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THE purely idealistic reasons for joining the League of Nations have been dwelt upon in abundance of detail; and, with arguments of equal loftiness, certain very great nations have declared that if they did not join it was solely in order that they might preserve their liberty and thus render still more service to humanity. These assertions have their value. But as the League of Nations has been at work for five years is it not pretty nearly time to come down to earth and ask each country--whether it is a member of the League or not --to give a frank answer to one of these questions: Do you think it is worth your while belonging to the League? Or, on the other hand, why are you glad that you do not belong? If as the outcome of these heart-searchings it should be shown that the League of Nations has stirred deep feeling, satisfying some while disappointing others, would not this be the best proof that it is a reality, not a utopia, and that much may be expected from it? So far as France is concerned, I shall now try to reply to the question. I hope that the Editors of FOREIGN AFFAIRS will put the same question to representatives of other countries.
By taking up or refusing to take up certain matters the League has disappointed or disturbed a good many nations. For example, it has disappointed some because it thought its powers did not justify it in taking up the question of racial equality, because it has not exerted itself to communize the consumption of raw materials, or again because it has paused in the face of the exclusive competence of nations in their own domestic concerns. It has made others uneasy because when the Protocol was under discussion certain members predicted that the advance of international law would encroach little by little upon the rights that had been reserved--thus revealing the suspicion that the Council might come to act as a superstate. The League has likewise caused uneasiness because one member has presumed, in defining its relations with the government of the empire of which it forms a part, to make use of the specific statute under which it becomes a member of the League, talking about complete legal equality, registration by the League of its treaties with the government already mentioned, and eventual submission to the Council of the League of Nations of any conflict that may arise in the interpretation of these treaties.
Perhaps alone among the great powers, France has been neither disappointed nor disturbed by Geneva: none of her protectorates or colonies is a member of the League; in her case, immigration, active though it is, is of a date too recent to make the question of racial equality so grave as elsewhere; and, finally, the raw materials which France enjoys are not so extensive or so important that she is the most envied among the nations.
But these negative reasons why France has been neither disappointed nor disturbed do not explain why French confidence in the League has actually grown during the last five years.
It is true that in the beginning this confidence was rather fragile. Save for M. Leon Bourgeois and the little group of lawyers and politicians who ever since the Hague Conferences have been interested in the development of international law and the organization of peace, no one put any genuine faith in it. Labor unions, intellectuals, and fighting men, to be sure, demanded the creation of an institution which should make an end of war; but shaken by the skepticism of the realists they were slow to recognize the idealized features of that institution in the face of the League which arose on the basis of the universally derided peace treaties.
At first it was supposed in France that the whole business was stage-managed by the Anglo-Saxons and that they would continue to control it. It was thought that President Wilson paid no heed to European realities in his enthusiasm for a plan which, in its entirety, had sprung into being in his brain, over there in the United States. Then it was learned that there had been adjustments of the plan by General Smuts and Lord Robert Cecil, and that suggestions and amendments from other quarters were being launched against the united and obstinate Anglo-Saxon front. Later it appeared that the Englishmen appointed to the Secretariat were many and important. And, finally, it was learnt that the British Empire had been granted six votes in the Assembly. France thought she would be isolated at Geneva.
As soon as the first Assembly met that fear was banished. Since then it has almost entirely disappeared, together with the legend that President Wilson--said to be an incorrigible dreamer --had during the course of the negotiations often hampered bipartisan agreements which France and England were ready to put through on a basis of solid reality. Five years of Anglo-French tête à têtes have brought matters back into perspective. How much better adapted to European conditions and how much more disinterested does the Wilsonian principle of the rights of peoples to dispose of themselves now appear than the cleverness of Mr. Lloyd George in hindering the unduly rapid recovery of France and the growth of the newly emancipated nations, in order to get back as soon as possible to that European equilibrium which is so nicely calculated to favor England's desire to recover her old rôle of the isolated arbiter!
