example of what has been said. Since the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the forms and principles of government as well as the ruling classes have undergone more frequent change in France than anywhere else in Europe. Nevertheless, it was not a mere phrase but the very truth when M. Thiers, during the National Assembly at Bordeaux in 1871, was able to affirm that the admirable continuity of French history throughout manifold changes in régime has been the chief source of strength of this mighty, vehement and restless nation.
Italy, to quote another example, found some permanent elements of her foreign policy laid in her cradle, as it were, by her position between the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. It is on this account that her foreign policy concerning several highly important groups of questions (notably her relation to the ruling sea-power, England) has been forced into permanent channels.
But, as already pointed out by M. Cambon, perhaps the most striking example is that of the Russian Soviet Republic. Probably no newly instituted form of government has ever before gone to such lengths in overthrowing, changing and turning upside down the established order of things as the Soviet Republic. The process is carried so far that, in many cases, even considerations of state policy have to give way when not in complete accord with the party doctrine. But notwithstanding all this, a bird's-eye view of the foreign policy of the Soviets shows astonishing similarities to the foreign policy of the Tsarist Empire. In Asia, above all, the leading idea of indirectly furthering purely Russian political aims by supporting local nationalistic movements has been followed out by the communistic republic to the same extent as under the Tsars. The external aspect of things may change, the intensity of application may vary, but the guiding principles remain the same.
The difficulty of pointing out the permanent bases of German foreign policy is due to several reasons. The German Reich of today is a very young political entity. There is still a generation living which witnessed its foundation. Sixty years is not a great age for a state, nor a long enough period for forming solid traditions.
Considering that, up to its expulsion in 1866, Austria practically had the hegemony in the German Confederation, logic would seem to suggest that one might first search Austria's foreign policy in its larger aspects for influences or principles of a permanent nature which could be regarded as equally enduring and authoritative for the guidance of the German Empire. But the most superficial examination suffices to show that the Vienna cabinet had to contend with too many anxieties and aspirations in other directions -- in Italy and along the Adriatic, in the Balkans, in Poland -- to render the history of its policy very illuminating in regard to the present aims of German foreign policy. Austria's attempts to secure German support for aims essentially foreign to German interests -- attempts such as were made, for example, during the Crimean War with great vigor and considerable skill -- played an essential part in estranging Germany from Austria and in preparing the way for the final parting.
Nor is the policy pursued by rising Prussia, around which the new German Empire was built up, as instructive with regard to permanent guiding principles as might be thought at first. Prussia owed her ascendancy in the first place -- it would be foolish to deny it -- to a line of eminent princes, among whom Frederick the Great was the most gifted and the most brilliant. Her position between the Great European Powers -- England, Russia, Holland, France and the Hapsburg realm -- forced her, if she was to survive and develop, into perpetually changing combinations, treaties and alliances, too manifold and diverse to be reduced to a formula applicable to the new Germany.
We are therefore compelled to seek for light as to the permanent bases of Germany's foreign policy in her geographical position and in her diplomatic history since the foundation of the Reich.
The only natural frontiers of the Germany we know today are to be found to the south and the north. In the south the rampart of the Alps forms a barrier which, since the days of the Romans, has permitted only insignificant changes. To the north, Germany borders upon two seas, the North Sea and the Baltic. The North Sea forms part of the Atlantic main; but in many respects, and especially from the military view, it is hardly more than an inland lake, for the naval power of Great Britain blocks the way to the high seas. The Baltic, linked as it is with the outer world only by the narrow Danish straits, is an inland sea. While eminently suitable for local trade, it has never been able to play a significant part in a struggle for world power.
Apart from these practically immovable boundaries in the north and south, Germany is unprotected by natural frontiers. In the west, it adjoins France, a country completely unified ever since the time of Louis XI and welded together into a massive block by its culture, its customs, its language and its history. As early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this most gifted, most restless, most ambitious and most warlike nation of the Continent directed the powerful momentum resulting from its national consolidation against the only open continental frontiers which it possessed--against upper Italy, where the eastward course of the River Po provided a military highway and battlefields; against upper Germany, where the same holds good in respect of the valleys of the Danube and the Main, which also run from west to east; and against the Lower Rhine, where increased elbow-room seemed to beckon. No wonder, then, that poor discordant Germany, torn a thousand ways, suffered heavy losses of area, nor that even today there are prudent and provident Frenchmen who regard it as possible and desirable that the Rhine should form the frontier against Germany.
