Courtesy Reuters

Power Politics and the Peace Machinery

PRESIDENT WILSON repeatedly spoke of the Great War as a "war to end war" and he seized the moment of victory to force the organization of a system of international peace and security, the charter of which was the Covenant of the League of Nations. The League fired the imagination and hope of the war-trampled European masses; and here and there was found a leader who shared the vision and helped give it an intellectual and moral basis. But to most European statesmen the League seemed at best a harmless idiosyncrasy. Some thought they might arrange to turn it to particular national purposes, though the possibility of this was strangely ignored at first; some were definitely afraid of its implications, and accepted it only as a tactical concession to a statesman whose country was asking none of the material rewards of victory; most were busy and skeptical and bored.

Those who wrote the Covenant realized, of course, how greatly the League would be handicapped by having to shoulder its vast and novel responsibilities in a world disorganized and demoralized by more than four years of passionate combat. They encouraged themselves by remembering that great reforms are not accomplished in placid times, and by the old saying that the way to begin is to begin. They also foresaw that the League would suffer from being incorporated in treaties partly punitive in character. But they knew no other way of making sure that it would be adopted generally, and in any case they counted on its capacity gradually to correct provisions which were unjust or unworkable. This latter hope, however, they thought best not to emphasize. The pressing need being to repair and stabilize the damaged foundations of society, they decided not to try to elaborate the future function of the League as an agency for executing peaceful transformations in the international pattern of that society. They therefore did not carry out their early intention of embodying a provision for peaceful change through

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