Moreover, the refusal of the United States to join the League of Nations has naturally diminished the French fears of Anglo-Saxon preponderance in the Council, the Assembly, and the Secretariat. Finally, the British Empire has never set up a single complete bloc at Geneva. The dominions retain their right of free speech where there is any question of assessment quotas, technical organizations, the interpretation of Article X, or exclusive competence. Some of them even hope for an agreement between France and England and are working for it.
In the early days of the League, France was less inclined than today to place confidence in the general promises of the pact, believing rather in special alliances and in one special alliance above all the rest. The importance that the idea of security assumes in a country that has been thrice invaded within a century so impressed Wilson that of his own accord he offered himself, and persuaded Mr. Lloyd George to offer--besides the guarantees of security which the treaty assured--a promise of military aid in case German troops entered the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. This treaty was to continue in force until the League of Nations should be strong enough to offer France an equivalent guarantee of security. When this treaty was not ratified by her old allies and associates France felt that she had been cast off. Not only was no substitute offered her, but when the German resistance, thus encouraged, paralyzed any execution of the treaty, the French reaction was represented in England and the United States as a manifestation of aggressive imperialism. This bitter experience induced France to seek in the League of Nations a remedy for her unsupported status. The result was that, having once entered the League, where she had feared to find herself isolated, she discovered that she was far less isolated than she had anticipated.
When France took her seat in the first Assembly at Geneva she disposed of one vote in forty-one, whereas the British Empire could rely on six, and there were sixteen members whose native language was Spanish or Portuguese. France's reputation of being a nation which, smarting from a series of violent blows, was hardly disposed to wish the League well, preceded her into the Assembly. Her own newspapers represented her as skeptical with regard to this "debating club." The stir raised by the international press over the admission of Germany placed France in the unpleasant position of the member who votes "No." The fall of Venizelos, the extermination of the Armenians, the Wrangel debacle, all conspired to make the position of France difficult in the Assembly.
But what does she see there today? Her language employed in two-thirds of the speeches delivered at the plenary sessions and in four-fifths of the discussions held by the commissions; and warm sympathy on every side, especially among the Latin Americans and the Slavs--this, of course, without mentioning her neighbors in Spain and Belgium and her allies in the Great War. She finds, moreover, her opinion sought and followed in most of the important votes and notices a desire that in affairs of major importance France shall say what she wishes and even assume the task of expressing the wishes of others--in recognition of the fact that often in the course of her history her rules of action have been adopted as almost universal rules of conduct. Thus quite naturally, though not without surprise, France finds herself on a level of equality in this international assembly by sheer virtue of her historic position--her centuries of culture, her hundred and thirty years of democratic tradition, her chivalry toward weak nations and her humanity toward the non-white races. All that French patrimony which our chancellery had been finding it hard to make use of suddenly regained its prestige, with forty-one nations as audience. Such was the revelation at Geneva, which has been renewed at each Assembly for five years. A further fact is significant. Save for M. Léon Bourgeois--who from the beginning had been a firm believer in the League and who had been one of its creators--not a single French statesman who has returned from representing his country at a session of the Assembly has failed to confess publicly that he had learned things which surprised him. This reputedly utopian Covenant proved in practice to be a treasure-house of formulas admirably adapted to European realities. Geneva, whose silent pressure France had feared, became an incomparable tribune in the eyes of France's own representatives. The Assembly, where it had been feared France would be swallowed up, proved to be solid ground on which she might base her policies.
At Geneva France found herself already on familiar terms with part of Europe. Her bonds with Czechoslovakia and Poland fell into line quite naturally with the requirements of the League, being defensive alliances, designed to reduce armaments and quite capable of being registered and published. To her allies were added Rumania and Jugoslavia. At the same time she drew closer to the Baltic countries. There was a whole ramification of new and agreeable relationships. There in the Hall of the Reformation the words "Little Entente" took on concrete meaning, signifying a force that counts for something and with which one has to count, since room has been made for it on the Council. As for Central and South America, France has found support which is particularly welcome because it is voluntary and free from all material considerations, reminding her of a fact which too often, in her chagrin, she has been inclined to forget--namely, that the place among the nations which her civilization guarantees her implies an obligation upon her not to live apart.
