In the following selection of Lea writings the reader should keep in mind that his spelling
and word usage occasionally varied. In some cases, for example, he interchangeably
used defence and defense, renaissance and renascence, and terrene instead of terrain.
Homer Lea, “Can China Fight,” World Today, February 1907, 137-146.
Ignorance of the primary laws of military science and a profound contempt for the
soldiers of nations other than their own are as marked characteristics of all countries
today as during other ages. The United States is no more an exception in this regard than
are nations whose prowess we affect to despise.
Some time after the Spanish-American war I was conversing with a gentleman, a
university graduate, on the unpreparedness of the United States to engage in any but a
disastrous war with a first-class power. My remarks were received with amazement and
“Why, sir!” he exclaimed, “we are good for any three of them!”
I endeavored to make a comparison between the numerical and technical strength,
as well as the training and discipline of one European army and the forces available in
our own country. This comparison was lightly waved aside as unworthy of consideration.
“Every American household,” he informed me, “possesses either a shotgun or a rifle or a
revolver. We would at once seize these ready weapons and drive the enemy into the sea!”
As regards officers, he assured me that every American is a born general; and as
for technical knowledge or discipline, the simple valor of the American volunteer would
prove more than an effective substitute.
This magnificent disdain for foreign armies is unfortunately widely prevalent
throughout this country as well as in other lands. It is a species of patriotism, but even
more a species of national conceit. And it is this vanity which, more than any other
factor, has always been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of innumerable thousands,
as well as for great national disasters. Empires and whole nations have fallen because of
It is this national conceit that has been a source of China’s misfortunes during the
last half century. In this period it has taken eight wars, the loss of several tributary
kingdoms and the occupation of her ancient capital on two occasions by the forces of
foreign nations, to teach the great empire to distinguish between it and true patriotism.
Occidentals have become accustomed to regard the Chinese soldier with a contempt as
sublime as ignorant. Their deductions are based, not on the military capacity of the
Chinese people, but on the results of wars between nations in the zenith of military
efficiency, supplied with every modern invention, and China during a period of political
decadence, possessed of armies without equipment, without training, without
organization, without officers. Such deductions are, therefore, manifestly untrue; no
comparison can be made between the fighting qualities of nations except when they are to
a relatively high degree equally equipped and organized. Furthermore, this belief in the
incapacity and pusillanimity of the Chinese soldier is due to the West’s ignorance of the
military history of this ancient land. Europe and America know China only during a
period of political decadence, in which, as among all nations, military instincts and
aspirations have been repressed and debased by corrupt civilian officials, and by a
lettered autocracy blinded by bigotry; for both classes know that a military renaissance
means their downfall.
A consideration, brief as it might be, of the martial qualities of the Chinese, shows
that no nation possesses a military history so extensive, so full of vast wars and endless
marches. Nor are the annals of any people more crowded with campaigns of great
generals or more illumed with heroic deeds than those of China.
The evolution of the Chinese empire, as that of other nations, has been through
the battlefield. The trumpet here has heralded in new epochs; from the crash of combat
have come new liberties; from the life-blood of innumerable myriads has sprung new
national strength; while in the ashes and ruins of these wars have been buried outworn
customs and political, corruption. Every one of the twenty-five dynasties that have
reigned over China was founded by successful generals; and each of them, on the eve of
its dissolution, has heard from surrounding armies the melancholy taps of its approaching
Civilians and scholars have played but a small part in the political development of
China. They have never founded dynasties, but have always been conspicuous in their
China during her long existence has seldom if ever been free for any length of
time from the necessity of warfare, either with foreign foes or internal rebellions. The
awfulness of these wars is hardly comprehensible. For instance, in the wars during the
decline of the Tang dynasty in the eighth century, the population was reduced thirty-five
millions in fifty-two years. At the battle of Chongli, during the sixth century, nearly three
hundred thousand soldiers were slain on the field of battle or drowned in the turbulent
waters of the Hoaiho. Actions are unnumbered where losses exceeded one hundred
thousand. In a battle on the willow-fringed banks of the Euho, during the civil war in the
fifteenth century, nearly a million and a half men were engaged. The fighting lasted for
several days, from the dusk of dawn until night stopped the carnage. When the battle
ended, the corpses of hundreds of thousands were strewn over the millet-fields and wide,
sandy plains of Techau.
During the Taiping Rebellion, fifty years ago, not less than twenty millions
perished. The once well-tilled fields of many provinces became jungles, through which
browsed the shy, spotted deer; rice-fields sank into marshes, where the wild duck winged
its solitary way; and once populous towns became the haunts of wild beasts.
The conquest of China has been accomplished twice; once by the Mongols under
Genghis Khan and his descendants; once by the Manchus. Both of these conquests
occurred during periods of political decadence, such as we have witnessed throughout the
During the Tartar conquest, China was divided into two rival kingdoms, each on
the verge of political dissolution. Yet it took these terrible Mongols, swooping down
from their desolate fastnesses in the deserts of Shamo, under the greatest conquerors the
world has ever produced, seventy years to effect the conquest of this leaderless and
disunited empire. In much fewer years, the whole of central and western Asia, as well as
eastern Europe, echoed with the triumphant hoof-beats of these wild horsemen, and
bowed submissively before their cow-tail banners. Asia, Russia, Poland, Hungary,
Bulgaria, Roumania and Bosnia were conquered and plundered by them before China
accepted their dynasty of Yuen. The people’s defense of their nationality and liberties
was as great in its heroism as it was long in its duration.
The siege of Sianyong endured for five years. After four years, a portion of the
defenses, called the city of Fanching, was captured, the garrison fighting to the end; from
street to street, from house to house, not a single soldier survived the combat; and the
triumph of the Mongols was only over the cinders and ruins of the city
In some sieges, where the defenders saw no hope of continuing the contest, entire
populations immolated themselves on their thresholds; and the besiegers, scaling the
deserted walls, invaded but a savage solitude, inhabited by the corpses of its citizens.
Nations contemplating the conquest of China would do well not to mistake dynastic for
national weakness; nor the pusillanimity of politicians for a characteristic of the people.
They should remember that while Japan drove an undisciplined, unarmed and leaderless
Chinese force out of Korea in 1894, in the seventh century a Chinese army on the same
battlefields destroyed the combined armies of Japan and Korea, and the flames from four
hundred war-junks of Nippon lit up with lurid glare the bitter waters of the Yellow Sea.
Again in the sixteenth century, the greatest of Japanese soldiers, Hideyoshi, invaded
Korea, boasting that with his mighty host he would invade the country of the Great Ming
(China) and fill with hoarfrost from his sword the whole sky over the four hundred
provinces. But on these same battlefields the Japanese were again defeated and driven to
Fushan. Armaments and military efficiency vary, but national courage is constant. China
needs only to remedy the first.
It might be well to notice that the same principles that inspired the United States
to intervene in behalf of Cuba caused China to go to the rescue of the Koreans, This
intervention in behalf of neighboring kingdoms, either to save them from foreign
oppression or from the anarchy of rebellion, has occurred on many occasions, and has
been accomplished with paternal solicitude and unselfish honor. In no instance can it be
charged to China that advantage was taken of these opportunities to acquire power or
territory or to impose her customs on the kingdoms she had succored. Their rights and
liberties have in no instance been violated.
The Emperor Yonglu, who put down a rebellion in Tonquin, at the solicitation of
the Tonquinese king, gave the following instructions to his generals on the eve of their
“Spare no efforts to capture Li Kima (the rebel), but be careful yourselves not to
commit the crimes you are going to punish. Maintain carefully discipline among your
soldiers, and do not increase the troubles with which that country is agitated. Respect the
burial places and houses of the inhabitants, their goods and also their wives and
daughters. Spare the lives of those who surrender. If I hear of any one of you breaking
these orders, all of his services shall be forgotten and I shall punish him with severity.”
In 1791 the Goorkhas, the people of an independent Indian kingdom on the
southern slopes of the Himalayas, invaded Tibet with an army of twenty to thirty
thousand soldiers, tempted thither by the fabulous wealth to be found in its lamaseries
and temples. Degarchi, the second city to Lahassa, and the vast lamasery of Teshu
Lumbo, were captured. The Tibetans appealed to Peking, and General Sungfu was
ordered to their assistance from Sining, a thousand miles northeast of Lahassa. This force
traversed the barren snow-swept wastes of Kuku Nor; it passed over the crags of Dakzy,
through the gorges of the Mur Ussu, and across the ice-fields of Shiubden Gomba. No
army in the military annals of the world ever made a more stupendous or terrifying march
than Sungfu’s, across the wild Roof of the World.
The maneuvers of the Chinese commander were carried out with such vigor and
skill that he forced the Goorkhas into line of battle on the north slope of the Himalayas.
As is their custom, the Chinese presented to the Goorkhas conditions by which they could
return peacefully to their own country. This ultimatum included the surrender of a
renegade lama, the spoil taken from the lamaseries, a promise of better conduct in the
future and a recognition of the suzerainty of China.
The Goorkhas haughtily rejected the conditions, and a battle ensued on the plains
of Tengri Maiden, at an altitude of nearly three miles, which resulted in the Goorkhas
abandoning the field and much of their booty. The Chinese pursuit was carried on with
vigor, and a second defeat was inflicted at Kirong Pass. Halfway between Daibong and
Kirong the Goorkhas defended the passage over a chasm for three days; and their final
stand was made only twenty miles from the Goorkha capital on the cliffs over the gorge
of the Tadi.
The valor of the Goorkhas in this last desperate battle was such that the advance
of the Chinese was checked. General Sungfu, turning his artillery on both forces as they
came together on the edge of the cliffs, calmly assured his own troops that as soon as the
Goorkhas were destroyed the fire of the guns would cease. So the artillery continued to
play impartially on the whole mass of combatants until the Goorkhas and many thousand
Chinese had been swept over the precipices, down through the blue haze, to where the
torrent of the Tadi boils among its black bowlders.
Military men acquainted with the Goorkhas know them to be the bravest fighters
in the Anglo-Indian army, and will appreciate what heroic efforts the Chinese soldiers
must have made to capture their defensive positions at an altitude where physical exertion
is accompanied oftentimes by excessive pain. This campaign forms, without a doubt, one
of the most remarkable exploits in military history, and shows what a Chinese army
properly led is capable of accomplishing.
Naturally it is asked, if the Chinese possess such military capacity, why is it that
they are so far behind western nations? The reasons are, as heretofore stated, primarily
due to China’s period of political decadence during the last century, a century that has
been productive in the Occident of every military weapon, instrument and utensil now
used. Secondarily, that while the military evolution of western nations is the successive
and simultaneous evolution of many countries interdependent, as are their languages,
laws, and religions, that of China is purely Chinese; they have worked it out themselves,
alone and unaided, as they have their language, laws and customs.
The earliest Chinese military books treat most sensibly on modes of marching, the
necessity of having plans of the enemies’ countries, prohibiting the troops from
harrassing the people, ways of building bridges, security and information,
castramentation, outposts, sentries, discipline, major and minor tactics.
Chinese engineers constructed suspension bridges five hundred feet long, with a
roadbed of twelve feet over great chasms and gorges, twenty centuries before they were
used in Europe.
During the Tang dynasty, the national army was organized into 895 regiments,
giving a standing force of about nine hundred thousand. These soldiers were trained
individually as well as collectively.
In the seventh century, pensions were granted to the widows and orphans of those
who died in the service.
At the siege of Taiyuen, in the eighth century, mines and counter-mines were
used, the besiegers losing over sixty thousand men in less than a month. During the tenth
century, promotions from the ranks and throughout all grades were regulated by
examinations. In the twelfth century, armored cars holding twenty-four soldiers were
placed on the line of battle, proving especially effective against cavalry.
In such a manner, antedating that of Europe, might the military evolutions of
China be traced. But the time has now come when customs and tactics and armament
superior to anything ever produced within her boundaries are being adopted. The past can
not and will not be forgotten, but the glorious deeds that illume its pages will only serve
as inspiration for heroic acts in the future. At the present time, the rehabilitation of China
is taking place, though the world makes but little note of this Herculean task. Not only
has it been necessary to clean out the Augean stables of political indifference and
corruption, but to adopt a system entirely alien, something heretofore never done by the
While wonderful changes are now taking place in China, much yet remains to be
accomplished. Heretofore, during this dynasty, the armies of the empire corresponded to
our militia. Each province raised its own army, the result being that in no two provinces
were the military forces similar in any particular. One would have the German system
and German instructors; others, French or Japanese or English or Russian, etc. This
difference in military systems gave rise to an endless variety of armament and general
equipment. Formerly, after troops had been more or less trained by foreign instructors,
they were turned over to Chinese officers who had acquired their position by bribes,
influence or literary standing, but who knew absolutely nothing about handling their
The enormous amounts of money squandered on these useless armies will, if
wisely expended, place China in a few years on an armed equality with other powers.
The nationalization of the provincial armies has not as yet been undertaken. To
accomplish it would be practically to do away with these forces and deprive civilian
officials of all military authority. This is the next step that must be taken. A general staff
at the capital must control and direct the entire military establishment of the empire, and
the military schools throughout the provinces must be uniform in their instruction, and
placed under its jurisdiction. By these plans, not only in a comparatively short time, can
an army of half a million to a million soldiers be raised, but can be maintained at less
expense than the former and present provincial armies. In time of war there will be the
same unity, cohesion and effectiveness as is found in the Occident, and not the chaos or
worthlessness that have characterized China’s forces during the late period of her
Certainly no country has better material to make soldiers of than China. Possessed
of wonderful powers of endurance, the Chinese are able to undergo cheerfully a vast
amount of fatigue. They never complain of hardships they know to be necessary. They
never get drunk, and a provost-marshal is seldom if ever needed. Gentle in the ordinary
times of peace, in war they are exceedingly daring and reckless of life. Their intelligence
to grasp and their capacity to remember the most intricate details of technical instruction,
as well as their calm patience, make them especially valuable in modern warfare, while
their veneration for authority makes discipline, an army’s foundation, a task of easy
Those who love peace as well as justice will rejoice in this military reformation of China.
