Xi’s Costly Obsession With Security
How a Quest for Control Threatens China’s Economic Growth
A FEW weeks ago M. Clemenceau is said to have remarked, "Everybody says that Wilson, Lloyd George and I are responsible for all the troubles of the world today. It is not true. The only thing the matter is that we made the Treaty of Versailles twenty-five years too soon." Now that it looks as if the Paris settlement had largely broken down, it is worth while to examine whether there is not something in what M. Clemenceau says. Such an examination may at any rate give us a hint as to why things have gone so badly since 1919, and as to the foundations on which we must build in the future.
It is not possible, however, to get a true perspective without first considering how peace was maintained before the war. For until we have some idea of the merits and demerits of the pre-war system we cannot judge fairly of what was done at Paris.
From the failure of the pretensions of the Holy Roman Empire, or more exactly from the overturning of the Roman Empire itself, the world has had no central authority, no constitution, and no law in the real sense of that term. It has consisted of a number of sovereignties, sometimes governed by absolute monarchs, sometimes democratically controlled, entirely independent of one another, and each a law unto itself. The world has been organized, if the word is not a contradiction in terms, on the basis of what Bryce called the state of nature, or in other words on the system of the Jungle. Each state in the last resort has had to rely for its safety, its rights, and the rights of its nationals, not upon an appeal to law, but upon its own physical strength, upon armaments, and upon a diplomacy founded on force. We may not like to admit that this is true. But it is true none the less. It was true before the war. It was true in 1914. It is true today, and if we are to understand anything about the realities of the international problem, it is the first fact to grasp. People are groping about in the dark because they do not start their thinking from the basis of this fact.
In the international Jungle there has never been lasting peace. I doubt if you can find ten consecutive years in the last five hundred without a war of some kind, or a generation in which there has not been a fairly serious war, with a general world war every fifty or hundred years. Nevertheless, the Jungle has developed two means of protecting itself from the worst effects of chronic lawlessness. One method has been for either a single state or a combination of the more powerful states to develop such a preponderance of power that nobody else dares make war. The other method has been the creation of a balance of power, whereby two or more groups maintain such an equilibrium that the expense of war and the uncertainty of the outcome act as an effective deterrent.
Both these methods have served to mitigate for a time the chronic fear and ferocity of the international Jungle. They have proved the best means hitherto devised for bringing about a temporary peace in a lawless world. But they have never kept the peace for very long. Old states have declined in power, new states have risen to power, combinations and alliances have begun to disagree, and violence has broken out once more.
Let us now look at the pre-war world in the light of these facts, and let us examine Europe first. The peace was maintained in Europe from 1815 to 1848 by the first method, by the régime of the Holy Alliance; and from 1870 to 1911 (after the warlike and revolutionary transitional period), substantially by the second method, which was inaugurated by Bismarck in order to give newly united Germany time to consolidate its position. During the war it became the fashion to heap unmitigated scorn and abuse upon both the settlement of Vienna and the balance of power. There was nothing too bad to be said about them. Yet the fact remains that they were the means of preserving peace in Europe for thirty and forty years respectively. They did so at very considerable cost to human progress. The Holy Alliance system was designed not only to maintain international peace, but to suppress democracy--"to put an end to this system of representative government"--which the absolute emperors, reading from the experience of the French Revolution and its wars, regarded as the root of all evil. Hence it ended in the revolution of 1848. The Bismarckian system was designed not only to stabilize Europe, but to maintain the authority of autocracy and to keep the divided and oppressed nationalities of Central Europe in subjection. So it ended in the Great War. None the less, for all their defects, these methods did prevent war in the European Jungle for a very considerable period of time.
