The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
IT HAS become a commonplace to say that the United States no longer understands French policy. But to say so is not enough; the misunderstanding must be cleared away. The responsibility may lie with those who do not understand, or with those who are not understood, or with both. It is the last hypothesis which usually is the true one. Let us, then, come to a genuine understanding.
FRANCE, PEACE-LOVING AND ISOLATED
During the last half-century France has given the most striking proofs of her love of peace. Invaded and dismembered in 1871, she did not seek revenge. Attacked again in 1914 by an insatiable rival, she defended herself, and in so doing gave time to the free peoples of the world to range themselves by her side in the battle against German militarism. After fifty-two months of a struggle which ravaged her soil, she and her allies and associates were victorious; she did not then demand a peace of violence, nor did she extend her sovereignty over a single human being who had not for years been whole-heartedly French. Seeking only her security and the repair of her ruins, she set herself again to the peaceful labors which Germany had twice in fifty years disturbed.
Here is our starting-point. What France was yesterday, such she is today. But in three years of peace she has been bitterly disillusioned.
France counted on the cooperation of her recent comrades in arms in carrying out the long-term clauses of the just peace which they had signed in common. She counted on it in vain.
In March, 1920, the United States refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and the Tripartite Military Guarantee. In 1921 it concluded with Germany a separate peace by which it definitely rejected the mutual engagements implied in the treaty of 1919. From that moment Germany knew that America would not insist on the execution of a peace treaty in which she had no further interest.
In the same way Great Britain has turned her back on her 1919 policy. It was Great Britain who had called for the most draconian clauses--for the punishment of war criminals, for example, and for the repayment of war pensions. Less than six months after the ratification of the treaty she repudiated these stipulations, which had been under-written by twenty-seven states.
In his successive conferences Mr. Lloyd George has followed a definite policy of mutilating the peace terms, thus time and again imposing sacrifices on France without granting her any corresponding compensation. So it happens that during the past few months my country has come to feel herself isolated, without feeling that she was responsible for this isolation.
Because she took seriously the signatures of June 28, 1919--signatures in which she has a vital interest--France finds herself in 1922 in the paradoxical position of being denounced everywhere as a trouble-maker. Because she asked what was her due, even though she did not obtain it, she has won the reputation of being nervous, insatiable and imperialistic. This accusation has hurt her to the quick, and out of it grows the dissatisfaction to which she sometimes gives vent. One may approve or disapprove of this dissatisfaction, but one must understand it in order to judge sanely the present tendencies in French policy.
If France insists upon the execution of the treaty it is not solely because it is a contract; it is because its non-execution would very shortly place her in an impasse.
The war bled us terribly. Out of our population of less than 38,000,000 there were mobilized 8,500,000; 5,300,000 of them were killed or wounded (1,500,000 killed, 800,000 mutilés, 3,000,000 wounded), not counting 500,000 men who have come back to us from German prisons in very bad physical condition.
Almost 4,000,000 hectares of land were devastated, together with 4,000 towns and villages; 600,000 buildings were destroyed, among them 20,000 factories and work-shops, besides 5,000 kilometers of railroads and 53,000 kilometers of roads. About 1,400,000 head of cattle were carried off. Altogether, a quarter of our productive capital was annihilated.
The financial consequences of the annihilation of all these resources bear down on us heavily today. The war cost us 150 billions of francs. The damage to property and persons comes to 200 billions. Our ordinary budget has increased from 4½ billions to 25 billions; our debt from 36 billions to 330 billions. Since the armistice we have spent on reconstruction and on pensions a total of 90 billions, and we have received from Germany in one form or another less than two billions of gold marks (about six billions of francs), or about six per cent of what we have had to spend on restoring our provinces--a task as yet but half completed.
To measure what we have undergone, suppose that the war had taken place in America and that you had suffered proportionately. You would have had 4,000,000 of your men killed and 10,000,000 wounded. All your industries from Washington to Pittsburgh would have ceased to exist. All your coal mines would have been ruined. That is what the war would have meant to you. That is what it has meant to us.