As a defenseless nation, it has already been productive of many wars; and, continuing
under the same conditions, would be responsible for as many more. But a
strong China, armed for the protection of her rights, will give a quietus to those very
ambitions that her military weakness has invited.
General Homer Lea, “How Socialism Failed in China,” Van Norden’s Magazine,
September 1908, 107-113.
Part 1 — The Growth and Operation of the Idea
The struggle of mankind for industrial and political freedom does not concern one
race nor one age; it is as universal as man himself. Through this never-ending strife man
has become what he now is; by no means perfect, nor even nearly approaching that state,
but better, nevertheless, because of the struggle. Therefore, when he starts out through
new and perhaps dimly-discerned regions to gain his Grail ridicule should not come from
the thoughtless nor scorn from those who believe themselves wiser.
To condemn Socialism à priori is to disdain human aspiration, which is the cause
of all the progress of mankind. To combat Socialism without calm reflection will profit
nothing. It must be treated as one of the possible solutions of the economic problem that
confronts modern civilization, for if it be the natural outgrowth of past and present
economic conditions, its relation to the future is assured. In endeavoring to determine this
relationship we may find the answer in a page of the history of China.
A consideration of Socialism, as well as all other activities of man, requires
primarily not belief but empirical knowledge. To assent to its formulas means nothing,
while they are still purely theoretical, but to know and understand their application is to
clear the mind of doubt. Through no other means than human experience is it possible to
determine the correctness of Socialist doctrines. Once it is known that Socialism does not
belong wholly to the future, in other words, is not wholly theoretical, but has in the past
directed the industrial and political activities of a vast portion of the human race, it can be
considered with calmness and tranquility of mind as a substantial thing. Only that which
has never been tried by man can fill the mind with doubt and apprehension. When,
however, the mind is steadied by empirical knowledge, free from prejudice or
attachment, it is then possible to determine equitably the worth of Socialism, and its final
Socialism, in short, is not new. What it still has to give to the human race is not
known, but it, as well as many other forms of government, has been tested. Hence,
arguments based solely on its future possibilities, whether by its opponents or advocates,
are neither reasonable nor just. In affairs of this kind exact knowledge must have more
weight than theories. Human experience is better than human hope — and China furnishes
the experience with Socialism.
Real Evolution in China
The greatest error extant in the West concerning China is the belief that her
system of government has remained unchanged for thousands of years, that it has
slumbered on in almost everlasting quietude until the present decade when its heavy
eyelids are seen to quiver and its vast being to move slowly, tentatively in the
semiconsciousness of its broken sleep. China, like all other nations, has been made up of
the cleavage of separate political entities and has been governed in its development by the
same laws as have determined the creation and extinction of national existence in the
Occident. The evolution of the Chinese people has been similar to that of European
peoples as individuals and as nations, but in China has been done what in Europe has as
yet no visible possibility of consummation — the amalgamation of the major portion of
Asia into one homogeneous nation. China, in one phase of national life, at the beginning
of the nineteenth century, was what Europe might have been had Napoleon succeeded in
his ambition of universal empire and had formed the whole of Europe into one vast state
subject to the same laws, sovereignty, and customs. Changes in government, the working
out of political experiments, the extension of industrial freedom, the growth of
commercial combinations, the endless struggles to advance the individual and political
liberty of a people, represent as many phases in China’s evolution as does the
development of the whole, rather than any single nation, of Europe or of the entire
Fifteen Changes of Dynasty
The common Occidental belief concerning the political immobility of the Chinese
race is an error originating in a little superficial knowledge and a fundamental ignorance
of the Chinese people, and the manner of their political evolution. From the fifth century
to the latter part of the seventeenth, China went through fifteen changes of dynasty, each
accompanied by wars which would have destroyed such European nations as existed
during that period. These revolutions were accompanied by political, constitutional, and
industrial changes, and customs, ideals, and nearly every phase of the nation’s life from
time to time were upset.
Between the same dates there occurred in France only two changes in dynasty,
while concurrently a similar paucity is to be noted in the progress of sociological
development. Until the founding of the American republic political liberty had not
existed in the Occident to the same extent that it had existed in China for many centuries.
And until the nineteenth century which marked the beginning of the era of science and
mechanical invention in the Occident, China was politically, ethically, and intellectually
superior to the West. Since that time conditions have been reversed. The West through
the advance of science has accomplished in a few decades a degree of development that
China did not succeed in attaining during her ten centuries. But in all those inner, finer
phases of individual and national life which are still unaffected by science and invention,
China has reached a plane of development toward which the West has yet to struggle.
Unfortunately the vast treasure of empirical knowledge which China could give to
the world concerning man and his objective and subjective evolution, is not appreciated,
in fact, almost wholly unknown in the West. China is not the land so many writers and
travelers have represented it to be; it is neither a realm of reveries, nor a dim domain
where are to be found the shadowy illusions and delusions conjured up by the western
imagination. China, instead of being a phantasmagoria of strange beings, of bizarre
contradictions in life and ideals, is in all its essential characteristics identical with the
Occident; it is moved by the same hates, the same hopes, the same fears, the same
delusions, the same individual and economic struggles, as the peoples of the West, but,
being a little older, is wiser in many ways.
Socialism Not a Modern Product
The Chinese nation in its many centuries of political evolution has traversed
regions yet unknown to the West and has established institutions and forms of
government that in the Occident are considered as theories and quite Utopian. A
consideration of Socialism, for example, in China, while taking up only one phase of the
economic evolution of the Chinese people, shows, nevertheless, how completely that
nation has been led by the hand of the same laws of progress, of which man is cognizant
only in the aggregate, and which are not limited to time nor place nor tribe.
That Socialism is not the product of modern Occidental evolution only is proved
by the fact that it was put into effect in China in the eleventh century, and no doubt were
we to know as much of the details of Egypt the old, as we do of China, we would find in
that dark land of mystery the same or a very similar phase of economic progress. While
nine centuries now separate Chinese from American Socialism, yet they are identical in
their essential principles. In fact, as evidence that they are essentially alike, we find that a
comparison of the causes, propaganda, and principles of the two eras of Socialist
development shows practically no differences. That the Socialist idea has not yet become
an economic fact in the West makes it impossible to complete the comparison and
determine whether the Chinese conception of Socialism was the same as ours will be.
Records of Ancient Speeches
Owing to the fullness of Chinese historical writings, not only has a complete
record of the physical facts of that period been preserved, but we have also the polemics
for and against Socialism, and the speeches of its leaders and opponents. The records of
the early political contests of the American republic are not more trustworthy than are the
documents of that time of China.
If political entities are governed in their development by universal law, like
conditions in both the Orient and Occident, whether in the eleventh century or the
twentieth, should produce like results. If Socialism, as it developed and finally existed in
China nine hundred years ago, was the same as now agitates the minds of men in Europe
and the United States, conditions that were then and are now productive of Socialism,
must be identical. The beginning of Socialism in China occurred simultaneously with the
conquest of England by William the Conqueror, a comparison of the civilizations of
which two countries shows the degree of difference in not only their evolution but also
that of both the Occident and the Orient.
The population of China in the eleventh century, at the beginning of the Socialist
era probably exceeded the entire Occident. In agriculture alone there were engaged
twenty-two million men. Over the whole empire spread a vast network of broad highways
paved with granite slabs and bordered on either side by elms or banians; more than seven
thousand miles of canals lined with stone and bordered by double rows of willows and
elms connected, in a perfect system, all the great rivers; so that the means of
transportation exceeded anything in the world before the present railroad system of the
United States came into being.
The state of peace, harmony, and contentment prevailing at that time in China was
such that crimes of any kind were in negligible number. Every possible precaution was
taken to preserve national and individual morality and to guard the interests of the people.
Personal liberty was almost perfectly protected, more thoroughly than it has ever been in
the Occident. Restrictions were placed even on the judiciary, that its powers might not be
used to curtail the rights and liberties of the people. Emperor Tai tsou, in taking away
from the provincial governors the power of life and death, said: “As life is the dearest
thing man possesses, it should not be placed at the disposal of an official often unjust or
Individual Liberty Increased
In this wonderful manner and in still other ways, the liberty of the individual was
increased to an extent unknown in the West today. During this period the entire
government was subordinated to the natural rights of mankind, and “the greatest good of
the greatest number” constituted the chief aim of its being. The emperor permitted the
meanest of his subjects to approach him at all times. The gates and portals of his palace
were left open day and night to show the people that his court resembled his heart.
During this era there were Ten Commandments governing the emperor’s conduct, which
were made to apply equally to lesser government executives:
Love the People.
Work to make yourself perfect.
Apply yourself to the sciences.
Raise wise men for public service.
Listen to advice which is offered you.
Moderate the vigor of the law.
Fly from debauchery.
The system of government during this epoch was an imperial democracy, a form
of government unknown outside of China. It was divided into two distinct though
correlative forms; and while they were identical as regards their effect upon the rights of
the individual, the selection of officials in one case came from universal suffrage, in the
other by competitive examination. The heads of communes, towns, and villages were
elected by the votes of the entire populace. Every man was eligible to vote and to hold
office in his own district. The oldest and most honored men of each commune were
usually elected to these positions. The officials of the other class, up to the prime
minister, reached their respective grades through the selective process of competitive
examination. These examinations consisted of four grades and were open to every man in
the empire, no matter how humble his origin. It was immaterial whether he came from a
palace or from a fisherman’s hut on the marshes of the Tung-hu; whether he were a
prince of royal blood or the son of a charcoal burner in the gloomy thickets of the Sin
China was at that time, and is now, divided politically into what corresponds to
states, counties, and boroughs or districts. Those who passed the annual exanimations in
the minor political departments were permitted once a year to go to the state capital and
take examinations for the bachelor’s degree. To those who were successful permission
was given to stand for the master’s degree at examinations held triennially at the capitals
of every state. Those who again passed were allowed to go to the capital of the empire
and stand for the doctor’s degree. If they were finally successful the emperor examined
them in person. From the wisest men were selected the highest ministers; from the next
grade of intelligence were selected officials for corresponding positions; and so on down
the grade, the only exception being in the communes where the electoral method
prevailed. Rank in the army and navy was also determined by competitive examinations.
A Democracy Led by Scholars
China was at this time a democracy largely under the leadership of scholars,
founded on universal suffrage, united and held together by the outward form of imperial
authority. For twenty-two centuries prior to this era, the nation had been ruled by an
oligarchy of scholars, but during the Sung dynasty, which now concerns us, the national
evolution produced a democracy to which the Occident is yet to attain — complete
political and personal liberty.
It will at once be recognized that this system of government could not have
existed a single decade without a correspondingly extensive system of public education.
In consequence, every village possessed its public school or schools provided with duly
qualified teachers by the government. Each Hsien or district had a high school for the
graduates of the elementary grades; each Chau or sub-county had its academy for the
graduates of the Hsien high schools; each Fu or county had a college for those who had
completed their studies in the Chau academies; and finally each state had a university
where college graduates completed their studies. These means of education were free to
all and the entire expense was borne by the government. To further augment the
opportunities of the people to acquire an education and have equal rights and
opportunities to gain the highest honors in the empire, public libraries were established
even in the most remote hamlets. In addition, the government engaged learned men to
travel from place to place delivering lectures to all the people.
Oratory Specially Encouraged
Oratory was especially cultivated and the government awarded honors for special
oratorical excellence. In due time, the whole empire resounded with debates. The heavens
re-echoed with arguments and the winds were laden with words. It seemed as though the
high culture to which the whole Chinese people had elevated itself turned toward
discussion and polemics.
Socialism now made its appearance. It came as the immediate outgrowth of an
apparent general recognition that it was the simplest “means to an end.” Time proved,
however, that the people were not even then quite ready for it.
It is evident that the worth of any comparison between two periods of political
developments, differing chronologically and racially, depends primarily upon the
similarity of sociological conditions productive of homogeneity in political evolution.
While space has permitted only a brief resume of the social and political conditions that
made Socialism possible in China, the reader, by further consideration, will be startled by
this fact, that in the whole recorded history of mankind there are only two periods in
which human society has been so constituted that Socialism could follow as the natural
outgrowth of that which went before — during the Sung dynasty of China and today in the
United States and Europe. The liberty of the individual in China, the solicitude of the
state for his welfare, the universal equality of man, his equal rights to education and
political preferment, have never been anywhere nearly approached in any nation, ancient
or modern, except in the United States.
Socialism an Evolutionary Phase
Socialism entered our politics at that period of Western economic evolution
corresponding exactly to its introduction into the Chinese nation. Hence, Socialism
cannot be considered as the erratic phantasm of unbalanced minds, nor as the delusion of
brain-sick men; but is, on the other hand, a phase in the evolution of human society
governed by those inexorable laws which are cognizant of man only as man is a part of
nature. Some form of the present Socialist idea in due time will become supreme in the
United States, as it did in China nine centuries ago, unless unforeseen political changes,
intervene. To deny the idea, to evade and ridicule it, will in the end prove of no avail.
