IN passing through from Siberia, I found official Japan was ready and willing to send an army into the Russian Far East to guard the accumulated stores in Vladivostok and to take possession of the Trans-Siberian Railway. It would be futile for Japan to land troops in Vladivostok, without taking over the line as far to the eastward as Irkutsk. I heard many and varied stories of not unfriendly Russian action toward German and Austrian prisoners, but so far as Siberia is concerned, enemy prisoners had not been released at that time to any appreciable extent, and there was no menace at that moment from this source.
In Japan, one cannot but come into contact with the loud-voiced element which talks wildly of the amount of good to the Allied cause which Japan’s actions thus far have accomplished. In newspaper offices, in business houses, in Japanese homes, in the universities and schools and in Governmental Departments, one continually finds Japanese who overestimate the value of Japan’s services to the Allies. The taking of Kiao-chow, the convoying of the Australian troops, the occupation of some of Germany’s islands in the Pacific and the work of Japan’s fleet would be given more prominence and praise by the average traveller in Japan if the Japanese did not themselves so continually lay weight and stress upon these things.
The man in the street in Japan held such a diversity of views on all subjects connected with the war, that one had to make a veritable symposium of expressions of opinion to come to any definite conclusion as to the sympathy of the public or its lack of sympathy with the proposal to despatch an armed Japanese expedition to Siberia or Russia in support of the Allies.
Japan must be understood and the Japanese form of government must be understood before one can grasp the exact values of Japanese public opinion.
Terauchi and his Cabinet and their expressions are a much better guide to what may be expected of Japan than several dozen conversations with men who hold no particular place in affairs Japanese.
Count Terauchi told me plainly how he felt on the subject. He pledged Japan, so long as he is Premier, to do all in her power to help.
Count Terauchi told me very plainly that personally he had always been sorry that circumstances did not permit of Japan’s armies taking the field against Germany. Terauchi is a military man and a real soldier. He knows, as many leading minds in Japan know, the vast difference between building up a military force on a militaristic basis in the way Germany did, and the maintenance of a strong army with a constant eye on adequate military preparation. Just as Japan must have the support of some allied naval power, so she must have some quid pro quo to offer as a basis for such alliance. Japan, armed and ready to preserve the peace of the Far East, may be just as much an asset to such a peace as she might be a menace to it. One rarely finds a middle view on this subject in the Far East. Japan and the Japanese talk so much about preserving the peace of the Far East that any one who is anti-Japanese sneers at the very expression. Nevertheless, the maintenance of no little military strength on the part of Japan might prove a very active factor in preventing the breaking out of trouble here and there, as it cert : inly has done, to some ex-tent, in Siberia.
Terauchi is the strong man of the Orient. I like him and admire him. He is autocratic, but a fighter. The Island Empire could have no better hand on the reins than his when the day comes for her soldiers to move in their tens of thousands along the paths that lead to blood and fire. Terauchi has kept his troth with the Allies, too. I have no authority from him to say so, but I am perfectly certain he brought Japan as far as he could toward giving the Al-lies the shipping assistance they asked. But Terauchi cannot do miracles. The big shipping concerns are the money power in Japan, and Japan is no democracy. The influence and authority of big business in Japan is great. To realise how great try to find out, in big national matters in Japan, where the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha begins and where the government ends. Study the Mitsukoshi Company. Yes, big business is big business, and sometimes bad big business, in Japan. That is some of the materialism Japan has absorbed from the West.
Count Terauchi will be Premier of Japan, so far as human forecast can be made, until the end of the war. If Viscount Kato and the opposition of which he is the head were to prove capable of ousting Terauchi from the Premier-ship, they would have done so long before this. They were able, owing to the constitution of the Diet and the arbitrary nature of Terauchi’s appointment as Premier, to make him go to the country in 1917. When he was returned to power in the general election in the spring of 1917, he could indeed settle himself confidently in his seat. The press of Japan has been against him with few exceptions since the day he took office. He has played the game with the Allies and has been genuinely anxious, not only personally, but as the head of his government, to do what lay in his power to get japan more whole-heartedly into the war.
I sought in Siberia some evidences, however slight, that Japan had been doing otherwise than playing the game in the Russian Far East, in spite of the existence of conditions that constituted in themselves some temptation. None could I find.
