1 APRIL 1905, Page 12


ITo TR/I EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] SIR,—As your journal has always evinced a particular interest in foreign policy, and a laudable readiness to set national interests above those of party in affairs of moment, it may not be useless to address to you certain considerations which have been forced upon me by careful observation in the past few years. It is said that our nation has, on the whole, proved itself the greatest force for righteousness under heaven in the history of the world; and as if to support the theory, the gods have given us in the past five years such opportunities as are vouchsafed only to their especial favourites. On the road to the Armageddon, to which the vast armaments of the Western world point, we have been given unique chances of observing and correcting the weak joints in our national armour. In the Boer War we had a trial sufficiently severe, without actually threatening our existence, to illustrate the virtues and flaws of our military system. Since then (concurrently with the discovery by our Government that our one assailable land frontier is India, and the one land Power against whom there is a reasonable chance of having to measure our military strength is Russia) that Power has become involved in a war which, whatever its ultimate result, cannot fail for the time being to reduce its prestige with Eastern nations and weaken its power of initiative. Now what use have we made and are we making of these gifts of heaven? The Boer War should have taught us at least two things : (1) The unsatisfactory results of excessive militarisation of the business departments of the Army; (2) the absolute need of enormous reserves of, at all events, partially trained men, with the impossibility of improvising soldiers out of nothing. The Military Departments of Medicine and Remounts collapsed during the war ; of the workings of the Army Ordnance Department in South Africa unpleasant things have been learned ; of the working of the militarised Supply Department unpleasant things are being taught us by the Auditor-General. Yet the one salient feature of administrative reform in the past five years has been the increased militarisation at enhanced expense of every business department of the Army. In the same war, in regard to the men, the first batch of Yeomanry taught us how much partially trained men with a little final polish aordd accom- plish; the second batch of Yeomanry proved cone:naively the futility of attempting 'to create a military force from the stones of the street. Yet the whole subsequent course of Army reform has been to extinguish such portions of our Auxiliary Forces as could not be turned into an inferior type of Regular soldier. And cui bcmo? Of the effect of these frequent changes in the morale and efficiency of the Army and War Office the less said the better,—it cannot be expressed in tangible terms. But the military balance-sheet speaks. Our Estimates show a decrease of something like thirty-four thousand men (to say nothing of the ultimate effect on the Reserve of the reversion to a nine years' enlist- ment), but there is no diminution in the sum expended on the Army. As a late Accountant-General (in a letter to the Times) shows, setting the cost of the artillery rearmament against exceptional windfalls, there is no appreciable reduction in the normal charges. We have dismissed our experienced administrators, disgusted our Army, discredited our War Office, and destroyed our Reserves (Regular and Auxiliary) for a paltry quarter of a million saving. Now what is the foreign outlook? The less thoughtful of our journalists are rejoicing at the failure of Russia in the face of contingencies with which no other European Power could have coped for a moment, and alleged Russian financial embarrassments put the coping-stone to their exultation. But quorsum haec tendunt? The war with Japan must end somehow (and it may end at any moment without further material loss to • Russia), and this greatest of potential Western Powers must then recoup herself or die. Now it is probable that the system of Russian national finance is radically unsound. But it is certain that Russia has an enormous gold reserve and a magnificent lack of scruples. The natural course for such a Power to pursue is to stake that reserve in one more desperate throw to recover her prestige and avert ultimate and genuine bankruptcy. In what direction will this throw be made ? Obviously with the object of obtaining the richest provinces of Asia and that outlet towards the South which she is compelled to forego towards the North-East. If ever Russia had reason to desire India, she will have fourfold reason now. If ever a Power with enormous military resources, and a lump sum of gold to make them temporarily effective, had reason to force on a war, it is Russia, who should now throw down a challenge to England for the possession of India. Yet we continue to ignore the time of our visitation. Cannot an appreciation of these facts be in any way forced upon the people of England? Is it quite hopeless to expect patriotism from our politicians or intelligence from their electors P.—

lam, Sir, &c., INDEX.