What Price Lasting Peace?
"Preservation of peace depends not upon the plan we adopt but upon what we do with it after adopting it."—Angell
SIR NORMAN ANGELL
PEOPLE ask, “Will a new League of Nations work?” Or “How should we alter the League to make it work,” as though we had only to find the right “plan,” the precise form of international constitution, to solve the whole problem of peace.
That is one of the first errors commonly made about peace. We might get a theoretically perfect plan, have everybody vote for it; and then have everybody drift into a third world war, just as everybody drifted into the second world war despite the lessons of the first.
The preservation of peace will not depend mainly upon the plan which we adopt. It will depend mainly upon what we do with it when we have adopted it, and whether or not we pursue policies incompatible with the fundamental workable principles which alone can make workable any plan—League or otherwise.
Let me illustrate by an incident of the period immediately following the last war.
As is known, Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, and Foch, the French Generalissimo, were very sceptical about a League of Nations, but were prepared to accept it and work for it if it added to the security of France.
Wilson, of course, had argued that it did ensure the security of France, since its vital and underlying principle was that in the event of an act of aggression all nations would co-operate in order to resist the aggressor and aid his victim. Whereupon the French, in effect, said:
“We are not much interested in the aid of Guatemala or Siberia in resisting another German attack; but we are very much interested in the aid of Britain and the United States. Germany will be interested too, and if she knows for certain that in the event of another aggression she will have to face the whole power of the British Empire and the United States, as well as the power of France, she won’t attack. But if the help to be given France depends upon a vote taken in Geneva, with long delaying arguments from Cuba and San Salvador and Afghanistan, Germany may doubt whether the aid will be very effective or will come in time. So, will you—the British Empire and the American Union—undertake by solemn treaty to come to the aid of France if Germany once more launches an attack? Such a Treaty would not be in conflict with the collective security envisaged by the League; it would merely supplement it, by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, so far as France is concerned.”
Now both President Wilson and Prime Minister Lloyd George appreciated that point and, subject to ratification, gave the undertaking for which the French had asked. If France was again attacked the English-speaking world would come to her aid. In view of that promise—or what the French regarded as a promise the French abandoned the plan of a separate buffer state in the Rhineland permanently dominated by France.
The reasons why the President and the Prime Minister were ready to promise this undertaking should have been clear to everyone. American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British soldiers had just laid down their lives by the thousands on the soil of France, because the defense of that soil from conquest by a state like Germany was indispensable to the security of the English-speaking democracies. A France permanently held by Germany would put Britain in mortal peril; a Britain overcome hy a Germany, already in possession of the European Continent, would mean the collapse of the British Commonwealth, and a dire threat even to the mighty
United States. All this had just been admitted by the whole English-speaking world, admitted by what it had actually done when it sent its Armies into France. And all this was to be demonstrated once more a couple of decades later, when Canadian, British and American soldiers were once more to leave their bones in the soil of France, for precisely the same reasons which had made all the graves about 30 years before.
WELL, we know what happened. The conditional undertakings given to France by the President and the Prime Minister failed to get ratification both from the U. S. Congress and the British Parliament. America, of course, emphasize ! lier refusal by rejecting
any form of co-operation with Europe designed to prevent future aggressions and preserve peace.
France, however, did not give up the fight to secure specific guarantees. At Geneva her representatives worked hard with Lord Cecil to devise the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. That, too, received the approval of British governmental representatives, but before it could be ratified a new government (the first Labor Government) came to office in Britain and refused ratification. Wherupon France started again and there was concluded, at Geneva, by the representatives of the Labor Government, the Geneva Protocol. But that government too left office and the succeeding government refused ratification of the Protocol.
By this time most French statesmen had ceased to Continuad on paga 43
What Price Lasting Peace?
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believe that Britain would take collective security obligations seriously, and the stock of the League rapidly declined. Other policies were tried. These finally took the direction of “appeasing” aggression, instead of resisting it by the pooled power of the free peoples. The results of this policy we know.
This incident is recalled because it illustrates the kind of way in which the best-devised League might be defeated in the course of the day-to-day management of foreign relations; and the way in which a better management of those relations would lead us naturally to the building up, step by step, of a workable League or other international organization.
The real difficulty about a League or Federation or other international plan or constitution is not to devise something logically watertight in the sense of being feasible, as if men and nations were wise and reasonable. The real difficulty is to secure agreement among two or three score nations of different outlook and cultures, political and economic structures, and nearly all nationalistic in feeling. If a plan is truly democratic on the one-man onevote principle then, argues the sceptical American or Canadian or Britisher, we may, in some vita! matter, be outvoted by 500 million Chinese, 400 million Indians, 200 million Russians; or, even worse, by a single man whose word is law for docile millions. There are, of course, answers to those objections but the arguments have gone on for a very long time, and the doubts still remain.
