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As the present international crisis slips into the position of history, it must become increasingly apparent that all the complications raising it above simple colonial expansion are directly the result of the imperialism of Great Britain. Many authorities are ready to ascribe the World War in large part to British determination to crush a challenging rival to naval supremacy. And certainly more authorities of the future will ascribe today's row, whether it end in increased tension or world-wide catastrophe, to British determination to guard her dominions from an enterprising upstart.
It is a matter of fact that England is protecting her imperial brood. If direct evidence is not enough, then indirect evidence comes to reinforce the verdict. When Japan had begun its Manchurain adventure, England remained sublimely all of to the many pleas for naval action against the aggressor. Now in parallel circumstances the lordly power takes measures of intimidation and oppression against the new aggressor, and induces a large part of the rest of the world to join in righteous indignation. No explanation other than imperial interest can begin to account for these merry-go-round tactics.
"Yes, yes, we know all this," retort the bored pragmatists. "England is being selfish, naturally enough, and looking after her own interests, but who cares? Incidentally, and by the rarest of good fortune, she is also serving a noble cause. Ethiopia as a member of the League is entitled to protection. And Mussolini as the defier of international decency, is entitled to a good taking down."
But for America there is some use in looking for the real motives. There is some use in refusing to be diverted by the practical aspects of the problem. England is acting righteously; therefore she should be sanctioned and supported. But at the same time her true purpose must not be forgotten, must not be relegated to the level of insignificant moral niceties.
For only when the crass, nationalistic realism of today is firmly borne in mind can contemporary dilemmas be understood. It is a mistake to look for idealism as a motive in the world of today, and it is a hideous blunder to let idealism put America in the role of the avenging angel. The bases of wars may be economic, but the consent of the people is won only through appeals to their souls. America must not misread the facts and yield to that common hallucination, the call of destiny. Otherwise this country is likely to undertake another Crusade for Peace, going in half-cocked and coming out half-dead.
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