A Critique of the League BOOKS OF THE DAY
By PROFESSOR C. K. WEBSTER TnE recent and well-deserved horioni conferred on Professor Zimmern has coincided with the publication of his most important book on international affairs. With the exception of one or two journalists, no other publicist has given such close personal attention to Geneva, and his Summer School and AsOenibly lectures have indeed made a notable con- tribution to its celebrated atmosphere. This book, which enshrines the results of his observations and contacts, is as persuasive and stimulating and challenging as his other writings, and, though its author rightly insists that all the records are not yet available, it contains much information that is not to be obtained from other books and documents.
Its title is rather misleading. It is in no sense a formal study of the legal aspect of the new institution. The Per- manent Court is hardly mentioned. The author adopts a political attitude throughout. " The League and the :estali- lisliment of peace " would have better described the contents, for it is on the necessity of the abolition of war that the main emphasis is laid.
The usual division into pre-Wiir, the War and the Peace, and the post-War history is adOpted. The first section is rather slight. International Law, for example, is dismissed in seven pages as something which has never really existed— especially for the British. Of most of the proposals for the settlement of disputes made before 1914 Sir Alfred is frankly contemptuous. He makes many acid comments on the American schemes of Taft and Bryan. He is more interested in the " Concert of Europe " as precursor of the League. In this section and throughout the book he stresses Conference as the main, and indeed the only, method by which an inter- national system can be created. The fact about the pre-War Concert, however, was that there was no compulsion either legal or even moral on any Great Power to use it, if it did not wish to do so. It is the introduction of the element of compulsion and defined rules that makes the all-important difference between the Concert and the Council of the League.
The second part is a brilliant description and analysis of the influence of the War period on the system finally adopted. Here is also printed for the first time a Foreign Office Memorandum which preceded the famous " Practical Sug- gestions " of General Smuts and which adumbrated some of the proposals. The result -was a League composed of five distinct strands, an improved Concert of Europe, a univerz salised Monroe Doctrine for the guarantee of territorial security, a better Hague Conference system for the settle ment of disputes, a Secretariat, and an agency for the mobilisation of the world against war—a " hue and cry." The* ideas are traced throughout the history of the League, whicl is divided into four periods, but not in any very systematic way. Sonic things have interested the author very deeply during these last fifteen years, and- as he writes" of them his pen is moved with the wonder, admiration, anger' or 'Contempt which he has experienced.
Of all the strands it is the fifth which is in his eyes the most, impOrtant. In the Foreign Office Memorandum a 'guarantee of peace is advocated, though only in most general terma. This proposal was rejected in the paper of General Smuts; whb, accepted the Phillimore plan. To this fact Sir Alfre* attributes much of the weakness of the League. It should bor noted, however, that he does not support the guarantee egi territorial integrity, though the abolition of war, if the sover eignty of states were maintained intact in other respects; would in effect constitute such a guarantee.
War has now been renounced by the Kellogg. Pact, but it is Themi.eague of Nations and the Rule of Law,-1918-1935, Byir Sir Alfred' -12s: ed.) - 7'
undoubtedly true that an organised system for the repression of the aggressor is still far from complete. What exactly Sir Alfred would have us do is not quite clear, but something to make the " hue and cry " effective. He describes with enthusiasm the occasions in which that has been done, as in the Greco-Bulgarian dispute, and makes a passionate and moving appeal to France to join Britain in making it so in the present crisis. Where the League has failed to stop war, as in the Chaco and in the Manchukuo dispute, he writes with great bitterness. In the latter case he hardly takes into account' the strategic difficulty, so indignant is he with the subterfuges by which the obligations of the Covenant were avoided.
The main agency must be, in his opinion, Conference. .Here again he joins issue with General Smuts for rejecting the pro-
posal in the Foreign Office Memorandum that the Council should be composed of the Great Powers Only. Many of us have felt the same thing, but it May be doubted whether it was possible to bring into existence a League so constituted. Nor is he explicit as to the remedy he proposes. At one time he appears to think the whole League system so great a failure that it should be scrapped, and he praises the Four Pastrer Pact project of 1933"" as a clear-sighted attempt to rescue European politics from the eighteenth-century morass in which they Mid become embogged and to carry them foriiard at least into the - nineteenth century." He admits, however, that public opinion made such a course impossible, and if he means that a loose system of Conference outside the League can perform its func- tions better, he will, I think, find few people to agree with him who have studied the diplomatic hiStory of the nineteenth- century. • On the other hand, there may be some 'day room within the League system for a Conceit of the Great Pomiers.
In the process for the settlement of disputes Sir Alfred is not so deeply interested, though he points Out incisively the dangers lurking in the complicated system which has been set up, and the absurdity of expecting the nations to refer the most vital questions to a collection of " Solomons." Armaments he considers, with many others, to be a symptom and not a disease, and regards it as one of the greatest mistakes of the League (for which also the Smuts Paper is condemned) that it made Disarmament its main task in recent years. Here again there is much to be said on the other side in spite of the failure of recent attempts. For if armaments are a function of policy- it is also true that policy is influenced by armaments—and sonietimes by armament-makers. The Rush-Bagot Conven- tion helped to create the atmosphere which allows a'disarmed frontier to' exist between Canada and the United States.
In a highly interesting penultimate chapter the salient functions of the Council, Assembly and Secretariat are dis- cussed. On the Secretariat Sir Alfred' has many penetrating reflections, especially on the share of the Governments in the choide of the higher officials. He alSo considers that- long residence in the artificial atmosphere of Geneva inevitably leads to deterioration. " They lose the capacity," he writes, " which is the great strength of ordinary public opinion, for spontaneous moral reaction to political events:" It is aikthe more remarkable therefore that Sir Alfred on mole than one occasion deplores the fact that a large section of the British people has ShoWn that it can react morally towards the League, and censures the voluntary societies for having produced that effect: For it is just this national instinet,rendered articulate by the League of -Nations Union and the devoted leadership of Lord Cecil, which has preserved the League through all its vicissitudes and 'made a large portion of the British people ready at this moment to join that "' hue and cry" against the aggressor, in which Sir Alfred- himself sees the main hope of the world.