The League of Nations The Naval Conference Seen from Geneva
[At a time when, owing to the fall of the French Government, the Naval Conference is perforce marking time, we have leisure to reflect on the extent to which this Conference for the limitation and reduction of armaments is assuming the too familiar form of a Conference to initiate a further era of competitive armaments. That the attitude taken up by the French delegation is a stumbling- block to progress will be the general opinion over here, while most of us will consider that a Five Power Conference, having for its starting-point the Kellogg Pact, which should have to admit failure because of French intranaigeance, would mean the bankruptcy of statesmanship. But at least the Conference has shown that the issue is fundamentally one between the material and the psycho- logical schools, between a belief in force, i.e., " sanctions, and a belief in moral pressure. In this article by M. William Martin, the distinguished Foreign Editor of the Journal de Geneve, we have per- haps the best exposition of the " sanctions " point of view. It is certainly not our view, and the experience of the first ten years of the working of the Covenant, to which we drew attention in our League of Nations page last week, justifies our belief that moral arguments will ultimately prevail, and that the conception of a society of nations making arrangements for war to keep the peace—which accounts for nine-tenths of the American hostility to the League—will be consigned to the limbo of " military ' notions of security.—En. Spectator.] THE link between the business of the Naval Conference in London and the normal work of the League is presented concretely in the attendance at the Conference table of an observer representing the League. There is, too, the fact that the French Government from the outset has insisted that whatever is decided at this Conference is simply a preliminary to the actual settlement of the problems of disarmament which pertains to Geneva. In the French view, the problem of disarmament is a whole ; naval dis- armament depends on land disarmament, and vice versa, and no one section of the whole can be brought to a settle- ment' without full consideration of the other section. All that can be done in London, say the French, is to establish the necessary foundations for naval disarmament ; the latter, however, can only become effective and be used for rearing a sound structure, when international agreement will have been reached at Geneva also in the problem of land disarmament. It remains true that the representatives of the Naval Powers at the present meeting at St. James's Palace are, in a way, contributing to a solution of the problem of land disarmament, and their efforts may be expected to bear fruit in the future disarmament Conference to be held under the auspices of the League.
The Naval Conference is led inevitably to broach in the political field certain questions whic'a are even more intimately bound up with the purposes for which the League was established. The Conference was bound to discover, as has been so constantly discovered at Geneva, that disarmament is not a technical problem, but primarily a political problem, How many delegates to the Assembly there have been who have come to Geneva convinced that if any progress was to be made in the direction of disarmament, the scope of the discussions must be carefully narrowed down, and cognate questions could be set on one side ! All of them after a few weeks have come'to see that what they suggest is impossible.
In pre-War Europe, armaments were traditionally the basis of the security of the State. And they are still, to a certain extent—less probably than the peoples themselves imagine, but sufficiently so to make it necessary to face the fact. If you are to ask States to give up these means of security, you must give them in exchange some legal instrument of security. At once it is seen that the problems of the political organization of the world are inseparable from the technical problems of disarmament. That is such an unmistakable truth that this same question of security emerges, willy-nilly, from every discussion on disarmament. The London Conference has given us yet another striking example of this.
Italy, as we know, is demanding naval parity with France. Her arguments are very strong. The French arguments are equally strong. If we were to leave the matter at that, it would seem absolutely impossible to find a compromise, and so long as each of these two States is intransigent on this point, as they give people to understand that they are, -the failure- of the Conference is a fairly sure prediction. There is only one way of getting over the difficulty, and that is to broaden the problem. and raise the question as to whether it would be .possible to bring about between Italy and France a. political situation in which the question shf naval parity would no longer be of any importance.
It. is clear enough, indeed, that if we have to envisage a future like the past, in which these two States are going td• engage in a nice little private war, with the rest of the world- looking on Unperturbed, it is of the utmost importance for each of these two States to be in a stronger position than its neighbour. If, however, you can provide in adVanee a certainty that in no possible event will one of these States be liable to find itself alone at war with the other State ; if it is known that the Covenant of the League will come into play, and an aggressor State will be faced by a "coalitioa of all the other Statei-, while the "State maintaining its pacific position will obtain support of members of the League, the question of the possession of So many vessels more or less loses much of its importance.
The Covenant does already giVe this guarantee ; bid the guarantee implicit in the Covenant has not M. practice per- suaded the nations that they are, out of danger. An attemp-4 was made by means of the Geneva Protocol to strengthen the Covenant in such a way as to imbue the conscience of the respective nations with a real sense of security. The Protocol had to be abandoned, but the same purpose was served, covering a limited section of territory, by the Locaino Treaties, Would it not be possible to do the same to-day as regard-4 the Mediterranean 2 For then 'RAY "could renounce parity with France, having an assurance that in the event of war she could count upon the stiPpOit of the chief naval PoWer in the world, and France would likewise be able to agree-'to this notion of parity, since she toxiliV rely on not being left in the lurch to face the dangers which colour her present outlook on the situation.
The Mediterranean Pact preSupppses, besides the adherence of Great Britain, two considerations : (1) a preliminary settle; merit of the outstanding differences between France 'and Italy—an arrangement which" is surely not impossible ; and (2) that the United States should be a party to the agree- ment. Here we come once more to the problem which, more than any other, claims the interest of members of the League namely, that of the connexion between the Kellogg Pict and the Wilson Covenant. A Commission now sitting 'has in fact the task of extending the League Covenant so as.tO cover every eventuality which might mean war, the Kellogg
Pact itself prescribing the use of pacific means in every case. In this way, we should be coming back to 'a great extent to the Geneva Protocol, assuming that we extended " sanctions " to cover all war situations withonteXcep tion. But even when that has been done, there still remains a fundamental divergence between the two pacts, in that one of theM foresees the contingency that it may be violated; whereas the other simply disregards the possibility otviOlation. In order that the: two Treaties forming the foundations :on which the edifice of security rests to-day may be of equal solidity, the Kellogg Pact requires some appendix in which the signatory States, including the United States of America, would determine some emergency procedure of consultation—
to meet the case of the pledge being broken. • We must only ask for something that we are likely to obtain- No .one imagines that the United. States can be persuaded to
promise active participation " sanctions " against an aggressor State, but that is not necessary. It mould be quite enough for us to have assurances in advance that they would not oppose any such " sanctions." And for that, in practice, nothing more would be needed than the establishment of some machinery which would enable the League to confer with the United States for the purpose of finding out their attitude, whenever international complications appeared on the horizon.
Some such formula as this surely might align the United States with the other. countries in a Mediterranean Pact. In this way you would have killed three birds with one stone, you would have solved the problem of naval parity, that of naval disarmament in general, and that of the relations of the
United States with the League. WILLIAM MARTIN.