John Galsworthy, 1911: Air war last and worst hideous development of the black arts of warfare
Peace of the Air
Letter to The Times
April 7, 1911
Beyond all the varying symptoms of madness in the life of modern nations, the most dreadful is the prostitution of the conquest of the air to the ends of warfare.
If ever men presented a spectacle of sheer inanity it is now – when, having at long last triumphed in their struggle to subordinate to their welfare the unconquered element, they have straightway commenced to defile that element, so heroically mastered, by filling it with engines of destruction. If ever the gods were justified of their ironic smile – by the gods, it is now! Is there any thinker alive watching this utterly preventable calamity without horror and despair? Horror at what must come of it if not promptly stopped; despair that men can be so blind, so hopelessly and childishly the slaves of their own marvellous inventive powers. Was there ever so patent a case for scotching at birth a hideous development of the black arts of warfare; ever such an occasion for the Powers in conference to ban once and for all a new ghastly menace?
A little reason, a grain of common sense, a gleam of sanity before it is too late; before vested interests and the claims of a new habit have enslaved us too hopelessly. If this fresh devilry be not quenched within the next few years, it will be too late. Water and earth are wide enough for men to kill each other on. For the love of the sun, and the stars, and the blue sky, that have given us all our aspirations since the beginning of time, let us leave the air to innocence! Will not those who have eyes to see, good-will, and the power to put that good-will into practice, bestir themselves while there is yet time, and save mankind from this last and worst of all its follies?