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Europe hasn't changed and it hasn't learned. Europe was "an increasingly pacifist continent" toward the end of World War I and until the Nazi threat became all too obvious to deny in the winter of 1938-39. From September 1914 until his death in 1936, G. K. Chesterton battled precisely the same groups you find in today's Europe:

1. Liberals without staying power for a long struggle. They termed the fighting in the trenches an "endless" war and called for a quick settlement that would leave unclear who won, leaving Germany feeling that it had been undefeated on the battlefield. Add a theory about Germany being 'stabbed in the back' and that's precisely what happened. The aftermath of WWII proved Chesterton's oft-stressed point that German militarism would only end when Germany suffered a clear and overwhelming defeat, the country occupied and its cities in ruins.

2. Pacifists who were apologists for Germany and indifferent to the sufferings of Belgium and Serbia. Chesterton notes how similar the arguments of British pacifists and Germany militarists were. That's similar to today's common ground between pacifists and Jihadist Islam.

3. Internationalists who put their faith in "international institutions" such as the League of Nations. Europe's illusion that mere paper can stop aggression-minded dictatorships didn't begin in the anti-nuke 1980s or with Neville Chamberlain waving a scrap of paper signed by "Herr Hitler." For that you need to look to the founding of modern (non-Quaker) pacifism just before World War I. Chesterton knew some of the founders personally and describes them rather bluntly as vain and bloodless prigs who can't think beyond catchwords.

The only group Chesterton opposed that's less visible today are the open champions of a World State such as H. G. Wells. That's now become a stealth agenda, with an illusion of national sovereignty allowed to exist in a world where transnational institutions increasingly dictate what can and cannot be done. Chesterton also notes the beginnings of that stealth agenda when he points out the ambiguity in whether the stress in League of Nations was on the League or the Nations.

Chesterton advocated a different policy, one that proved quite effective during the Cold War. He wanted a NATO-like military alliance of nations openly organized to fight a recognized potential aggressor (Germany then, the Soviet Union later). It would protect the smaller countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, who would provide the first tempting meal for German aggression. In 1932, the year before Hitler took power, he even predicted that the next war would break out over a border dispute between Germany and Poland.

All this and much more is in my just released book, Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II. It's 447 pages long and contains the best 101 of Chesterton's articles on war and peace in the Illustrated London News between 1905 and 1922, with extensive commentary to explain the background to what he was saying. Amazon now has it for preorder and within a week or so most bookstores in the US and Europe should be able to find it in wholesale channels. The new 13-digit ISBN is: 978-158742-061-0

When I get the chance, I'll be posting quotations and excerpts from the book at InklngBooks.com. Chesterton was an excellent writer and the quotes are absolutely marvelous. Here's a lengthy sample from 1918 about the distinction between the old and new pacifism, when the numbers of the latter were far smaller than they are today.

There still lingers—or rather, lounges—about the world a special type of Conscientious Objector who is luckily in a minority, even in the small minority of Conscientious Objectors. He might more properly be described as an Unconscientious Objector—for he does not so much believe in his own conscience as disbelieve in the common conscience which is the soul of any possible society. His hatred of patriotism is very much plainer than his love for peace. But, just as the instantaneous touch of ice has been mistaken for hot iron, so the unnatural chilliness of his personality is sometimes mistaken for fanaticism. The most horribly unholy and unhappy thing about him is his youth. Most of the more representative Pacifists are old men and indeed, saving their presence, old noodles. But they are kindly old noodles, and their pacifism is mostly a prejudice left by the last sectarian eccentricities of people who could not wholly cease to be Christians even by being Puritans. These people had always disapproved of what they rather vaguely called militarism, regarding it in some mysterious manner as a form of dissipation. As they had been taught not to look on the wine when it was red, so they were taught not to look on the uniform when it was red. They disapproved of bullets rather as they did of billiards, from a hazy association of ideas that connected it with having a high old time. Whether the experience of war is really a giddy round of gaieties, there are probably many to-day who could testify. The point here is that this sort of conscientiousness was a most comical perversion of the Christian tradition; but was still Christian, in the sense that it was a perversion of that and of nothing else. Some sincerity, some simplicity, some sorrow for others, dignified the dying sect.

But no such lingering grace clings to the remarkable young man I have in my mind. He is cold, he is caddish, he is an intellectual bully, and his intellect is itself vapid and thin. He is marked by an imaginative insufficiency which can be compared to nothing except to finding a Commander, in the thick of battle, looking into a pocket-mirror instead of a field-glass. I remember a debate nearly four years ago in which some followers of Mr. Norman Angell tried to persuade me that, by our moral progress, we had outgrown the very notion of war. When I pointed out that even to abandon war, merely to make money, indicated no moral progress at all, a young Cambridge man put his head on one side and said, “My ethics are not at all ascetic.” I can see him still, with his eye cocked up at a corner of the ceiling, and the white light from a high window falling on his funny little head. It happened to be the very day when the Austrian ultimatum went to Serbia.

Chesterton on War and Peace, 294–295. Illustrated London News, May 11, 1918. With Austria's harsh ultimatum to Serbia, the long slide toward a Europe-wide war became almost unstoppable. In 1933 Norman Angell would win the Noble Peace prize and tell his many followers that a now Nazified Germany posed no special threat to the peace of Europe.

As you can see, even when he's being bluntly critical, Chesterton can be funny. And since the words are Chesterton's rather than mine, I feel no embarrassment suggesting that you get your local public or school library to order a copy. The more who read his good sense about war, the better for all of us. Europe's present-day folly is nothing new.

--Michael W. Perry, Seattle

Did anyone watch Tatort on Sunday? The only nice thing I can say about it, is that at least a German and not an "Ami" was guilty at the end.


I completely agree with the notion, that overturning Bush's policies would make America more popular. With Merkel in power in 2003, Germany would have sent troops to Iraq - there is no doubt in my mind. It is a good thing, she was not.
Talking about Anti-Americanism in Europe is greatly exaggregated. Last time I checked our cinemas, tvs, radios, shops were full of America.
If we were really ANTI, we would have to reject all that. In fact we have absorbed America so much that now and then the media asks the question wether our own national identity will survive. What Europeans truly are is Anti-Bush. When he was first campaigning in 2000 the negativity in the German media towards him was already there. I did not know much about him at the time, so I decided to go online as well as watch some CNN/NBC in order to check him out. However, the more I read and watched, the more I disliked him. At first I only disliked him because of the way he presented himself. I watched one of his campaign speeches and got the impression, that he had to be some kind of trained ape. He always repeated emtpy phrases - some patriotism here, some arrogance there, maybe some ignorance and of cause everything with the blessing of the lord. At that point I thought - he's never going to be president, who will vote for someone like that ? I grew more worried when it became clear that he would be the Republican candidate and his obvious plan to up the military budget became clear to me. The night his election was officially proclaimed my mother said something that is still with me today: "Tonight the world has become a lot less safe. There will be war within 1-2 years."

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