If you will go back for a moment to the expense figures which I have just cited, you will find that in the last two years France has spent on reconstruction and pensions 7½ billions of dollars, or $5,700 a minute, while in the same period Germany has only spent 500 millions of dollars, or $381 a minute. In other words, we have accumulated a deficit of $5,319 every minute; and it is we who have paid it, in place of Germany who was responsible for creating the damage.
We think that this cannot go on. You would think the same in our place. The interest and amortization on the sums borrowed by us since the armistice to make up for Germany's default have cost us 4½ billions of francs a year. The interest on our debt absorbs 55 per cent of our taxes. We ask that all this be ended. Who can say it is not a legitimate demand?
ECONOMIC UNITY IS PREACHED TO FRANCE BUT ITS BENEFITS ARE DENIED HER
To these just claims our recent allies and associates have usually replied by recommending that we reduce our bill against Germany. They doubtless forget that what Germany does not pay France will have to pay--France, who did not provoke the ruin wrought by Germany on her soil, whose total working capital Germany has cut down by twenty-five per cent while her own means of production remain intact. We are unanimous in thinking such proposals unjust.
At this point the doctrine of economic unity, so persuasively preached by Mr. Keynes, is brought into play to convince us of our unreasonableness. We are the first to invoke this doctrine. But we find that at the very moment when we are so strongly urged to practice it we are denied any of its benefits; and we realize that, presented in this manner, the doctrine of economic inter-dependence becomes a profitable weapon in the hands of our vanquished aggressors.
When in 1919 France, together with Italy and Belgium, proposed studying the question of a joint liquidation of war expenses, and when at the same time she recommended maintaining a joint organization to ward off the exchange crisis from which the whole world now suffers, Great Britain and the United States categorically refused to have anything to do with such proposals.
A few months later, when American and British markets had begun to suffer from the effects of this crisis, the very people who in 1919 had preached free competition and "every man for himself" began clamoring for economic solidarity. But no one was prepared to apply to France the principles of economic solidarity in the name of which she has been asked month after month to sacrifice the rights written into the treaty. And while we were being counselled, in a tone that was often imperious, not to exact from Germany the integral payment of her debt, we were constantly being reminded of the debts which we ourselves had contracted during the war towards England and the United States.
Here again--I say it quite frankly--the French nation finds it most difficult to understand such inconsistent treatment. Disappointed already in not having been supported by her old comrades-in-arms when she demanded what was her due, she sorrowfully compares the indulgence shown towards defaulting Germany and the severity with which she is reminded of her own obligations. These are obligations which she does not dream of repudiating, but which she cannot meet until she receives what Germany in turn owes her.
Am I wrong in speaking so bluntly? I do not think so, for after all one can say anything to Americans provided one is really sincere. It does not seem to us that during the last two years our former allies and associates have treated us fairly. Hence the sometimes too biting tone of our press. Hence, too, our "jumpiness" for which we do not hold ourselves to blame and which we attribute to the detachment--partial or complete--with which the United States and Great Britain view the essential clauses of the peace treaty, to the complacence with which they regard Germany's policy of subterfuge and evasion. Here, again, let me be precise.
GERMAN BAD FAITH
France would never have refused to make Germany's payment easier if Germany, after having given proof of good faith, had found herself in real difficulties. But this is not the case. Forced by the treaty to pay in gold, Germany has done everything possible to bring about the depreciation of her paper money to a point where it has lost all exchange value. The fall of the mark is not the result of Germany's payments in gold, for in thirty months her payments have totaled less than a billion and a half gold marks. The depreciation of the mark is the direct result of Germany's financial policy, a policy which from the very first day has been one of deliberate evasion.
It is the result, first of all, of wild budgetary waste. The railroads, with a personnel increased by 305,000 since 1914, are responsible for a deficit of 14 billion marks; subsidies to the merchant marine amount to 12 billion marks; public works come to 7 billions, workmen's houses to 5 billions more, bread subsidies to 10 billions more. It is the consequence, also, of an irresponsible currency inflation and of Germany's export, since the armistice, of capital to the extent of 12 billion gold marks.
