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by H.G. WellsNovember 5th, 2022
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Europe is at war!
featured image - THE SWORD OF PEACE
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The War That Will End War by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE SWORD OF PEACE


Europe is at war!

The monstrous vanity that was begotten by the easy victories of '70 and '71 has challenged the world, and Germany prepares to reap the harvest Bismarck sowed. That trampling, drilling foolery in the heart of Europe, that has arrested civilisation and darkened the hopes of mankind for forty years. German Imperialism, German militarism, has struck its inevitable blow. The victory of Germany will mean the permanent enthronement of the War God over all human affairs. The defeat of Germany may open the way to disarmament and peace throughout the earth.

To those who love peace there can be no other hope in the present conflict than the defeat, the utter discrediting of the German legend, the ending for good and all of the blood and iron superstition, of Krupp, flag-wagging Teutonic Kiplingism, and all that criminal, sham efficiency that centres in Berlin. 17Never was war so righteous as war against Germany now. Never has any State in the world so clamoured for punishment.

But be it remembered that Europe’s quarrel is with the German State, not with the German people; with a system, and not with a race. The older tradition of Germany is a pacific and civilising tradition. The temperament of the mass of German people is kindly, sane and amiable. Disaster to the German Army, if it is unaccompanied by any such memorable wrong as dismemberment or intolerable indignity, will mean the restoration of the greatest people in Europe to the fellowship of Western nations. The rôle of England in this huge struggle is plain as daylight. We have to fight. If only on account of the Luxemburg outrage we have to fight. If we do not fight, England will cease to be a country to be proud of; it will be a dirt-bath to escape from. But it is inconceivable that we should not fight. And having fought, then in the hour of victory it will be for us to save the liberated Germans from vindictive treatment, to secure for this great people their right, as one united German-speaking State, to a place in the sun.

First we have to save ourselves and Europe, and then we have to stand between German on the one hand and the Cossack and revenge on the other.

For my own part, I do not doubt that Germany and Austria are doomed to defeat in this war. It 18may not be catastrophic defeat, though even that is possible, but it is defeat. There is no destiny in the stars and every sign is false if this is not so.

They have provoked an overwhelming combination of enemies. They have under-rated France. They are hampered by a bad social and military tradition. The German is not naturally a good soldier; he is orderly and obedient, but he is not nimble nor quick-witted; since his sole considerable military achievement, his not very lengthy march to Paris in 1870 and '71, the conditions of modern warfare have been almost completely revolutionised and in a direction that subordinates the massed fighting of unintelligent men to the rapid initiative of individualised soldiers. And, on the other hand, since those years of disaster, the Frenchman has learnt the lesson of humility; he is prepared now sombrely for a sombre struggle; his is the gravity that precedes astonishing victories. In the air, in the open field, with guns and machines, it is doubtful if anyone fully realises the superiority of his quality to the German. This sudden attack may take him aback for a week or so, though I doubt even that, but in the end I think he will hold his own; even without us he will hold his own, and with us then I venture to prophesy that within three months from now his Tricolour will be over the Rhine. And even suppose his line gets broken by the first rush. Even then I do not see how the Germans are to get to 19Paris or anywhere near Paris. I do not see how against the strength of the modern defensive and the stinging power of an intelligent enemy in retreat, of which we had a little foretaste in South Africa, the exploit of Sedan can be repeated. A retiring German army, on the other hand, will be far less formidable than a retiring French army, because it has less “devil” in it, because it is made up of men taught to obey in masses, because its intelligence is concentrated in its aristocratic officers, because it is dismayed when it breaks ranks. The German army is everything the Conscriptionists dreamt of making our people; it is, in fact, an army about twenty years behind the requirements of contemporary conditions.

On the Eastern frontier the issue is more doubtful because of the uncertainty of Russian things. The peculiar military strength of Russia, a strength it was not able to display in Manchuria, lies in its vast resources of mounted men. A set invasion of Prussia may be a matter of many weeks, but the raiding possibilities in Eastern Germany are enormous. It is difficult to guess how far the Russian attack will be guided by intelligence, and how far Russia will blunder, but Russia will have to blunder very disastrously indeed before she can be put upon the defensive. A Russian raid is far more likely to threaten Berlin than a German to reach Paris.

Meanwhile there is the struggle on the sea. In 20that I am prepared for some rude shocks. The Germans have devoted an amount of energy to the creation of an aggressive navy that would have been spent more wisely in consolidating their European position. It is probably a thoroughly good navy, and ship for ship the equal of our own. But the same lack of invention, the same relative uncreativeness that has kept the German behind the Frenchman in things aerial has made him, regardless of his shallow seas, follow our lead in naval matters, and if we have erred, and I believe we have erred, in overrating the importance of the big battleship, the German has at least very obligingly fallen in with our error. The safest, most effective, place for the German fleet at the present time is the Baltic Sea. On this side of the Kiel Canal, unless I overrate the powers of the water-plane, there is no safe harbour for it. If it goes into port anywhere that port can be ruined, and the bottled-up ships can be destroyed at leisure by aerial bombs. So that if they are on this side of the Kiel Canal they must keep the sea and fight, if we let them, before their coal runs short. Battle in the open sea in this case is their only chance. They will fight against odds, and with every prospect of a smashing, albeit we shall certainly have to pay for that victory in ships and men. In the Baltic we shall not be able to get at them without 21the participation of Denmark, and they may have a considerable use against Russia. But in the end even there mine and aeroplane and destroyer should do their work.

So I reckon that Germany will be held east and west, and that she will get her fleet practically destroyed. We ought also to be able to sweep her shipping off the seas, and lower her flag for ever in Africa and Asia and the Pacific. All the probabilities, it seems to me, point to that. There is no reason why Italy should not stick to her present neutrality, and there is considerable inducement close at hand for both Denmark and Japan to join in, directly they are convinced of the failure of the first big rush on the part of Germany. All these issues will be more or less definitely decided within the next two or three months. By that time I believe German Imperialism will be shattered, and it may be possible to anticipate the end of the armaments phase of European history. France, Italy, England, and all the smaller Powers of Europe are now pacific countries; Russia, after this huge war, will be too exhausted for further adventure; a shattered Germany will be a revolutionary Germany, as sick of uniforms and the Imperialist idea as France was in 1871, as disillusioned about predominance as Bulgaria is to-day. The way will be open at last for all these Western Powers to organise 22peace. That is why I, with my declared horror of war, have not signed any of these “stop-the-war” appeals and declarations that have appeared in the last few days. Every sword that is drawn against Germany now is a sword drawn for peace.

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This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2018). The War That Will End War. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, from

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