When the history of the post-war relations of Great Britain and France comes to be written it will be recorded that it was at Geneva that the two countries, though often in disagreement, always reached an accord the most easily. This was not only because they had the fortune to be represented there during the early years by two distinguished men who brought to their conversations a serenity, philosophy, and experience which are rare in chancelleries; but also because at Geneva, England, which ordinarily looks at Europe through a haze of traditional ideas, is compelled to fall back on her deep-seated sense of reality and to see Europe, assembled before her eyes, directly and as it really is. Last year the moment Mr. Ramsay MacDonald sensed the feeling of the Assembly he knew that his project of eliminating all idea of security and of special agreements from his plan of reducing armaments was impracticable. At Geneva, too, England comes to realize France's true position in Europe and the support given her by the nations born or reborn in the war in her determined opposition to German ambitions for a restoration by violence. Every year for five years the support lent by British diplomacy and British public opinion to a Germany which, they say, asks nothing better than to take her place in line if France will only grant her the right to live, has gained England nothing but disappointment, for Germany has always evaded the issue when it has been proposed to apply the ordinary rules to her candidacy.
The white light of Geneva, which shows up so clearly every gap between special and general interests, is swiftly rendering untenable certain theses to which the secrecy of diplomatic notes and conversations have formerly been only too favorable. At Geneva, France was able to substitute for the English thesis the idea that in dividing Upper Silesia under the plebiscite the national wishes expressed by the voters ought alone to be taken into consideration in tracing the frontier--all arguments founded on the necessity of not disturbing the economic unity of the industrial basin being of no avail, once the frontier had been defined, for fixing permanently a transitory economic régime. It was at Geneva that Austria and Hungary, remnants from the territorial readjustments wrought by the Treaties of Saint-Germain and The Trianon, whose early demise so many English voices had predicted, received the financial aid which has enabled them to maintain their independence, thanks to a balanced budget and a stabilized currency. It was at Geneva, during the discussions of the Pact of Mutual Guaranty and the Protocol, that France was able to show that the obligation to arbitrate before entering on a war would not suffice to permit reduction of armaments unless the security of the more exposed states was guaranteed. Finally, it was at Geneva that the idea of aid given by Great Britain to France in case of attack--the idea which had been given up because of America's failure to ratify the tri-partite agreement--was raised anew, first in the Pact of Mutual Guaranty and again in the Protocol.
No doubt Great Britain's disinclination to subscribe to any European compact save when she herself is immediately and definitely menaced--a tendency strengthened by America's isolation--has hitherto, upon three occasions, prevented the English Government from signing or ratifying agreements of assistance whose necessity it had nevertheless recognized. Two points have been gained, however. On the one hand, if England is some day to subscribe to European engagements, it will be through the League of Nations; on the other, each year for five Assemblies, England has been made to feel that more than fifty nations hope a Franco-British agreement will be reached. In their eyes it seems a necessity--more, a duty. Should it come into being, the Assembly would breathe more freely; were the idea given up, the Assembly would be paralyzed. A permanent entente between France and England, under the Covenant, is what Geneva needs. What are we to think, in view of this, of the predictions of those realists who averred that too close an adhesion by France to the League would cost her an English alliance?
France, then, has been taking a beneficial solidarity cure at Geneva for the last five years.
It must not be thought, however, that French faith in the League of Nations is of recent date. As a matter of fact, since the Treaty was signed no member of the League has submitted weightier matters to its management, decision or oversight than France has submitted.