What of the rest of the world? How was peace preserved there? It was preserved by the first method, applied more intelligently and more benevolently, by two powers, Great Britain and the United States. By 1822 Great Britain had dissociated herself from the European concert which had won the Napoleonic war, because she could not approve of the absolutist policy of the Holy Alliance, and had returned to her policy of isolation. For nearly a century she avoided any permanent political association with Europe and concerned herself with the development and government of the vast possessions which had fallen under her control during the desperate struggles of the Napoleonic era. Throughout the whole of that Empire she has for a century maintained almost uninterrupted peace--the Pax Britannica--and she has introduced good government, law, and some degree of material progress. In more recent times she has encouraged self-government and education, until today the Empire has been officially renamed a Commonwealth of Nations. Yet ultimately the peace and progress of that quarter of humanity which has lived under the British flag has depended upon the strength and efficiency of the British Navy.
The United States has done practically the same thing in a somewhat different way. In 1823 she promulgated the Monroe Doctrine, which was tantamount to a declaration that the affairs of the two Americas were no longer the concern of Europe and that the United States intended to make that declaration effective, if need be, by force. In other words, she enveloped the Americas in a Pax Americana, and (until quite recently in Central America,) it has never been necessary for her to take any steps towards the maintenance of law and order. Yet in this case also the ultimate sanction for the Pax Americana has been the United States Navy.
Thus during the nineteenth century peace was maintained in the world by what may be called three peace systems, the European, the British, and the American. The rest of the world was practically undiscovered or was still inert in the sleep of ages. Each of the three systems was practically self contained. Each was independent of the others. Each rested upon the presence of armed power somewhere--in the case of the American and British systems upon naval power--in the case of Europe, first of all upon the preponderance of power in the hands of four military autocracies leagued together to repress democracy, and later upon the balance of power between a powerful Germanic combination and a weaker Franco-Russian alliance.
What was it that broke down the peace of the world, thus maintained for almost a century from 1815, and produced the World War of 1914? The main cause was the shrinking of time and space upon the earth through modern invention, and the discovery by all nations, especially Germany, of the importance to themselves of the rapidly developing resources of the outside world. It had been the discovery of the new world and its resources which had largely precipitated the wars of Spain, France, England, and Holland of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, wars which ended in the almost complete triumph of the more liberal and democratic English-speaking civilization. So it was again now.
Bismarck, after 1870, had based his plans for European peace on a Central European bloc--the Triple Alliance of the three great military autocracies, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy--which though it did not dominate the whole continent was impregnable against attack, while he kept Russia friendly by dexterous diplomacy and by playing upon the anti-democratic instincts of the Tsar. In order to distract the attention of France and Russia from Germany, he had encouraged the expansion of the one over North Africa and the other to the East. With the fall of Bismarck, however, in 1890, a change set in. William II was ambitious and impetuous. United Germany had effected an immense industrial expansion. The need for raw materials and foreign markets began to be acute. If trade and raw materials had been the only consideration all probably could have been peacefully arranged, for the British Empire was faithful to the system of the "open door." But ahead of trade came the question of power. If peace and Germany's position in Europe both depended upon the maintenance of her relative military and economic strength, was it not necessary that she should have both raw materials and markets under her own control? Bismarck had not cared about these things. But when he went to Hamburg in his old age and saw the shipping, he exclaimed, "We are living in a new world."
William II and his military and economic advisers realized the new situation, but they did not have the practical wisdom of Bismarck. They could see no way of "getting their place in the sun" save through the possession of overwhelming force. They allowed Russia's friendship to cool--with the result that in 1893 the Dual Alliance between France and Russia was signed, thus establishing that open rivalry which Bismarck had endeavored to prevent. They strengthened their military armaments. And then they began the final step of trying to create a navy which was to win for them in the outside world what the army of Moltke had won for them in Europe.
