Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/158

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The Bohemian Review

ing there still persists the absurd idea of simultaneous wars: one, here, between France and Germany, another, further away, between Austria and Italy, a third, way in the distance, between Austria and Serbia, between Russia and Turkey, between Germany and Japan, all independent of each other; it happens that France is on the same side as Italy, and Austria is in the same camp with Germany, but it might have been just as well the other way. When the mass of the people look upon things in that light, their political inexperience may excuse them. But when public speakers and writers assuming to be leaders of the people, share this error, it is regrettable, it is ridiculous, it is even dangerous. For our enemies count with this idea of separate wars, when they maneuvre with constant cunning for a separate peace. They would have to give up this game, if all the Allies realized fully that they are not engaged in several wars, but in one, that instead of many problems there is but one, a unique and tragic problem: shall Austro-Germany, supported by its vassals, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, extend its dominion from Antwerp to Bagdad? This great question includes all the others, Alsace and Belgium, Bohemia and Serbia, Armenia and Palestine. In order to check the German ambition, liberation of Bohemia is just as necessary as liberation of Alsace-Lorraine. Prague postulates Strasburg. From the military point of view we cannot say in what order the events will shape themselves; will Strasburg liberate Prague or Prague Strasburg, will the German might receive its mortal wound at Belgrade or Kiel, at Trieste or Bagdad? But we may be sure that it will not collapse, unless all its supports are taken away. Prague and Strasburg will both be free ,or they will both remain enslaved. The apostles of the Czech cause must never tire of proclaiming this; they can do so with the assurance that thereby they serve France just as much as they serve Bohemia.

The third obstacle to be overcome is mistrust, the fear of being deceived. The French character on that score is rather peculiar. Our first reaction is a generous welcome, but the second following immediately after is one of timidity and doubt. Unfortunately, this tendency toward suspicion has been strengthened by several unpleasant experiences. The great nations, one must admit, have not always had reason to congratulate themselves on giving liberty to small peoples; in many cases those liberated acquired independence of heart together with political independence. Not to go back too far, Bulgaria has ill repaid the descendant of the Czar Liberator; official Greece understood strangely its duty toward the “protecting powers”. Upon such examples learned doctors of political sciences founded a theory of necessary egoism and systematic heartlessness. According to these so-called realists we have no business to take concern in oppressed peoples or to look for their gratitude. Self-interest in the strictest and harshest meaning of the term should be our only law.

Will this new machiavelism ,armed with the most cutting formulas and cynical sarcasms, make much progress in the land of Lamartine and Edgar Quinet? I hope not. But we have to count with it, insofar as it exists, and to fight it, for it would destroy all friendship for the Czech cause.

We can fight it by calling attention to cases of political gratitude. Sometimes the most distinterested acts turn out to be the most profitable, and a good deed may become good business. Have we not striking proofs of it in this very war? Who can say, how far Italy’s decision to attack Austro-Germany was due to the desire for Trieste and how far to the memory of Solferino? Who can be sure that the United States would have taken the decision which fills us with joy, if Lafayette, the knightly Lafayette, Lafayette the philosopher, had not gone to America to help the people of Washington win their independence? Chivalry and philosophy, great realities which in the opinion of the “positive” politicians are but big words, may prove their usefulness.

Even though historical precedents are too fragile to be employed as convincing arguments, you, my dear Czech friends, have an argument of which, if you will permit me to say, you do not make sufficient use. Do not speak solely of the services that you will be able to render to us in the future; emphasize those which you have already rendered us. Remind us of your protest in 1871 against the theft of Alsace-Lorraine, of your charity for our wounded and escaped soldiers, the declaration of your deputies in 1892 in favor of French-Russian alliance. Speak again and again of the splendid enthusiasm of your volunteers of 1914; they were not thousands in