Germany's eastern frontier has suffered radical changes in consequence of the treaties terminating the war. Prior to the war, this frontier from Upper Silesia southwards adjoined the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, that is to say, a friendly and allied country, while northwards, and up to the Baltic, it touched Russia. Today, the southerly half of this eastern frontier borders on the newly created republic of Czechoslovakia, a state animated by violently anti-German feelings on account of its old resentment against Austrian rule: associated, moreover, with France in the closest diplomatic and military alliance. Russia's relations with Prussia and Germany before the World War were friendly rather than hostile, and her support in serious crises -- during the Napoleonic wars, as well as in the wars of 1866 and 1870 which created the German Empire -- was always of inestimable value to the Hohenzollern dynasty. Today, this powerful friend, whose sympathies could perhaps not always be counted on, but whose usefulness had been demonstrated by the events of history, has been replaced by the Polish Republic, another new commonwealth, an emotional and restless state whose pronounced anti-German orientation has also found expression in a close political and military alliance with France.
So much for the frontiers of Germany. Let us now consider her internal arteries. The rivers of Germany, on account of their size and their importance for commerce and traffic, are of the greatest significance not only as waterways, but also because of their valleys.
For sentimental reasons, the first place among German rivers is accorded to the mighty Rhine, rich in legendary lore; to this region more than to any other the Germans are attached with heart and soul. Throughout its whole course, with the exception only of Alsace-Lorraine and of the estuaries, which are held by the friendly Dutch, the Rhine is a German river, washing German shores and fostering German economic life. But great as has been its emotional and cultural significance since the days of the Romans, the Rhine valley has never given rise to the formation of a large political unit. Small political entities, such as free cities and ecclesiastical principalities, glorious enough in their cultural development, have always prevented the Rhine valley from attaining any decisive political significance as a whole.
The same is true of the Main, the most important tributary of the Rhine on the right bank. Its source is in German soil, and all its long winding course is entirely through German territory. The Main forms a right-angle with the Rhine, and the junction is one of the most vital spots in Germany.
Whereas the mouth of the Rhine since olden times has been in the hands of the Dutch, a Low-Saxon tribe and thus related to the Germans in language and customs, though independent for many centuries, the mouth of the Elbe is entirely under German control. Not far distant arose the illustrious Hanseatic town Hamburg, whose name, together with that of Bremen, is symbolical of Germany's important over-sea interests.
Flowing for the most part in the same direction as the Rhine and the Elbe, i.e., largely from south to north, are the Vistula and the Oder, two other German rivers which should be mentioned here. Emptying into the Baltic, which must be regarded altogether as an inland sea, as was already pointed out, they have never been able to aspire to the importance of the rivers flowing into the German ocean.
Among all the great rivers of Germany, the Danube next to the Rhine wears the richest garland of legend and history. The great heroic epic, the Nibelungen, was sung on its shores. Thus does a song of tragic import mark the beginning of German literature. Taking its rise not so very far from the Rhine, the Danube flows in a parallel but opposite direction to that of the Main and almost in a straight line from west to east. But only its upper reaches wash German soil. Since it is navigable as far upstream as Ulm, the Danube has always formed one of the most important routes for trade and for the migration of peoples. Near Passau it receives the waters of the River Inn, which has its source far away in the south. Its green and limpid waters carry southern manners, architecture and implements into the valley of the Danube, thus adding to the Danube's own rich culture -- sprung from the meeting of east with west -- new and diversified elements of yet another origin.
In this way, Germany's rivers point to her various spheres of interest: the Rhine, the Weser and the Elbe to the ocean and to the wide world beyond the seas; the Oder and the Vistula to Scandinavia and Russia; the Danube to the Near East. These many outlooks make it all the more necessary for the German people to practice the strictest concentration and self-restraint, if the great diversity of their interests is not to lead to a futile splitting up of energies.