By 1904 the world political system that had lasted since 1815 had begun to dissolve. First Great Britain was forced to abandon her traditional isolation. In 1902 she made the Anglo-Japanese alliance, in order to prevent the impending struggle between Russia and Japan for the control of Korea and the Far East from spreading into a general war. Then came the Entente with France, which began to become a reality in 1908 when Germany, refusing all compromise during the disarmament negotiations of 1906, formulated her program for not only the largest army but the greatest navy in the world. From that time the competition in armaments steadily increased until by 1914 all Europe was an armed camp, with every army alert to see that it was not caught unprepared. Only a match was needed to start the fire. The match was applied, whether deliberately or accidentally we need not pause to inquire, and all Europe was ablaze. Within a few days the whole British political system was involved. Within two and a half years the conflagration had spread so far and the result appeared so much in doubt that the third great political system, the American, was forced to intervene in order that the political ideals upon which its own society was based might survive. By 1918 practically every country in the world was at war, and not until then did the war end with the complete triumph of the Allies.
How did the Paris Conference deal with the problems left to it by the Allied victory? In two ways. On the one hand it tried to resettle Europe so that the internal causes of war in that distracted continent should be reduced to a minimum. On the other hand it attempted to prevent a repetition of the catastrophe of 1914 by creating a new political method for handling international problems.
So far as Europe was concerned, the peace settlement was substantially determined by the attitude of the three powers and the three men predominant at Paris. President Wilson naturally set out to apply to Europe so far as he could the ideas and methods which had been successfully applied to the problems of America, the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the liberal political traditions of the English-speaking world. Mr. Lloyd George was in general sympathy with the American program, but owing to the fact that Great Britain had been actively engaged in dealing with international problems for centuries and was the center of a world-wide Commonwealth, he had a clearer sense of the practical difficulties in the way. M. Clemenceau entered the conference with but little faith in the practical efficacy of the Wilsonian program and a firm conviction that the only way of solving the European problem was to have the military and naval preponderance on one's own side.
The result, of course, was a compromise. It is important, however, to realize the nature of the compromise. In permanent fundamentals the Anglo-Saxon program, as it was often called in Paris, prevailed. But large temporary concessions were made to war passion and to the traditional European point of view, concessions which were to be gradually eliminated as a better international order was developed in later years.
The fundamentals of the settlement were these: The frontiers of Europe were to be drawn on the basis of nationality; every nationality was to be given independence; minorities were to be protected; democracy was to be the basis of government; conscription was to be abolished among the enemy powers, as the first step towards its abolition everywhere; and discrimination in the matter of railway and river rates was to be forbidden.
It was impossible, however, to expect the nations of Europe immediately after a four years' war in which ten million men had been killed and tens of millions more had been wounded or starved or injured, to advance instantly to perfect harmony and peace. It took ten years for the United States to return to normal conditions of political life after the Civil War, and the two most extreme reconstruction measures were passed over the veto of the responsible executive of the nation. The treaties of Paris, therefore, contained a number of temporary provisions, designed to insure Germany's performance of her obligations and justified by the exceptional conditions of the time. The most important of these were the provisions relating to the military occupation of the Rhineland, the administration of the Saar Valley, certain of the economic clauses, and the arrangements about reparations. The cumulative effect of these features of the treaty was very stiff. But the settlement contained within itself the remedy for nearly all the extreme features--provided it had been carried out in the spirit in which it had been conceived. The occupation of Germany and of the Saar was to be terminated in fifteen years, and the Reparation Commission was instructed not only to assess Germany's liability under the terms of the treaty but also to estimate her capacity to pay, and to advise the Allies accordingly.
There are few people really acquainted with the facts who do not recognize that this settlement of Europe was substantially as good as could have been expected in the circumstances. There are some blemishes in the permanent features, notably in the case of the Tyrol. There were objectionable features in the temporary settlement. But in the main the settlement was sound. It gave Europe incomparably the best basis for unity and reconstruction it had ever known and the defects were such as could have been remedied in later years by peaceful agreement had the vision of a new and better international order been realized.
