Courtesy Reuters

Disarmament in the Atomic Age

THE Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations finds today that it has caught up with and must face in all their complex difficulty the two central problems of the ageold disarmament question: How can the world limit production of weapons of destruction? How can it insure effective control of that limitation? As these weapons become increasingly more devastating, the challenge to man's ingenuity and vision becomes correspondingly more impelling. But in essence the issues are the same as those debated for years at Geneva between the two world wars.

For over ten years, from the early 1920's until 1934, the League of Nations wrestled with the problem of limiting armaments. The failure to get results at that time has rather obscured the fact that some useful work in this field was done at Geneva, and that this work bears on many of the problems now faced by the Atomic Energy Commission.

At Geneva it was necessary to decide what weapons to limit or ban; what should be the nature of the limitations; how to make certain that the limitations would be carried out; and, finally, how to impose effective sanctions if they were not carried out. Today we do not need to discuss what we want to ban in the field of atomic weapons. The great issues now turn on the methods to be adopted with regard to supervision and sanctions.

Paradoxically enough, the League Disarmament Conference failed just because it was approaching the point of achievement, not because of its futility. This paradox is explainable by the attitude of Germany. Hitler could not afford to let the Conference succeed. It would block his plans for rearmament. He was safe in playing along while the conferees at Geneva dawdled and debated. But when, late in 1933, real progress was made on a concrete program, Hitler broke up the Conference. The agreement which was being drafted was to be a treaty with teeth; there was a definite program to limit and reduce armaments,

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