France, therefore, is within her rights in saying that the primary cause of Germany's default is by no means her incapacity to pay, but her determination not to pay. She is equally within her rights in regretting that her Allies have seemed so little interested in preventing Germany from reaching her present state of insolvency. Indeed, she is surprised that although always prepared to grant delays to Germany, the Allies never dream that France deserves help in facing the results of a German crisis which she has in no way provoked.
FRANCE HAS MADE GREATER REDUCTIONS IN HER MILITARY AND NAVAL EXPENDITURES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY
Until our Anglo-Saxon friends have grasped these essential truths our state of mind will remain a mystery to them, and failing to understand it they will continue attributing to us motives quite different from our real ones; and the misunderstanding will grow worse and worse. One of their unjustified grounds for criticism is the pretended militarism of France, so frequently denounced in a certain section of the American press. I wish to brand it as one of the most absurd legends which has ever laid hold of the public mind.
If, in speaking of French militarism, one wishes to insinuate that France dreams of adventures and conquests and even of a new war, one has only to re-read my estimate of the crushing burden left on our shoulders by our victorious war. We want only peace, and we want it more intensely than any other people in the world. We have almost died of war.
If on the other hand, as I have read only too often in English and American newspapers, it is claimed that France is militaristic because she is devoting to armaments more money than any other country, I say--and I shall prove--that such a statement is contrary to the truth. No country has since the armistice made such reductions in military expenditures as has France. In comparing our war budget of 1918 with that of 1922 we find in the latter a reduction of 31 billions of francs from 36 billions. If we compare the 1913 budget to the 1922 budget, we find in the latter an increase of 266 per cent, or less than the general increase in the cost of living, which is more than 300 per cent. This means that, taking into account the increased cost of living, France in 1922 is spending less on her soldiers than she did in 1913. I want to draw particular attention to the fact that the 1922 figures (4,900 millions of dollars for the army and navy) include exceptional and temporary expenditures directly resulting from the execution of the treaties of peace (in the Sarre, in Upper Silesia, etc.), as well as the expenditure for the Gendarmerie, which is a non-military police force.
Compare the military and naval expenditures of France with those of other nations, and you will find that while, as I have shown above, France's expenditures have increased 266 per cent since pre-war times, the increase for the same period in the United States has been 340 per cent; in Italy 372 per cent; in Denmark 359 per cent; in Japan 332 per cent; and in Great Britain 274 per cent. Thus, we not only have reduced our military expenses since the armistice by 86 per cent; but taking into account the increase in expenditures due to the rise in prices, France, instead of standing in the first place now stands only sixth. Yet the five countries which have passed her have never had to face the accusation of militarism which is now dinned into her ears.
When I add that in June, 1922, the Chamber of Deputies reduced the length of military service from three years to eighteen months, I think I may conclude that nothing remains of the myth of an aggressive France, bowed down by the weight of unwarrantable armaments.
THE GERMAN DANGER AND FRENCH GUARANTEES
Does this mean that France is prepared to disarm completely? No, and she has reasons for not doing so. We do not, for the moment, fear a German attack, but an unprepared and defenceless France would be a real temptation to those Germans who still firmly believe in war. We are convinced of this because the Kaiser's generals are not alone in preaching revenge, because the professors preach it in the universities and the teachers in the schools. We are convinced because every day brings us new proof of the camouflage behind which Germany eludes the rules for her disarmament, hiding arms everywhere, maintaining reserve officers and recruiting bureaus and forming military police corps with machine guns, cannon and aeroplanes. And what becomes of Germany's disarmament after the Treaty of Rapallo, which permits her to manufacture in Russia everything which she is forbidden to produce at home?
