“When the World War broke out, the western newspapers blazed with the headline: la liberte est en jeu! This misled world opinion. The particular cause became a general cause and acquired a halo. What our enemies sought was not liberty but power. Anyone who had examined the question with an open mind would have bade the discovery that in liberal countries political freedom is not enjoyed by the people, who on the contrary are carefully shepherded by certain ruling classes. What these ruling classes mean by liberty, is freedom and scope for their own intrigues. This they attain by means of parliamentism which secures them power under cover of the constitution and so-called representation of the people. Such is the specious mask which liberalism wears when it shouts ‘liberty’: the mask it wore at the outbreak of the War. This was the first betrayal.
When our enemies were not able to break our resistance in the first clash of arms, they then proceeded to decoy the German people. They trotted out the idea of progress, which is so easily confused with the idea of liberty. If the nations had been compared in respect of their achievement, Germany would ahve come brilliantly out of the comparison, and the western powers would have been put to shame. But from the standpoint of parliamentary institutions Germany could be made to appear behind the times. The German people were assured that they were oppressed under their constitution. Pacifist and anti-military questions were dragged into the foreground-since no one could pretend that we were suffering economically- and foreign politics were skilfully confused with domestic affairs, with the German constitution and even the Prussian suffrage. Our enemies had too bad a conscience to touch, except with the utmost caution, on the question of the origin of the War. They obscured the real causa causans- their policy of encirclement- with the irrelevent and accidental facts of the actual declaration of war, and they ignored as far as possible that their Russian ally bore the responsibility for the first mobilization. Their eloquence grew greater when they pointed out, as one war-year succeeded another and the end was not yet in sight, that Germany would be the greatest sufferer by a prolongation of the War. The intoxicating message reached us in the solemn words from the White House: ‘There must be Peace without Victory.’
This message reached a people who had not wanted the War and who did not realize that their whole future was at stake. The German people were not at one on the question of their War aims, which we could only formulate as the War progressed, whereas our enemies had all along been clear about their, and had reached secret understandings amongst themselves and spoke openly to their public, treating their aims as self-evident. The conduct of Germany demonstrated at every turn how uttery unprepared she was for this War, the guilt of which has been laid at her door. She now saw the opportunity of regaining that peace in which she had been before so well content. ‘Peace without Victory’ sounded acceptable to a people who with an heroic constancy and a quiet sense of duty had hitherto endured the privation, suffering and sacrifice that had been heaped upon it. They welcomed the idea with that innate credulity and good faith which makes us always ready to accept what our advisers-outside advisers in this case-recommend as the wise thing, bit it never so unwise.
The senseless war would retrospectively acquire a meaning if it lead to a reconciliation of the nations which would accord to each nation its due and would rob none. Our German democrats and the liberal elements in the nation were the first to be lured by this snare, and thus the way was paved for those intrigues which led to our overtures for peace in 1917. This same credulity offered fruitful soil to Northcliffe’s propoganda, which was directed to all malcontents, traitors and revolutionaries, to all would-be socialist, progressive, parliamentarian elements: liberals all, but now not merely over-credulous liberals, but criminal liberals. Credulity and treachery prepared the ground for the events of 1918 and 1919: these things inevitably brought about the Insurrection, the conditions of the Armistice, the surrender of the battle fleet, the decoying away of our mercantile marine; and the most grevious of our deceptions: that we had only to confess ourselves guilty of the outbreak of the War to win for ourselves by this easy lie more favourable peace conditions. That was the second betrayal.
A little time passed before the Founder of Peace himself stood revealed as the liberal that he was. The words ‘Peace without Victory’ were spoken before our peace overtures of 1917. When we had once been guided into the path our enemies wished us to take, these words were never repeated to us. Still less were they fulfilled after our collapse in 1918, when our enemies had reached their goal. Today it is almost a matter of indifference whether Wilson ever believed his own words, or whether he only pronounced them at a moment when he throught those powers to whom he wished success would prove unable to achieve for themselves a ‘Peace with Victory.’ But no. It is not a matter of indifference, because it involves the whole liberal attitude of mind. It is peculiarly characteristic of the liberal to indulge in mental reservations; retrospectively to formulate his goal when he has ascertained what he is likely to be able to attain. ”