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17. Our Choice
An American correspondent has sent me a cutting from an old number of The World Tomorrow (August, 1928). It is a remarkable article on 'Pacifism and National Security' by John Nevin Sayre, which is worthy of perusal by every patriot. The following opening paragraphs show which way the writer would lead us:
"Pacifism, first of all, asks people to consider whether national armament can really conduce to security in a civilization which uses the tools of twentieth century science. No matter what may be said for defence by armament in the past, we believe that it is an utterly obsolete and extremely dangerous way of attempting to attain security now. In the world in which we live and in the decades immediately ahead, it is open to the double objection of (1) mounting cost, and (2) diminishing effectiveness of defence.
Within the span of forty years, that is, within the lifetime of many, of my readers, the United States has increased the annual expenditure for its navy from 15 million to 318 million dollars. The last session of Congress passed appropriations which mean that, every time the hands of the clock traverse twenty-four hours, the United States spends 2,000,000 dollars for upkeep of the army and navy. A leading article in The New York Times, published in March 1927, was headed, War - Man's Greatest Industry'. The writer asserted that preparation to be ready for war constitutes what is actually the greatest industry in the world.'
There is also an increasing human cost not measurable in dollars. The machines of war have to be tended by men. The muni-tions of war have to be manufactured by men, and approach is being made more and more toward the drafting of industry and of whole populations for war service. Once wars were fought by professional armies which constituted but a relatively small part of any people; today military strategists plan to conscript the activity of the entire man power of a nation. A proposed French law gives power to the State to conscript also the women. Compulsory military training in time of peace and the invasion of schools and colleges by military departments run by the Department of War are requisitioning study time of youth, and tending to regiment youth's thinking. The post office, the newspapers, the radio, the movies, artists, and men of science are in danger of being drawn in to give their support to the building of War's preparedness machine. All this means an increasing cost to human liberty, to freedom of thought and discussion, to the possibility of social advance. It should be fully weighed in estimating the price to be paid for putting over an 'adequate' security programme. Armed preparedness is a huge cost in the present, and for the future it is mounting.
Even worse is the fact that increase of expenditure for arma-ment does not in the modern world purchase increase of security. It may do so, possibly, for a score of years, but the policy is subject to a law of diminishing returns, and leads straight towards a climax of disaster. Senator Borah in discussing 'what is preparedness?' recently called attention to the huge public debts and constantly increasing tax burdens which governments are putting on their peoples throughout the world. 'The things with which governments will have to contend in the future,' he said, 'are the economic distress and political unrest of their own people.' 'A big armament programme,' he warns us, 'will be courting trouble.' It will widen the breach between the citizen and his Government. It will further discourage and exasperate those who already have more than they can bear. It will not be preparedness, for that which accentuates economic distress is unpreparedness."
The fashion nowadays is to take for granted that whatever America and England are doing is good enough for us. But the figures given by the writer of the cost to America of her armament are too terrible to contemplate. War has become a matter of money and resourcefulness in inventing weapons of destruction. It is no longer a matter of personal bravery or endurance. To compass the destruction of men, women and children, it might be enough for me to press a button and drop poison on them in a second.
Do we wish to copy this method of defending ourselves? Even if we do, have we the financial ability? We complain of ever-growing military expenditure. But if we would copy America or England, we would have to increase the burden tenfold.
Do we first want to copy the Western nations and then in the dim and distant future, after having gone through the agony, retrace our steps? Or do we want to strike out an original path, or rather retain what to me is our own predominantly peaceful path and there through win and assert our freedom?
We are restrained from violence through our weakness. What is wanted is a deliberate giving up of violence out of strength. To be able to do this requires imagination coupled with a penetrating study of the world drift. Today the superficial glamour of the West dazzles us, and we mistake for progress the giddy dance which engages us from day to day. We refuse to see that it is surely leading us to death. Above all we must recognize that to compete with the Western nations on their terms is to court suicide. Whereas if we realize that notwithstanding the seeming supremacy of violence, it is the moral force that governs the universe, we should train for non-violence with the fullest faith in its limitless possibilities. If we are to be saved and are to make a substantial contribution to the world's progress, ours must emphatically and predominantly be the way of peace.
Young India, 22-8-1929