Socialism is the product, not of man, but of a definite political condition and
Forms of government in China, as elsewhere, have never been constant, rigid, or
changeless, but have conformed to the general lines of the evolution of mankind, socially
and politically. Government has been and is after all, but the expression of the nation’s
composite mind. When the development and constitution of Chinese economic conditions
made Socialism possible and the public mind demanded it — whether the people fully
comprehended it or not is beside the question — the government was taken into the
keeping of the new political idea.
We now pass to the consideration of Chinese Socialism per se, as compared with
that now advocated in the United States, showing that, inasmuch as the conditions
producing it in China correspond to the conditions which are producing it in this republic
and in Europe, so were all its basic principles identical. In this comparison between
American Socialism of the twentieth century and Chinese Socialism of the eleventh
century, we will briefly compare the latter’s tactics, principles, and arguments with the
modern Socialist tactics and its platform adopted at Chicago this year.
Chinese Socialists Had a Leader
One and only one fundamental difference between the tactics of the two eras is
apparent; in all other essentials the same lines are followed. The modern Socialist
movement has no leaders; the Chinese had one — a man splendidly equipped and
admirably situated, as regards his connection with the government, for the leadership.
The modern party shows wisdom in refusing to tolerate a leader — yet; for no matter how
loyal or well-qualified he may be, yet he may wreck the cause. A zealot is to feared more
than a traitor — in his zeal he may carry the principles into operation far beyond the full
comprehension of the great mass of the people, who failing to understand cannot adjust
themselves to the new conditions. The Socialist government, which Wang An Chi, the
Chinese leader, built was in advance of the people; he thought about a peaceful
revolution, not, as should have been his tactics, a slow, natural evolution.
Wang An Chi was one of the greatest scholars and most intellectual men of his
time. Endowed by nature with a brilliant mind, he perfected it by endless study and
application. He was a great orator and had the power, like some American orators of the
present time, of giving the weight of wisdom to the most trifling thoughts. His private life
was above reproach. He was extremely dogmatic, and once he advanced an opinion, he
never deserted it. No one could exceed him in zeal, and he was unequalled in his capacity
for vast labors, such as, for example, in addition to his public work, his commentaries on
all the classical writings, on each of which he wrote extensive opinions and
interpretations, and an universal dictionary which he compiled, giving to certain words
such arbitrary meanings as suited his great purpose.
Under the first emperor of the Sung dynasty, whom he served, he had unlimited
power, yet he only perfected the then idea of government and made no attempt to
revolutionize the nation. But during this time the principles of Socialism were spreading
over the entire country. Discussions, debates, and assemblies occupied the time of the
people almost continuously, as in this republic during a presidential campaign. Education
and individual liberty being universal, while oratory had become the accomplishment of
all, it is said that “the very fields, the mountain sides, the rivers and seas, wherever man
dwelt and the shadows of heaven fell, there, mankind harangued and debated.” The entire
nation was divided into two contending parties. In addition to oratory and public debate,
placards were everywhere posted in prominent places, millions of pamphlets, satirical,
judicial, inflammatory, just, or libelous were scattered over the country.
The Declaration of Principles, as adopted by the Chicago Socialist Convention,
states: “Human life depends upon food, clothing, and shelter. Only when these are
assured are freedom, culture, and higher human development possible.”
In the enunciation of this selfsame principle, the Chinese Socialists said: “The
most important duty of a government is to manifest the utmost solicitude for the welfare
of the common people, and to procure for them the means of livelihood, plentitude, and
Chinese vs. Modern Socialism
The Chicago platform states: “The wage workers are therefore, the most
determined and irreconcilable antagonists of the ruling class. They are, also, the class
which suffers most from the curse of class rule. The fact that a small number of
capitalists is permitted to use all the country’s resources and social tools for their
individual profit and to make the production of the necessaries of our lives the object of
their competitive private enterprises and speculations, is at the bottom of all the social
evils of our time. . . . .
“The private ownership of the land and means of production used for exploitation
is the rock upon which class rule is built; political government is its indispensable
instrument. The wage-workers cannot be freed from exploitation without conquering the
political power and substituting collective ownership for private ownership of the land
and the means of production used for exploitation.” The Chinese Socialists said: “In order
completely, to equalize all classes and to prevent the oppression of man by man, the
government should take possession of all the resources of the nation and should become
the sole proprietor and employer. The government should assume entire control of
agriculture, commerce, and all industries. It should use every means to succor the
working classes and prevent the rich from grinding them into the dust.”
In order to bring about this condition of equality two things were necessary — to
strip the rich of their wealth and to make the state the owner of all resources and means of
production. The Chinese accomplished both of these tasks.
The equalization of wealth was brought about by exempting the poor from paying
taxes and by levying upon the rich for a term of years according to their wealth. Tribunals
were appointed to determine who was rich and who poor. The money thus collected,
when exceeding the ordinary expenditures of the government, was distributed to aged
paupers, to workingmen out of employment, and to the extension of public works. At the
same time, the government took possession of all natural resources and means of
production. Nearly the entire nation, greater in population than the whole of Europe, had
by this time become Socialists. Only those who belonged to the capitalist class and a
portion of the literati still opposed it.
“By these means,” said the Chinese Socialists in speaking of the state taking
possession of the nation’s wealth, “all of mankind will have an abundance, and happiness
will reign throughout the land. The only persons who can possibly suffer by this change
are capitalists and monopolists who never fail even to profit by famines and all kinds of
misfortunes that may fall upon the people. They stop at nothing to enrich themselves and
bring ruin upon the working classes.”
Enemies of the Common People
“Who can say that it will be great harm to put an end to the greed of these
enemies of the common people? Does not justice require that they shall be forced to
restore the wealth they have extorted from the people? The state watching over the
industries and agriculture will fix the price of commodities, and there will always be a
supply proportionate to the demand. In case of famine in any one province, the great
Agricultural Tribunal at Pekin, informed by the Provincial Tribunals of the condition of
the various harvests of the nation, will easily restore the equilibrium by causing the
superfluity of the fertile provinces to be transported into those where the people are in
need. Thus, the necessaries of life, being controlled by the state, will always be sold at a
moderate price. There will no longer be poverty, nor any classes in want, while the state,
being the only speculator, will realize enormous profits annually, which are to be applied
to works of public utility.”
The Chicago platform, in speaking of the same thing, says: “So long as a small
number of individuals are permitted to use the common resources of the nation’s wealth
for their private profit in competition with each other and for the exploitation of their
fellowmen, industrial depressions are bound to occur at certain intervals.”
General Homer Lea, “How Socialism Failed in China,” Van Norden’s Magazine,
October 1908, 81-85.
Part 2 — Socialism in Actual Control and Its End
In their relationship to modern Socialist doctrines, two important characteristics
of ancient Chinese Socialism have been noted: i.e., the identical character of the purpose
and propaganda of the two Socialist eras; the same economic conditions gave birth and
expression to both. Two conditions are yet to be considered: Socialism in actual control
over a vast portion of mankind and its evolution, and its end.
As Socialism in the Occident has not yet reached the point of passing from theory
to practice, we can consider these two latter phases only in their relationship to the
Chinese economic structure. By such empirical knowledge, however, it may be possible
to make reasonable deductions as regards the future of modern Socialism.
It is not always just nor sensible to reason and make deductions from analogy
alone, but when we are dealing with mankind, his hopes and his hates, the hungers that
move him to action or the satiety that makes him opposed to change or progress, we are
dealing with more or less constant factors, factors that have been altered so imperceptibly
that the records of man’s efforts for progress in modern times differ only in names and
local color from the records of former ages. In this instance, we find that Chinese
sociological and ethical conditions of the eleventh century were so similar to our modern
problems that they were productive of the same social and political evolution as is
evidencing now; that they produced, nine centuries separated, the same doctrines of
Socialism as we have today. In this we have a wonderful illustration of the universality
of natural law governing mankind, equally and impartially, in every phase of his
evolution, whether in the Orient, Occident, in ancient or in modern times. It is, therefore,
not unreasonable to believe that in the consummation of Chinese Socialism is to be found
a prophecy and a warning for modern Socialism.
The practical demonstration of Socialism in China was not momentary, but it
continued in force for a number of decades. It was not tentative, but was supreme. It was
not rigid, but, on the other hand, changed the rigidity of theory to practical flexibility to
meet the daily stress. Not only that, but Wang An Chi — who invariably held himself
above the prejudices and foibles of mankind — and his associates and those people who
saw the pitfalls ahead, made every effort to prevent Socialism from escaping the bounds
of reason or practical uses. They foresaw and feared the possibility that the people might
not readjust themselves to the new economics.
In studying these radical changes in the government and social organism of
China, one must realize that they involved not only a nation twice as large as the
American republic, but one in which education and individual liberty were far more
highly developed. The rich were reduced to the economic level of the poor; the natural
resources of the nation were taken over by the state as well as all means of production;
competition was eliminated; every natural increment of wealth was devoted to works of
public utility. Man no longer exploited the natural resources of the nation nor his
fellowmen. Capitalists no longer existed, nor incentive to become such. Commercial
combinations were no longer possible, since men could not unite in competition with the
government to develop, exploit, transport, or sell.
The people having placed the initiative in the hands of the state, withdrew from
every form of competitive strife. Their old incentives they set aside and began to take up
Tribunals were appointed by the state — tribunals to determine who were rich and
who were poor, who should be deprived of their possessions and who should be aided by
the state; tribunals to fix the occupation of men according to their fitness and determine
the remuneration; tribunals to control commerce to its last detail, and to carry on the
innumerable industries of the nation.
The state, or rather the people through the state, being the only proprietor of the
soil and the sole employer of labor, divided the country into districts and appointed
tribunals to assign land annually to farmers; to assign them seed or stock or cocoons,
together with farming tools and means of hauling the produce. In order that all the land
should be profitably cultivated, the tribunals determined what kind of crop should be
Never in the history of mankind was there consummated such a radical change in
the government of a nation as was brought about by the supremacy of Socialism in China.
Ordinarily, where there have been revolutionary changes they have endured for but a
short period of time: in fact, many important social and political revolutions have been so
tentative that not even the memory of them now remains to mankind. There was,
however, nothing tentative nor temporal in this readjustment of China. Wang An Chi
maintained his supremacy and power through the reigns of several emperors and he
revolutionized political and social conditions to the same degree possible if the vast
majority of the citizens of the United States were in favor of Socialism, and Socialist
leaders were given absolute power to readjust the affairs of the republic to their ideals.
As there were about twenty-two million men engaged solely in agriculture at that
time, the importance of the farmer in the nation was very great; and the principal
argument used by the opponents of Socialism was directed toward this class of producers.
I will, therefore, draw from this anti-Socialist propaganda, as it involves the least intricate
phase of China’s industrial life and is more readily understood, inasmuch as agriculture is
an occupation common to all peoples.
The leading opponent of Socialism was Sse Ma Kwang, one of the most noted
historians and statesmen of China. From the beginning of Socialism to his death, he was
its most relentless and consistent opponent. The thorough way in which Socialism seized
upon the nation is evidenced by the fact that Sse Ma Kwang and the entire conservative
element — once all-powerful — were overwhelmed in this popular flood of aspiration for
human equality. Sse Ma Kwang was intellectually the equal of Wang An Chi, and equally
fervent. Each was perfectly sincere in his belief that his particular system of government
alone could preserve the country and the rights and liberties of the people, and at the
same time would move the nation on to increased greatness and the people to higher
planes of development.
I have previously shown the state of civilization China was in just prior to the
time of the advent of Socialism and the degree to which popular freedom had extended
under that system. Sse Ma Kwang was the champion of the conservative form of
statehood and the relentless foe of the spirit of radicalism. Wang An Chi was a radical
who feared no obstacle and respected no ancient institution. He was one of those rare
individuals who could and did free himself from contemporary prejudices and
attachments. Sse Ma Kwang, on the other hand, revered the virtues and customs of
antiquity, believing fantastically that the development human society depended upon the
past and was so evolved by nature that decrees by man could not hasten that which was
destined to go slow, nor retard that winch nature had determined should proceed rapidly.
Wang An Chi, in his advocacy of Socialism, had to exercise every resource of his
imagination, the wonderful brilliancy and activity of his mind, and his relentless tenacity
of purpose. He went straight to work and tore down the social and political edifices of the
past, and at the same time began to rebuild and to regenerate. Sse Ma Kwang, on the
other hand, was the genius of the past, the preserver of established conditions, and in his
opposition to Socialism he dilated extensively on every little good of the present as the
result of the past, and sentimentally dwelt upon the examples of the ancients and upon the
lessons of history.
The Reactionary Argument
Sse Ma Kwang’s efforts against Socialist theory were without result, as Wang An
Chi had not only the government in his hands, but the people supported him almost
unanimously. I will quote from Sse Ma Kwang’s arguments against Socialist control of
agriculture and the advancing of seed to the tiller of the soil:
“It is proposed further,” continued Sse Ma Kwang, in his analysis of Socialism
while it was still a theory, “to advance the farmers seed with which they are to sow the
ground. At the end of winter or in the beginning of spring officers of the Agricultural
Tribunal will supply gratuitously each man with the quantity it judges necessary. As soon
as the harvest is gathered, the same quantity and no more will be demanded back. What
can be more advantageous to the people? By this means all the lands will be cultivated
and abundance will reign throughout the provinces of the nation.
