To Get Rid of War

Former Prime Minister of Canada declares that civilization will destroy itself unless man gets rid of war by organizing for peace

RT. HON. ARTHUR MEIGHEN January 15 1931

To Get Rid of War

Former Prime Minister of Canada declares that civilization will destroy itself unless man gets rid of war by organizing for peace

RT. HON. ARTHUR MEIGHEN January 15 1931

To Get Rid of War


Former Prime Minister of Canada declares that civilization will destroy itself unless man gets rid of war by organizing for peace


in The Chatelaine

MacLean's presents herewith the text of an address delivered by Right Honorable Arthur Meighen before the World Alliance, for International Friendship in Washington. Designed for a United States audience, Mr. Meighen's message has an appeal that knows no boundaries. It is worthy of earnest study by every Canadian.— The Editor.

THIS is an age not of organization but of organizations—societies, clubs, boards, leagues, commissions—and one gets bewildered in the endless maze. But with it all, the world is not well organized. It is not well organized for the purpose of distributing among its population the fruits of their toil by brain and hand in accordance with the contribution of each. It is certainly not, as yet, well organized for the greatest of all consummations, the establishment of permanent peace.

But though there may be too many heterogeneous institutions, there is one that has the right to live, one that can demand the loyal service and enthusiasm of every lover of his race. It is the World Alliance for International Friendship.

This Alliance has a responsibility whose very immensity must stagger its officers and challenge its adherents in every nation. Its responsibility is to see that the people of the world do not forget what war really is; that they continue to hate war and resolve to get rid of it forever. For if the people do not so resolve, and remain mightily resolved, there is going to be war again.

Is it worth while to get rid of war? Is it worth while to make the biggest effort united humanity ever made? Is it possible? There are many who think it is not. Certainly it is the most difficult task mankind has ever attempted, but the first thing we must decide is that it is passible and must be done. It is infinitely important for us to understand that war must be ended, and why; and one of the objects of the Alliance is to drive home that truth and the reason behind it into all corners of the world.

I will tell you the reason, as I understand it. Civilization has to end war, or war will end civilization.

Do we believe that to be true or do we not? If we do not, it surely is time we did. And if we do, then this race of human beings must adjust itself to tremendous new facts or pass out.

The Powers of Destruction

VJLTJIAT are those facts? The chief one W is this: Science has given us so great a command over the elements of Nature that millions can be snuffed out in this day in a mere matter of moments. Where hundreds fell before in manly contests arm to arm, great cities now, the whole countryside, can be eaten up by the insatiate maw of chemistry.

As soon as war got into three dimen-

sions —that is, got into the upper air and under sea, as well as on the surface—vast possibilities were opened up. When you get into three dimensions, weapons come into play which cannot be matched with other weapons and the issue decided as it has been decided in the past by a test of strength and skill.

Let me repeat, such a test cannot be made in three-dimension war. Take the submarine. The Germans had only some thirty in use at any time in the last great struggle. These required ten thousand men. Against those thirty submarines were arrayed four thousand surface vessels, great and small, trying to suppress them. Against the ten thousand men on the submarines were one million trying to resist them, and besides, immense mine fields, shore batteries of cannon and all kinds of immobile defenses. In defiance of all these, the submarines destroyed eleven million tons of allied shipping, and hosts of human beings. In the air attack on Whitsun in 1918, there were only thirty-three planes carrying on the offensive, and of these only six were lost, although they were opposed by 100 British planes and as well by 800 guns, 400 searchlights, and a whole division of troops. Have we any idea of what the submarine and airplane of tomorrow can accomplish? Why, the French today can drop in one raid 120 tons of bombs ten times the war maximum in weight, and every ton ten times as powerful in explosive destruction.

There is death and desolation multiplied one hundred times already. In a single factory in Germany there is produced now 2,000 tons per day of nitrate of ammonia —a compound which can be quickly converted into the most terrible of explosives. In the whole course of the Great War there were dropped in England only 300 tons.

We have even now British experts and American experts arguing as to how many cruisers each country is going to be allowed. General Groves is authority for the statement that 100 modern airplanes in ten minutes can lay a cloud of poison gas from fifty to 150 feet thick over an area of 100 square miles. How long would a thousand cruisers last against a weapon like that? Airplanes travelling 300 miles an hour, undetectable by sound, can carry gas bombs which would depopulate London. The only way these weapons can be met is by reprisals. Reprisal will follow reprisal until the civil population passes —this nation today, that nation tomorrow-—by millions into eternity.