All the guarantees and contracts upon which France had the right to rely at the end of 1919 have failed her. The United States refused to ratify the defensive pact embodied in Article 10 of the League of Nations. It also refused to ratify the military guarantee of June 28, 1919, and consequently the Anglo-French agreement went by the board. France today is more alone than she was in 1914, when at least she could count on the Russian alliance.
All that we can now count on are material guarantees, and of these there are but two. One is a military force sufficient to withstand in all circumstances the attack of a people sixty million strong who are disarmed in appearance only. The other consists in the occupation of the left bank of the Rhine, an occupation which the treaty allows us to prolong 15 years because Germany has not fully met her engagements and because we have no other sure guarantee against possible aggression. Twice in fifty years we have been used as a battlefield, and we know what that costs. We know this creditor who repudiates his signature, this aggressor who disavows his responsibilities. At no price will we consent to being exposed to the risk of beginning the struggle over again.
This, then, is the stuff that French militarism is made of! Our precautions are legitimate. Any one who investigates them on the spot will be convinced.
FRANCE AND NAVAL DISARMAMENT
I know quite well that to give strength to the fragile thesis of French militarism our attitude at the Washington Conference is continually brought up and criticised. I was one of the first to proclaim the absurdity of that attitude. But it is unfair to hold France responsible for the blunders of a minister who has been out of power for almost a year.
We did, through the agency of M. Briand, make one blunder after another at the Washington Conference. We appeared to be apologizing for having increased our armaments when in reality we had reduced them more quickly than any other country. Nor were we able to make it plain that France, with her colonies, is a country of a hundred million inhabitants, almost as populous as the United States and having corresponding needs. Finally, and above all, we did not know enough to offer concrete proposals, even that proposal which has many supporters in France--namely, to take as the basis for naval disarmament the complete suppression of capital ships and submarines.
Having failed in all these respects, we committed ourselves to solutions which are open to grave criticism. The United States and Great Britain respectively guaranteed to each other the naval hegemony of the two seas which particularly interested them. France, on the contrary, found herself reduced in the Mediterranean, the cross-roads of her colonial empire, to a situation quite incompatible with her past history or present interests. Instead of leading to an equal disarmament for everyone, the Washington Conference ended by consolidating the supremacy of certain participating states. This has led to a comparison of the advantages secured by each.
France does not dream of an empire of the seas, but she sees no reason, so long as certain powers are allowed to maintain their cruisers and submarines, why she should fall back into the rank of a protègé. It would have been better for our leaders to have stated this from the very beginning and to have presented a definite program of general disarmament. Instead of taking the initiative, they allowed themselves to be held off for five weeks during the negotiations between the United States, Great Britain and Japan, and then merely ratified the results. A certain amount of friction has resulted from all this. But it will not survive a frank explanation.
NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN WORLD CONFUSION
In spite of this there are a great many people in America who say: "If the world is slow to recover, it is the fault of France, who is always complaining about something and who opposes every solution." I have already answered this charge in part, but there is something more to be said.
The state of the world is the result of the war. But if, during the last two years, the non-execution of the peace terms has created a general feeling of instability, whose is the fault? Over two years ago a German journalist, Mr. Redlich, editor of the Gazette de Voss, said to me: "It is true that we are not carrying out the peace treaty. But lay the blame on your Allies, who show plainly that they are not in the least interested in its execution."
Think just for a moment about this remark, which is in some ways quite fair. Everything that was decided in 1919 has since then been placed in doubt. The close solidarity which made victory possible disappeared in peace. A series of improvisations has taken its place. Can European order be re-established in this haphazard manner? I doubt it, and events are confirming my doubts.
With just what can France be reproached? With intransigeance? Surely not, for during the past thirty months she has patiently accepted all the successive compromises, each more onerous than the last, which her Allies have recommended. Recall the international conferences of 1920, 1921 and 1922. Which of them was broken off by France? And in which one did France not lose either an arm or a leg?