“In theory nothing can be more attractive and beneficial, in practice nothing more
injurious to the country. We will suppose the seed distributed and eagerly received by the
people (though on this point I have much doubt), do they really make the use of it for
which it is destined? Whoever believes this must have very little experience, and judges
far too favorably of the common order of men. The interest of the moment is what
concerns men most. The greater part of mankind never look beyond the day, and very
few trouble themselves about the future.
“The seed, when once entrusted to them, they immediately begin to dispose of;
they sell or barter it for something they need more than anything else. Grain having been
given them, they leave off work and become idle. But suppose that all this does not
happen; the grain is sown, all the labors necessary to cultivation are properly performed,
the time of gathering the crop arrives and they are called upon to repay what was loaned
them by the state many months prior. The harvest, which they had watched as it grew and
ripened, and looked upon as their own property, the well-earned fruit of their labors, must
now be divided. Part must now be yielded up or sometimes, in bad seasons, the whole
crop. How many reasons will be alleged for refusing to do so! How many real and
imaginary necessities will stand in the way of an equitable repayment to the public
“The tribunals, we shall be answered, which are established expressly for this
department will despatch their deputies to enforce payments due the state. Beneath the
pretext of demanding the share of the state, what extortion, what robbery, and violence
will be committed! I do not mention the enormous cost which such establishments would
entail. But, after all, at whose expense would they be maintained? At the expense of the
government, the nation, or the farmers? Whichever it may be, who will derive advantage
from it? It may be alleged that this practice of advancing seed has long been in use in
Shensi and that none of these evils has taken place and that it appears, on the contrary,
that the people found it desirable, since they made no request for its repeal. I have but one
reply to make to this. I am a native of Shensi. I passed the first part of my life there, and I
have been an eye witness to the miseries of the people. I can affirm that, of the evils
under which they suffer, they attribute two-thirds to this practice, against which they
murmur unceasingly. Let candid inquiry be entered into and the true state of conditions
will be made manifest.”
In midst of such clamor of his adversaries as this and the increasing violence of
their attacks, Wang An Chi remained calm and imperturbable. The time came, however,
when Socialism, though in operation, had to be defended.
“Why be hasty in your condemnation of Socialism?*” he said (*This is an
arbitrary translation of the ancient Chinese word signifying the then social condition, into
the modern English term. — Ed.). “Wait until experience has shown the result of the
measures we have adopted for the benefit of the realm and for the happiness of the
people. Beginnings are always difficult, and it is only after overcoming many obstacles
that a man can hope to reap the fruit of his labor. Be firm and all will go well. Ministers,
nobles, officials, have all risen against me. I am not surprised, for they cannot quit the
common routine and adopt new customs. Little by little they will grow used to these
innovations; this natural aversion will die away of its own accord and they will end by
applauding what they are now so eager to decry.”
Yet Socialism failed.
It had owed its long ascendancy to the support of the people. By these same
people it was destroyed. Each decade the nation became more deeply plunged into
misery; yet with that patience characteristic of the Chinese the people continued to
endure in hopes, as Wang An Chi said, that in due time all would go well. The reason
was obviously that the people were utterly unable to readjust themselves to the new
conditions. The government had been revolutionized, but not the people. So the
government had to seek its level at the level of the people.
Wang An Chi eventually was supplanted by his bitterest opponent. Sse Ma
Kwang, who effaced every vestige of Socialism and restored the government of the
nation to the condition that existed prior to its introduction. These two great leaders died
within a short while of each other, and their memories were, from time to time thereafter,
praised and execrated with all the violence and bitterness of political strife.
The death of Sse Ma Kwang showed how public opinion had changed. Several
decades before the people were Socialistic. Now, when the body of this reactionary was
borne to its tomb, the entire people voluntarily went into mourning.
The Reason for the Failure
The failure of Socialism was not due to any imperfection in the execution of its
tenets, but resulted from the failure to reconstruct the nature of man by revolution — as
against slower moving evolution — so as to conform to its ideals. To conceive Socialism
and bring it to pass was an enormous task, a labor worthy of centuries, but this of China
was the forced growth of a few decades. That upon which depended the success of
Socialism Wang An Chi and his followers could not accomplish — the changing of man’s
nature to conform to its principles as quickly as they had hoped. The people were not
The success of Socialism depended upon the Chinese people becoming a perfect
machine. That they were governed by the same motives as before its advent presaged
failure. The quick transition was more than they could grasp. Though in practical use
Socialism always remained to them a theory, highly desirable, but still a theory. The most
enthusiastic Socialist of today will admit that to put his theory into practice at once would
do incalculable harm, inasmuch as man has not yet awakened his civic consciousness.
The incalculable harm came to China; it was the impoverishment of the nation that
brought about the destruction of Socialism.
Considering the fact that the Chinese were so highly developed at that time as
compared with today, it would have been difficult to believe in the failure of Socialism,
had it always remained a theory. In this instance its failure demonstrated the impossibility
of circumventing or short-cutting that inexorable law which not only governed the
development of the Chinese people as individuals and as a people, ethically and
politically, but also governs individuals and nations today — the law of evolution.
“How few are the features of man!” remarks a Chinese philosopher. “Only four or
five, yet amongst all the myriads upon earth we find no two who are alike. How few are
the primordial passions that move mankind! Only four or five, yet there are not to be
found amongst the tribes of men two who are alike in their hates and desires.”
It was impossible to fuse those complex human motives and passions into one
homogeneous desire in so short a space of time. While laws could be enacted that might
restrain many of the selfish human motives and passions — even enact them out of
being—no laws could supply others to take their place. In circumscribing all human
effort by laws and by suddenly eliminating the old incentive for ambition, thrift and
possession, the Socialists brought stagnation to the entire nation. The people could not
understand a higher incentive. And out of this stagnation came national impoverishment;
out of this state-imposed poverty came popular reaction, which resulted in the destruction
Confucius, sixteen hundred years before, expressed clearly conditions necessary
to the success of Socialism:
“It is because men are prone to be partial toward those they love, unjust toward
those they hate, servile toward those above them, arrogant toward those below them, and
either harsh or over-indulgent to those in poverty and distress, that it is difficult to find
any one capable of exercising sound judgment with respect to the qualities of others.”
The effects of Socialism upon the Chinese nation were not confined to the
discontent of the people and the national impoverishment, but culminated in the
destruction and conquest of the nation. The ascendancy of Socialism brought about the
concurrent deterioration of the former military spirit, followed by a complete
disintegration of the army and navy. The maintenance of armed forces with gradations of
rank was incompatible with Socialist ideals.
Toward the end of the eleventh century the northern part of the nation began to be
overrun by Manchu horsemen, and it was impossible for the Chinese under their
Socialistic government to offer any practical resistance. By 1115 A.D., the Manchus had
conquered the northern part of China and had established the dynasty of Kin. Later the
Chinese by treaty ceded to the Manchus the whole of China north of the Yangtze, except
the province of Szchuen and four departments in Shensi.
With the final overthrow of Socialism, in 1129, the nation returned to the form of
government existing prior to the ascendancy of Socialism, but it was never able to revive
the militant spirit nor create efficient armies. As they lost the northern portion of China
to the Manchus, so were they to witness in the following century the complete desolation
of China by the Tartar herdsmen of Gobi. For the first time since the founding of the
Chinese nation did the Mongol tribes succeed in establishing dominion over it, though
they had carried on war without cessation along the frontiers during all its ages. So
completely destitute of military efficiency had China become that in her struggles against
the Manchus and Mongols not a single campaign culminated favorably for her.
Of all the empirical knowledge that the study of this period of Chinese history and
the consideration of Socialism gives us, the most important is the bearing the facts have
in relation to other nations. Whether or not Socialism had been successful in China, the
end would have been the same — the Manchus and Mongols. In fact, the more successful
were Socialism the more defenseless would become the nation; the longer it endured, the
more complete its destruction. Whenever the banner of the nine yak-tails summoned
together the Mongol chieftains, whether by Genghis or some other Khan, whether on the
wild banks of the Onon or on the steppes of Gobi, whether in the twelfth or fourteenth
century, China was doomed. So long as China was surrounded by militant peoples, her
Socialism was destined to bring about the destruction of the nation regardless of its effect
within. The fact remains, however, that the Manchus merely completed what the people
had begun — the destruction of Socialism in China, and of the empire.
General Homer Lea, “The Aeroplane In War: Some Observations on a Military
Delusion,” Harper’s Weekly, August 20, 1910, 8-9.
Part 1. Aeroplanes as Destructive Agents
In the beginnings of a new science it is with difficulty that men differentiate between
those limitations which are imposed by natural laws and those illimitable powers that
they are so wont to attribute to their own creations. The product of man’s creative genius
causes him to vie with the gods. He judges that the process of external affairs is
determined by his own wants, by his own will, and only when experience shows him the
folly of his pretensions does he attempt to disentangle himself from those notions he
wants believed to be in perishable.
In the mutability of human progression we find that man’s vanity and the ignorance of it
alone remain constant. Because of this the infancy of every science, ancient and modern,
is swaddled in fetishism, and so is swaddled is this new science of Flight. What God
denied man he has now made for himself; and this creation of his he has endowed with
potentialities it does not possess.
The ideas now so widespread concerning the use and value of aeroplanes in future
conflicts, is due primarily to prevailing ignorance concerning laws and forces that govern
the conduct of war; and a failure to comprehend that all engines and instruments of
combat occupy but a limited and subordinates sphere. In England, China, and the United
States, where militancy has become an immaterial factor, such ignorance is almost
universal, and neither political nor social eminence is a preservative against military
The superstition of the inanimate is still upon man. It is true that the moonlight no longer
has its fairies, nor the solitudes their genii, nor the darkness its phantoms; but these old
familiars of man have not departed. Under a new nomenclature man still houses them in
his own creations, his theories swarm with chimeras, his doctrines with simulaera and
phantoms, while his engines of war are endowed not with human, but superhuman power.
Whenever militancy goes from the spirit of a race, there enters into it, in a proportionate
degree, a racial aversion to pain and subordination; in other words, moral and physical
cowardice has come upon it, and it is then, in that period of evasion and subterfuge, that
he seeks succor in the inanimate; in gods, inventors, or what not.
Paradoxical as it may seem, military delusions increase in nonsense with the increase of
what is known as civilization. And in this epoch-making age we find certain nations
thrilling with the pitiful hope that wars in the future will be carried on by aeroplanes
guided perhaps and controlled and fought in the upper heavens by Hertzian waves. No
man shall be upon them. Unseen, unheard by the dainty multitudes, they will manoeuvre
and bang and ram away at one another until the battle is ended; not a single life lost, not a
pound of potatoes consumed. The inanimate has been welded and soldered and
hammered and sewed together so that it alone bears the burden of combat.
To such nations, scheming to keep without the labor of war, that in their military vigor
they gained by war, we owe the delusions of Hague conferences, submarines, and now —
aeroplanes! Were it possible, they would do wholly without war, could they retain in their
moral and military decrepitude the fruits of their virility; but if wars must be fought, and
let them be carried on by man’s creation; those machines to which are attributed such
powers as alone belonged to the supernatural of yesterday.
Unfortunately, wars are between men and not between the instruments they make use of
in their combats. The causes, purposes, the progress of war are not immutable to the very
changes that occur from age to age in human society, but bear the same relation to the
transient machines of combat as does the progression of civil life bear to the utensils of
husbandry and commerce. In modern times no material difference will exist between the
armament of nations, since, as has been said before, the armament of the greatest military
power must determine relatively the armament of all other nations, which is made
possible on account of the intimacy of international associations in the general diffusion
of mechanical knowledge.
Should, however, the armament of one nation be superior to that of the other, it will not
prove decisive if other conditions more important in military efficiency are lacking. The
chassepot of the French was superior to the Prussian needle-gun in 1870, and the Russian
artillery superior to that of the Japanese in 1904; but it was not the chassepot and the
needle-gun that went out to fight, it was the Frenchman in the German; nor was it the
artillery of Russia that thundered down alone to conquer Japan, but the Russian himself.
Yet the chassepot but pointed out the way to Sedan, and the Russian artillery did no more
than mark those broken roads that lead to the trenches of Mukden. And so shall there be
for all time Sedans and Mukdens for those nations who seek to substitute for the
efficiency of the soldier the efficiency of the weapon. Out of the inanimate they but
create for themselves Frankensteins, and in due time they are, by their own creations,
This tentative and futile evasion by man of those works that national development and
expansion lay upon him, and his transference to the utensils of combat the
accomplishments of those labors that he alone can perform, is not new. But in the future
this condition will be supplemented by those elusive theories that continue to emanate
from militantly declining races those melancholy portions of society that call their moral
cowardice altruism and their physical cowardice the brotherhood of man. Only a little
over ten years ago a classical instance of this evasiveness of mankind was given to us. It
was through the altruism of H. Bloch in his book the impossibility of future wars. In this
he deals with the ferocity and destructiveness of modern weapons. Men, except to be
killed with these weapons, was made of little account. So frightful did the engines of
combat appear that to conceive of the impact to hostile armies without the complete
destruction of one or both of them was impossible. It seemed at that time that man had
conquered himself by giving to the inanimate power that he himself could not withstand.
That power once turned loose, he must perish.
Paradoxical as it is, subsequent to the writings of H. Bloch, nearly every great nation has
been engaged in military enterprises and the destruction of life has been proportionately
less than any of the great wars of the past. What, might we ask, is the salient difference
between the battle of Waterloo in the battle of Liaou Yang?
The difference of the yardstick.
