At first hearing, this piece of advice sounds plausible. It means that if a nation is well-armed and ready for war, other nations will be chary of attacking it. In this way it will avoid war and have peace. Whereas an unarmed nation will be an easy prey to any enemy.
No doubt there is an element of truth in this. In the present state of the world, no nation is safe that relies for its safety solely on the honour and good-will of its neighbours. Witness the fate of Belgium in the first Great War.
In spite of our boasted civilization, and the fine sentiments expressed by governments, politicians and the press, the weak is still the prey of the strong, might is still right, and the final appeal is still to brute force. So long as this state of affairs lasts, any nation is foolish that is not prepared to defend its liberty by force of arms.
But does preparation for war really make for peace? Let us examine this statement, as we would ring a doubtful coin. A tree must be judged by its fruits. In 1914, all the big nations of Europe (except, perhaps, England) were armed to the teeth.
Europe was an armed camp, fully prepared for war. What was the result? Peace? No, War – the most widespread and devastating war in the world’s history. It was the enormous enlargement of armies and fleets, the crushing burden of ever growing armaments, and the mutual fear and suspicion engendered thereby, which finally resulted in the explosion of the first Great War.
The lesson of that Great War is that if you prepare for war you will have war – war, not peace. That method of securing peace has failed, and failed lamentably. We must take another motto; if you would have peace, prepare for Peace. Let the nations prepare for peace, by cultivating mutual goodwill, by the amicable settlement of disputes by arbitration, by agreeing to universal disarmament, by friendly co-operation instead of suspicious rivalry.
But the world has not learnt the lesson. Twenty years after the end of the first Great War, Europe was again an armed camp, ready for war. No nation wanted war; all people dreaded it. But fear and mutual distrust, which once more piled up armaments, lighted the match which fell into the powder magazine. Then, the explosion and with what calamitous results we all know but too well!