War Against Non-Combatants

V\7HAT we now call “The Great War” ’ * was won chiefly by pressure of blockade; a blockade which denied the

means of living to one hundred million human beings not in the combatant ranks at all. This, too, was by way of reprisal, and it was carried on until the civil population cracked. In the next war there will be air blockade, and can the imagination picture what it means? If we ever have another, women and children and workers at home will be encircled with fire and sword the same as the Tommy and the Jack Tar.

We hear a lot about freedom of the seas and rights of neutrals. Neutrality did not prove to be tolerable for very many or for very long in the last war. Seventeen hundred neutral ships were sunk with thousands of neutral lives. Up to the twentieth century there was never a neutral ship sunk on the high seas in war. I wonder if people really think that neutrality is going to be possible in a great struggle of the future.

There is another reason why the whole institution must go. While it exists at all, those who want to escape its curse cannot escape. The sea is one, and the air is one, and you might as well say the world is one; and as one it must stand or fall according as it shows capacity or fails to show capacity to meet the new conditions which mankind has brought upon itself.

It is hardly worth while to adduce another reason. But this also can be said, that war has lost its efficacy. It never can bring victory again; it can only bring defeat and despair for both conquerors and conquered; it can leave nothing behind but victors in reaction and vanquished in revolution, and all alike impoverished. War once served a human purpose. It can now of its very nature serve such a purpose no longer. It solves no problem; it affords no security; it offers no prizes to the victor.

But, someone says, what about international law? Why not outlaw, by international agreement, these barbarisms that besmear the conduct of belligerents? Britain, they say, has offered to abolish submarines. Why not then have all agree to banish both airplanes and submarines, the bombing of cities, and poison gas?

Well, perhaps it might be done on paper. That itself would be hard enough, but if it got to paper there would be its end. No agreement to limit the means of destruction ever yet stood the test of war. Century after century has told us that you cannot make rules or make laws to govern war. War is itself the negation of law; it means that the reign of law has collapsed. The Declaration of Paris (1856^ was acknowledged by virtually every power, but not one of its provisions stood up when put to the awful test. The Declaration of London also had to go. Times change, methods change, old rules do not apply to new conditions, and they are not observed even if they do apply.

All these prearranged regulations crash and are consumed in the furnace of war.

A belligerent fighting for his life will stop only where it is in his interest to stop. He may restrain himself rather than make an enemy out of a neutral, but he knows no other restraint.

Here we stand then in the presence of these stupendous facts, great facts, new facts, which make it imperative that war as an institution has to go. The question is: Can mankind at this fateful epoch make and enforce the biggest decision in history? Can mankind once more accommodate its institutions to its necessities? ' Can it demonstrate again that capacity for adjustment by which, and by which alone, it has survived the crises of the past? Failure of capacity for adjustment is Nature’s unforgivable sin.

What of the Treaties?

r"PHE Great War taught us a lot, and

some real progress has been made. We have the League of Nations provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, the Four Power Pacific Convention, the Locarno Treaties and the Pact of Paris. Without a doubt these treaties are all of value; they are evidences that the nations are moving to a conviction that stupendous changes have come and that an appalling fate awaits us if we do not meet those changed conditions.

The Treaty of Versailles defines an aggressor nation. It is a very simple definition. That nation is an aggressor which refuses to postpone the making of war until such time as its case has been reviewed by International Pacific procedure. An aggressor, as so defined, is put under drastic disabilities. But the League of Nations is still a long way from masterful maturity and being a dependable fortification against war. The United States is not a member, and there is much wanting in the provision of a background of force behind the League’s decisions.

The Four-Power Pacific Treaty is an exchange of mutual guarantees between four great powers, looking to the respecting of each other’s possessions, and enjoins each of those powers against war until a conference of all has reviewed its cause of complaint. It is, however, local in its application, and there is no ultimate reserve of force provided to restrain an aggressor nation. Nevertheless it marks a most creditable advance.

The Locarno treaties are of like significance, and they embody certain sanctions against the aggressor, which, within their scope, bring satisfaction and comfort.

The Pact of Paris, too, is an achievement highly honorable to the United States and to France, who together led the way, and to the fifty odd nations who have joined in its terms. It is perhaps the most convincing evidence of all of that will to peace which through twelve years has spread far and deep over a maimed

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and chastened world. It outlaws war, solemnly, finally—so far as war can be outlawed by a naked contractual pledge. Does it really go that far? Yes, it does, save for the right of self-defense, and indeed, save for the right of self-defense, it goes farther still. It leaves all signatories free to draw the sword against another signatory who fails to abide by its covenants. It must be added though that he is free also not to draw the sword.

