Our period of isolation is over. We have become a world-nation. Equality of rights presupposes equality of duty. In our very souls we loathe militarism. Conquest and aggression are foreign to our spirit, and foreign to our thoughts and ambitions. But weakness will by no means assure us immunity from aggression from without. Universal military training up to a reasonable point, and the joint sense of responsibility of every man and every woman in the nation, and the right of the national government to expect and to demand that every man and woman stand ready to respond to the call to service, whatever form it may take - this is our armour.
All intelligent people know that the national government has always had the power to draft every male citizen fit for service into military service. It is not therefore a question of universal military service. The real and only question is whether these or great numbers of these go out illy prepared and equipped as sheep to the shambles perchance, or whether they go out trained and equipped to do a man's work - more adequately prepared to protect themselves as well as the integrity of the nation. It is not to be done for the love or the purpose of militarism; but recognising the fact that militarism still persists, that with us it may not be triumphant should we at any time be forced to face it. There are certain facts that only to our peril as well as our moral degradation, we can be blind to. Said a noted historian but a few days ago:
"I loathe war and militarism. I have fought them for twenty years. But I am a historian, and I know that bullies thrive best in an atmosphere of meekness. As long as this military system lasts you must discourage the mailed fist by showing that you will meet it with something harder than a boxing glove. We do not think it good to admit into the code of the twentieth century that a great national bully may still with impunity squeeze the blood out of its small neighbours and seize their goods."
We need not fear militarism arising in America as long as the fundamental principles of democracy are preserved and continually extended, which can be done only through the feeling of the individual responsibility of every man and every woman to take a keen and constant interest in the matters of their own government - community, state, national, and now international. We must realise and ever more fully realise that in a government such as ours, the people are the government, and that when in it anything goes wrong, or wrongs and injustices are allowed to grow and hold sway, we are to blame.
Universal military training has not militarised Switzerland nor has it Australia. It is rather the very essence of democracy and the very antithesis of militarism.
" Let each son of Freedom bear His portion of the burden. Should not each one do his share? To sacrifice the splendid few - The strong of heart, the brave, the true, Who live - or die - as heroes do, While cowards profit - is not fair! "
Many still recall that not a few well-meaning people at the close of the Civil War proclaimed that, with upwards of two million trained men behind him, General Grant would become a military dictator, and that this would be followed by the disappearance of democracy in the nation. But the mind, the temper, the traditions of our people are all a guarantee against militarism. The gospel, the hallucination of the shining armour, the will to power, has no attraction for us. We loathe it; nor do we fear its undermining and crushing our own liberties internally. Nevertheless, it is true that vigilance is always and always will be the price of liberty. There must be a constant education towards citizenship. There must be an alert democracy, so that any land and sea force is always the servant of the spirit; for only otherwise it can become its master - but otherwise it will become its master.
Prejudice, suspicion, hatred on the part of individuals or on the part of the people of one nation against the people of another nation, have never yet advanced the welfare of any individual or any nation and never can. The world war is but the direct result of the type of peace that preceded it. The militarist argument reduced to its lowest terms amounts merely to this: " For two nations to keep peace each must be stronger than the other." The real hope of preserving amicable relations, and, therefore, of maintaining a permanent peace, lies not in this direction; nor in the direction of making war physically impossible; but rather in making it spiritually impossible. The open expression and the systematised efforts of public opinion is the only thing that will effectually hasten the moment when a decisive move is made for culminating the new order of world relations, including the orderly procedure in the examination and the settling of international disputes or differences.
Representative men of other countries do not resent our part in pressing this matter and in taking the leadership in it. But even if they did they would have no just right to. There is, however, a very general feeling that the American Republic, as the world's greatest example of successful federation, should take the lead in the World Federation, and espedaily at this time when their own hands are so full and are virtually tied. The following words by James Bryce, spoken some time ago, are but representative of a very general consensus of opinion abroad in this regard:
" The creation of some international alliance embracing all peace-loving nations could hardly succeed without the cooperation of the greatest of all neutral nations. With that cooperation, difficult as the effort to construct such a scheme will be, there is at least a real hope of success. Largely in vain will this war have been fought and all these sufferings endured if the peoples of the world are to fall back into a state of permanent alarm, suspicion; and the hospitality of each would be weighed down by the frightful burden of armaments. Let us hope that the proffered help of America will encourage the statesmen of Europe and draw from them a responsive note." And again: " The obstacles in the way of creating such a league are many and obvious, but whatever else may come out of the war, we in England hope that one result of it will be the creation of some machinery calculated to avert the recurrence of so awful a calamity as that from which mankind is now suffering."
And a few days later, speaking of a World League to secure future peace, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of one of the great nations at war said:
" I believe the best work neutrals can do for the moment is to try to prevent a war like this from happening again. It is a work of neutral countries to which we should all look with favour and hope. Only, we must bear this in mind: if the nations after the war are able to do something effective by binding themselves with the common object of preserving peace, they must be prepared to undertake no more than they are able to uphold by force, and to see, when the time of crisis comes, that it is upheld by force. The question we must ask them is: ' Will you play up when the time comes?' It is not merely the sign-manual of Presidents and sovereigns that is really to make that worth while; it must also have behind it Parliaments and national sentiments."