But the European settlement was only one-half of the peace settlement. The other was the League of Nations. The fundamental idea of the League in the minds of its founders was simple. To them the root of the evil of the pre-war system had been secret diplomacy, aggressive imperialism, the balance of power, and militaristic ambition promoted by autocratic cliques. Moreover, if Europe was to be settled on the basis of self-determination, some method of association was essential. So the Covenant of the League of Nations was drawn up to secure two principal ends. In the first place it provided against the restoration of the old system of competitive diplomacy by bringing all nations together in an assembly, and the leading powers in a council, in order that all international problems which involved the risk of international disturbances should be considered from a collective standpoint. In the second place it provided against the risk of war by requiring each of its members to permit inquiry for a period of at least three months into any dispute with another member, before it started warlike operations, and obliging all members to take action against any member which violated this rule. In addition, the League was given certain supervisory and administrative functions of a minor character.
This alternative system to the old diplomacy was doubtless a compromise. It is an open secret that Mr. Lloyd George thought that it was too ambitious and that he would have preferred a looser form providing mainly for regular international conferences and that M. Clemenceau, having no sea frontier to protect France, thought it was too weak because it did not provide for a military combination strong enough to overawe Germany in perpetuity. What Mr. Wilson really thought nobody knows, for it was his task as the principal protagonist of the idea to champion his own child. But we need not now pause to consider whether the plan was good or bad. The central fact today is that the attempt, the first attempt ever made, to substitute for the older methods which before had always ended in a world war an international system based on collective conference between all nations and collective action against impetuous war, has broken down. Successful as much of the work of the League is, it is patently not functioning as the universal clearing house of all international problems and as the machinery for nursing Europe back to unity and peace. Three of the greatest powers in the world are not in the League, and it is upon the extreme and temporary clauses and not the permanent features of the settlement that the political system of Europe at the moment rests. What is the reason for this failure to realize the expectations of 1919?
Some people explain the failure by attributing blindness or malice to the framers of the treaties. Others attribute it to the action of Mr. Lloyd George in inflating the reparations demands on Germany to an impossible height, in order to fulfil election pledges, thus making it impossible for the Allies to reduce their demands on Germany to any figure which Germany could pay and thereby forcing Germany to ruin her currency and move steadily to default. Others attribute it to the action of the United States in withdrawing from all association with the rest of the world, with the result that the Reparation Commission was never able to fulfil its functions, that the League of Nations was deprived of half its influence for peace, and that interallied debts could not be considered, which was an essential ingredient in any reparations settlement. Others again urge that Germany alone is to blame because she made no effort to fulfil the treaty or pay reparations and because her weak government and her strong industrialists have been playing a deliberate game of international sabotage from the start. Others put all the blame on France on the ground that she never really wanted the peace as drawn, and sought the earliest moment to use the treaty and her military power to break up Germany or at least to establish a permanent military strangle-hold over her.
I am not concerned to consider whether any of these accusations are true. No doubt there is some truth in all of them. But if you come to consider it, they none of them deal with the fundamental cause of the state of affairs in which we now stand. We are suffering from something deeper, which is the ultimate cause of all these effects.
The fundamental assumption which underlay the Wilsonian program and most of the idealism of the latter part of the war was that the point of view of nations towards one another had changed. It was a "war to end war," to abolish the "old order" with its secret diplomacy, balance of power, reliance on armaments and so on. It was a people's war, and the people were determined to do away with the bad old ways, to destroy the sinister and malignant forces which separated them and to live in peace and harmony together for the future. This assumption was an utter delusion, in the sense that the people never understood what the war slogans really implied and had never made up their minds to stand for them. They had understood what political freedom meant and what democracy meant; but the rest was a vague aspiration. They had no real idea how war was to be ended or the bad old ways abolished, and during the war they gave no thought to the subject. Hence, directly the war was over, every one of the peoples returned to its pre-war point of view. Not a single nation was willing to abate a single iota of its absolute independence. Not a single nation made a single voluntary sacrifice of what it regarded as its own vital, separate, national interest. Where other people's affairs were concerned, idealism had some scope; but where a nation's own essential interests were concerned, none was voluntarily given. Whether it was a question of disposing of territory, or of colonies, or of oil rights, or of coal, or of reparations, or of interallied debts, or of German ships or cables, the story was exactly the same. Every nation, whether great or small, whether advanced or backward, stood unyielding for its own political and economic security and was ready to make no sacrifice that it could possibly avoid.