The range of musketry and artillery has only increased the zone of fire between hostile
fronts; communication by telephone, telegraph, and heliograph has only extended their
flanks, while the rapidity of fire has done no more than widen the interval between the
ranks and the individuals composing them. By these natural and simple expedients man
has restored that invariable equilibrium which must always exist between the weapons of
offense and the means of defense.
What, then, is the difference in the fundamental principles of ancient and modern wars?
There is none.
Do not new machines of war or military inventions alter perceptively these principles?
They do not.
Mankind as a whole almost always transfers to the inanimate world those strange
conceptions that are the product of his wants and fears. He gives to mere form his own
volition and circumstances the unknown with limitations of his own perceptions.
Whatever possesses the potentiality of destructive power or is strange or vast fills his
mind with dread. And that all of that man has come to the age of flying, he again turns his
eyes heavenward and with the same credulity that peopled the heavens with gods and
monsters, he marks out for himself new hopes and fears. About the strange craft soaring
overhead he has created a phantasmagoria of realities.
Yet, concerning the aeroplane as a destructive agent in warfare, we lay down this
apparently paradoxical axiom; that the greater the destructive potentialities of the
aeroplane are, the less destructive will it prove to man in his wars. And if it should ever
possess the capacity to annihilate cities and lay whole kingdoms in ruin, then, indeed,
both cities and kingdoms would become immune, and the aeroplane would cease to be a
The law of defense is elemental. Defense is the corollary of offense. It does not alone
appertain to man, but to all forms of animal life. The progression of human defense is
determined by the development of offensive weapons. Due to the use of swords and
spears and arrows came shields and armor; as men banded together in larger units for the
purpose of offense, fortified positions were made use of; with the increased range of
efficiency of modern weapons, defense was found by increasing distance and by
When, however, destructive agents come into possession of mankind, that are beyond his
control, he resorts to the final and most complete means of defense against them — that of
mutual prohibition. The history of war shows that the more destructive the instruments of
combat become, the less destruction results; and whenever that destructiveness becomes
uncontrollable and annihilative, it becomes harmless.
Due to the above factor, we establish this law of combative equilibrium: the equilibrium
between the years of offense and defense remains relatively constant. This is due to three
1. The development of offensive weapons is made necessary by the initial superiority of
the defensive capacity.
2. The development of the defensive always precedes that of the offensive, or there would
be no continuous development of offensive weapons, which, in turn, would necessitate no
change in the defensive. This would result in an absolute equilibrium or equality between
the means of offense and defense.
3. Whenever the development of offensive weapons equals the capacity of human
defence, then at that point offensive development ceases.
Whether the combative equilibrium is relative or absolute, the militancy of the
combatants alone determines the issue. Man cannot get around this law, for he is the law,
and to protect himself far beyond the possibility of self extinction is the elemental
principle that governs his activities. He will, therefore, always reduce to uselessness by
mutual prohibition those destructive agencies within or without war that are not capable
of his control and restriction.
At present he prohibits by international convention the employment of poison or
poisoned weapons: killing or wounding treacherously; to kill or wound an enemy who,
having laid down his arms, has no longer means of defence; to declare that no quarter
shall be given; to employ arms were projectiles when the two real calculated to cause
unnecessary suffering. He has forbidden the laying of time anchored automatic contact
mines except under certain conditions; or to lay anchored automatic contact mines except
under restrictions; the use of torpedoes that do not become harmless when they had
missed their mark. He has forbidden the laying of automatic mine contact mines off ports
and coast of the enemy with the object of intercepting commercial shipping. He has
forbidden the bombardment of undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings were
buildings; neither can these be bombarded on account of failure to pay money
contributions; nor can a town or place, taken by storm, he pillaged.
It was this same instinct of preserving the supremacy of defence over that of offensive
weapons–common not to a portion of mankind, but to the whole object — that prohibited
the use of balloons and other aerial craft as combative agents immediately subsequent to
the American Civil War, where they were, for the first time, tentatively used in
reconnaissance. While the science of aeronautics was still embryonic, no more than a
nebulous possibility, the fear of the air fell upon man.
The first convention to assemble subsequent to the American Civil War was that of St.
Petersburg, November 29, 1868, and in that convention the use of aerial craft for the
dropping of explosives was prohibited. The next prohibition was the Hague Declaration
of July 29, 1899, and at the second Hague Conference in 1907 this prohibition was
continued to the end of the third conference, which will not be convened for several
The elimination by international agreement of the harmless old gasbag of the Civil War
as engine of combat shows how deeply rooted is man’s fear of those destructive engines
that may drift without his control. Now, however, with the more or less true principle of
flight discovered, these possibilities that inspired the declaration of St. Petersburg more
than forty years ago have become to a degree actualities, and, being actualities, they have
produced conditions not, probably at that time, fully understood. Nor do we mean to say
that they are now apparent, but are considered relative to the future development of the
aeroplane, rather than the primitive thing that now, as a fledgling learning to fly, hardly
more than flicks about over limited distances.
At the present time all forms of aerial craft are useless as effective engines of war, not
only on account of their undeveloped state, but also because no projectile has been
invented which, dropped from aerial craft, would produce the degree of destruction that is
believed in by the public. With these factors, however, we have nothing to do. We are
only to show that when whenever the aeroplane shall possess the destructive
characteristics now attributed to it by popular belief, it will then become as useless in
warfare as the use of poison — thanks to the mutual agreement of those great nations that
control the international affairs of the world.
The regulation of the means and manner of the conduct of war is now determined, not by
individual commanders were single states, but by international conferences and
agreements. Such conferences are dominated by the great military powers, and whatever
agreement the delegates of these nations determine upon, the minor states of the world
must, perforce, except. In the future, as in all past international conferences, no
agreements will ever be real reached that, lessening the combative ability of the
controlling powers, will, at the same time, increased that of minor nations. Yet the
admission by international agreement of aerial craft as a combat of agency in warfare
would diminish the military power of the great nations in inverse ratio as it increased the
military capacity of minor states. This apparently anomalous condition is determined by
1. There are but three objects to be attained in war: the destruction of the enemy’s forces;
the destruction or control of his resources; and the destruction or seizure of his
government. Battles are fought only to this end.
2. The use of aeroplanes as destructive agents withdraws from the great powers the
advantages they now possess in war over minor states due to greater wealth, armament,
In a war, at present, armies are able to protect a position of their territory for a longer or
shorter period of time by contesting the frontiers. Armies must move by roads that are
defined and known to both combatants; while the Navy of the nation, moving about on a
single plane, is able also to a greater or less degree to prevent the ruin of war from falling
upon those portions of the nation whence it draws its resources, and the greater the wealth
of a nation and the more complex its industries and civilization, the more does the
destruction or threatened destruction of these affect its capacity to wage war.
But to the aeroplane there are no frontiers, no roads that they must travel over, nor passes
nor bridges: nor, like ships of war upon the sea, are they limited to one plane. The ways
of the air are, relatively, as numerous to them as the width of the aircraft, and their
vertical planes to the height of their flight. In this manner, the entire population of a
nation, together with their means of subsistence and their habitations, are brought into the
theater of combat, and that which now constitutes the power of the great nations goes for
Should aeroplanes ever be used as engines of war, we would be obliged to reverse
military conditions and except three new principles of war:
First, a state composed principally of rural communities would possess irrespective of its
wealth or population, proportionately greater military potentiality than a nation whose
wealth and population were concentrated in towns and cities. As we have said before, the
three objects of war are to destroy or possess the enemies army, resources, and
government: the destruction of his army being only necessary in order that the resources
and government might be gained, for the seizure of these latter two elements, and not the
first, is the purpose of war.
To illustrate this principle, the late war between Spain and the Moroccan tribesmen
affords an example. While fleets of Spanish aeroplanes were being directed against the
tribesmen, careening about over the desert or congregated in small widely separated
habitation’s — the annihilation of half of whom would have no effect on the other half–
the Moroccan aeroplanes have fixed objectives, viz., those immovable political strategic,
and economic centers, Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, etc., which, destroyed, would so
disrupt the Spanish Government that it could not prosecute the war, nor could it with its
airships retaliate upon the people whose political and economic conditions of natural life
were not concentrated in the component parts of which were self dependent, politically as
well as economically.
The second principle is that a nation whose economic and political needs are relatively
primitive is more capable of making use of the aeroplane and better adapted to such a war
than a nation whose form of government and civilization is complex. As an illustration of
this, a war between Mexico and the United States affords an example. So complex is the
economic condition of the United States that there is not to be found an important
community in this republic that is self-sustaining. Once the centres of control and
distribution are destroyed, with further destruction of lesser centres, the republic falls into
chaos, and all military coherence would be rendered impossible, and any successful
prosecution of the conflict would come to an end in the turmoil of internal disorders.
On the other hand, if the principal cities of Mexico were destroyed it would have
relatively far less effect upon the nation, owing to the simplicity of the economic wants of
the people as a whole and the self-dependence of separate communities.
The third principle is that the probabilities of victory in a conflict between an established
power and an unorganized government or revolution are reversed. The burden of conflict
would then rest, not with the revolutionists, as is now the case, but with the government.
Once this apparently anomalous condition is made possible, there can exist no security
for established government wherever discontent is possible among its people.
The consideration of a Polish revolution against Germany illustrates graphically this
principle. From concealed bases the political, economic, and military centers of the
Empire would be subject to attack and capable only of aeroplane defence, which, as we
have said before, is an impossible defence, since the aeroplane is restricted to no defined
avenues and possesses vertical as well as horizontal freedom movement. The German
government would be forced solely upon the defensive. No offense could be made,
regardless of the number of her aeroplanes. She could not lay waste Polish cities, for the
Polish cities are her cities; their wealth her wealth, and a large proportion of the
population loyal. The empire would have but one resource: the destruction of the
revolutionary airplanes, an almost impossible task, for when mankind uses in his wars the
highways of heaven, he leaves no wheel-tracks behind him. The air-ships come and go
and leave no spoor other than the dreadful death they drop down upon the city tops, alike
upon the palace roofs of kings and the garret roofs of paupers. Their bases may be in the
Carpathian Mountains, and the marshes of Pinsk, or in the gloom of some Polish wood,
or in all these and numerous other places. To discover and destroy these must cover a
period of time, and when accomplished, entail upon the revolutionists an insignificant
loss, postponing to another year the re-commencement of the unequal conflict.
We can, therefore, accept as established truths:
1. That the use of perfected aerial craft as destructive agents in warfare is incompatible
with international control by those great nations that now determine the mode and means
of international warfare.
2. That the use of perfected aerial craft and warfare is incompatible with the rule of the
majority, in wealth, population, and physical power.
3. That the use of perfected aerial craft in warfare is incompatible with organized and
4. That the governments of the world, in tentatively forbidding the use of aerial craft as a
destructive agent in warfare, acting through the force of a natural law, and this
prohibition will pass from the tentative to the absolute as aerial craft pas from the
experimental to the perfected machine.
General Homer Lea, “The Aeroplane In War: Some Observations on a Military
Delusion,” Harper’s Weekly, August 27, 1910, 11, 26.
Part 2. Aeroplanes as a Means of Reconnaisance
A condition very noticeable in the practical workings of the science of war — and no
doubt true in many phases of other sciences — is the failure to realize the limitations that
circumscribe the utility of mechanical contrivances. To new inventions, because of the
natural credulity of men, are almost always ascribed the repute of maximum utility,
which is reduced by slow gradations only as empirical knowledge manifests their
limitations. This conditional viewpoint is not only the natural one, but any other would,
in a general sense, the impossible.
An invention, in overcoming some natural impediment or substituting artificial for
natural means, or increasing natural capacity, has a point of hypothetical completeness —
that is, complete accomplishment of the purpose of its invention. In the beginning, men
almost invariably fixed their minds on this hypothetical perfection, and only when time
and experience show them how far short of this the invention falls do they gradually alter
their opinions. Thus, the automatic gun, the long-ranged rifle and artillery, the submarine,
the torpedo, and other numerous inventions have gradually lost the terrible potentiality
they were supposed to have in the first untried days of their invention.
We are not, therefore, wrong when we say that those military men who have such high
hopes in the utility of aeroplanes and other aerial craft for the purpose of reconnaissance
have their thoughts fixed on that hypothetical degree of completeness that gives to aerial
craft powers they can never possess. In most instances this form of delusion is due to the
fact that military man allow themselves to be influenced and carried away by the
unreasoning mob-mind of multitudes, so that their judgment is no longer free from
prejudice and those cheating hopes that preclude reason.
In this case, fixing their thoughts on aerial craft high in the heavens, they apparently
forget the earth, the purpose and limitations of true reconnaissance. That aerial craft can
and will be used in the future for reconnaissance is quite certain, but their use will be so
limited that they will be relegated to an entirely secondary consideration. The
reconnaissance of a battlefield or a projected theater of combat is not and cannot be
confined to aerial inspection. To look upon the terrene is not to know it any more than
one is able to guess the character and purpose of an individual by looking at him.
Reconnaissance is not merely to view, but to become acquainted with, the theater of
action, and there can be no acquaintance by aerial inspection but what will sooner or later
prove to be an optical illusion.
A battle is not analogous to a game of chess or checkers, as the self-delusive and
whimsical mind of the public is so wont to believe. And while it is better, in such a game,
to look down upon the pieces than to peer over the edge of the table, this analogy cannot
be carried to the checkered field of battle. In considering military reconnaissance, it must
be remembered that its activity is specific and limited. The conduct of a battle is not
determined by man alone, but by him in the earth that alternately opposes his intentions
or abets them.