First of all, the Saar. Here France is in control of the mines. In ten years the territory of the Saar will decide by plebiscite whether it wishes to become French or German, or to stay as it is. If France had not placed full confidence in the competence and fairness of the League, she would not have allowed it to take over a government which day by day might hinder the exploitation of the mines and which might by its policy now, or ten years from now, influence the inhabitants of the Saar in their choice between the three possible solutions. This was the first experiment in government by an international commission. In spite of Germany's incessant propaganda designed to increase the difficulties inevitable in a highly industrialized and thickly populated region which had been placed provisionally mid-way between two great countries, two tariff systems and two currencies, in a time of great financial and economic crisis, the life of the Saar basin has been calmer than the life of neighboring Germany; and this territory, which threatened to be one of the most critical spots on the map of Europe, will pass through a period of fifteen years and decide its own fate in such conditions of light, publicity and fairness that no matter what solution is chosen by the inhabitants it will impose itself, without appeal, on all interested parties.
Second, the military control of Germany. It is vital, and for years to come it will be vital, for France to know where German armaments stand and whether they are in conformity with Part V of the Treaty of Versailles. Under Article 213 of the Treaty, Germany promises to give every facility for any investigation which the Council of the League of Nations, acting if need be by a majority vote, may consider necessary. It is provided that as soon as the Interallied Commission of Control shall have decided that Germany has provisionally completed all demands, the task of continued surveillance will fall upon the League. The whole mechanism of investigation was placed on a basis satisfactory to France at the last meeting of the Council in Rome.
In the third place, the independence of Austria. It would be a serious matter for France--which already feels the weight of a Germany with more than sixty million inhabitants upon her frontier--if Austria should give up her independence and unite with Germany. Under Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany agrees that the independence of Austria "shall be inalienable, except with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations." And by Article 88 of the Treaty of Saint-Germain, Austria assumes the same engagement. In undertaking to bring order into Austrian finances, the Council of the League has established her political independence--not because it has tried in this way to influence the choice of the Austrians, but because by relieving them from the despair which they felt in August, 1922, it has tried to give them time and opportunity to control their own destiny. A patriotic sentiment which is quite new and which is based on the hope of an independent life has been born in Austria as a result of the financial restoration undertaken there within the last two years by the League.
Fourth, the mandates. Under surveillance of the League, France exercises a mandate over Syria, the Kamerun, and Togoland. By agreeing to place the territories conquered by the armies of the Allies and Associates under mandates and to administer them under a system that admits full publicity, the open door, and the improvement of the natives' lot, France has taken her stand in favor of a definite colonial policy which she proposes to extend gradually to her other colonies.
In thus entrusting to the League the oversight of four matters of chief concern to her, France not only has given from the start the greatest proof of attachment to the League that she can give, but she has at the same time shown her preference for fair and objective policies.
There is yet another problem--to France the most important of all--which seems to her closely linked with the fate of the League of Nations. It is the problem of security. In the beginning France distrusted the League as one distrusts an institution which, however much one hopes from it, may merely give a false sense of security. Suppose France, believing herself protected by Articles X-XVI of the Covenant, and asking nothing more than rest, relaxation, and peace, were to weaken her vigilance, how rude an awakening might be prepared for her by a guaranty which vanished when danger appeared.
This fear was fed, when the Covenant was being drawn up, by the British and American refusal even to consider two French amendments whose object was to increase the power and authority of the League by preparing for the organization of an international force and the setting up of a mutual surveillance over armaments. Since that time these ideas have made progress. On the one hand, the Protocol provides that each member of the League shall indicate the forces it is willing to place, if needed, at the League's disposal in order to permit each member to carry out a reduction of armaments proportional to the aid on which it can rely. On the other hand, the Protocol provides that as soon as the mechanism of arbitration comes into play, and so long as it is operative, it is the duty of the League to see that none of the parties to the conflict augments its military strength. Demilitarized zones are even to be organized beforehand in the most exposed territories, so as to favor the control exercised by the League and make easier the designation of the aggressor. Discussion about the Protocol thus offers a method of measuring the progress made in five years towards understanding the importance of an international force and of control organized by the League of Nations. It is true that the United States and the British Empire, feeling that they need no one to protect them, are always hostile to these two ideas. But they have found warm exponents in most European countries.
