Starvation and War, June 12, 1917



[It] is of the last importance at this time that our bankers particularly should bring before the wide public with whom they are brought in contact in the most intimate and confidential way, the seriousness and purpose of the war. Above all, they should discourage sentimental peace talk, where the wish is merely father to the thought. Miss Jane Addams furnishes an example of this kind of agitation, unconsciously bringing out the typically illogical position of the pacifist. She says:

"The United States owes too much to all nations who have come here to till her broad acres, to allow the women and children of any nation to starve. The United States should tell her allies she is not in this war for the purpose of starving women and children."

Miss Addams is incapable of falsehood, but this is much more dangerous because it is a half-truth. She states that part which suits her sentiment, and ignores the rest. When she speaks of starving women and children, she means the women and children of Germany. When the North blockaded the South, it was not concerned about the women and children, for the good reason that it was always in the power of the South to protect them by surrender.

This is the principle of siege and blockade. The blockade of the Allies is increasingly effective, and it does not seem to occur to Miss Addams that Germany and her German friends here have made two irreconcilable statements, and continue to make them, indifferent to the fact that one kills the other. The first is that Germany cannot be starved out. The second is that the Allies are, as Miss Addams claims, starving Germany's women and children.

Before the surrender of Paris, in 1871, Bismarck was asked if, in common humanity, he would allow the little babies to be taken out of the city, in order to save their innocent lives. He flatly refused. He said the Parisians could terminate the siege and the hardships it involved by surrender. A siege without such hardships would be no siege at all. If the women and children of Germany are starving, Germany can always terminate the blockade. She can surrender. She does not hesitate to starve the women and children of Belgium, or of Poland, or Romania. But evidently these are not the women and children in the mind of Miss Addams.

And this is the essential difference between the practical U-boat campaign and the blockade by the Allies, to which we are most properly a party. The one is no blockade at all, while the other is a recognized method of making war, dreadful no doubt, but designed and influenced to render the inevitable misery of war as short as its victims choose to make it. Our bankers can do great work in a campaign against a false sentiment which really prolongs the misery it deplores.

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