In the interior of Germany are mountains, which, while not so very high, are sufficiently difficult of passage to divide the north from the south and to direct the course of development in these two parts along very different lines. Only in the north was there a plain extensive enough to foster the development of a self-contained political unit. Here Prussia arose, and it was Prussia which was destined to become the nucleus of the German Empire.
Prussia was carried to great heights of power and prestige by Frederick the Great, but was temporarily eclipsed through the defeat inflicted by Napoleon. She gained her supremacy in Germany through Austria's secession from the Confederation in 1866 following a war of exemplary brevity. With the support of the other German states she then forced France to assent to the foundation of the new German Reich.
German history since the end of the Middle Ages has for the most part been tragic. Until 1870 cultural and religious disunion combined with the fact that the country was divided into a bewildering number of minute political entities to lead to frequent and frightful catastrophes. By far the worst of these was the Thirty Years' War, which left Germany depopulated, impoverished and brutalized. Many generations were needed to extricate the country from its misery.
During the whole eighteenth and the first decades of the nineteenth century, Germany furnished the military highroad, the foraging ground and the battlefield for the grandiose contest between the House of Hapsburg and France -- the France of kings, of revolutionary generals, and of Napoleon. These pages of Germany's history are also written in blood and tears. The overthrow of Napoleon terminated the terrible wars of the French Revolution and of the First Empire, which are to be regarded essentially as the continuation of the gigantic struggle between England and France for naval supremacy, as well as of the old rivalry between France and the Hapsburgs. It was left to the Congress of Vienna to effect the reorganization of Europe and of the rest of the world; and notwithstanding all the criticism to which its work has been subjected, one cannot withhold respect for what was achieved by those diplomats of the old school. For to all essential purposes, the conditions established by the Congress of Vienna lasted a century, right down to the World War.
A brief glance at one of those historical charts on which the war periods are tinted red shows what a peaceful century the nineteenth has been: how small the number of wars, as compared with previous centuries, and how short their duration. This largely explains why mankind was able to make such astounding progress during that period, and why the peoples of Europe were able to enjoy such a visible increase in civilization, prosperity and comfort.
The last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed simultaneously the unification of Germany and the unification of Italy. These developments marked the beginning of radical changes in the European equilibrium, changes which ultimately caused the monstrous coalition war of the years 1914 to 1918.
Germany's complete collapse after her heroic struggle against practically the whole world ended in the Peace of Versailles. There probably are few thoughtful statesmen today who would deny that, among all the peace treaties terminating the great wars of coalition fought during the past three centuries, the Treaty of Versailles was the least satisfactory and the least wise. To transform it into something practicable and supportable is the main task of the present generation. For, conspicuous and deplorable as its defects may be, one must not forget for one moment that the Peace of Versailles, together with its supplementary agreements, now constitutes the basis of public law in Europe, and that its disappearance would be bound to result in a murderous war of all against all.
Germany's central position in the heart of Europe is chiefly responsible for the disastrous reverses which have been so frequent in her history. They have balked her progress at every step, nipped every growing bud, doomed every hopeful development to a tragic ending. No one ever recognized this more clearly than did Bismarck himself. He saw that owing to her central position Germany might at any moment be endangered and overwhelmed by powerful coalitions, and the thought cost him many sleepless nights. The cauchemar des coalitions with which a Russian diplomat once teased the Prince was anything but an imaginary nightmare. It was his clear realization, based on history and experience, of the fact that a terrible danger continually hung over Germany's head. Viewed in this light, the foreign policy of the great chancellor, which sometimes seemed so complicated, becomes astonishingly clear and lucid.
As long as there has been any French foreign policy at all, France has held to the principle that no unified central Power must be allowed to grow up in Europe. In accordance with this tradition, she was bound to oppose by force the attempt to create a united and unified Germany. This united Germany was nearer home, more rigidly disciplined, better organized and more dangerous than Austria could ever have become. And the struggle against the Hapsburgs had been long and difficult enough.