France has something else to be afraid of. Her security depends on the execution of treaties. Now, most advocates of the revision of the peace treaties have long been talking of employing the League of Nations for this purpose, and they have found support within the League itself. Does it not include most of the former neutral powers? To what purpose, say these people, prolong war bitterness in the very League that should be the scene for a reconciliation between conquered and conquerors? Why dwell upon the past when we should be organizing the future upon new bases? Why insist upon clauses in the treaties which keep ex-enemies out of the League when the League's essential purpose is to become universal at the earliest possible moment?
This attitude, which would have required the victors to apologize for having troubled the philosophic development of the League with their victory, would, if translated into action, have had no result save to detach the League from the realities on which it depends for prestige and for securing immediate action. Without the victory of the Allies there would have been no Assembly at all; when the war was over, if the Covenant had not been immediately concluded, even before the treaties, it would never have been concluded at all; and without the Covenant the treaties would have been quite different, since certain solutions adopted in them would have been impossible. Last of all, the Covenant and the treaties join the present members of the League in a solidarity of vital interests which it would be difficult to ensure for a new association in which nations were joined only by formal agreement.
The Assembly at Geneva has shown, however, that it is not indifferent to ideals of reconciliation when the ex-enemies exhibit a similar disposition. Austria, Bulgaria, and Hungary have all been admitted. Germany and Turkey need only accept the ordinary rule. Even Turkey is not hostile to the League, since she has entrusted to it the task of tracing the frontier of the vilayet of Mosul.
But discussion about the relationship between the Covenant and the treaties and about a revision of the treaties by the League has been lessening year by year. At the first meeting of the Assembly, Switzerland and Holland asserted that they would adhere to the Covenant, but that, not having been parties to the treaties, they would ignore them. The situation of the powers was delicate, for on the one hand they could not admit that the League would ever undertake revision of the treaties, and, on the other hand, they had never pretended to oppose all such revision. The thesis which M. Léon Bourgeois managed to get accepted was that all articles of the Covenant could be amended by the Assembly, except those articles which relate directly to the treaties, since that would have permitted indirect revision of the treaties by powers not parties to them. All negotiation in regard to the treaties concerns the Allied and Associated Powers; all negotiation as to the Covenant must be carried on within the League of Nations. This severance of the two kinds of negotiations is a means of giving the Covenant the independent attitude which it ought to maintain toward the treaties and at the same time safeguards the link that unites them.
These, then, are the reasons why French distrust of the League has been transformed into confidence. The methods and spirit prevailing at Geneva are an added reason. The Secretariat and the various technical commissions provide the best mechanism now known for treating great international questions in a scientific spirit. The spirit of the Assembly in periods of political crisis--as in the Silesian affair, the question of Austria, the Corfu affair, or the problem of Mosul--or where great general problems are under discussion, such as the Protocol, the repatriation of Russian refugees, the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations, or the fight against pestilence and sickness--is a source of great encouragement to a country like France which has been saved as if by a miracle so often during past centuries that she has come quite naturally to believe in moral force, in spiritual values.
The reasons for French confidence in the League of Nations also concern the future.
A land with a low birth-rate, busy repairing by immigration the gaps which war created among her producing population; a land which has not yet effaced from her soil the traces of invasion; which though formerly the world's creditor is today, as a result of the war, heavily burdened with internal and external debt; which is confronted with the enormous task of meeting continental, maritime, and colonial obligations; which is temptingly exposed to the covetousness of her neighbors, though herself desiring no new territory; which knows by experience that disturbances anywhere in the world will have repercussions on the Rhine (for the World War, though it did not come after Mukden and Liaoyang or after the Agadir crisis, did finally begin in the Balkans); which is aware that she saved the world from the surprise German attack, but is quite aware, too, that, having held out long enough for the public opinion and the armies of Great Britain and the United States to mobilize, she was herself saved in turn by her allies and associates,--what is it that such a country needs? Peace--above everything, peace. How, then, can a League established under a Covenant which declares war on war and describes every alteration wrought by force as a crime fail to interest her?
