Sunday, April 24, 2005

Chesterton on the Great War

I have come to have a sort of mystical feeling about the abstract justice of our case in the Great War. I mean that I am not less, but rather more, convinced that it was just. But I also mean that the feeling has grown more mystical and the justice more abstract; being abstracted from almost all the actors in it, even the actors on the rigth side. The medieval chronicler commemorating a Crusade (as it happens, a Crusade conducted by rather unscrupulous Crusaders) gave his whole book the magnificent title of Gesta Dei Per Francos; that is, Acts of God done through the French. I should call the Great War an Act of God done through the French, through the English, through the Russians, Serbs, Roumanians, Italians and Americans. But I doubt whether any of them quite understand the Act of God; I even doubt whether any of them were even worthy to understand it....[T]he point is not that the cause of the Allies was much better than the Germans'. The point is that the cause of the Allies was much better than the Allies. I do not doubt for a moment that we were right; I know of no cause in history that was so right. But I have sometimes come to doubt whether we had any right to be so right....We went into the War with the organ of government diseased with political corruption; but the disease of the English Parliament was also the disease of the French Republic. And as France and England were sham democracies, Russia was governed by only too real a despotism. It is open to anyone to dispute whether it is worse to be governed by Samuel or by Caillaux or by Rasputin. It is much more certain that Prussia was against liberty than that England was for liberty. It is much more certain that Prussia was against equality than that France and America were for equality. It is much more certain that Prussia was against religion than that Russia was for religion.

"The Hope of the New Nations," The End of the Armistice (1940)

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