In February, 1920, we gave up our demand for the German war criminals. In April, 1920, we abandoned our mandate over Cilicia and the military command of Constantinople. In July, 1920, we loaned to Germany several hundred million francs in order to get, in greatly reduced amounts, the coal which she owed us. In January, 1921, we renounced our claim for the integral reparation for damages done us. In May, 1921, we gave up the 12 billion gold marks due us on that date. In December, 1921, and in March, 1922, we acted similarly about the already reduced payments which had been fixed by the London Agreement of the preceding May.
Where is there in all this any sign of our famous intransigeance? What solution did we refuse to accept? Everywhere and at all times France has given proof of absolute good will and a fine spirit of conciliation. She has shown reserve, it is true, towards the Russian policy of Mr. Lloyd George. But is it for America, who was absent from Genoa and the Hague where we were present, to reproach us on that score? And who is not aware that Mr. Lloyd George himself admitted in the House of Commons in the middle of July that the Soviets were responsible for the check given the agreements which he was planning to make with them ?
Where then, I repeat, are the faults of France in all this ? How can the long-continued uneasiness which since the war has gripped the world be charged against her? What disorders has she provoked? When has she refused to cooperate? Never. And when has her cooperation brought a word of thanks?
FRANCE AND THE INTERNATIONAL LOAN
I now come to a last grievance, for I wish to leave nothing untouched. France, it seems, is responsible for the recent failure of the international loan, which was the sole panacea for solving simultaneously the reparations problem and the general economic crisis.
A loan was and still is the practical solution for which we must work if we are to transform the political debt of Germany into a commercial one. On this point France is in complete accord with financial opinion all over the world. But a loan of whatever amount is not possible unless the public has confidence, and the public will only feel confident when it is convinced that sums sufficient to pay the annual interest and amortization charges will be forthcoming. Has this prerequisite been met? Here lies the real question, and French policy does not enter into it at all.
To set such a question is to reply to it. Germany has just declared herself unable to pay 50,000,000 gold marks a month, or 600,000,000 gold marks a year. She definitely states that this inability to pay will extend over the years 1922, 1923 and 1924. Simultaneously, she demands that her deliveries of coal be reduced by over a third. Under these conditions what becomes of the requisite guarantee that the annual interest will be paid regularly, without which no loan is feasible? And why suppose that the public would absorb the bonds of this loan, knowing as they do from the official declaration of Germany herself that for three years at least she will have nothing with which to pay the interest and nothing for the amortization?
An international loan is highly desirable, and for France most of all, because her expenditures for reconstruction (90 billion francs up to July 1, 1922) are far from being at an end. But a loan will become possible only when Germany appears capable of meeting its annual interest. It would have been possible in 1920; it may perhaps again be possible in 1924; it is not possible today, and the most accomplished bankers in the world cannot make it so. At most they can point out that the difficulties in the way of a loan, as things now stand, are in direct proportion to its size. This is exactly what the eminent financiers who met in Paris last June did point out.
It is not France, then, but the force of circumstances which is opposed at the present time to a great international loan. Even if the German debt, fixed at 132 billion gold marks, were reduced by a half or three-quarters such a loan would be a fiasco. That is why France did wisely in refusing to consider a fresh reduction in the German debt in exchange for the allúring prospect of a credit transaction doomed in advance to certain failure. No one can conscientiously reproach her on this score,
FRANCE WANTS TO LIVE
Having said all of this I feel in a better position to reply to the question that has been put to me: "What does France want? What is her policy?" My reply lies in a single phrase: "France wants to live."
France wants to live. By that I mean she wants not to succumb beneath the burden of her victory--that she wants to rebuild her ruins instead of being crushed beneath them--that she asks for justice and justice only. If she is denied this, then to the economic crisis which now staggers the world will be added the incalculable blow of French bankruptcy, an event which the preachers of economic solidarity should wish to prevent as much as they wish to prevent a German bankruptcy.