That a country as large as a continent, protected by oceans and deserts, with neighbors either weak in number or attached to her by profound affinities, possessed of the men, raw materials, and financial resources to defend herself and to influence the wills of others--that such a country should be impatient of any restriction upon her sovereignty and of foreign entanglements, and should declare her policy simply to be a matter of her own concern and limited only by her own moderation--that such a country should assume a high hand towards the League of Nations and determine to do as she wants where she wants, is quite natural. But France cannot afford such a luxury. In case of conflict, she runs the gravest risk of being dragged into it whether she wishes to or not. How then can she fail to help organize, as a means of prevention, that solidarity which has already saved her once? That solidarity, being slow and improvised, saved France at the cost of devastated regions which the German payments (diminished as they are by the reimbursements claimed by her ex-allies and associates), will not come near repaying, and at the cost of a million and a half dead and over seven hundred thousand wounded.
Is France therefore to be considered henceforward a country hostile to all change? If this were so she would be faithless to her past, for during the last century and a half--by the example of her own revolutions, by the tears she shed for the woes of Athens and Warsaw, by the blood she shed in America and Lombardy--France has been the instigator of the greatest political changes that have taken place in Europe, if not in the world. France is far from declaring that the new order born of the last war and defined by the treaties is never to be touched; but she supports the League of Nations, which asserts that modification is possible only on the terms of Articles X, XI, and XIX of the Covenant, and only in accordance with the principle there laid down--the right of peoples to dispose of themselves.
Economic reasons are most often advanced for believing that far-reaching changes are to occur in Europe in the future. The ink of the signatures to the treaties of peace was scarcely dry before the economists were predicting the worst sort of catastrophes if the political clauses were not readjusted. By giving too much satisfaction to national desires, they said, these clauses had left Europe bristling with frontiers and tariff walls and had left the instruments of production--which had been created by great peoples who understood how to use them--in the hands of little peoples without experience. As I have tried to show elsewhere,[i] the post-war economic difficulties were due less to political causes for which the new and weak countries were responsible than to economic measures taken by the great nations. In any case, these economic difficulties have been greatly exaggerated. Europe is returning to normal production and consumption far more rapidly than the experts expected. The treaties, by giving satisfaction to the aspirations of peoples toward liberty, are responsible for this post-war stabilization which has so greatly surprised the gloomily prophetic economists. The principal economic and financial regulations that have been introduced since the Treaty of Versailles have not aimed at correcting the political solutions of the peace treaties. Rather they have sought to consolidate them.
The unequal division of populations in comparison to raw materials between the various nations will no doubt be a source of difficulty. But the fact that one country is more densely populated than its neighbor or less provided with natural resources bestows on it no incontestable and unlimited right to take possession of the soil needed for its inhabitants, whether by force or by organizing annexationist propaganda among its nationals abroad. The spheres-of-influence policy is bankrupt. The material wealth of the American continent has been more rapidly utilized in the interests of the world by free peoples than it would have been by European colonies. Article XXIII of the Covenant, which calls for "equitable treatment for the commerce of all members of the League," opens the way for pacific discussion in order to permit more fairness in the exchange of populations and raw materials. The technical commissions of the League of Nations on questions of economics, finance, and transport, have already paved the way for serious reforms and are about to undertake others still more important--all this without mentioning the International Labor Office. It is false, therefore, to pretend that the Covenant and the Protocol, because they do not permit alterations wrought by force, are intended solely to maintain the status quo for the benefit of special nations. Within the organization of the League of Nations itself, which subordinates the work of the technical commissions to such political bodies as the Assembly and the Council, there are indications that its spirit is not to base the relations between men on the relations between things, or to remake the map of Europe simply according to the requirements of production and consumption. The relative importance thus attributed to political and economic factors is one of the chief reasons for the confidence which the League inspires in France.