On my last afternoon in Tokyo I spent two very delightful hours with Viscount Motono, Japan’s able Foreign Minister. Matters had not yet come to a head in Russia, but looked very bad. Viscount Motono knows Russia well. He is profoundly sympathetic with the Russians.
He probably realises more fully than most of his countrymen would do, the extent to which sending Japanese troops to Siberia would of-fend Russian susceptibilities. At the same time, he knows the disintegration and chaos that exist in Russia.
The policy that Japan must pursue, the policy that Count Terauchi and Viscount Motono and Japanese statesmen of that class are well aware must be Japan’s policy if she is to take high place among the nations of the world, is open and above-board from beginning to end.
Nothing would hurt Japan’s position among the nations of the West more than a move to-ward aggrandisement of territory in the Rus-sian Far East. Japan knows thator at least those at the head of her affairs know it. In spite of the fact that Japan is not a democracy and that none of her statesmen who are in office to-day are democratic, in spite of her record in China, Japan will be most punctilious in any action she may take in Siberia. Her troops there will be very carefully watched from Tokyo and no opportunity be given for just criticism of their deportment or lack of discipline. Japan may be trusted to do what she agrees to do.
Japan will play the game. Never mind what ideas many Japanese have held before. Never mind what ideas some of them hold now. Japan will play the game in Siberia beyond question. To do so will be the strongest move she can make toward the strengthening of her national security. The big men in Japan know this, and her biggest men control her policies and polities today.
Furthermore, it is Japan’s best opportunity for increasing the scope of her industrial development in a way that other nations will find difficulty in describing as illegitimate or objectionable.
Last, but not least, it will afford Japan an Opportunity for allaying some of the suspicions in which she is held. It will allow her to pursue her policy of trying to make Japan and the Japanese popular and gain her economic ends through peaceful persuasion and penetration, rather than the sort of force that is “made in Germany.”
The need for recognition by the Allied governments, and by America, that no matter what happens in Russia Siberia can be saved, is imperative. Rumours that some organisation was to be effected among the German and Austrian prisoners in Siberia have taken such form as a semi-official statement to the effect that a Prussian General had been started from Germany to organise an army in Siberia from the prison camps. The number of Russian troops in Siberia must have reached, at the beginning of 1918, somewhere near 350,000. In spite of the dissemination of Bolshevik doctrines among them, a campaign of education would bring out a great deal of real sound patriotism from the soldier element. It would not be difficult to reorganise a section of the Russian army in Siberia.
One must remember that these men have been soaked and steeped in German propaganda. Ideas have been promulgated among them which would seem absurd to us, but which seem perfectly reasonable to them. The result is that on simple enough questions their perspective is all wrong. The Russian soldier in Siberia is not a coward, and if you can show him some-thing to fight for there is plenty of fight left in him.
The taking over of Vladivostok and the Trans-Siberian Railway, at least so far west as Irkutsk, by the Japanese army, would preserve Siberia from German encroachment. If the question is handled rightly, a simultaneous reorganisation of the Russian army in Siberia might be carried into effect. It would assist greatly the effort to get the Russians into a frame of mind where they looked with less hostility on armed assistance from the Japanese. If they saw that the Japanese were not endeavouring to stifle some effort on the part of the Russians to assist in the protection of their own country, it would create a very different atmosphere.
Too much must not be looked for from the Japanese military group, by which I mean the army officers who would be in actual occupation of such territory as might be occupied by soldiers of Japan, for the reason that they are not distinguished by their tact. The Japanese army officer is not a very polite person when he is addressing some one who is to him obviously an inferiorthis in spite of the fact that he is extremely polite to an equal. The cur-rent manner of a Japanese officer in carrying out instructions must be described as somewhat high-handed.