This indeed was inevitable so long as every nation had to rely upon itself for its security and future. How could one nation be expected to yield vital assets to another nation, which might use them against it? Nobody had pointed out that, if nations were to end war, secret diplomacy and armament manufacturers and imperialists and international financiers and the other bogeys of the political platform were not the only forces to be combatted, but even more the fact that people wanted to be completely independent, completely self-contained--to go on living, in fact, in an international Jungle, where neither right nor law nor cooperation prevailed; so back to the Jungle we have all gone. Some nations have chosen an isolation which tries to ignore their neighbors. Some have chosen an isolation which involves hatred of their neighbors. Some were for a feeble form of cooperation because they hoped thereby to mitigate some of the inevitable consequences of the return to international Jungle life. But they have, one and all, voted for a return to the Jungle. And this failure to maintain any sort of genuine cooperation, and not the mistakes of the peace makers, is the fundamental reason why peace is not with us and why we have not lived up even to the moderate beginnings made at Paris.
M. Clemenceau was right. The Three were twenty-five years ahead of their times.
If the dreams of the idealists of 1919 of a "new and better international order" have failed, where are we going? It is perfectly obvious that we are moving as rapidly as we can back to the system which preserved the peace of the world during the nineteenth century.
The United States already has practically reached that point. The Monroe Doctrine is once more the head and front of American foreign policy. Conferences have been held to endeavor to strengthen Pan-American solidarity. Entanglement with Europe has not a single friend.
Exactly the same process has been going on with the British Commonwealth, though not so rapidly. There is a steady movement back towards the policy of isolation. Just as was the case a century ago, Great Britain is finding it difficult to cooperate in the policy of any of the continental powers, and she and the Dominions are becoming preoccupied once more with the affairs of their enormous Commonwealth. The process is delayed because the economic restoration of Europe is of paramount importance to Great Britain in order to relieve her million and a half unemployed, and because, owing to her obligation to pay her debt to the United States, she is being driven to demand an equivalent in reparations from Germany. Her detachment from Europe may never be so complete as it was during the last century. But the process in that direction is steadily taking place none the less.
Thirdly, France has completely abandoned the permanent basis of the Versailles settlement. The real basis of that settlement was the combination between France, the United States and Great Britain, embodied in the Treaty of Guarantee. So long as France had the guarantee of the United States and Great Britain and could count on their assistance in obtaining reparations, she was at the same time secure from German aggression and could afford to be moderate towards Germany and even to contemplate the abolition of the extremer features of the treaty at the end of fifteen years. Her confidence was badly shattered by the rejection by the United States of the treaties. France nevertheless carried on for a while with Great Britain. But by May, 1922, she had come to the conclusion that Great Britain was more concerned with the restoration of world trade than with reparations or with the security of France; she overturned M. Briand, who stood for cooperation; and she placed in power M. Poincare, who stood for independent action.
M. Poincare's policy was simple. The first step was to get rid of the Entente, in fact if not in name--that is to say, to free France from the necessity of securing the coöperation of Great Britain in every act against Germany. So he repudiated the draft of the Lloyd George-Briand Cannes agreement, which proffered a moderate settlement of the reparation question in return for a renewal of the British guarantee against German aggression; he blocked in every possible way the success of the Genoa Conference; and he jumped at Mr. Bonar Law's statement that Great Britain could not march into the Ruhr, but would raise no opposition to France going in alone if she wished to do so. His second step was to establish a strangle-hold over Germany by the seizure of the Ruhr, so as to make France, for the time being, militarily paramount in Europe.
