Janus at Geneva
[In the' place of our usual League of Nations article we welcome, this analysis by Professor Madariaga of the Franco-British psycho, logical conflict at Geneva, which is the crux of the present inter- national political situation.]
NATURE'S extravagance is a well explored topic. Yet her admirable imagination in creating ways of differing has not attracted as much attention as it deserves. It is a subject bound to commend itself to those amongst the pilgrims to Geneva whose critical faculty has not been obliterated by faith. Differences are the very notes on which the international symphony is constructed, and true internationalists revel in them with as much delight as the modern musician enjoys his. sevenths. The scope of enjoyment is, however, wider for the internationalist than for the musician, for differences in international politics are not only number- less, but what mathematicians describe as doubly infinite. There are two infinite sets of ways of differing : as to the object and as to the way to look at it.
A landlord and a tenant differ as to the object. Smith believes the rent should be high because he is the landlord ; Jones holds the rent should be low- because he is the tenant. Interchange their relationship-, towards the property and their opinions will change accordingly. This is a clear case of objective difference. It all comes from the object. i.e., from the way it is placed in relation to the people who differ. Italy is less armed and poorer than France. She wants naval parity at a low figure. If she were more armed or richer she would refuse naval parity to 'France, who would then want it. This is also a case of objective- difference. And there is no need to prove that there are as many of them in Geneva (or in London) as there are- nations multiplied by the relations which may be imagined between them.
But there is a second infinite of subjective differences. A potential agreement—or even an actual if tacit agree- nient—of an objective kind may be -prevented or obscured or even actually repressed, by a divergence as to the way, not to look at the object, but to see it. Such is the case, for instance, in the imittense majority of issues between man and woman. Objectively, agreement may be possible, at least in theory. Subjectively, it is pre- vented by the fact that the two disputants argue in two different idioms, fight on two different planes, or, as the saying goes, are at loggerheads. This second cause of differences is constantly active in Geneva, for its roots are in psychology and Geneva is the paradise of psycho.; logists since it provides a stage for fifty-five national characters.
As it happens, there is perhaps no clearer contrast there than that between the two protagonists of the League. England and France seem to have been selected by Providence as the two pure antagonistic elements or poles of the international system, forming a couple of opposites comparable to the couple acid-base in chemistry, or to that of the masculine and feminine elements in human life. In Geneva everything gravitates either towards the empirical or towards the theoretical, thwards expedients or towards principles, rule of thumb or general law, wait and see or foresight of all contingencies, English ways or French ideas.
In practically every argument between England 'and France the objective differences due to the inherent conflict of national interests are thus complicated by subjective divergences due no longer to a different per- spective but to the ' different nature of the eye that observes. England brings to Geneva her empirical habits of mind. This means that England nearly always advocates the minimum of pre-established agreements to' meet future contingencies. The empirical mind stretches thus as little as possible along the line of time. But it limits itself also in that mental dimension of the present which we call breadth. It shrinks from generalizations. Narrow and shortsighted, the Englishman remains firmly attached to the earth of realities and goes forth like a blind man striking' the ground with his stick before he takes a step forward.
The Frenchman, on the contrary, comes to Geneva with a mind which nature and training have made an aim in itself. He approaches questions as problems, and while the Englishman is feeling a way out he has' already thought out a solution. It is more often than not a perfect solution, applicable in all cases and at all times—so perfect in fact as to stagger the Englishman, who as an empirical man feels as uncomfortable in the presence of perfection as a sailor on land or a horseman walking. Generalization and foresight are the two qualities of the Frenchman's thought. His method is logic. It would be grotesque to simplify the contrast by saying that the Englishman is a will and the Frenchman a mind. Nor, tempting as it is, would it be correct to describe the Englishman as a will using a mind and the Frenchman as a mind using a will. The interplay of the two faculties is more subtle than that. It might perhaps be put in this way : mind and will are used by the Englishman with the tempo and characteristics of will ; by the Frenchman with the tempo and charac- teristics of mind. This would explain the blunt, concrete and slow-moving character of English mental contribu- tions to the League ; and also the pertinacious, methodical and logical developments of the French will in Geneva. The parallel is striking, whatever the subject of the political dialogue which may be chosen to illustrate it. Furthermore, these profound differences of the English and the French characters 'as they manifest themselves outwards are enriched by their very effects on the inner man. For it is obvious that the Englishman's picture of the Englishman and the Frenchman's picture of the Frenchman are bound to differ perhaps more profoundly still than their respective views of the outside world. The Englishman does not know himself at all. He is too well bred to be inquisitive. He feels himself and is quite satisfied that he is " all right," as every man with his record—public school, &c.—is bound to be. What- ever his empirical mind brings forth is therefore all right also, and this assurance enables him to come forth before the world with the most naively egotistical pro- posals presented with an impassive, earnest and sincere face as universal boons. The Frenchman smiles and exclaims : Ah ! ces Anglais ! Yet his way does not lead to much greater concordance between professions and intentions. His mind is too active and clear not to know the inner man well. While the Englishman sees his intentions as, nebulae seen in a foggy sky, the Frenchman sees his as clear stars marking the course of his action and thought. It follows that the Frenchman has all the qualities of the general, staff of a good army.