On the other hand, Count Terauchi knows his army and would undoubtedly take ample precautions to see that not only officers of high rank who might come into touch with the Russians in Siberia would handle the situation diplomatically, but that the rank and file of the Japanese army would cause just as little inconvenience and friction as possible. Where there is this determination there is no need to anticipate trouble. The effect that the entrance of Japan into actual field operations would have on the German people would probably be negligible. It would seem to the Germans impossible that a nation so far from its base as Japan would be when operating west of Irkutsk would be likely to prove a serious menace to German military or political operations in European Russia. The material for the entire change of the efficiency of the Trans-Siberian Railway is, however, available, and the Trans-Siberian line under American supervision or under Japanese, for that matter, would prove a very different means of communication than formerly. Once let the Japanese army take hold in the Russian Far East, and it would at least prove an effective menace to Germany and a nucleus of a sort, if the matter is handled wisely, for the reorganisation of some portions of the Russian army. After all, the Russians are simple-minded folk. They are good natured and kindly. They have been engineered into a dislike and hatred for the Japanese, so far as the Siberians are concerned, which the Russian of the West feels in much less degree.
There is great opportunity for an educational campaign which would primarily let Japan save from the Germans that much of Russia which she can effectively and practically reach, leaving the extent of her operations to the future and to the development of what part of the work she first embarks upon.
Once given a rallying point and a line of secure defence, recruiting for a new Russian army, an army with new heart, new life and new soul in its individual units, would be a less difficult task than might be anticipated.
I know men who could go tomorrow to regiments in Siberia, whose record has been one of some unrest, and gather around them sixty per cent, if not a greater proportion of the soldiers, who would follow them gladly to fight against Germany and German domination.
The sort of men who are needed in Russia from the English-speaking world are men who have sympathy with the Russians and confidence that in the end Russia will win through and escape disintegration as a nation.
Hope is a big factor toward effort. Imagine the position of some young Slav in the Russian army, who feels he could gather around him a number of his fellows who would continue to fight against Germany if they had a chance. Think of the amount of heart and hope that is taken out of such a man by hearing and reading repeatedly that the military representatives of the Allies have stated that there was no more fight left in the Russians. What the Allies say does not matter so much if it is said at home, for the reason that German propaganda sees to it that the spokesmen of the Allies are so utterly misrepresented in Russia. What the representatives of the Allies. who are on the ground say is a very different matter. The men that could talk to the Russian soldiers and talk effectively are men who have been in uniform and fought on their own fronts,and perhaps been wounded there.
I had good evidence of this in. Vladivostok. A Y. M. C. A. representative there wore a khaki uniform and very unwisely obtained permission to wear with it insignia of rank as an officer. He came to one of the officers among the Allied representatives in Vladivostok and said, “You know the men of a certain artillery regiment with whom I would like to get in touch. Would you put me in the way of doing so?”
The officer saw the committee of this regiment and was surprised to hear them say, “We do not want that man to come to us and our men do not want him. He wears an officer’s uniform, but he is not in the American army, is he? Why should he wear the uniform of an officer when he never has done and never intends to do any fighting? We do not want that kind of man here.”
The officer explained the situation to the Y. M. C. A. representative, whose action had been born of a mistaken idea as to the importance he would assume in the community if he wore the insignia of the rank that he had adopted. His idea was that it would impress the Russian soldier. It did impress him, but it impressed him the Tong way.
Avoidance of such little mistakes as this will make all the difference in handling the situation in Siberia. There is much good in the country and in the people. There is better opportunity, comparatively, to save the situation in Siberia than in Russia. America cannot wash her hands of her responsibilities toward any part of Russia. Help can come more easily from us than from any one else, and if the help is put forward in the right way, American help will be more welcome in the Russian Far East than help that can possibly come from any other source.
If Russia cannot save Siberia from the Hun and Japan can do so, Japan had best take on the job.
Japan stands to gain much, from the day her columns march forth to war for the Allied cause. Much that she will gain may be material. Some of it may be moral and spiritual.
One thing is sure. Her national security will be strengthened in direct ratio to the numbers of her brave little men who may leave their lives in the Pri-Amur, should blood be shed there, or further off to the westward, where the camps of Armageddon may yet, one day, echo to the tramp of the legions from the Land of the Rising Sun.
But of greater importance than the national security of Japan is the barrier in the path of German plans and ambitions that will be thrown in her way by the full participation of Japan in the war.
That participation will bring the day of Peace nearerthe day of a Peace of the right sort-a Peace born of an unequivocal defeat of Ger-many on the field of battle.
No other Peace can be other than a victory in disguise for Germany. No other Peace can be a Peace for long.