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What Are We Fighting For?

By J. W. Ballantine

The sudden impact of the war has clarified beyond a shadow of doubt our immediate policy. The steadily aggressive power of the German and Japanese governments has got to be checked by force. On that much we are absolutely clear. But while it's easy to know what we're fighting the war against, it's not nearly so easy to know what we're fighting it for. It's here that we're dazed and bewildered. This is a war that we didn't want, for a lot of things that we don't particularly want. Why has it come? Why have we failed to keep peace in the world that was ours to rule ten years ago? If we're going to make our fighting mean anything, we've got to answer these questions honestly and reasonably. We've got to be' very sure that in winning the war we'll cure the fundamental causes that have twice split the world into two armed camps.

Just to proceed on a victory campaign won't do that. The basic causes of this war, as of the last war, lie a good deal deeper than the evil genius of Hitler, or the Kaiser, or the Emperor of Japan. It is pretty well accepted that the last war was rooted in imperialism, in the inability of great industrial states to satisfy their productive capacity in any other way but expansion. Britain and France won the control of world economic opportunity. The natural industrial unit of Germany was blocked from it, and Europe was split up in such a way that economic stability on modern terms was impossible. The peace completely failed, as anyone will admit, to come to grips with the real cause of the war, and subsequent policy showed no greater enlightenment. The basic problem of the present war, stripped of ideologies, seems to be exactly the same: how can we divide the world up into natural and stable economic units that will satisfy the people's needs? To the solution of this problem our war effort once again is devoted.

What we must avoid is the failure of the League system. That is something definite and concrete that we can study and understand. On the basis of this study we can work out the outlines of the new conceptions that have to replace the obviously false principles of the last twenty years. More specifically we have to consider such questions as: What are we going to do with Japan when we beat her?--rule her as a British-American colony, or acknowledge that she has certain rights, the denial of which has caused this attempt to throw out Western powers? What are we going to do with Europe?--police it, or work out a formula which will give Germany its natural place of leadership and at the same time remove the motives and possibility of world conquest?

Out of this sort of thought we can and must arrive at a unified pattern of war aims. It is based on the two great intellectual advances we have made in the last twenty years: the realist approach to history, which has taught us that things are often not what they seem, and the realist school of literature (Hemingway, Dos Passos, Remarque) which has developed the idea that the real motive of all ideologies and governments is the furthering of the individual in his simple and personal life. These are great advances toward the solution of the industrial problem that is racking our age. They should give us the basis of a common faith. It is only through the application of these principles of tolerance and reason that we can make this war a crusade for the sort of world we want, rather than a negative battle against "aggression."

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