The unification of Germany therefore could not have been achieved without the war of 1870. And even after it had been achieved, France -- or at least the French statesmen of the old school -- could see no other aim for the foreign policy of the French Government than to smash to pieces this unwelcome growth in Central Europe. In other words, German policy, as Bismarck understood it, had always to reckon with French hostility as a given factor. The cardinal aim of German foreign policy after the foundation of the German Empire centered in the endeavor to make Germany as strong as possible by alliances with countries whose fundamental interests did not conflict with her own, and at the same time to make it as difficult as possible for France to conclude such alliances herself. This simple cardinal idea was to be realized in the complicated system of alliances which included the Triple Alliance and the Re-insurance Treaty with Russia side by side. As long as he remained in power, Bismarck succeeded in carrying his system of insurance into effect. It is an open question whether he would have been able to continue it after relations with Russia had changed in so many respects.
His successors completely misunderstood the cardinal idea of his policy. None of them was alive to the fact -- and even today, there are probably not many who have an inkling of it -- that the splendid façade of Bismarck's German Empire was the façade of an unfinished building, and that the most dangerous crisis had not yet been passed so long as there remained unsolved the question as to what was finally to become of the diverse peoples loosely joined together in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, including several millions of Germans. Not until this problem had been solved could Bismarck's Germany be regarded as having definitely passed out of the danger zone; not until then could it be said to be consolidated and established.
People allowed themselves to be dazzled by the brilliant exterior, by the enormous progress made in all spheres of national life, by the bustle of the day. Fundamental problems were lost sight of in the excitement over ephemeral questions. There is no other explanation for the fact that Germany did not renew the Re-insurance Treaty, that St. Petersburg was goaded beyond endurance by the Baghdad railway as well as by the ever-increasing German activities in Turkey, and that the emphasis placed on the construction of the German battle squadrons forced England more and more into an attitude in which she could be counted upon as a powerful ally of a continental coalition against Germany. In this way the ground was prepared for the erection of the most awe-inspiring coalition which the world has ever seen. In this way the greatest war of history came to be fought, ending in the catastrophe of 1918-19.
It was perhaps a more terrible lesson than any other nation ever received, and its purport is that Germany, poor and bled white as she now is, has to find her way back to the principles regarded by Bismarck as absolutely indispensable even when she was strong and flourishing. In other words, she has to return to a policy of extreme caution, ruled perpetually by the one guiding principle: to prevent the formation of powerful new coalitions against herself.
Many things have been radically changed by the Peace of Versailles and by the foundation of the German' Republic. In diagnosing the future development, one cannot afford to omit a glance at these changes. First of all, let us look at those in Germany herself.
Even under so gifted and frequently self-willed a ruler as William II, the personal direction of foreign policy by the monarch was largely fiction. It probably is safe to say, then, that the president of a republic can exercise only a general and superficial influence over relations with other countries. The leadership in this field today is in the hands of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and (since in a purely parliamentary system of government the latter is hardly ever a trained politician) to a large extent in the hands of the permanent chief official of the Foreign Office and his expert councilors. The conduct of foreign policy requires an immense amount of knowledge concerning factual and personal matters and a long personal experience. Thus it comes about that persons able to meet these requirements will again and again exert a decisive influence on the course of foreign policy, whether they occupy a prominent position or not. One need only think of the part which Holstein was able to play for a whole generation; nor are parallel cases wanting in other great countries.
A great deal of passion has been expended in declaiming in the press and in other places against secret diplomacy. It is held responsible for many calamities. But, however that may be, it will always remain a fact that the trained diplomatist will already have pulled the levers and set the switches this way and that long before the public is in a position to understand a given situation or to appraise its consequences. In a railway station the trains stand peacefully side by side a few yards apart; yet one of them runs to Paris and another to Moscow. It all depends on the setting of the switches.