France wants to live, and her acts have proved it. The work of reconstruction accomplished since the armistice is the admiration of all who have come to study it. Without any outside assistance we have restored all our railroads and highways, have put back into condition 80 per cent of our devastated fields, have brought home 90 per cent of the people driven away by the war, have rebuilt half of our factories and have put up temporary houses which, whether bad or good, at least will serve until permanent structures can be erected. No one in the wake of such a catastrophy and with the means at our disposal could have done better than France.
We showed no less energy in reorganizing our finances. No parliament ever voted so many new taxes as did the French Chamber in 1920. With the exception of the Englishman, the inhabitant of no other country is so heavily taxed as the Frenchman. This year we have paid 21 billion francs in taxes; we will pay 25 billion next year. Before the war we paid less than five billion. The Germans pay $13.00 per head in taxes, the French pay $45.00. A thorough study of this particular question enables me to state that the inhabitants of France pay on the average 15 per cent more in taxes than do the citizens of the United States.
Nothing, therefore, is more unjust than to represent France as a nervous, demoralized country, always complaining but never acting. France is in full action, but she wants to have fulfilled the two conditions which will permit her efforts to bear fruit: one, lasting security; two, effective reparations. The pursuit of these two conditions determines her policy.
FRANCE WANTS SECURITY
I showed a moment ago that France in 1919 counted very largely on the treaties guaranteeing the protection of her frontiers. That the guarantees did not materialize is hardly her fault.
France unhesitatingly ratified the defensive engagements laid down in Article 10 of the League of Nations covenant. France ratified, by a unanimous vote of both Houses of Parliament, the military agreement with the United States and Great Britain. Further, France proposed--without being followed by her Allies --to put at the disposal of the League of Nations an international military force capable of keeping the peace. After this, no one has the right to call us "sword rattlers," anxious above all things to remain the first military power in Europe. It is not France who has cast aside political means of maintaining peace. She accepted them all; it is others who have thrown them away.
France cannot allow her care for present and future security to be branded as egoism, nor can she accept as a sort of conditional dole offers of protection such as the pact proposed by Mr. Lloyd George to M. Briand at the Cannes Conference last January. France on the one hand considers that the European situation justifies her in retaining a strong army at least as much as the naval situation justified the United States and Great Britain in claiming at Washington their 500,000 tons each of capital ships. On the other hand she thinks that the problem of her security is a problem of general concern.
When Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 and when the United States in 1917 declared war, it was because they realized--in the case of the United States the realization came only after three years--that France's danger was their danger also. These two great nations brought inestimable aid to France, but both of them were led to a final decision by national reasons, Great Britain by British reasons, the United States by American reasons. It would be a mistake to think that the factors in the problem have changed. At most, one can say that the Rapallo Treaty has made them more real. It is such a self-evident truth that I will not insist upon it.
And so France asks that when one talks of her security one shall not have the appearance of condescending to quiet chimerical fears; she asks that she, with her army on the Rhine, be considered, today as yesterday, the Sentinel of Liberty. The question looked at from this angle, the angle of historic and political reality, becomes easy to settle.
FRANCE WANTS TO BE PAID
Will France ever be reimbursed by Germany, in conformity with the Treaty of Versailles, for the total cost of reconstruction and war pensions? Since the London agreement of May, 1921, no Frenchman entertains such a hope. But France intends to be paid what was promised her at that time, and if ever she should accept any reduction on the amount it would be only with the absolute certainty of a rapid payment of the reduced sum. I have said, and I repeat, that this condition has never so far been met.
The policy upheld by the 250 Deputies who agree with me is neither absolute nor merely negative. On the contrary we stand resolutely for the doctrine of economic solidarity recommended by Mr. Lloyd George, but we do not want France to be the only country excluded from its benefits. A few examples will make our position more clear.
We are asked to grant Germany a prolonged moratorium. Very well. But what will be done to help us through this period when Germany is paying us nothing? We are asked to consider another reduction in the German debt. Once again, very well. But what is offered us in exchange in the way of a reduction of the French debt? We are asked not to use against our defaulting creditor the military sanctions authorized by the treaty. Once again, very well. But what common means of political and economic pressure is offered us to force Germany to act? We are asked to help float an international loan, which nobody wants more than we ourselves. Agreed. But what will the other powers do to force Germany to produce the yearly interest without which no loan is possible?