Alas! what little consideration does man, in his combats, give to his great opponent or
ally — the earth. The number of battles the earth has won for man and lost to him is
immeasurably greater than those due solely to his prowess. Yet his vaingloriousness
scorns to acknowledge to this universal combatant the credit of his victories or the
responsibility for his defeats. Rather, like the ancients, he would have the gods come
down and war for or against him. These gods he calls Luck and Chance: the Indefinable;
for to do find them would only manifest his ignorance of that old, old combatant fighting
in every skirmish and battle of man. She has her ramparts, her abittis, her moats. She has
her gloom and inspiration that turns to good or evil the morale of armies. She has her
ambuscades and whole armies go into these to return not again. She leads man and
bewilders him; she constrains his activities and abets them; she throws barriers across his
advance; she alternately defends and devours him. That is why the ancients offered up
sacrifices on the day before battle. They had a dim consciousness of this goddess, the
combatant earth. In modern times the sacrifices are postponed to the day of battle and are
yielded up in great hecatombs upon its fields. In war the alliance or hostility of the earth
is not an unknown quantity; her support belongs to the armies who know her and are
conscious of the part she plays in every battle. But to those forces and commanders who,
ignorant of the part she has to take, scorn and deride her, there is no escape from a pre-
determined and melancholy end.
One cannot deny the earth and learn those hidden secrets that give to armies victory or
defeat. Yet reliance upon aerial reconnaissance presupposes to a greater or less degree
this denial. Knowledge and not a fleeting view of the terrene constitutes the essential
factor in an army’s reconnaissance, and such knowledge can be gained only by actual
contact. All that aerial scouts could accomplish would be to observe the movement of
troops. But we will hereafter show that the introduction of aeroplanes for observation will
so increase the secrecy by which troops are moved from one position to another that the
utility of this form of reconnaissance will not be as great as is most generally supposed.
Those who regard the aeroplane as invaluable in warfare, far beyond its possibilities, are
led to their conclusions by two errors: first, they do not differentiate between the wonder
of the invention, per se, and the limitation of its application. Second, that this conquest of
the heavens has nothing to do with the subjugation of man. It has not invented into him
new faculties; and yet it is man and not machines that we have to deal with. While it has
given new means of military observation, it does not follow that these observations will
be more intelligible nor his deductions more reliable, nor his judgment and genius, his
valor and endurance, superior to what it had been before.
The unreliable and diverse opinions of scouts on things that they have been in actual
contact with is a well-known military phenomenon, and one that is perfectly natural,
since there are no two man whose perceptive faculties are identical. A good scout is one
of the rarest elements in an army, for he is good only because he has lived in an
environment and followed a vocation that develops the faculties of observation and
renders them accurate. An aerial scout, on the other hand, suddenly shoots forward out of
a vocation that has nothing to do with those elements that would give reliability to his
reports even though he were inspecting, on the ground itself, the familiar objects. But he
is in an entirely new environment: he must judge all things from an entirely different
point of view, and there is but one single thing that he could make a report on that would
be worthy of consideration, and that is the actual movement of a body of troops on an
open terrene. But his reports as to the strength, its destination or rate of movement, could
be accepted by no commander, and practically all the rest of his information would be
Peering down from a great height, it would be impossible for him to determine the depth
of streams, their bottom or their currents or the thickness of ice. He could not ascertain
the angle or height of declivities. Looking down from the perpendicular upon these, he
could have no means of determining whether or not they belonged to a deep gorge or a
shallow ravine. He could not ascertain the location of fords and whether in adjoining
tickets they were defended by bodies of troops or by wired entanglements in the ford
itself. It would be impossible for him, looking down upon the woods, villages, and
forests, to ascertain whether or not they contained troops, and if troops what kind of
troops or the number. What would appear to him to be a gap in the enemy’s lines might
in all probability be their strongest position.
Conditions governing observation from aeroplanes are, moreover, restricted in still
another sense; they must move at a great height to be beyond the range of gunfire, and
this necessitates the use of binoculars for observation. To maintain themselves in the air
they must have such a speed that the area of observation, limited by the area of the
glasses, gives no continuity to the survey, and on account of the rapidity of the movement
of the carriage no observation of minute character could be made of the area visible
through the binoculars but what would prove illusive. Any one can determine the inutility
of such a scheme by trying to observe a mountainside a mile away through binoculars
while in a railroad train or motor-car moving at thirty miles an hour. Such observations
would be far more accurate than those taken from an aeroplane, from the fact that one
would be viewing what one is accustomed to view, the vertical elevation of objects.
Were it possible, however, to use aerial craft for reconnoitring in the manner attribute it
to them by the people at large, of what value would be such observations?
They would be dangerous in both a negative and a positive sense. The information given
concerning topographical features would be useless until verified by actual contact with
regular scouts. Those features of the typography that are essential for commanders to
know must always remain enigmas to aeronauts. They could give no information
acceptable to a commander as to any natural obstacle being or not being passable to the
different arms of the military force — whether a forest, river, ravine or mountainside.
They could not tell whether ice would support foot, cavalry, or artillery, or none of them.
They could not distinguish between a fallow field and a marsh; yet upon this exact
knowledge the decision of the battle might rest. They could not tell the dry mud of
Austerlitz from that which did not dry on the field of Waterloo. With what eyes could
they have peered down through the pine woods of the Chickahominy and found the fatal
base of that broken triangle Lee had thrown about the bewildered army of McClellan; or
through the thickets of the Wilderness or Antietam; or at Chancellorsville fathom out the
mind of a man who moved in plain view of an entire army and rolled it back to utter
Such is the character of the negative dangers entailed by the use of aerial craft, while the
positive dangers are that in having air-ships with armies they will be made use of, not
under special and possibly just circumstances, but under all conditions, and the
information thus gained will influence commanders to a great degree on account of the
supposed increased accuracy of the means of securing it. As the balloon of the American
Civil War prevented the movement of the Army of the Potomac and lost to that army its
greatest opportunities for decisive victories, so shall there occur in the future, by the same
general means, the same procrastinations, the same dreadful culmination.
To judge, however, the value of aeroplanes or other aerial craft, from the viewpoint of
battles fought in the past, is not only useless, but absurd. Yet from these very means are
deduced the erroneous conclusions of those who now believe in their unlimited
capabilities for observation in future wars. What is more common than to hear exclaimed:
well think what would have happened if such and such a general had had air-ships?
It should be remembered that prior to the Napoleonic wars and in lesser degree up to the
time of the American Civil War, tactical secrecy was not and could not be attempted on
account of the short range of the ordnance and compact movement of troops, and
therefore all that, in a general sense, which was worth being viewed by air-ships was
visible to the commanding general on the field.
Beginning with the American Civil War and culminating with the Russo-Japanese
conflict there has been a continuous extension of the line of battle and expansion of the
movements of columns on, to, and from the flanks, until we find in the last war a line of
battle approximately twenty times longer than the fronts of Napoleon at Waterloo. Under
modern conditions it might be argued, therefore, with apparent plausibility, that the time
for the use of aeroplanes has now come.
But what brought about this extension and why dispersion of armies in the field? The
necessity of mutual defense, the law of self protection made operative by the
destructiveness of modern ordnance and the rapidity of communication and
transportation. When aeroplanes are used, whether for reconnoitring or other purposes,
this same law will again alter the tactics and logistics of armies so as to procure the
necessary protection. And as has been stated before, offensive utilities can never overtake
in their development the defensive capacity of man. Two conditions alone manifest the
truth of this relative to the use of aerial craft for gaining knowledge of the enemy’s
position or movements.
Reconnoitring, other than a reconnaissance in force, is supposed to be carried out as
secretly as possible and to the degree that secrecy is maintained in securing information is
to be found its value, since the enemy, not being aware that his movements have been
discovered, will make no attempt to change them or reinforce his columns or alter their
direction. But in reconnoitring by aerial craft the element of secrecy is dispensed with
absolutely and all observations are made in full sight and knowledge of the enemy, and
consequently can possess no determinate value.
The use of aerial craft for reconnaissance instead of inducing radical alterations in the
logistics and tactics of armies only adds, by a single gradation, another phase in the
evolution that has been going on in the employment of military forces during the last fifty
years, and that slight change, coming under the law of man’s defensive capacity, nullifies
any practical use of aeroplanes for military observation.
Beginning with the American Civil War, and progressing proportionately as were
introduced new military ordnance and utilities, has been the increased concealment of
troops individually and in force; in marches and in conflict. This science of concealment
reached its highest point of development in the Russo-Japanese War. There were whole
armies marched and fought practically concealed from one another; men in covered
trenches; guns in covered pits. Before crossing the Yalu, Kuroki’s force was obliged to
follow a spacious road on the left bank entirely visible to the enemy entrenched across
the river. During the night pine trees were transplanted so thickly along this bank that the
movement of his force was completely concealed as they moved over this portion of the
road. Whenever, therefore, aeroplanes or other air-ships become agents of military
observation they will be rendered practically useless by the simple expedient of adopting
vertical concealment to the same degree that horizontal concealment is now practised.
Moreover, it will be found in future wars that all such appliances will be most largely
used by non-militant nations. For whenever a nation denies the possibility of war it
scorns its knowledge, endeavoring, on the other hand, to escape by evasion what it is not
appeared to meet, and attempting by subterfuge to meet what it cannot escape. Because
of this it will be found that in whatever proportion volunteers constitute the nation’s
military forces in war, in just such proportion will there be made use of such impractical
means to gain information and carry on the war. The vast proportion of commanders
being without military instinct or training, will be unable to distinguish between true and
false military information; hence until after several years, or, in other words, until after
the militia and volunteers ceased to be volunteers were militia, and superior commanders
supplant political favorites, they will be almost endless procrastination and disasters
resulting from this single cause.
True preparation for war concerns itself alone with the preparation of the soldiers for
combat, and has nothing to do with the illusions of hope nor those vain speculations by
which men pad their valor and fudge upon the unoffending machines they trundle to and
from the field of battle. Only when the men of a nation are militant by upbringing and
military by training are they able to understand the wide chasm that separates the soldier
from his weapon, and to realize that the degree of perfection in a soldier determines in its
final phase the military utility of every instrument of combat.
Anti-bellum war utensils are not determinate factors in war; the innumerable and variant
conditions, co-existent with the war itself, evolve the means by which campaigns are
conducted in the manner its battles are won or lost. While there never has been and never
will be two wars identical in the application of their means, yet there remains through all
the endless changes warfare one constant factor — the soldier.
Homer Lea, “Legacy of Commodore Perry,” North American Review, June 1913, 741-760.
Paradoxical as it may seem, the heritage of nations is the legacy of individuals; hence it is that we say such-and-such men are the benefactors of their race. Great men can produce great nations, hut great nations do not necessarily produce great men; hence it is that the most insignificant of tribes have given to the world the greatest men, and the greatest of nations have gone down because of the lack of these individuals.
When the heritage of a nation is the legacy of an individual, that inheritance has invariably a twofold potentiality. It is like the Temple of Janus, beneficent and terrible. The legacy of Columbus was a world; the legacy of Louis XVI., the French Revolution; the legacy of Confucius, universal tolerance; the legacy of Saint Augustine, universal inquisition; the legacy of Washington, this Republic; the legacy of Commodore Perry, Japan.
That there should have been erected by the Japanese on a promontory overlooking Yeddo Bay a monument to the memory of Commodore Perry is not other than an expression of their gratitude to a man who, unbeknownst to himself, left to that poor relation of mankind an inheritance greater than Alexander left to his generals or Caesar to the Roman Empire — the heritage of the Pacific.
This sea alone constitutes more than one-third the entire surface of the globe, while upon its shores are to he found two-thirds of the human race and three-fourths of the undeveloped wealth of the world. The peculiar value to Japan in possessing this ocean is in its capacity to dominate it. The geographical position of Japan is in the strategic, center of this half of the world. The development of mechanical means in communication and transportation gives to Japan an ability to traverse and to communicate with the most remote places in this vast region with greater ease and rapidity than a century ago it look to maintain communication between London and Edinburgh or between Washington and Boston.
The other heir to this inheritance is the United States. But the value of the Pacific to this Republic does not belong to the immediate present: hence it is that this nation overlooks its true worth. The necessity of America’s possessing the Pacific rests in political conditions that are just now beginning to make themselves manifest: (1) the elimination of time and space by mechanical invention which reduces the entire surface of the world to a small and compact area; (2) in exact proportion as this area is reduced nations are crowded together, and as nations are crowded together there must go on a continual elimination of the lesser Stales. The progression of warfare, starting from the combat of the individual, has gone on in constant progression toward the combat of larger units; hence, as at one time it was the individual, then the family, then a collection of families, then tribes, then a collection of tribes, that constituted the nuclei of combat, so it has developed through varying degrees of petty States until it has now reached what we might call a combat of composite States. Prior to the Napoleonic wars the whole of Europe was divided into many hundreds of petty kingdoms. Out of their amalgamation has come the German Empire, the Italian Kingdom, Austria, and Russia. We are now about to pass to the final stage of combat, that of races.