There is a widespread and common belief that monarchs and their ministers are inclined to play with thoughts of war, and often even provoke war arbitrarily, whereas a democracy or a democratic régime offers a better guarantee for the maintenance of peace. It is not sure whether history justifies this conception. Any sound and healthy democracy is bound to be nationalistic to a certain degree, and perhaps more sensitive and irascible where questions of honor are concerned than an individual, who always is aware that, in the terrible gamble of war, he risks his crown, his dynasty and perhaps even his head. One can imagine a very great monarch having the courage to yield where aggression is not counseled by vital and material interests but only by considerations of prestige. A public opinion originating in the masses is hardly likely to have the same courage.
It goes without saying that in the new Germany, resting as it does on a democratic and parliamentary foundation, the Reichstag exerts a very strong influence on the conduct of foreign policy. But we know from manifold experience that the influence of a parliament on foreign policy is apt to be of a checking and controlling rather than of a guiding and directing nature -- the more so as parliamentary parties often are composed of groups with conflicting aims in the domain of foreign policy. It is in the nature of things that a politician primarily interested in domestic affairs will let himself be guided even in his foreign sympathies by considerations connected with the internal sphere. The Social Democrats gave the German Republic its first President, and they were fortunate enough to possess in Mr. Ebert a man of tact, moderation and statesmanlike gifts. In this political party a belief has been evinced on several occasions that negotiations with adherents of the corresponding party in other countries would yield results that could not be achieved in the normal course of traditional diplomacy. This theory and hope were bound to be disappointed.
Judging by our past experience, the goal of all German efforts in the domain of foreign policy must be security. In the article to which I have already referred, M. Jules Cambon has given a masterly definition of the security of a state: "Security! The term signifies more indeed than the maintenance of a people's homeland, or even of their territories beyond the seas. It also means the maintenance of the world's respect for them, the maintenance of their economic interests, everything, in a word, which goes to make up the grandeur, the life itself, of a nation." It will be the permanent endeavor of the German Government, supported by Parliament, to win and maintain this security.
Many people in other countries believe that there are wide sections of the German people who thirst for revenge. This idea is altogether erroneous. During the war it was a most remarkable psychological fact that not only was there no hatred against France, but rather that there existed very generally a feeling of respect which is due a brave adversary. This feeling continued undiminished until after the war, when it was reversed by measures such as the invasion of the Ruhr and blunders in the occupied territory.
At the present moment, in a time of severe economic depression, the reparation payments cause much irritation. Nevertheless, I am convinced of the truth of my statement when I say that the idea of a war of revenge against France does not enter the thoughts of the average German. On the contrary, in view of the close business relations obtaining today in many spheres of activity, in view also of the very lively cultural exchange and of the attitude adopted by some far-seeing French statesmen, it does not seem at all improbable that notwithstanding temporary resentment and bad feeling France and Germany will find the way to a full and sincere understanding. Such an event would give both states a maximum of security; indeed, it would place the peace of Europe on a new and permanent foundation.
Germany's relations with the Hapsburg Monarchy were always of a special nature. From the Napoleonic wars up to 1866 Austria-Hungary is to be regarded as forming part of Germany. In 1866, it is true, a short and sharp passage of arms was unavoidable in order to crowd Austria-Hungary out of Germany and to achieve the final unification under Prussian leadership. But so unparalleled and so intimate was the feeling of fellowship that, on the very battlefield of Königgrätz, Bismarck pondered on the possibilities of future coöperation. And indeed, not long afterwards, the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy were united by an alliance of the very closest sort.
In a Europe in which all the important states were set up on a purely national basis, so heterogeneous a conglomeration as the Hapsburg Empire, with different parts which constantly betrayed centrifugal tendencies, could not exist permanently. The final dismemberment of this venerable but decrepit empire will probably be described by future historians as the true purport of the World War.
The peace treaties have left of that empire a torso which bears the name Austria. Each neighbor took whatever the treaties permitted or expediency counseled. What still remained forms the Austria of today. Whether a viable state can be made of this fragment is one of the outstanding problems which has worried European diplomatists ever since peace was concluded. The future alone can give an answer to this question. On racial and historical grounds Germany is so closely related to Austria that she will always feel for her a special warmth and cordiality. The relations of the two countries will be as close as times and circumstances permit. It is absolutely certain that this will remain one of the permanent principles of German foreign policy.
