War Issue Plain.
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
May I, though not an undergraduate ask for some of your space in which to discuss the platform of the Harvard Union for American Neutrality as presented in your issue of the 15th?
We are told that the present position of the United States in international affairs is one which demands thoughtful deliberation rather than injudicious and hasty action." What hasty action have we taken? For two years we have been in a diplomatic controversy with Germany. We have stated our position in-numerable times, and, after two years in deliberation and judicious action have borne no fruit, are we hasty and hot-headed when we declare that we shall talk no more? We have done our deliberating; we have studiously tried to avoid war; and yet, after all that has passed we are told that we are in a danger of being injudicious and hasty! Nor is there a general misunderstanding, as the platform declares. The issues are very plain. They have been carefully and repeatedly presented.
Section 3 of the platform states that "the rights of neutrals upon the seas cannot be established by a belligerent." That is precisely the issue and that is precisely why, after vainly telling Germany that she cannot establish our rights upon the seas, that we have been forced to sever relations.
Paragraph 5 (I shall not take the space to discuss all the planks) says that "national honor is not the issue in the present controversy with Germany; and national honor is not to be defended by retaliation." This implies that after all national honor is somewhat involved and that we are going to retaliate. God for-bid that we retaliate, that we do to Germany what she has done to us! But what does the Harvard Union for American Neutrality mean by honor? Our people have been killed, not by accident, but deliberately, repeatedly killed and our honor is not involved! We are told that, given more opportunities, more of our people will be killed, and our honor is untouched! What is meant by honor?
In paragraph 6 we are told that "participation by America in the general European conflict would be a misfortune to humanity." Have we any special claim to being the pet of humanity? Just as good people as we are fighting and they are fighting on the side of humanity. Should we smugly hold ourselves to be too good to fight by their sides? We are not the chosen people of humanity, though if we were would we not be under even greater obligations to defend it?
Finally, we are told that "democracy demands a general referendum before a declaration of war." And what is to happen to us while the referendum vote is being taken? In the present controversy Germany could continue to kill our people, to sink our ships, could send submarines into our harbors while we peacefully prepared to vote, telling her to be careful since we might vote against allowing her to continue. What a disappointment such a vote would be to Germany! How hurt she would feel to have her fun stopped! It might even make her angry.
We can sit back and blandly tell ourselves that we are acting for humanity when we do nothing, that we have been calm, deliberate and judicious, that we avoided creating a scene and did not give an unpleasant exhibition of temper. And in later years we can tell our children what a high-minded and unselfish part we played in the great war, how we held ourselves aloof and reaped many benefits. But could we ever escape the memory of the dead? Try as we would we could never forget them, and with most it would be in the future as it is now that--
"Our dead are not dead in our thoughts, and long will the ache
Of our hearts burn within us, and many a day it will take
To make us forget all we suffered, and and many an hour
We shall think of this country's inaction, of the strength and the power
Never used. And then bursting forth from hearts that have bled
Will come this dread question, 'O, what did we do for our dead?" MONTGOMERY S. LEWIS '11, Indianapolis, Ind.