There is another reason: the League is universal in character. It is true that France has found firmest support for its aims among the other European members, for their problems are closer to her own; and it is also true that among the seventeen signatories of the Protocol, more than two-thirds are European. The temptation for France, then, would naturally be to favor the formation of a League of Nations more strictly European. Yet if such a policy should some day be imposed on France it will be against her will, for France understands that henceforward Europe represents too small a unit in the world to live a separate existence. Economically and financially she depends too much for her raw materials, capital and markets on lands beyond the sea. Politically, she is too exposed by reason of the diffusion of her capital and her populations as well as by her colonial interests to undergo or endure the backwash of a war which might break out in some far corner of the world. So that no country which, like France, dreams of peace would willingly restrict the League's organization to Europe alone. And what would be the position of England in a League of European Nations? Unable to enter with her Empire as a whole, she would stay outside.
The confidence of France in this universal League of Nations will naturally grow or decrease according to the way in which the great countries beyond the sea deal with Europe. For example, in conformity with paragraph 3 of Article XVI of the Covenant, paragraph 3 of Article XI of the Protocol provides that "the signatory States give a joint and several undertaking to come to the assistance of the State attacked or threatened, and to give each other mutual support by means of facilities and reciprocal exchange as regards the provision of raw materials and supplies of every kind, opening of credits, transport, and transit." Is it not clear that the way in which the interallied debts are handled will either destroy or intensify the confidence in this engagement? If all the interallied debts without distinction are treated as strictly commercial debts, the European debtor powers will conclude that the economic and financial support promised by the Covenant and the Protocol amounts simply to a promise that the States not directly attacked will be ready, as in the last war, to sell at one-sided prices fixed by themselves to those belligerents who are able to provide for delivery themselves or assure delivery by third parties. But why all these solemn engagements if nothing has changed? This is trade, not mutual aid, and the countries most threatened will come to believe that the money which they will eventually have to pay to allies or associates as a debt will be much better spent if preventively devoted to armaments which they will get at lower prices and which will keep their national industry alive. If debts contracted for a common cause among allies or associates are commercial debts, then there is no more Covenant, there is no more League of Nations. War is no more the common concern of all. Each for himself!
There is another danger. Whether the Disarmament Conference is held at Geneva or elsewhere matters little so far as the difference of place is concerned. But if the abandonment of Geneva implies that the place accorded by the Protocol to the idea of security, mid-way between the idea of arbitration and the idea of disarmament, is being neglected, then in European eyes the change would amount to something so radical that Europe could not consent to disarm. In the same way, a conference that did not reduce land and naval armaments equally could not succeed, for Europe too often finds that in the opinion of great naval powers land armaments have an especially dangerous and immoral character because they precipitate wars; whereas naval armaments, thanks to the economic power of the blockade, prevent continental conflicts and have a beneficent and virtuous influence. Such a distinction cannot be admitted. An international fleet controlled by the League of Nations might add to the security of continental peoples. A fleet flying the flag of a naval power not belonging to the Continent never could. Finally --in case naval and land disarmament should not proceed at the same rate--the reduction of continental armies, or their neutralization, would assure to certain nations which already happen to possess the means of economic and financial pressure, so much power (balanced by no counterweight) that it would only increase the feeling of insecurity in Europe. Such a solution of the disarmament problem would be fatal to the League of Nations.
The League is in no danger from Europe. But power has so departed from Europe that, it is to be feared, those lands where in the future power will be lodged may not realize to what extent the pact has taken root in Europe. Today the League of Nations is something more in the minds of the peoples than an idea. It is a necessity. If the League had remained a mere idea it is hardly likely that the governments would have gone to the expense of providing for it; but now that it has proved itself capable of undertaking great things in the same spirit in which it has undertaken more modest enterprises it is in a position to demand sacrifices. That is the opinion of the majority in France. I may add that, like most members of the League, they feel sure that though the United States remains outside the League it does not wish the League ill. When the time comes for the United States to act it will of its own accord make up its mind in favor of the ideas which the League represents; for those ideas emerge directly from a tradition which America knows well and which she will not disregard. Nor is it an American custom to destroy useful institutions and put nothing in their place. If America does want to demolish the present League it will be for her to substitute a new one, still more in conformity with the spirit of the Covenant.
[i] Lectures before the Institute of Politics at Williamstown in August, 1924, published by Yale University Press, 1925, under the title "The Reconstruction of Europe."