Pacts Not Enough

IN A spirit not of cavilling but of gratitude, and profound gratitude, for all that the Pact of Paris means, permit me to say that the gaps in it are very wide and very dangerous. I think it unlikely that you could point to a war in the past hundred years where both parties to the struggle did not claim for their conduct the sanction of self-defense, and where the people of each country did not sincerely believe in the justice of their claim. Besides, what appears to be self-defense at first may afterwards, in the light of fuller disclosures, turn out to be skilful and concealed aggression.

In 1870, for example, there occurred the Franco-German war. The first day of its outbreak Mr. Gladstone addressed a letter to Queen Victoria, in which he declared that the unmistakable sentiment of both partias in the British Parliament was against France as having forced hostilities. I need hardly add that later developments completely reversed this verdict, and reversed it for all time. But the Pact of Paris would never have stopped the siege of Paris in that awful year. Furthermore, as there are no material sanctions, it is very likely that provocative or impatient statesmen will, in a crucial hour, feel confident that others will not oppose them, and that they can gain a quick and easy victory. Do not let us, I beg of you, be too easily content. All these treaties are good. They are all encouraging; they testify to the existence of an essential fundamental, a consuming hunger, an anxious groping for peace on the part of the masses of mankind. But look over the span of these last twelve years, and tell me what it is that has accompanied this procession of treaties across the panorama of history. The heartbreaking answer is in every man’s mind. It is a remorseless growth of armaments, more destructive, more colossal, than the world has ever known.

Within a single decade of the Great War, which cost ten million lives and left a legacy of woe and wailing, of debt and death, whose groanings will not cease in two generations, within a decade of this war which was to end all wars, we have witnessed a multiplication of armaments, more costly by hundreds of millions, more destructive many times over, than any that staggered nations before the great catastrophe. Peace-hungry hosts in every continent stand aghast; conference follows conference, but each country has its own viewpoint and each is governed by fear. Yes, the policy of those Governments is dominated by fear. It is out of fear that Britain pleads for the right of cruisers, which she thinks will guard her trade routes and assure her people food when Armageddon returns. It is in fear born of the bloody battles of her past that France watches even yet across the Rhine, the Channel and the Alps; and while she looks with hope but without sureness to Locarno and the Pact of Paris, she gathers her decimated youth around her home fires again, tells them the story of Sedan and of Verdun, and warns them to depend upon themselves. Italy is summoning memories of ancient Rome, and fears, or seems to fear, the hostility of neighbors jealous of her restoration. “Russia,” says Churchill in a memorable sentence, perhaps a little extreme, “Russia, selfexiled, sharpens her bayonets in her Arctic night, and mechanically proclaims,

through self-starved lips, her philosophy of hatred and death.”

What of the United States? The favored of all nations, powerful, strategic— strategic by its power, strategic by its history, strategic by its geography, strategic by its universally acknowledged devotion to peace, strategic by its association in language and in blood with an Empire equally devoted—the United States holds, as does no other power, the key to the safety of the world. And the United States is arming, not for aggressive war, we all know that, but arming for purposes of neutrality, arming to preserve its rights in neutrality when a great war comes again.

A Substitute For Armaments

r"PHIS then is the situation which we

face—a long concourse of nations wanting peace, knowing as they must know that a real war now would crush them one and all, drive them back through centuries to primitive poverty and emaciation, until our civilization passes out as did civilizations of old knowing all these things, but nevertheless fearful, and arming, ever arming, in response to the instinct for security.

We know, they know, everybody knows, that security by armaments for one country means insecurity for another, and that competitive armaments will end where they have always ended, in competitive war.

What is the conclusion? It is the plainest conclusion ever drawn from the plainest facts. There has to be found a substitute for armaments, something else that will bring security not only to one but to all.

There is manifestly nothing in effect now which goes far enough, for armaments still keep up, and larger every day. We have the Bryan Treaties, the Peace Treaties, the Pacific Treaties, the Locarno Treaties, the Pact of Paris, all these; but armaments multiply in every quarter of the globe, armaments that carry with them the menace and well nigh the certainty of war. Try these treaties by that test which is virtually the only test, and as a substitute they fail. We are a long way yet from being adequately organized against war, though we know, if we know anything, that the one supremely important task before our world today is to bring about that organization, nothing else and nothing less.