Does this mean then that we have to rule out any widespread inclusive organization like the League? Not at all. (Incidentally the League avoided the particular population difficulty just indicated.) We can build up an effective international organization if the public opinion which will determine its character insists that first things be put first—and is agreed on what are the first things.
I suggest that the first thing to be considered by a nation is its survival as a nation, its right to life, its right not to be destroyed by the violence of an aggressor. That a number of nations, differing in size, power, economic and political make-up, can co-operate to ensure this supreme common interest of survival we now know. We know it because about 35 nations are doing it. A capitalist United States is giving of its wealth and its blood to make it possible for Russia to remain Communist; Communist Russia is by its sacrifices helping to maintain the right of the United States to remain Capitalist. Despite all their differences, which are great, the United States, Britain, Canada, Russia and a round score of others have one supreme common interest—survival, the right to life as a nation.
If we are content to put that common interest first, as we have been putting it during the war, we can build up an international order which can give us peace.
Prevention By Foresight
But if power is to preserve peace— that is to say prevent wars instead of allowing a drift to war and then using power to win them—its use against aggression must be predictable by the aggressor, who must know beforehand that he will have to meet it. Shortly after the first world war Lloyd George pointed out that if only Germany had been able to foresee, before the war of 1914-18, that her policy would end by bringing into the field against her the
greater part of the universe—not merely Russia and France, the powers immediately challenged, but Britain and the Commonwealth and the United States, and ultimately a round score of other nations, she would not have followed that policy and there ' would have been no war. The then Prime Minister, in effect, argued;
“If Germany starts another war you will have to fight, however little you may like it. The best chance of not having to do it is to say very clearly, very unmistakably, beforehand that you will do it if there is further aggression. But if the enemy is uncertain about vour intentions he may be tempted to gamble that you will not | come in—and you will find yourself in another war foresight could have prevented.”
This surely is the plainest common sense, indicating a principle which is quite indisputable: if military power is to deter aggression and so prevent war, the potential aggressor must know that he will have to meet that power. If he thinks he can divert it, divide it, induce some of it to come on to his side, induce some of it to delay its action so that he can take it piecemeal, a hit at a time, then the power, however great, is not going to deter him.
That being the case, how did the Allies on this previous occasion take Lloyd George’s lesson to heart? Within a year or two the chief members of the Grand Alliance which had defeated Germany were shouting at the top of their voices that nothing would induce them to give undertakings to go to war; that it was an utterly wrong principle of peacemaking; that you could not get peace by promising to go to war; that undertakings to go to war constituted military alliances, and military alliances were the chief cause of war and very much more to the same effect. And if you think that “this time” we have learned our lesson, I would point to such straws in the wind as this: One
of the best-known and most respected of American journalists, writing in a | magazine supposed to have the largest ! circulation of any magazine in the world, has recently—within the past few months devoted a powerful argument to precisely that reasoning: that when the war is over America must on no account be induced to enter “military alliances” as a peacetime policy.
If this refusal to give commitments j is permissible for the United States if. is S permissible for Canada, for Britain, and j we may once more have a postwar j world with the non-German nations j all heavily armed hut no potential | aggressor knowing with any certainty whether the arms will be turned against him or whether the members of the erstwhile Grand Alliance may not be j really aiming their guns at one.anothor. This would be a postwar world to which i some aggressor could once more apply j “the simple and deadly plan of one by | one.”
The League of Nations failed, not j primarily because of constitutional defeats, though it may have had such (which could have been remedied), hut because its members were not clear as to its root principle, the principle which lies at the foundation of all organized society, national or international, the 1 principle that the combined power of ! the community must be pooled in one ! form or another to defend each of its members. This does not mean that the whole world has to rally its power every j time there is a quarrel between one Balkan State or one Latin American Republic and another (any more than Toronto citizens have to be mobilized every time there is a dispute in Vancouver). Nor does it mean that the principle can be applied holus-bolus everywhere at once and everywhere completely. But it does mean that the
foreign policy of the great nations must first and last be animated by the principle of combining to defend each other, to defend the victim of aggression so that aggression will find itself met with such superior power that in fact it will be too costly and too uncertain to be feasible.
Unless we grasp this truth and take the risks of applying it to policy, no “plan,” no new constitution for a new League, will work any better than the old one did. If it is to make a hopeful start in international relations it must first of all be worked by the Great Powers—first of all indeed by the English-speaking world.
A Further Lesson
Which points a further lesson emerging from our refusal to give those guarantees to France which she so passionately pleaded for at the end of the last war—a refusal which began the destruction of the League and constituted the first step toward the second world war.
