The London Naval Conference: a French View

WHY, and to what extent, were the results of the Naval Conference in London incomplete and unsatisfactory? A French answer to these questions may be of interest to the American reader, and perhaps induce him to revise some of his preconceived ideas and prejudices. In coming years the question of the limitation of armaments is likely to dominate all other political issues in Europe. Therefore it would be useful to remove, so far as possible, the misunderstandings which already exist between public opinion in the United States and public opinion in France and elsewhere.

To start with, four sets of considerations will be found to explain to a certain extent why America's high aspirations for the Conference were all along deemed in France to be rash and unlikely to materialize.

1. In Anglo-Saxon communities a very common illusion obtains on the subject of disarmament. "Let the nations get rid of their weapons, scrap their guns and battleships, and, automatically, all possibilities of warfare will vanish." The reply is that one government actually did come forward three years ago with a scheme of absolute, unconditional, immediate disarmament -- the Bolshevik Government -- nor is there any cause for wonder in the fact that it was the Soviet which took this initiative. For if absolute disarmament occurred the most primitive people could sweep all before it: civilization would then be at a great disadvantage to protect itself, and the weapons of the stone age would prevail. Moscow would attempt to enforce its rule with stones and clubs. The era of international gangsters would have begun.

2. In the light of historical precedent, disarmament must be regarded as being beyond all possible comparison the most difficult thing to achieve.[i] To illustrate, I might quote a fact which is not very generally known. In 1908 the British and German Governments arranged to communicate their naval budgets to each other. In that way they believed they would eliminate an element of fear, suspicion, and uncertainty which, in their judgment,

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