I am going to say something now which I hope will be heard in thoughtfulness and not in resentment. Such an organization cannot be brought about without the United States. That sentence opens to my last observation. It embraces within its periods the conclusion of the whole matter, and on the faith of it I make my appeal. Does this country accept the truth of that sentence? I do not know;

but believing as I do that destiny hangs on the American nation coming to accept it, I dare to implore you not to lightly cast those simple words aside. From your own viewpoint you, yourselves, must make decision, and from that viewpoint I am hardly qualified to judge, and perhaps I have no right to speak. But these hundred million people are, like all the rest of us, citizens of the world, and far more vitally interwoven with its fate than we are apt to appreciate and understand. I speak to you as one from without, as one from a nation among many whose hands already are joined. I speak as one who wants you with us, and especially as one from a neighbor who knows you and trusts you and has never trusted you in vain. It was one of your own number, a great President of the United States, who pointed the way and portrayed the objective in language which can never be excelled. He said that the only substitute for the war system of his day was

“An universal association of nations to maintain the inviolate security of the Highway of the Seas for the common and unhindered use of all the nations of the world, and to prevent any war.”

Down the vista and toward the palace which your President pictured in those words we all must march, for there only is the home and the citadel of peace.

I know of the historic disinclination of this country to re-interpret an admonition of its first patriarch and President. “Entangling alliances” was a phrase brilliantly coined to describe a peril of the eighteenth century, but surely it should not be used now to prevent that co-operation by which alone we can escape a far greater peril of the twentieth. Something to take the place of competing armaments has to be found, and I despair of finding it except in “an universal association of nations” including as fundamentally indispensable the United States of America—an association within which means will be found to define and identify a guilty power and to hold that power in restraint.

There are those who say it is impossible to define an aggressor, to adjudicate on facts in the light of that definition and put a finger on the offending power. The answer is, it has already been done. The League of Nations’ definition to which I have some time ago referred has actually worked, and because it has worked a Greco-Bulgarian war in 1925 was avoided.

There are still more who say that sanctions to restrain an aggressor cannot be provided, and if provided, oannot be applied. The difficulties, I know, are great. To overcome them means some limitation of certain attributes of sovereignty which nations have always claimed. But after all, everything worth while in the way of co-operation entails something

like that, and the appalling truth is there is no other way in which mankind can adjust its affairs to great new facts of this present time and make sure of survival.

Senator Borah has argued that to provide for force against an aggressor in a Pact of Nations looking to peace is an anachronism, and he applauds the Pact of Paris because it has no such provision. The very compact of this United States, the compact upon which it is built and its peace and order rests, provides for that very thing. The covenant of man with man over the whole sweep of this Republic, the covenant by which you are citizens of one nation, binds each and all not only to obey the law and keep the peace, but to put forth when called upon the hand of force to hold in check an offender. It is no anachronism. It is the very essence of the Social Contract itself; it is the principle by which the integrity of a nation is assured and the reign of law sustained.

Control—or Anarchy

' I 'HE practically minded man keeps

telling us this whole plan is Utopian. Maybe so; but there is nothing too Utopian if it has to be done. The civilization of today would be Utopian to all ages gone by. He tells us it pre-supposes confidence in a World Court on the part of at least a dozen mighty nations and submission to its decrees. Even so; I put against him the plea of necessity, for otherwise man who has conquered the forces of nature is in turn conquered by his own discoveries; man who has made a slave of the elements bécomes himself a slave. He tells us it means the curtailment of a sovereign right asserted by every State from the beginning of recorded time to make war when it deems itself aggrieved. So it doas. I put against him the plea of necessity; the sovereign right of a single people to fight must yield to the sovereign right of all to live. He tells us finally that it means the allocation of forces now controlled by Governments, those physical forces which make for International destruction, that it means their allocation to abide the judgment of an International Congress and their steady reduction to the dimensions of an International police. Let us all pray that it does. I plead again the law of necessity, of imperious overwhelming necessity, for a movement toward this goal is the only substitute for the armament system of this day, a system which left alone may in no distant time send civilization crashing to its doom.

Nationalism, I know, is rampant still —narrow, short-sighted nationalism—and that nationalism must be abated. Every nation wants peace, I verily believe, but nations are self-centred, and fear and distrust are with them tremendous factors still. Let us remember, on the other hand, by way of inspiration, that the interrelations now of people with people are more intimate, the printed and spoken word pass night by night over deserts and oceans to every land. The processes of our minds, the longings of our hearts, can be communicated without ceasing and on an universal scale. The bitter lessons of these years and the dangers looming ahead can be taught and re-taught without hindrance over the whole range of nations. And surely there are common chords of humanity which will vibrate still when touched in unselfish appeal by brothers in the Crusade for International Friendship of every tribe and tongue.

Not today, perhaps not tomorrow, can this evolution in human relationships be brought about, and anarchy, which long ago by the organization of individual States had to yield to law and order there, be banished also from the larger field of International affairs. Not today, perhaps not tomorrow, can all this be done, but the time for preparation is now, the time for learning and for teaching and for mission work, for high resolve, for definite progress day by day—that time is now, and let us all rejoice to take our part.