He plans in advance, calculates his marches, counter- marches and strongholds. He defines his aims accurately and proceeds towards them skilfully.
The result is curiously alike in both cases. The Englishman is always advocating England's interests as if the world were sure to die but for them, and the Frenchman always proving as mathematical truth the particular principle which happens to fit at the time Marianne's little finger. But the Englishman gives the impression that he has more faith in his position, since he seems less able to invent his arguments, while the Frenchman at times argues so perfectly. that it seems unnecessary to assume that he needs truth to be on his side.
Both protagonists tend to underestimate the critical faculty of their partners. These partners, after all, are not wholly disinterested audiences. They are, just as the Frenchman and the Englishman, representatives of definite national interests fully aware of the advantages of presenting one's case as if it were the world's dearest hope and salvation. If they do not do it themselves, it is not because they are above temptation or below ability to do so. It is for the simple reason that the Englishman and the Frenchman enjoy the advantage of speaking in their own languages and—to paraphrase Voltaire—it is our own language and no other which was given us to hide our thoughts. The two protagonists of Geneva are not fully aware of the tremendous privilege which they were granted when their two languages were made official for League work. An international observer once suggested that no one should be allowed to speak in his own language in Geneva : the French and the English laughed heartily at this capital joke. And yet it was not a joke, it was not even the expression of a desirability, it was the description of what actually happens there for every delegation except the English, the French and the Belgian. The situation is far from satisfactory. The English generally throw away their chances by refusing to speak well and making rambling, hesitating utterances which they painfully pull out of their chests by vigorous tugs at their coat lapels ; but the French make the most of their advantage, and when a Briand or a Paul-Boncour points the artillery of French eloquence at the awkwardly expressed arguments of Germans and Italians, the idea that all nations are equal in Geneva is apt to strike 'observers as a mockery. In a sense this self-absorption which prevents every nation from realizing the actual position of other nations is inevitable. Nothing but a long experience of Geneva, preferably from the vantage ground of the Secretariat, can confirm the instinctive international attitude from which all national points of view are equally limited ; and nothing at all, not even Secretariat experience, can develop the instinctive, spontaneous sympathy with every national point of view, even though an intellectual, conscious sympathy may be cultivated by deliberate effort. Thus in the immense majority of cases the peculiar turn imposed by national psychology will be found to be closely intertwined with the peculiar turn imposed by national policy. This fact may be illustrated by means of two present-day examples. The French policy of "sanctions" may be explained equally well from the point of view of national psychology and from that of national policy. It is the logical outcome of the constructive mind of France seeking in the League of Nations the political institution which is to take in the international field the same position which the State occupies in the national field. But it is also the immediate political aim of a nation intent on extracting from the European nations bound by the League Covenant an insurance on the Treaty of Versailles and of the gains which France obtained under it. It is unfair to France to forget the first interpretation or to doubt its genuine- ness ; it is simply foolish to overlook the second, which indeed the French Press allows no one to do. As for England, her reluctance to commit herself to a policy of "sanctions" is obviously the result of a psychological feature—let us not cross the bridge until we come to it, let us keep an open mind, wait and see, and so forth— but it is also a line of policy, since it is to 'the advantage of a powerful nation to remain in unfettered possession of the use of its power. Hence the outcry against the Protocol on the (entirely fantastic) ground that it put the British Fleet at the beck and call of foreigners. Another case in point is that of submarines. England wants them suppressed. It is both. a demand of her humanitarian opinion and a requirement of her cool- headed Admiralty, in whose discreet counsels humani- tarianism is at a discount. It is in one word pleasure and business combined. France, on the other hand, wants submarines preserved, obviously to the advantage of her naval power, but at the same time in keeping with the intellectual attitude of a people which has but little sympathy with the intrusion of humanitarian arguments in matters of war.
It is fortunate that the evolution of the League of Nations should have begun under the auspices of these two peoples so mutually complementary. The League was a new departure in history ; it needed, therefore, intellectual boldness and imagination such as could be provided by the French genius, and at the same time the empirical sense of ,continuity and compromise of which England is past mistress. Without France the League might have lost in breadth and universal spirit ; without England in vitality and historical sense. France has brought to the League an intellectual dignity which England would not always have troubled to ensure, and might at times have deliberately neglected. England gave the League her incomparable moral tone. This parallel applies particularly to the Secretariat, which fundamentally is an Anglo-French creation made to the image of the Civil Service, yet with a variety of intel- lectual interests and a sense of construction which are undoubtedly due to the French element in it.
S. de MADARIAGA.