The Spectator

The Spectator at war: What we are fighting for

The Spectator, 29 August 1914:

NO decent or self-respecting person will ever indulge in a word of recrimination even against those men who supported Germany and German aspirations till the beginning of the war, who deprecated any attempt to make adequate military provision for war in these islands, and who denounced as criminal, and even inhuman, the distrust of the governing class in Germany when it was publicly set forth. Time has proved those who held these views to be wrong, and they are now, as a rule, the last men in the world to entertain them; but their forced disillusionment, though it may prove them to have been wrong in fact, does not of course in the least prove them to have been wrong at heart. Their error was in thinking too well of human nature. They were deceived, no doubt, but deceived by artful pleas which appealed to their generosity and better feelings, and no true man will think the worse of them on that account. Indeed, they deserve our sympathy, for very bitter must be the sense of disillusionment to men who honestly believed that the German Government were utterly incapable of playing a false part, of interfering with human rights, and of seeking to destroy human liberty in the way that they are now doing. But though these men have our sympathy, and no foolish “I told you so” talk should ever pass our lips, such reticence is not necessary and is not wise in the case of those who still persist in suggesting that their country is in the wrong and the Germans in the right. Take, for example, the amazing letter from Mr. Arthur Ponsonby, the leader of the pacifist group in the House of Commons, published in last Saturday’s Nation. The letter, which no doubt is perfectly sincere though so astoundingly wrong-headed, takes the form of a long string of sophistical questions.

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