12 MARCH 1904, Page 5

T O those who have studied the history of Asia the

most amazing thing about the Japanese of to-day is their efficiency in administration. Other races of Asia, notably the Arabs, have displayed high capacity for certain forms of art, architecture more especially. A majority—for we believe the Bengalees and the Koreans are the only clear exceptions—are as courageous as any Europeans. We hardly know, recollecting the history of the Turks, the Tartars, the Arabs, and the Sikhs, why the contrary impression should ever have arisen, unless it be that the contrast between the enormous resources of China and her military cumbrousness has created a suspicion of the latent cowardice of her people. Asiatic races, too, have been in a way sufficiently organised for war, otherwise they could not have so repeatedly repelled European invasions. But we can remember no Asiatic people which has ever dis- played the peculiar efficiency of the Japanese. They appear to waste nothing, to plan everything long in advance, and to arrange everything for great expeditions down to the smallest detail,—with them the gaiter-buttons are actually there. All observers report, for instance, that very large Japanese armies have been mobilised on the present occasion with a rapidity and certainty of movement .which not even the German Staff—one does not mention in such a connection the British War Office—is able to surpass. The arrangements for the transport of horses were, indeed, most imperfect; but experts declare that as regards com- missariat, the supply of munitions, and the provision of medical aid the organisation of the Japanese Array is quite unrivalled. This is an entirely unexpected quality in an Asiatic State, Asiatic generals having hitherto been accustomed to live on the countries they traversed, to obtain transport chiefly by plunder, and to waste the lives of their men with a callousness and contempt of their own interests only to be explained by their belief that life and death are incidents beyond human control. The Japanese have, moreover, displayed this efficiency in a department in which it was supposed to be impossible. We would confidently ask the most experienced Anglo-Asiatic whether thirty years ago he would have believed, on any evidence whatever, that an Asiatic people could learn to work an ironclad battleship or to repair electric engines as well as any European engineers. The domain of applied science, at least, was supposed to be closed to them. The firstexploits of the Japanese Fleet have, therefore, created a sense of surprise, as well as of admiration, which has dazzled the eyes even of professionals, and led them to conclusions which future events may prove to have been a little premature. These conclusions have been strengthened by another surprise, that felt at the utter unreadiness of the Russian Empire. That Britain should be unready is always expected, for Britain, like other democracies, seldom attempts to foresee. That Austria should be unready is also expected,—one can hardly say why, except that she always has been, and that, owing to the multitudinous races within the Imperial dominion, there has always been something of cumbrous- ness in her collective action. But Russia is a military Empire, governed by an autocrat, and supposed to be always ready for the assaults by the menace of which she, in Asia at least, perpetually expands her domain. Onlookers, therefore, are tempted by their very amaze- ment to expect that the smaller Power, which has shown such perfect efficiency, will proceed from victory to victory, and will inflict upon Russia in the end a humiliating defeat. It may be so, and we at least, though we are no enemies of Russia, shall not be displeased if her party of action receives a decided set-back, and if her Government is compelled to throw itself upon the support of classes whom it now disregards. No historian can forget that defeat in the Crimea produced for Russia the emancipation of the serfs.

But we would warn our readers not to allow a natural admiration for the Japanese to make them forget all the teachings of the past. It is not a mere cynical epigram to assert that Providence is usually on the side of big battalions. Russia was not ruined by the loss of Sebas- topol, and will not be ruined by the surrender of Vladivostok and Port Arthur. She will only be the stronger if she is forced back to Lake Baikal, where she can con- centrate her immense resources. We have vet to see how her soldiers will fare in this campaign. their frightful losses, it must be remembered—losses from exposure and disease which it makes one wince even to read of—are perpetually repaired, and are probably not greater than those which during the Crimean War made the Emperor Nicholas I. declare himself hopeless of securing victory with the morale of his officers tripping him at every step. The group who govern at St. Petersburg have as vet displayed but little competence ; but every failure tends to weed out the inefficient, and Russia, which is not hampered by any difficulty of tradition or system in promoting the competent man, may yet throw up the kind of reckless general—the Suwarrow or Skobeleff—who seems essential to bring out the highest qualities of the Russian soldiery. It is probable, reasoning from analogy, that the Japanese have first-rate generals too ; but we have no history to guide us in deciding what their quality is likely to be, and they have always against them the necessity for husbanding their forces. True, they are more than forty millions ; but the losses of which Russia is scarcely aware will be severely felt in the island kingdom, for they will fall first of all upon the warrior clans, who till thirty years ago held a monopoly of the business of war. Japan has a conscription, it is true ; but the losses which are hardly felt in a people of a hundred and fifty millions must fall with terrible weight upon a people of forty-five. Even as regards the Navy, though the Japanese triumph appears to be secure, we should remember that she triumphs by superior energy and skill, and perhaps by superior audacity, rather than by any superior weight in the weapon employed. A very few accidents to her limited number of battleships might gravely diminish the value of that triumph in the campaign. All will depend, however, upon the comparative staying- power of the two Empires. Of that of Japan it is difficult to doubt; but Russia may display that power too. Many critics believe that she will be hampered, perhaps paralysed, by financial distress ; but the approach of bankruptcy has never prevented war, and Russia can stave off bankruptcy for an unknown period by the issue of inconvertible paper. There is a suspicion abroad that the Russian Government is already quailing; but it is quite possible that its apparent weakness is caused rather by depression than by irresolution. For ourselves, we are inclined to doubt whether the proposals for mediation, of which so much is made, are anything but efforts to secure allies, for whose aid, it will be most difficult for Russia to offer any adequate compensation.

It must not be forgotten that the fear of revolution, on which so many writers dilate, may harden rather than cow the governing group. No prolongation of the war, so long as European Russia was safe—and European Russia cannot even be threatened—could make revolution so probable as total and admitted defeat by an Asiatic Power. In this necessity of firmness is the first element of strength in the Russian Government, and therein also, as we pointed out last week, lies the terrible temptation, if !the course of events should. prove unfavourable, to swamp -the war with Japan in a war with some European Power, perhaps the Power which Russians believe to be always their enemy in Asia, or perhaps the Power which the 'Russian peasantry believe to keep from them their natural .heritage, Constantinople. The value of the Far East to Russia is for the present but small. The maintenance of her prestige may concern, in the judgment of her rulers, ler very life, and may drive them to very desperate expedients.