It is a truth we might well remember, now that we are approaching another effort at peacemaking, a truth that the nations of the British Commonwealth and the United States were the only nations which in the circumstance of that time could have given the undertakings which would have had the effect of deterring Germany. Who else could give such guarantees or utter such warnings? Russia? But Russia had I just withdrawn from the war and had made a separate peace with Germany, dissolving her alliance with France. Was the guarantee of the Russia of 1919 the kind which would reassure France and deter Germany? (Even 20 years later Germany was able to make a pact with Russia, ensuring the latter’s neutrality when German aggression began once more.) Would Italy’s guarantee have deterred Germany, in view of what followed? Or Japan’s?
' Or China’s? Where, outside of the English-speaking world, working in co-operation with France, could the power have been found to furnish a bastion against future aggression? j What other combination of powers could have laid the foundation stones ! of an international security system?
The Tripartite agreement urged by President Wilson and Lloyd George should not, of course, have stopped at the three powers. It should have gone on through the League or by other means to include all the powers and the lesser states. But plainly at that moment a collective system—whether League or any other kind—had to begin with the Anglo-Saxon powers, or it could not begin at all. The formation of this French-British-American Pact need not have prejudged the League one way or another. Britain and France could have signed the Pact and still have joined the League, making their understanding part of League power. America could have joined the Pact and remained outside the League, making America’s contribution in that form to the power necessary to prevent aggression and so ensure peace.
Unfortunately, in the interwar years, when we might have used the League as an instrument of peace, an instrument necessarily supplemented by the agreements just discussed, we were by no means clear that this issue of survival, by means of common action against aggression—common action by those wdio had the power to take it—had to come first. The pacifist groups, who opposed collective security because its engagements involved undertakings to go to war, were joined by many social reformers, who insisted that the first task in peace was not political arrangements between States but agreement
upon some new economic order for the world, such as the abolition of capitalism, or land ownership, or the gold standard.
They argued also that, the deepseated conflict of interest had to be resolved.
Well, obviously that is not the way we get peace and security and freedom within the nation. Within every modern State there are deep party rivalries, representing antagonisticinterests. We don’t say, “Before we can get peace we must reconcile these differences and then put the power of the State behind the right party doctrine.” We keep alive, almost deliberately, the party differences, because out of them comes progress, and we use the power of the State to protect any party against the armed violence of another party. The only doctrine for which all parties stand in a free nation is that no party shall use force to promote its doctrine. That is the condition of peace, of peaceful change, of change by discussion and reason instead of violence. Not alone in the national, but also in the international sphere.
If the Allies in their international policy abandon this principle and insist that their pooled power is to be used, not to ensure to each nation the right to live under the system it prefers, but to impose one particular system or “ism”—capitalism, or socialism, or communism, or parliamentarism — throughout the world, then it is morally certain that we shall not get peace or security or freedom.
In order to establish the foundations of peace we must manage to persuade Russia that the purpose of Allied power is not to compel Russia to abandon Communism; that indeed we are ready to continue doing what we are now doing in helping to maintain her right to remain a Communist State. But the corelative of this is that Russia should recognize the same principle, should he prepared to help in the defense of nations which are not Communist at all, and that she shall not use her power to impose her particular “ism” on others—impose it by supporting one party as against another in neighboring states, or by exacting that governments of her preference, not the preference of free
electorates, shall rule in those states.
It is true that this principle of noninterference by the Central Allied Power in the domestic affairs of its members cannot be absolute (there are no absolute principles in politics). The United States has at times used its power to discredit a particular government and assist a rival one in some Latin American states. But the American Government is fully aware that such interference must be the extreme exception, not the rule; and that if it became a rule it would be fatal to the Good Neighbor Policy, to peace, to Pan-American co-operation.
Although we must concentrate first upon agreement to act together to prevent aggression, to prevent an attack by one nation upon another, this does not mean that social change is unimportant, or that the power of the United Nations should oppose it. It means that unless, first of all, world wars can be avoided, social change will not be of a kind that free men would choose; that it would trend inevitably toward totalitarianism and dictatorship; or toward unmanageable chaos.
Leadership in any collective system will have to be given by the Englishspeaking nations of the world. Countries like China and Russia have immense potential power—greater perhaps than the power of the United States or the British Commonwealth. But as the immediate reorganization which lies before us demands immediately available shipping, transport, foodstuffs, machinery, it is upon the powers in possession of those things that will fall the first task. And because the British Community Is not, like the populations of China or Russia, collected into a single land mass, but is scattered literally around the earth, with strong points over the globe to ensure lines of communication, it is a world power in a sense which neither China nor Russia is. It possesses tin; strategical instrumentality for the beginnings of world organization.
There are dangers in the possession of great power. But the cure is not to turn the power into weakness, for weakness itself will involve problems even more intractable than those that sometimes come from power. The right cure for strength is not to be weak; it is to use our strength aright.