The elimination of smaller political entities will continue with the same unvarying certitude. In this elimination of nationalities and their amalgamation with the more powerful nations is alone to be found the diminution of war, since every independent stale is an embryo of combat. The failure to realize this fact causes those strange theorists — arbitrationists — to see in the growing infrequency of war an increasing morality of mankind, whereas this diminution has come about through perfectly natural causes. As you decrease the number of independent states you decrease the probabilities of war; and, as the elimination and absorption of a state is only through conflict, we can truly say that by war alone will war he eliminated:
Each year decreases the width of both the Atlantic and the Pacific. Each year decreases the power of minor states and augments that of the greater nations, so that the time is not far distant when we can give expression to this law: that whenever the political and military power of Europe passes under the control of a single race, and that race controls the Atlantic, the suzerainty of the Western Hemisphere passes over to it. Should the militancy of Germany continue to expand, and the militant deterioration of America go on to the degree that is now existent, the suzerainty of this Republic over the Western Hemisphere will in clue time be lost.
Should Asia pass, in a military and political sense, under the suzerainty of a single power, and that power should control the Pacific, American suzerainty over the western part of the Western Hemisphere must pass to the Asiatic. On the other hand, if this Republic would, under these circumstances, maintain military supremacy over the Pacific as against Asian powers, it could extend its suzerainty to those shores and give to the people dwelling there those principles it deems so beneficial to mankind.
Whatever nation secures the dominion of the Pacific and maintains it has reached the sphere and possibility of world-empire. No nation that does not first possess this sovereignty can aspire to the hope of that, greatness; and unless the Republic secures that dominion now, it is lost to it forever. While that loss may not be appreciated by this generation, there will come generations who will look back upon those now living with the same contempt as races of men have regarded the folly of Esau, who sold his heritage for a mess of pottage.
To Japan, however, this heritage has to do with the present to as vital a degree as it can possibly affect it in the future. The interests of these two nations are acutely convergent, and it is only in the degree of speed by which they are moving along their respective lines to that point of contact which is war, that we discover a difference. In the United States there is little or no propulsion, for so absolutely does the present crowd aside future considerations in the affairs of the nation, that it can be said that while the movement of Japan in the Pacific is predetermined, definite, and irrevocable, that of the United States is hardly more than an uncertain drifting upon the indolent currents of this vast sea, where destiny has cast them.
The position of Japan in the Pacific has its historical counterparts. In their careers and in their destiny is to be found the career and destiny of this old yet new nation. Japan is to the Pacific what ancient Tyre was to the Mediterranean. What England is in the Atlantic, Japan must be in the Pacific, or, as other insular kingdoms, be destroyed by those continental powers whose seas it does not control and whose ports it fails to command.
While the inheritance of the Pacific is as vital to this Republic as to Japan, its value, being of the future, loses its significance through the natural improvidence of the Republic. Yet it will be only after the passage of a few years that the pressure of the Pacific will rest as heavily upon this neglectful nation as it does to-day upon Japan.
The destiny of states, their welfare, and plans made for their greatness alone concern the future. It is not the statesman, but the politician who agitates himself over the present; and it is not even the politician, but the quackery of him that keeps the nation seething in domestic legislation, in the mockeries of reforms, and in the mad lie of politics, diverting it from true greatness and wrecking it in the midst of its vain contentment. The politician is one of the curses God did not lay upon Egypt. He reserved this for America.
National greatness is alone determinable by the provisions for the future. While the erection of a building can only succeed the completion of its foundation, these must be preceded by the perception of the completed edifice. So it is in the building of nations; aspirations and plans belong to the future, and must precede the creation of all national greatness, even to the laying of its foundations.
Had the Mississippi Valley remained French, Texas and the Pacific, coast Spanish, Hawaii independent, Alaska Russian, or this nation divided into two Republics, the greatness that now belongs to it would have been no more than those day-dreams of great men that halt momentarily upon this earth and pass on into oblivion.
The Pacific bears to this Republic the same relationship as did the acquisition of those great territories that now constitute its domains. At the time when they were secured there existed no need for them, and their acquirement alone concerned the future. There is a resemblance between the sovereignty of these continental possessions and the future sovereignty of the Pacific
The possession of these territories made possible the greatness of this Republic. The possession of the Pacific makes possible its survival.
In so far as the ultimate future of Japan and the United Stales is concerned, their claims to the inheritance of the Pacific rest not alone on lines of national progress, but survival. That this identic character should not be apparent is due to the indeterminate character of this Republic’s future needs and the decisiveness of Japan’s present necessity.
On the one hand, we have this nation, whose sovereignty is unconcernedly extended over one-fourth of the world; on the other hand, an Empire with a population more than half that of this Republic, restricted to one two-hundred-and-fiftieth part of the earth’s surface. In one nation we find opulence, in the other poverty; in one the old vanity of possessions, in the other the old craft of hunger. This nation has arrogance without arms, Japan both arms and contempt. Here are shopkeepers; there are soldiers. In Japan only the Emperor stands between a soldier and God. In America precedence begins the of her way: between a soldier and hell only some Bunker Hills intervene, and a few bridges of Concord to save him From titter damnation.
It has long been known that armies are divisible into three psychological elements: one-third is naturally brave, one-third is cowardly, and the other third indeterminate. The problem, therefore, in an army is to bring the indecisive third into the ranks of the brave. This is the purport of discipline. If by giving over the army to those who are valorous, and if by the exercise of military training they bring over the indeterminate third to the ranks of the brave, then an actual army has been created. These, two-thirds carry along the cowardly third by compulsion. With the final third there is no hope, God has already abandoned them. And it is folly for man to bolster them up with false shoulders and mustaches.
This same law applies, in time of peace, to the peoples of all nations; to this nation and to Japan. But due to the difference in the ethical ideals of these two States, the same artificial distinction results; is would lie the case between two armies in one of which the warlike third held sway and the oilier in which the cowardly third ruled. In Japan the nation is dominated by militancy; the military third, controlling the indecisive third, practically eliminates the non-military element.
In this Republic the opposite condition exists, and we must pass over it in sad and bitter silence lest we sully the forgotten memory of those heroes whose blood cemented together the foundations of this Republic.
Such, then, is the spirit that animates these two claimants to the inheritance of the Pacific as they make their way to the bar of that court which shall adjust their claims.
Mankind invariably views the process of law and the adjustment of human differences with prejudice, and because of this it is commonly said that no man is justified in acting as his own counsel.
The error of this is manifest; yet, in its application to that old composite individual, the nation, the same condition exists, with this exception, that in addition to prejudice is passion, with passion, hate, and with these a willful, mad disdain.
Nothing can be more deplorable than this error.
Warfare is only a phase of national progress, to be no more regarded with hatred or passion than should an individual look with the same feeling upon the vicissitudes that mark his progress from childhood to the grave.
The adjudication of this inheritance of the Pacific must pass through two courts: the Court of the Sea and the Court of the Land; the first is preliminary, the second final. The judgment of the Court of the Sea will either be decisive or will appertain to the final judgment, in no way.
A statistical comparison between the naval forces of the United States and Japan is apparently plain to the public mind, though the public neither knows nor cares anything about it. To those who study it, it is an enigma when it is not an obsession. This enigmatical character is due to the falsity of the relationship it bears to the actual struggle.
By those tables it is seen that that overwhelming superiority of the American navy does not exist. In fact, it is very difficult to say if both navies were ranged in a single sea, which would he superior. In warfare the catalogue of ships and the enumeration of the implements of war never stand in constant relation to those other characteristics that more actually determine the eventual consummation of international struggles.
War is like prayer — it alone concerns man. A cathedral does not add to prayer, nor do weapons increase the militancy of nations. These two conditions are elemental. There enters also into the conduct of war, both by land and by sea, the Earth. The Earth plays a greater part in the eventual determination of war than does man himself. The Earth can circumscribe man in his combat; all that man can do is to borrow. The Earth is an enemy or an ally. It aids the defense or the offense. It alone determines its allegiance. Such is the case in the naval war on the Pacific. The Japanese have gods that are gods of the land and of the sea. These gods they have propitiated, and the Earth has come 1o their rescue. This struggle for the Pacific is in the Pacific. The naval forces and the naval bases of the United States are sixteen thousand miles from the combative sphere of their coast-line. The navies and armies and peoples and gods of Japan are in the center of it.
The determinate factor in naval warfare, as on land, is strategic. In this instance it might be said that this strategic condition determines the consummation of the approaching struggle. The efficiency of a fleet diminishes or is augmented as the distance from its main base to the theater of war is lengthened or diminished. The area of all naval efficiency is determined by the multiplicity, dispersion, and capacity of naval bases, together with a merchant marine sufficient to meet the maximum demand of the navy in war. Without these depots and merchant marine a navy decreases in efficiency as it increases in size. Due to the naval policy of this Republic, the Atlantic fleet, once in the Atlantic at the beginning of a war, must remain glued to its Atlantic bases or lo the radii of its steaming capacity from these bases.
The fleets of the United States and Japan in the Pacific are:
United States Japan
Battle-ships — 15
Armored cruisers 10 15
Torpedo craft 12 157
Big guns 16 169
Time for the Atlantic fleet to reach San Francisco in peace 120 days
Time for the Japanese fleet to reach San Francisco in peace 19 days
Time for the Atlantic fleet with supply-ships in war 180 days
Time for the Japanese fleet with transports in war 30 days
By this table we see that Japan possesses, in a naval sense, the tentative naval control of the Pacific. This is due to the fact that the time elapsing from the landing of the Japanese upon the Pacific coast to the time that the Atlantic fleet might enter its waters is sufficient for the complete seizure by land of the Pacific coast. It will be seen later on that by the time the American fleet enters the Pacific it will look across a waste of waters in which there does not remain a single American port of call — an expanse of waters as portentous and forbidding as they appeared to Magellan some centuries ago.
Should the United States undertake the folly of dividing its fleet between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans the elimination of the American navy might be considered as completed. If the American second-class battleships should be taken as first-class, and there should be made an equable division between the Atlantic and the Pacific, then in relation to the Atlantic fleet France would be:
Fifty per cent, stronger in big guns.
One hundred per cent, stronger in armored cruisers.
Four hundred per cent, stronger in destroyers.
Twenty-five hundred per cent, stronger in torpedo-boats.
Germany would be:
One hundred and twenty per cent, stronger in big guns.
One hundred per cent, stronger in armored cruisers.
Five hundred per cent, stronger in destroyers.
Four hundred per cent, stronger in torpedo-boats.
England would be:
Four hundred and fifty per cent, stronger in big guns.
Six hundred per cent, stronger in armored cruisers.
Twelve hundred per pent, stronger in destroyers.
Nine hundred per cent, stronger in torpedo-boats.
In relation to the Pacific fleet Japan would be:
One hundred per cent, stronger in big guns.
One hundred and twenty per cent, stronger in armored cruisers.
Four hundred per cent, stronger in destroyers.
Five hundred per cent, stronger in torpedo-boats.
If the United States is to consider its navy as a decisive factor in the defense of this heritage of the Pacific and the continental states on the borders of that ocean, then its naval policy must be radically changed, and the number of its ships in the Pacific determined by the naval strength of the strongest Pacific power plus that number of ships which are necessary to overcome the strategic advantages adherent to the other power; plus also the erection and dispersion of naval bases in all of its Pacific possessions, and a creation of land forces that, are capable of protecting these bases from land attack. In this age of great vessels and great speed vast armies can accompany fleets, and temporary control of the sea gives temporary control of undefended landings which with imperceptible rapidity pass to a state of permanency.
An error that frequently manifests itself is the failure of nations to differentiate between the instruments of war and the limitations of their use. In one war we find that, should a combatant achieve certain success through one of its arms as over the use of others, nations rush to increase that arm even to the neglect of the balance, failing to realize that it might have been the environment of the theater of war that determined the especial advantage of that particular means of combat. The character of warfare in South Africa was not applicable to Asia, to America, or to Europe. Yet for the time being it affected them all.
So it is in regard to navies. Some nations place their dependence too much upon them, and for no other reason than because another great power, whose naval necessities may be acute and its greatness based upon naval supremacy, regards naval war as its primary means of offense and defense.
A navy in most cases can never lie anything more than an adjunct to the land forces of a nation. Wars cannot be won through naval achievements alone. The loss of a navy has no effect on the fighting capacity of a nation, nor upon its government or resources. To be victorious in a decisive sense of the word, the resources or the government of the enemy must be destroyed or controlled to such a degree that the nation is incapable of war. Navies cannot accomplish this. It is reserved for the land forces.
We have seen that, in the struggle for the inheritance of the Pacific, the present conditions are such that the American navy can play no part, and the American nation must depend upon its armies not alone for victory, but, for the preservation of the integrity of the nation. So we shall now enter upon the consideration of land warfare, its purposes, progress, and consummation.
In warfare an overwhelming advantage accrues to that combatant who is able to force; the theater of war into the other contestant’s territory, which is quite contrary to that old nonsense of seeking to light near one’s base. The devastation of the theater of war goes on concurrently with the progress of the war. With this destruction is lessened proportionately the combative ability of the nation in whose territory is located this area of conflict. Hence in a war between Japan and the United States, if it were possible for the United States to make Japan the battlefield instead of this continent, the war would be more than half won and the ruin of it unfelt.
The determination of the locality of this theater of war depends on four conditions:
- The temporary control of the sea.
(a) Belongs to Japan.
- Capacity to transport troops.
(a) Capacity of the United States to transport troops in a single voyage,15,000.
(b) Capacity of Japan to transport troops in a single voyage, 200,000.
- Size of the mobile army.
(a) American field army at the outbreak of war, 32,000.
(b) Japanese field army at the outbreak of war, 250,000.
- Military capacity.
(a) American army in United States, inclusive of militia, 114,000.
(b) Japanese army in Japan, inclusive of reserves, 1,500,000.