You will notice that in asking these questions we also indicate the reply. At Genoa Great Britain was ready to help Russia financially for the general good; what prevents her from helping France for the same reason? The reduction of the entire Allied debts, not as a present from ally to ally but as a way of bringing about the reduction of the German debt, has been studied everywhere and might perhaps be studied anew. Political and economic sanctions against a Germany piling up interest and bank balances the world over would be very much more efficacious than military sanctions. After all, the means of compelling Germany to gather funds in sufficient quantities to meet the service charges on a loan (budgetary reform, the reassembling of capital credits held abroad, laws against the evasion of taxes and the export of gold), are not mysterious; they are all indicated in the Treaty of Versailles and have only to be employed.
On all these points France offers her Allies their choice.
They can agree to follow the course I have outlined or they can refuse. If they agree, success will come surely and rapidly; if they refuse, responsibility for the failure will be on their own heads. In the reparations problem France must have a constructive policy of cooperation. She can have it. It is important that she submit it as a whole and in detail to the judgment of the whole world. Time presses and we must speak to the point.
FRANCE AND THE CONTINENT
But France must not stop with a mere definition of her policy. It is for her to explain and interpret to the Anglo-Saxon world the special conditions of continental Europe.
During the last few months our American and English friends have plied us with suggestions and advice. They have offered us innumerable plans of reconstruction, reasoning as though our old continent presented a clean slate and discussing freely those nationalistic aspirations which found their outlet in the treaties of 1919. May I not be allowed to say that these are questions which can hardly be discussed and decided from a distance?
It is hard for Americans and Englishmen to understand fully the life Europe has led for many centuries and the scars left by that passionate life on the minds and hearts of its inhabitants. They constantly advise us to go back and reconsider certain clauses of a peace treaty which was, whether one likes it or not, the consummation of a war of nationalities. I am convinced that, far from curing the unstability of which they complain, this would be the surest way of making it worse. I am no less convinced that by constituting herself the interpreter of the continental spirit to the Anglo-Saxon world, France would be accomplishing a task useful to others as well as to herself.
Look how Central Europe, profoundly altered by the treaties which you so distrust, has adapted itself to new conditions and is beginning, on the basis of liberated nationalities, to adjust its economic relations. You have here an example upon which one cannot meditate too deeply or too often. The conclusion is that when once political stability resulting from satisfaction of national needs is assured, economic reorganization follows.
At the beginning of the last century, when the young South American republics were born and multiplied, the United States, to protect these young countries against unwise and perhaps overbearing European intervention, made a proclamation which is known as the Monroe Doctrine. I am not suggesting a Monroe Doctrine for Europe, but I must remind our transatlantic friends that convalescent Europe has a right to take the same precautions that America took in 1825, and I ask that France be permitted to explain clearly and amicably to the United States, delegate of two continents, and to Great Britain, representative of an immense empire, the right of the continental union to choose its own methods of reconstruction rather than a hard and fast ready-made formula forced upon it from outside.
THE DANGER OF FINANCIAL TYRANNY
France must frankly play the part which history and geography alike have set her, and which make of her, in this isthmus where nature has placed her, the connecting link between two worlds and two civilizations. In this same frank and fair spirit she must put the Anglo-Saxon nations on their guard against the temptations with which the pride of their riches might inspire them.
In old and impoverished Europe we at times get the impression that the dollar and the pound sterling would like to rule the world. In London as in New York people flatter themselves that they renounce all imperialistic designs. But there is an imperialism of gold, a hegemony of banks, which is quite as perilous as military or political imperialism. Do not let continental Europe ever get to think that you believe you can control her by money; she would revolt against this yoke.