We have, therefore, come full circle back to the pre-war world system. The United States and the British Empire are once more practically independent political systems, maintaining a Pax Americana and a Pax Britannica of their own, while Europe is stabilized, not by a balance of power, but by the military preponderance of the French army and the armies of the Little Entente in alliance with France. The world is once more temporarily stabilized by the only stabilizing methods known to the Jungle.
But there are two fundamental differences between the system today and the system which stabilized the world during the nineteenth century. The first of these is that the primary cause which upset the nineteenth century system and produced the World War is operating more strongly today than ever. The world is still shrinking in terms of time and space, and access to its raw materials and markets is of increasing importance to all the great powers. We can see the consequence of this in the Washington treaties. The British and American political systems were no longer able to remain in political isolation. They had to find a basis upon which to live together in a shrunken world, and the basis they found was fundamentally that of the balance of power--expressed in the arrangement that there should be no competitive naval armaments, though in other matters there should be complete independence between the two systems. Then, again, Japan had to be provided for. The Washington treaties did this by a naval agreement which made it impossible for the Japanese or American fleets to attack one another without long delay, but on the understanding that Japan refrained from attempting to establish her political or economic domination over China. We can see the change illustrated also in the fact that the United States, while politically detached from the non-American world, is becoming increasingly concerned to find markets abroad for her food stuffs, cotton, and mass production products, and in turn to make sure of the supplies of rubber, sugar, nitrates, fibres, and oil which she has to purchase abroad. Finally, the British Commonwealth is finding it very difficult, for reasons already given, to disentangle itself from European complications as easily as it did a century ago. All these facts constitute the first breach in the nineteenth century world system. The isolation of the main groups is nothing like as great as it was. They have each had to make agreements with the others in order to arrive at a basis for stability. And it is only a question of time before a similar basis for contact with Europe will be made in order to solve the still unsettled problems of reparations, interallied debts, and armaments. For the Poincaré method, if it gives France security for the time being, is lowering the general economic life of the world, as everybody will find out ere long.
The second great difference between the system today and that existing before the war is the instability of Europe. Europe was stabilized by the Holy Alliance and by the Bismarckian system. Nobody can think she is stabilized today. Look at the facts. A century ago France next to Russia had the largest population of any country in Europe. Now she stands numerically fourth on the continent. Russia, Germany and Italy are all more populous, and their populations are increasing while France's is falling off. She cannot permanently rely upon the black army from Africa to make up the difference. The occupation of the Ruhr and the support of the Little Entente enable her to coerce Germany for the time being, but her continued success depends upon certain factors over which she has no control. First, she must have the acquiescence of Italy and Russia. Either of them can in time convert her preponderance into a balance of power, and then Germany can revive. Second, the Little Entente must continue to be dominant in Eastern Europe. That also is uncertain. The action of either Italy or Russia, or a national revival in Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria may bring about a change in this respect. Third, Germany must not fall into such chaos as to become an economic menace to the rest of the world. Fourth, there must be no national revival of Germany such as to enable her to repeat her success of a century ago.
Surely it is manifest that Europe has not reached stability under the Poincaré régime. And it will not be stabilized until there is developed a system in which Italy and Russia, to say nothing of Germany, have a place comparable to their fundamental importance and strength--until there is a true balance of power, or something approaching a League or federation of the European states.
It must be obvious to everybody that the world is neither politically nor economically stable today. The attempt made in 1919 to create a new and better international system has broken down. Armaments have never been so immense as they are today. International hatred or indifference, not international brotherhood, are the rule. Yet is there any real prospect of permanently stabilizing the world on the basis of the American system of isolation, the British system of isolation, and the continued predominance of France or the creation of a new balance of power in Europe? There does not seem to be any such prospect. The world has become too small. Its common interests are too interwoven. The old system does nothing to regulate that cut throat competition between the great industrial states for world markets and world supplies, which is the chief menace to peace in the present age. The Washington treaties and the still unsettled condition of Europe prove that the method of dividing the world into three water-tight peace systems will no longer work, and that agreement in some form must supersede isolation. The condition of Europe will require international action ere long, in order to stabilize world trade. In any case, 1914 proved that the old method, if it preserved peace for a time, only ended in engulfing the whole world in a world war.