By this we see that the determination of the theater of war rests entirely with Japan. The Philippine Island’s will play no part, because they arc; strategically occupied the moment war is declared on account of their proximity to Japan. To place troops in them would he a diversion entirely outside of the real theater of operations. The Hawaiian Islands in a similar manner fall under Japanese sovereignty immediately on the declaration of war. This is due to reasons other than those that control the Philippines.
“Japanese immigration into Hawaii has been political rather than economic, and is divided into three distinct political decades, as determined by two factors:
- American Pacific expansion.
(a) The establishment of the Hawaiian Republic
(b) The annexation of Hawaii.
(c) The conquest of the Philippines.
- Japanese political development.
(a) Protest of Japan against annexation of Hawaii.
(b) Japanese victory over China.
(c) Japanese victory over Russia.
(d) Anglo-Japanese alliance.
In the first political decade, 1884-1896, there occurred:
- The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the establishment of the American republic.
- Japan’s protest against annexation.
- Japan’s victory over China; the elimination of that nation from the Pacific, and the beginning of Japan’s political development as a Pacific power.
Simultaneous with these events the Japanese population in Hawaii increased from 116 in 1884 to 22,329 in 1896. In the second political decade, 1896-1900, there occurred:
- The annexation of Hawaii.
- The conquest of the Philippines.
- The development of the Japanese army and navy.
Simultaneous with these events the Japanese population increased from 22,329 in 1896 to 61,115 in 1900.
In the third political decade, 1900-1908, there occurred:
- Japan’s victory over Russia, the elimination of that nation in the Pacific, and Japan’s increased development as a Pacific power.
- The Anglo-Japanese alliance and Japan’s advent as a world power.
- Unprecedented development of the Japanese army and navy.
Simultaneous with these events Japanese immigration into the Hawaiian Islands from 1900 to 1908 has been 65.708. The departures during this period were 42,313. The military unfit have in this manner been supplanted by the veterans of the great war, and the military occupation of Hawaii tentatively accomplished.”
In this manner we find that the theater of war is relegated to the Pacific coast, Washington, Oregon, and California.
The army of Japan is based upon universal and compulsory service. This service extends from the end of the age of twenty and continues until forty. All those capable of carrying arms are divided into two classes: the “fit” and the “absolutely fit,” but it is only from the “absolutely fit” that the army is constructed. While military training is part of the school training of all Japanese, it is at the age of twenty that the “absolutely fit” enter the regular army, where they serve for three years in all arms except the infantry, which is for two; then they serve for five years in the first reserve, called the “Yobi.” They are then transferred to the “Kobi,” in which they serve for ten years. At the end of their Kobi service, which is in their thirty-eighth year, they pass into the Kokumin, where they serve for two years and eight months, completing their total of twenty years. In addition to this there is a supplementary reserve called the “Hoju.” It is composed of the balance of the “absolutely fit” not required for the first line. They serve in the Hoju for seven years four months. They are called out first for ninety days’ training and subsequent trainings of sixty days. They then pass to the Kobi, where they serve ten years, then to the Kokumin, and complete their service of twenty years. This Hoju is used for making good the waste of war.
The field army of Japan consists of some twenty divisions. These include the guard. There are two independent cavalry brigades, three independent brigades of field artillery, each of twelve batteries, three independent divisions of mountain-guns, and four or more divisions of heavy artillery, each of twenty-four guns. The war strength of a division is 25,000 men. At the present time the total strength of the mobile field army is about 700,000 men, with reserves sufficient to bring it up, if necessary, to a million and a half.
Concerning the American army, we will use Only those figures found in the recent report of the Secretary of War and the chief-of-staff, which the sensitive nature of Congress was unable to accept.
By this we find that, in addition to the staff, the American army is composed of fifteen regiments of cavalry, six regiments of field artillery, thirty regiments of infantry, three battalions of engineers, and one hundred and seventy companies of coast artillery. This gives a total combatant force of 64,000 officers and men. If we deduct the coast artillery we find that the entire balance is less than two divisions of the Japanese army.
The regular army is distributed as follows: 32.500 of the mobile forces are in the United States, 14,500 of the mobile forces are in the insular possessions and Alaska; 16,200 coast artillery are in the United States, 800 are abroad.
In addition to these regular forces, the Secretary of War estimates the available militia to be 86,200 combatant officers and men. The total forces, therefore, in the United States, inclusive of the militia, are 114,500.
The Secretary of War states:
“This force has not the proper proportion of infantry, cavalry, field artillery, engineers, or sanitary troops; it is not fully equipped for field service; it is, with exception of parts of the militia, entirely lacking in organization into higher tactical units of brigades and divisions.”
In modern warfare the first essential to success, after the theater of war has been determined upon, is to reach that locality first. The time required can and should always he known prior to the outbreak of war. This is determined by three definite conditions: First, the assembling of the army; second, the degree of preparedness to take the field; third, the length of time required to transport the forces to the theater of combat.
In assembling the forces of the United States, small as they are, there exists a complex condition of affairs. The regular army of the United States is distributed among one hundred and fifty posts. The militia are scattered throughout forty-nine States and in more than three hundred different geographical localities. These must all be gotten together and supplied with field equipment for the actual purposes of war, which they do no! now possess. They must be organized into brigades, and brigade staffs organized, of which not even the nuclei exist. Divisions must be formed, and division staffs; new artillery regiments must be constructed, horses bought and trained, and innumerable other conditions of actual war met and adjusted before these forces can even make their way across America to the Pacific coast.
We should say, after careful study of this question, that it is not possible for these 114,000 men to be placed in brigade and divisional organizations and equipped so that they could intelligently participate in a pitched battle under four months. It is true that in six weeks they might be herded to the front, but in so far as modern military combat is concerned they would be no better than a mob; and though that mob did possess the courage and patriotism of the Gracchi, unlike the Gracchi their deeds would bring them no glory.
Japan, on the other hand, is governed by entirely different conditions. There exists at all times a standing army of over a quarter of a million men, ready to take the field, completely equipped in a single day. For the mobilization of the rest of the forces, it is simplified by two conditions: (1) the compactness of Japan, being not as large as the State of California; (2) the Empire is divided into military districts corresponding with the divisions of the army, and each district is the unit of administration as well as territorial command. Each division receives its recruits from its own district, so that in addition to its standing army Japan can within a week call to its colors an additional half-million men absolutely equipped, administered, and as perfect as any army in the world, and as ready to enter into a pitched battle upon the day of its mobilization as a year subsequent.
When the theater of war, as in this case, is distant from the center of mobilization of both combatants, the capacity of the means of transportation becomes of vital importance.
In the United States we find that the major portion of the American forces is east of the Mississippi River — that is to say, between two and three thousand miles from the theater of conflict. They must be transported, after they have been mobilized, by railroads, the difficulty of which is at best very great. When, however, the railroads are under private ownership and vast stretches of territory exist, as in the western part of the Union, through which these troops must pass, the difficulty increases. And when, in addition to this, we find that the entire population of these States is dependent upon the use of these railways to secure means of livelihood and to dispose of its products, the difficulty becomes even greater than it is possible to imagine.
For example, we noted at one time that in the transportation of two hundred and ten men from two companies of coast artillery to the coast, seven sleeping-cars and two baggage-cars were required. Multiply this to 114,000 men, and for each car used in the transportation of men add three additional cars for munitions, artillery, transport, equipment, commissary, horses, mules, wagons, etc., and the magnitude of the task becomes apparent. In war, however, when these 114,000 men must be increased to a million or two million, it is readily seen that the abandonment of the West along certain lines of railway is possible, and their eventual confiscation by the government for the use of military purposes alone is inevitable.
These American roads are quite the reverse of the Russian-Siberian Railway, and it is in this difference of conditions that belong those elements of weakness characteristic of the American railways when given over to war. In the Russo-Japanese War the Siberian road was not only the property of the Russian Government, manned by its employees and a staff whose education and training had been devoted to the handling of troops, but it was unhindered by local traffic or by great areas of dependent population.
The capacity of Japan to transport troops to the United States, and the rapidity with which she can do it, results in This strange paradox: that, in a military sense, Japan is closer to the Pacific coast than is that portion of the United States from whence must come the men and the means with which to make war.
At one time the sea was regarded as being a protection against invasion. But under modern means of marine transportation this condition is reversed, and the sea affords the easiest and quickest way of invading an alien land, provided that the nation possesses armies and ships, as in the case of Japan.
After the American army has been assembled it would require forty-five days to transport the whole of it to a specific theater of war on the Pacific coast. The reason for this is that these armies are tied to the lines of railway. For instance, if would be impossible to transport troops to central or southern California by tin- northern railways, or to Washington and Oregon by the Santa Fe or Southern Pacific, since on reaching the coast and running parallel to it they would be traveling fifteen hundred miles parallel to the enemy’s lines of attack and by a single line of railroad. It must further be remembered that the size of the American defending army is not determined by any arbitrary rules at Washington, but by the number of troops composing the invading army. Moreover, these troops must reach the vicinity of the theater of war simultaneously. They must enter the area of conflict as a compact body. This, if attempted after war has been declared, is an impossibility. They come in driblets.
In marine transportation these conditions are reversed. The invading forces can select any point on the coast and their expedition disembark as a compact whole, whether it be one hundred or two hundred thousand men.
It is said that Japan possesses a thousand sea-going vessels. The following table, comprising forty vessels capable of carrying one hundred and twenty-five thousand men and of making the voyage in less than twenty-five days, will be sufficient:
We have before called attention to the degree the configuration of the earth plays in the wars of man. We have shown that, relative to the naval straggle between the United States and Japan, the strategic situation is so vastly in favor of the Japanese Empire; that, in conjunction with the policy of the American Government the naval supremacy of the Pacific, rests with Japan, though upon the vast sea not a gun is fired. So now in regard to the land warfare, we again witness the strange coincidence of the strategic situation being so overwhelmingly in favor of the Asian Empire that if the military policy of this nation is continued in the future as in the past, we can say that Japan will overwhelm this Republic on the Pacific coast with greater ease and with less hardship than ever, in modern times, one nation has overcome another.
Let us assume that there are three arcs of invasion; in other words, there are three distinct theaters of war. Between the landing-places of these three zones and their arcs of defense exist great natural bases capable of supplying manifold the armies that would be necessary to secure these States. The combined area of the three Pacific coast States is equal approximately to that of France and Prussia and composes the richest portion of the United States. Together they are more than two and a half times larger than the Empire of Japan. For them to maintain an additional Japanese population of even two or three millions would have no effect upon their resources.
Immediately east of these three bases, which constructively are at Portland, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, facing mountains and desert, are the Japanese lines of defense. On the north flank exists a double arc, one defending Washington and having Spokane as its center, the other defending Oregon and having Umatilla, Pasco, Walla Walla, and Pendleton as its center. The defense of the Japanese middle strategic zone has its center at Reno, its rigid center on Walker River, and its left center north of Plumus Junction. The arc of defense of the Japanese right flank has San Jacinto Canon on the extreme right, Saugus Canon on the extreme left, and the Cajon in the center.
On the Japanese left or northern flank we have the following strategic conditions: both positions are situated in a fertile country, while to the east of them are great uninhabitable mountains. To their main base it is less than four hundred miles, while the American main base is over fifteen hundred. If the American commander wished to transfer forces from the Spokane field of operations to the Oregon field of operations it would be necessary for the troops to traverse, over a single line of railway, through a mountainous and sparsely settled country, about thirteen hundred miles. The Japanese changing front on the same lines would have but one hundred and forty-nine miles to traverse over three railways.
The line of defense of the Japanese center is one hundred and fifty-four miles from their base in the Sacramento Valley, while the American field base situated at Salt Lake is five hundred and seventy-eight miles distant over a desert and sparsely settled country. The Japanese lines encompass the most fertile valley of Nevada, while the American lines are thrown back upon the desolate wastes of Carson Sink, their right flank resting on Black Rock and Smoke Creek deserts, their left on barren mountains.
On the right or southern think, if the American commander wished to withdraw forces from the Cajon Pass and reinforce those at San Jacinto, it would be necessary for his troops to traverse more than one thousand miles of desert on a single line of railway. The Japanese, to transfer on the same front, but on interior lines, have only forty miles.
The American forces attacking the Japanese southern flank at the Cajon, rest on the Mojave Desert, and are two hundred and forty-six miles from a sufficient supply of water; attacking the San Jacinto, they rest on the Conchilla Desert, and are one hundred and thirty-six miles from water.
Some military authorities estimate that, under modern conditions of warfare, to make a frontal attack upon an intrenched army, sheltered behind semi-permanent works, requires a proportion of throe to one; others state that it requires five to one. It is obvious that the Japanese left flank cannot he turned strategically because it is protected by the Canadian boundary; the right flank cannot he strategically turned because it is protected by the Mexican boundary.
The American armies will, therefore, be forced to make a strategically frontal attack, which, owing to the peculiar geographical position occupied by the Japanese, must result in a tactical frontal attack. Hence, to say that it will require three Americans to one Japanese to attack them in these positions is taking the lowest estimate that would be supported by any military authority.
Should Japan occupy each of these three strategic zones with approximately two hundred thousand men, or six hundred thousand in all, it, would require one; million eight hundred thousand Americans to make the attack — one million eight hundred thousand Americans as fully equipped, disciplined, trained, and officered as the Japanese. They must conquer deserts, assault vast barren mountain-ranges; and not until they have overcome the hostility of these savage lands does the struggle begin.
Concerning this struggle we shall say nothing.
The Valor of Ignorance, Vol. CXVII–No. 691.