Do not forget, either, that between the Mediterranean and the North Sea there are millions of men who willingly underwent the horrors of war in order that an idea might triumph. They will never permit that so many of theirs shall have died and that they themselves should have suffered so grievously in order that at the end the new tyranny of a financial syndicate should install itself over the peoples whose liberty they have saved. It would be dangerous to say to these old soldiers "Woe to the Poor."
Anglo-Saxon business men made a mistake when, after the armistice, they insisted upon an immediate return to free competition, with the inevitable destruction of close solidarity, because quite erroneously they believed the European consumer would be capable of absorbing their over-production. They may again find themselves wrong if they think that they can rule the whole world because of their gold reserve and their favorable exchange. Their first mistake resulted in a plethora of stocks and in an unemployment crisis which still continues. Their second error might well cause between its victims, whoever they might be, unforeseen alliances from which no one would really benefit.
It is mistaken to believe that a purely economic policy is necessarily a guarantee of peace. Commerce has been responsible for as many wars as nationalism. Certain Englishmen admit this, as may be seen from the reply a member of the British Cabinet made recently to a Frenchman who was pointing out the danger England runs in abetting the recuperation of her two chief rivals of yesterday, Germany and Russia.
"You are probably right," he said, "but what can we do? Just at present we have only one aim, to which we sacrifice everything: to get business and make money. If in fifteen years we find that we have made Germany a more dangerous rival even than she used to be--well, we shall declare war on her."
France, who clings to peace and who wants it to be durable, will never lend herself to such a venturesome policy. She remains faithful to the idealism which was the moving spirit of the nations during the war. She believes in those imponderable forces whose existence Bismarck himself admitted. She does not believe that rates of exchange and commercial balances are the sole forces which rule the universe. She considers that the present economic crisis was preceded by, and is now dominated by, a moral crisis--a crisis in the conception of international obligations. And when she invokes the text and the spirit of the treaty, when she speaks of right and justice, she believes she is working not only for herself but for all the human race.
FRANCE MUST FOLLOW A CONSTRUCTIVE POLICY
Just a few words more to define the spirit in which I have written this article, addressing myself to friends to whom in the darkest hours of the war I never failed to speak the truth. France has never clearly enunciated the ideas which I am here defending, and our successive governments have incurred a grave responsibility in not having dared to proclaim them. In consequence, we have been living in the dark, and if you have often misunderstood us you have the right to say that we have always given you poor explanations. M. Millerand came to grief by entering into dangerous bargaining with Mr. Lloyd George without having first laid down certain unalterable principles; M. Briand indulged in nonchalant improvisations, all the more serious because of the irresponsible character of his chief assistant, M. Loucheur; M. Poincaré intrenches himself behind negations and innumerable judicial reservations. A great many of us think that this cannot go on and that France will find her policy successful only when it becomes positive and constructive, and when it is presented clearly to those who are to cooperate in carrying it forward.
In order that the world may regain its equilibrium France must have the cooperation of those who fought by her side. But Great Britain and the United States will make no lasting progress in Europe without the cooperation of France. A minute explanation in the interest of a thorough agreement becomes, then, the duty of us all. To fulfill this duty one must escape from the habit of thinking that one's own difficulties are worse than those of one's neighbors. An English minister said to me one day: "You are in luck to have your devastated regions; they are a real guarantee against unemployment." There are things which it is well not to say--or, still better, not to think.
In conclusion, may I recall to American readers that no one has known at closer quarters than myself the full power of complete cooperation between our two countries. I have not forgotten how the unheard of effort of America in 1917 and 1918 contributed toward the common victory, nor what France, in spite of the heavy burdens of our years of war, did to enable the American army to come in good time into the final battle. The memory of these magnificent achievements inspires me with complete faith in the fruitfulness of our association. If during the last two years this association has not been functioning, I can but point out that France is not responsible. I am convinced that, sooner or later, it will be reborn. In what form? I know not. But I believe it will be reborn.
For the moment there is but one thing to do--to come together to talk things over and to say what we have to say without reserve. I have tried to do this. Have I succeeded?