Can we, then, go back to the ideas of the Paris peacemakers? In twenty-five years, as M. Clemenceau believes, perhaps. Today, no. The nations are not yet ready for international coöperation on Wilsonian lines. The League of Nations can and will do much to help peace, but it cannot yet stabilize the world, partly because all the great powers are not in it, and many of the small ones were in it for their own advancement, and partly because it has no "teeth." The League will come into its own in time. But for the present we must look elsewhere for the fundamental guarantee of peace. The power of the League today is influence, and as George Washington said, "Influence is not government."
If, then, neither the pre-war system nor the 1919 system will work, what can be done to stabilize the Jungle? Gradually, no doubt, the quiet forces of international good-will will break down the fears and prejudices that keep nations apart today. But neither good-will nor treaties of a temporary kind deal with the fundamental point. They do not give security or assure peace, even for a time. If the nations cannot find peace in unity, they have still to rely upon force. Is there any power which can give the world that stability which before the war the United States gave to the Americas, Great Britain gave to the British Commonwealth, and the system of the balance of power gave to Europe, but which these three methods, used separately, cannot give today? I think there is.
The transcendent need of the world is protection from the risk of sudden war. It is not malignity so much as the fear of sudden attack which keeps alive international hatred and suspicion, which drives nations to multiply armaments, to seize strategic points, to demand supplies of raw materials under their own control, to enter into alliances and combinations, to start preventive wars, to rely upon the balance of power,--and which means that every local war, like a forest fire, tends to spread. If that fear could be eliminated or at least diminished the whole face of the international skies would be changed. Nations, for the first time, could begin to look at one another reasonably. They could afford to consider some agreed basis for the limitation of armaments. They could afford to admit that some form of enquiry or conference or mediation should precede a declaration of war.
Is there anything in the history of the growth of the reign of law which throws some light on how this could be accomplished? When the feudal barons in England and Europe were beginning to make life miserable by their quarrels, what happened? The king, acting for the community, began to amass sufficient strength to enable him to insist that the internecine war should cease. Little by little, and long before any effective reign of law was set up, he was able to force the quarrelsome lords to desist and come to his courts, and little by little a system of justice and a police system was built up, which gave peace and justice to the land. Is it not conceivable that by the same means it may be possible to introduce the beginnings of stable peace in the international Jungle?
It is primarily a question of power. Is there any such which could be used for purposes of international police? Is not sea power precisely suited to this? It cannot be used to seize territory. It cannot be used to destroy independence. It can only be used effectually when all the leading sea powers unite to use it. Sea power, too, has been the sanction behind the two most successful peace systems of modern times, the Pax Americana and the Pax Britannica. Admiral Mahan once said, "The function of force is to give moral ideas time to take root." May not sea power be the means of preventing sudden war and so of giving the moral idea of peace and brotherhood among nations time to take root?
There is no doubt that the leading nations, by making it dangerous or unprofitable for any nation to embark on sudden war, could, if they used their sea power resolutely for the purpose, stabilize the world enough to prevent another general war and to stop or localize minor conflicts. In so doing they could count on the support of the other nations, as the number interested in keeping the peace is always overwhelmingly greater than the number interested in starting a war.
Sea power does not threaten the independence of any people. All it can do with success is the work of the policeman. The primary function of the policeman is not to decide upon the merits of a dispute but to stop the fighting in the streets because fighting, besides being a bad way of solving questions, does damage to the community as well as to the belligerents. If you can find a means of preventing or at least delaying war, it is not so difficult to find a means of settling a dispute reasonably and wisely by diplomacy or arbitration or in some other way. The trouble today is that in the excitement of the controversy one side or the other begins to think it can either avoid defeat or secure better terms by resorting to immediate violence, and that there is nobody to prevent it from doing so.
