The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
This paper is written in continuation of that on 'Afghánistán as a theatre of operations and as a defence to India,' and should he read with it; for the principles upon which they are based are identical, and the arguments given in it are not repeated. It is written under the influence of the same hope, viz., that it may lead to some definite Imperial defensive policy, so that Imperial interests may cease to be the sport of party and of a selfish insular administration, a mere reed swayed by that specially fickle breeze which may for the time being happen to constitute 'the desire of the heart' of the ruling Cabinet; that they may be determined by the true requirements of our Eastern Empire and our Eastern neigh-bours bound up with it; and, once so determined and some finality arrived at, that we set ourselves to further them steadily and with a no wavering of purpose, by such means as we from time to time find opportunity to give effect to.
Our diplomacy fails, our military policy fails, we enter on campaigns only to withdraw from them, from change of policy, from want of confidence in ourselves, and for want of goals for our action. Let it not be said that our military policy can be best described as a succession of hysterical manoeuvres carried out at the cost of the soldier to meet party ends.
Imperial interests now require an Imperial war council to be composed of British, Colonial, and Indian statesmen and our most renowned and experienced Generals. Such men abound, and they are the nation's best advisers, because trained in the best schools of experience. Circumstances have shown that Imperial interests cannot now be satisfactorily safeguarded by a British Parliament alone, and that it requires the advice of such a war council; otherwise petty interests have a fictitious importance given to them and are all-powerful, whilst all-important Imperial ones are held to be of no moment. Ministers cannot look to mob meetings to guide them in their policy on Imperial questions. Here the Ministers of the Crown must clearly lead; for the responsibility of doing so is one imposed by office. This generation are the page iv pioneers of the next, and must secure for it all that may be necessary to its Imperial existence.
No one desires war; and in the interests of peace we must place ourselves in a position to prevent it by knowing where and how to strike, and, by rendering action possible, make the power of menace a real power, and something more than an empty boast. At present action is impossible in many directions for want of communications suited to modern armies, which cannot now-a-days filter through 600 miles of difficult country by pack-roads to attack a first-class Power.
Nations are often called upon to make large sacrifices to gain even a sense of security. The reality of true security to be gained only by forethought at a comparatively infinitesimal cost is too often neglected, and a lavishly costly expedient indifferently able to supply its place is adopted in the end. Our history unfortunately abounds with instances of such. Let us try to become wiser in our mature age, and let us set ourselves to find out our Imperial needs. We shall have to battle for our Eastern Empire, and in this term are included the British Eastern Colonies. Let us, therefore, place ourselves in a position to do so to advantage:—it will pay.
It is pleasant to think of, and expatiate on, the possible future power of Great Britain; but we must bear in mind that her resources are yet undeveloped, and time is required to consolidate her. For these reasons, no vantage-ground should be lost sight of, no geographical district of Imperial importance overlooked, no nationalities ignored; and, foreseeing the consequences of allowing any Power other than their present possessors to occupy certain stretches of country, we are in duty bound to take measures to maintain the status quo, and to justify our action by exacting of their inhabitants obedience to our wishes in return for our protection, which need continue only to such time as they can protect and govern themselves.
September 7th, 1885.
M. S. B.