To the east, Germany borders on Czechoslovakia, one of the "Succession States" arisen out of the ruins of the former Hapsburg Empire. Instinctively, it seems, Czechoslovakia is ruled by a violent aversion to everything German. The historical explanation of this feeling is probably to be sought in the former hatred for Austria. Germany and Czechoslovakia are not separated by any acute territorial questions. Nor are there any serious conflicts of economic interest. Indeed, valuable as the French backing may be, it is not difficult to imagine a development of European affairs which would make it highly advantageous to the Czechoslovak Republic to cultivate good relations with Germany -- an aim by no means unattainable from the standpoint of sound practical politics.
There are greater difficulties with Germany's more northerly neighbor, Poland. Not only is there the memory of former friction to overcome, not only is the pronounced nationalism and passionate temperament of this gifted nation to be reckoned with: above all stands the fact that the Peace of Versailles created most unfortunate frontiers between Germany and Poland. It must be stated quite frankly that these frontiers injure the vital interests of Germany so profoundly that the revision of them will remain a standing demand of German foreign policy, no matter who happens to be responsible for its conduct. There is no one in Germany, however, who thinks of war or of the employment of force in this connection. The conviction must gain ground in Poland itself that, in the long run, it will be impossible for her to live in open enmity with both her great neighbors, and that it is perfectly possible to work out readjustments which would take account of German national necessities without prejudicing any vital interests of Poland. I do not believe that there is a single responsible German who holds a different opinion.
As soon as the "western question" has been solved by a settlement of the Saar problem -- and I am convinced that this is not impossible -- then the problems relating to the Polish frontier will come to the fore. Whether or not Europe may look forward to a period of prosperous development will largely depend on how satisfactorily these Polish problems are dealt with.
As far as Soviet Russia is concerned, the student of foreign policy is beset with peculiar difficulties. For notwithstanding all denials, intelligent and experienced observers are quite correct in maintaining that the whole state machinery is completely dominated by a single political party, and that this party regulates even the conduct of foreign policy from the standpoint of party politics. Every sober student must conclude that world revolution is the cardinal and definite goal towards which the Soviets are working today with every means at their disposal. That is why it is extremely difficult for other countries to establish satisfactory diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia, or to maintain them once they have been established.
Now good relations with Russia are one of the oldest traditions of Prussian and German policy. Frederick the Great recognized their paramount importance. From the Napoleonic wars until after 1866 and 1870, the successes achieved by Prussia and Germany would have been hardly conceivable without Russian backing. On his deathbed the Emperor William I enjoined his successors to cultivate friendly relations with Russia. If it had not been for internal changes in Russia, and undeniably also for grave blunders in German foreign policy -- one need only think of the non-renewal of the Re-insurance Treaty and of overzealous German political activity in Turkey and Western Asia -- the old relationship could never have been destroyed so completely as to allow the idea of a Russo-French war against Germany and Austria to become prevalent in St. Petersburg.
Germany's plans in Turkey and Western Asia have been definitely destroyed by the Great War. Apart from the difficulties arising out of the peculiar political structure of the Soviet Republic, as referred to above, there is no conflict anywhere at present between German and Russian interests. Economically the two countries can be of great service to each other. Moreover, since (as has already been pointed out) the cultivation of good relations with Russia may be described as perhaps the oldest and strongest tradition of German politics, any political régime in Germany, whatever its name or character, will be strongly inclined to carry it along.
Germany's most important neighbor in the south is Italy, although her territory is nowhere directly contiguous. Italy's attitude during the war caused bitter disappointment in Germany. But as she had joined the Triple Alliance only after receiving England's blessing, and as the configuration of the Italian coasts made it impossible for her openly to antagonize England, one really had to be very short-sighted and optimistic to believe that Italy would fulfil her obligations as an ally in a coalition war in which England was among the opponents of the Triple Alliance.