Take the case of the recent Greek-Italian dispute. What really ought to have happened there was this: The navies of all the other powers--the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan, etc.--should have proceeded instantly to the Mediterranean and said, "We are not here to decide on the merits of this dispute, of which we know nothing. But we do know that if you start fighting some of the shots are likely to come into our back yard, and further that the dispute is likely to spread first through the Balkans, and then through Europe, and then through the world. So we are here to see that no fighting takes place for three months, during which there shall be an impartial inquiry into the facts. At the end of that period, we may have some opinion about the merits of the case. Your own public opinion will be better informed than it is now, and you will probably agree to settle matters peacefully. In any event we shall have had time to make arrangements which will prevent your quarrel from damaging your neighbors and spreading over the rest of the world."
That, it seems to me, is a perfectly feasible thing to do--provided the nations once make up their minds that the greatest enemy not only to peace but to freedom and to economic prosperity is war and even rumors of war. Moreover, sea power is far more effective than might first appear to restrain a land power contemplating war. No country engaged in hostilities can afford to have its supplies interrupted by the concerted action of its neighbors. It knows that in the long run sea power is decisive. If by its precipitate conduct in making war, without inquiry, it incurs the common hostility of the civilized world--not on the merits of the dispute but as an international brawler--it is certain eventually to lose. If in July, 1914, sea power had been unanimously mobilized to insist on conference, there would have been conference and not war on August 1st. If sea power had been unanimously mobilized against Germany after the invasion of Belgium, she would have undertaken to evacuate it after the battle of the Marne. Even the present tangle in Europe would be infinitely more easy of solution if France knew that sea power would be immediately mobilized if Germany threatened war. What makes the policeman effective is not his truncheon, but the knowledge that the power which he represents is irresistible. If he is overwhelmed, behind him stands the rest of the police force, the army and in the last resort the whole body of the citizenry. It is the same with sea power. It is not very terrible at first but, as Admiral Mahan points out, it is ultimately invincible. It is not brutal. It is not destructive. But when used collectively it invariably prevails.
In conclusion let us look at what will be the inevitable result of drifting backwards or of letting matters go as they are. Nobody would accuse Secretary Hughes of being a militarist. Yet in the most important pronouncement on American foreign policy which he has made so far, his speech before the American Bar Association at Minneapolis on August 30, 1923, he gave his unqualified adherence to the doctrine of "preventive war"--the central doctrine of the German General Staff. He cited Mr. Elihu Root in his support, quoting as a "sound principle" Mr. Root's declaration that "it is well understood that the exercise of the right of self-protection may, and frequently does, extend in its effect beyond the limits of the territorial jurisdiction of the state exercising it. The strongest example probably would be the mobilization of an army by another power immediately across the frontier. Every act done by the other power may be in its own territory. Yet the country threatened by the state of affairs is justified in protecting itself by immediate war. The most common exercise of the right of self-protection outside a state's own territory and in time of peace is the interposition of objection to the occupation of territory of points of strategic military or maritime advantage to the indirect accomplishment of the effect of dynastic arrangement."
We need no expert to tell us where that doctrine leads. It is the primary code of the Jungle. Yet Mr. Hughes is right; so long as we live in the Jungle the law of self-preservation compels us to adopt the methods of the Jungle. Only let nobody pretend that it does not lead straight to war. Moreover, if that is the direction in which the policy of the strongest and most pacific nation in the world is set, what can be expected of peoples less civilized and less protected by natural advantages?
Yet with a slight change of direction the doctrine of preventive war is the key to peace in the Jungle--the preventive war that is waged by the policeman against violence. The civilized nations have in their hands at this moment the means of diminishing the risk and area of war and of creating conditions of comparative stability in which international fear and hate can subside and in which the building up of a true reign of law among the nations can be begun. It is surely worth while to consider whether they cannot find a way of making this policeman do his work.
Familiar Patterns, Fresh Consequences