The Disarmament Problem

Courtesy Reuters

HAVING taken part at various intervals during the past three years in discussions and negotiations bearing on a reduction and limitation in armaments, I am persuaded that there is no subject on which it is quite so difficult and yet so necessary and important to get general international agreement. There is, indeed, no problem that involves more intricate technical and political questions affecting national pride and ambition, or national policy and security.

Nations will not discard their arms or limit their sovereign right to arm unless, or until, they are convinced that it is safe and in their interest to do so. And yet, in spite of all the delays -- due to the difficulties inherent in the problem itself and to the opposition of those who do not believe in disarmament or who have a selfish interest in opposing it -- progress has been made. The conviction is growing that it is a practical problem which can and must be solved. Such a vital issue will not down.

The regulation of armaments by international agreement is a comparatively new question. There were, it is true, a few restricted agreements relating to armaments between two adjoining countries, such as that between the United States and Canada, over a century ago, based on a political understanding not to maintain naval forces on the Great Lakes, which promoted confidence and benefited both sides. In 1899, when the gravity of the armaments problem had become such as to cause concern, an effort was made at the Hague Conference to arrive at an understanding to stop for a limited period any further increase in land and naval armaments. Due to the opposition of certain delegates -- notably those of Germany -- and to national ambitions and rivalries which were stronger than the consciousness of a common interest, the realities of the situation were not truly faced and this effort failed. The result was that fifteen years thereafter the nations were plunged into the greatest of all

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