At the present time, if we omit the difficulties connected with conditions in what was German South Tyrol, not only are there no conflicts of interest between Germany and Italy but rather quite a number of considerations which ought to make closer relations desirable to both. Under the astute and energetic leadership of a dominating personality, Italy has undoubtedly succeeded in improving her standing among the nations. Her relations with Hungary and Austria are intimate and confidential enough for us to presume that the influence of those two states combined with that of the Catholic Church will be sufficient to keep her from overplaying her hand in the South Tyrol. It is probably correct to say, too, that elements are not wanting in German political life which would favor an approach to Fascist Italy and to her continental friends just mentioned.
Germany's relations with England, like those of Prussia before, had been friendly up to the Great War. The dynasties of the two countries were closely related. Aside from temporary friction caused by the expansion of Germany's commerce and shipping, and in part also by German colonial aspirations, England observed a benevolent attitude toward the foundation of the German Empire and toward the system of alliances by which Bismarck intended to safeguard it.
In the end, it was principally the accelerated construction of the German battle fleet which induced England to side with Germany's adversaries. This point of friction has been completely removed as a result of the war. The new Germany has no intention of building -- nor would it be able to build -- a navy that could be regarded as a menace to England.
During the years just before the war, the British Government had clearly shown by its attitude in the negotiations then under way that it was clever and far-sighted enough to allow Germany to take her share in the tasks of European civilization, especially in Africa. This field offers possibilities today no less than in former times for an understanding between the British and German governments. Bismarck had the good sense to make it possible for France, after her serious defeat in the war of 1870-1871, to enter upon extensive colonial activities. Obviously it would be equally sensible to open the same sort of a safety-valve for the vigorous and lively energies of post-war Germany.
Harmonious and friendly relations have existed between Germany and the United States ever since the time of Frederick the Great. Even the war was able to injure them only temporarily. America has coöperated more vigorously than any other country in the economic reconstruction of Germany, and the intensive exchange in the cultural field has now been taken up again with a will. Here again there are no vital antagonisms of any kind and, on natural as well as on historical grounds, further developments ought to be along friendly lines.
The history of Franco-German relations during the last few centuries is a history of continuous great wars. We have already seen how France, having attained unity at an early time, was able to deprive Germany, split up as she was into small discordant states, of important territories; how Germany was involved, if only as a minor partner, in the great struggles between England and France and between France and Austria; and how in the end she had to fight for her own unification in a brief but bitter war with France, whose traditional policy it was to prevent at all costs the formation of a strong state in Central Europe.
France fought her war of revanche for 1870-1871 during the years 1914-1918, and carried her success further by an adroit policy of alliances. But the purpose of this war as influential French statesmen saw it in those years -- "l'écrasement définitif et complet de l'Allemagne" -- has not been achieved. Out of the collapse Germany has saved the better part of Bismarck's work, i.e., her unity as a state; and the further course of events, notwithstanding repeated checks and interruptions, makes it possible to predict with confidence that Germany will succeed in healing her grievous wounds and finally will emerge from the catastrophe as one of the Great European Powers.
As far as a German observer can judge, there is no unanimity today in leading French circles. Some French statesmen believe, with poor enough logic, that the sécurité which they regard as their highest political aim can be achieved only by confining and oppressing Germany. They are oblivious of the fact that such a policy is bound to conjure up the very dangers which they seek to avoid. A different opinion is held by a group of far-seeing and judicious men, who believe that the safest and wisest course would be to grant the former adversary conditions which make it possible for him to live, so that this inheritance of war, carried on through the centuries with changing fortunes, may be brought to an end once and for all.
This result is necessary if not alone the two countries but all the states of Europe are not to bleed helplessly to death. Public opinion in France is nervous just at present on account of what has been happening in the field of German domestic politics. It would be idle to prophesy about future developments. But one thing is certain. Transcending all fluctuations of variable elements, one of the strongest and most persistent endeavors of German policy will be to achieve relations with France which will make it possible for both peoples to devote themselves to their national tasks dignifiedly, prosperously and in perfect security. If this endeavor could become a permanent factor in the foreign policies of both these great nations, so close to each other in many respects, the forecast for the future of our continent might be drawn in hopeful terms, and peace with honor might at last become Europe's heritage.
[i] See "The Permanent Bases of French Foreign Policy," by Jules Cambon, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. 8, No. 2.