Risks of a Big-Power Peace

WE ARE passing through a period of acute pessimism in relation to international affairs. A feeling of disillusionment prevails among our victorious armies, despite the magnificent victories they have gained over our enemies. To a great extent, of course, the feeling arises from first impressions and incomplete knowledge. But it is not confined to returning veterans and it is not without some justification. Many people in widely scattered countries are wondering whether the sacrifices of the war will be reflected in the peace.

A great part of the responsibility for this state of disillusionment must be attributed to those leaders amongst the Great Powers who have attempted, and are still attempting, to make both the writing and the execution of the peace treaties their own exclusive prerogative. Their intentions are probably of the best. No doubt they genuinely believe that the countries with a preponderance of population have the right to lay down the conditions of peace throughout the world. But in actual practice this will not work. A settlement imposed by a few cannot be expected to evoke general assent and must evoke considerable resentment. Nor can these leaders make sure of agreement, even amongst themselves.

At every stage of the war, Australia and other nations which have a clear record of active and sustained belligerency have been trying to establish the principle that it is not only just, but also essential, that all of them should participate in the peacemaking process. This war has shown, more clearly perhaps than any other in history, that peacemaking does not begin or end with a formal conference. It has its origin during the progress of hostilities, in alliances, agreements, understandings and declarations between the belligerents. It is continued in the armistice negotiations, and in the post-armistice machinery for control of enemy territory. Finally, even after the signature of a formal treaty, it can be, and has been, projected into the permanent organization for the maintenance and modification of the settlement. These stages

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