Essay based on Nobel Lecture* of December 12, 1927
Security and Disarmament
The two problems treated in this essay are the most delicate and current of present-day politics. They have also for a long time been fundamental problems of pacifism. It is not by chance that they are treated together here; on the contrary it is impossible to separate them, for each is dependent upon the other.
The popular, and one may say naive, idea is that peace can be secured by disarmament and that disarmament must therefore precede the attainment of absolute security and lasting peace. This idea prevailed in the early days of the organized peace movement. Lay Down Your Arms was the title that our great pioneer, Bertha von Suttner1, gave her famous book – a book which, in German-speaking countries at least, has done more to popularize our cause than all our congresses and pamphlets. This title was generally understood to mean: “Lay down your arms and we shall have peace.”
It is to the credit of the peace movement that it demonstrated before the war2 that this was a misconception. Lightly armed nations can move toward war just as easily as those which are armed to the teeth, and they will do so if the usual causes of war are not removed. Even a total and universal disarmament does not guarantee the maintenance of peace. Should the occasion arise, flails and scythes would again come into their own as weapons. Disarmed nations embroiled in war would obtain modern weapons as quickly as possible by converting peacetime industry.
The relationship of the two problems is rather the reverse. To a great extent disarmament is dependent on guarantees of peace. Security comes first and disarmament second.
Armaments are necessary – or are maintained on the pretext of necessity – because of a real or an imagined danger of war. Let us assume that the ideal were reached; let us imagine a state of international life in which the danger of war no longer exists. Then no one would dare to demand a penny for obviously completely superfluous armaments. The theory held by us pacifists, particularly by Alfred Fried3, was: “Disarmament will be the result of secure peace rather than the means of obtaining it.”
The security of which we speak is to be attained by the development of international law through an international organization based on the principles of law and justice. So long as peace is not attained by law (so argue the advocates of armaments) the military protection of a country must not be undermined, and until such is the case disarmament is impossible.
One can take exception to this idea on the grounds that a method of disarmament exists which does not interfere with military security. The present level of armaments could be taken as the starting point. It could be stipulated in an international treaty that these armaments should be simultaneously and uniformly reduced by a certain proportion in all countries. The military security would remain unchanged since it is dependent on the relative, rather than the absolute, level of armaments. The ratio of 100 to 100 gives no more security than 10 to 10. Thus, if armaments were curtailed without a secure peace and all countries disarmed proportionately, military security would have been in no way affected.
This is logically sound, but it misunderstands psychology. In life, particularly in public life, psychology is more powerful than logic. When distrust exists between governments, when there is a danger of war, they will not be willing to disarm even when logic indicates that disarmament would not affect military security at all.
Time and time again we have experienced efforts directed toward this popular and simple concept of securing peace by means of disarmament. The famous Rescript of the Czar in 18984 did not speak of organized international law, only of the necessity to restrict armaments. It was the criticism from the pacifists and from the Interparliamentary Union5 which brought about the inclusion of peaceful settlement of disputes on the agenda of the first Hague Conference6.
The same observation could be made of the conference which the trade unions called at The Hague in December, 1922, to organize cooperation between workers and pacifists. Leaders of the trade unions, who were at that time new to these problems, spoke, as had the Czar in 1898, of the necessity of disarming to secure peace. On the other hand, it is very interesting that Mr. Levinson7, the originator of the “Outlawry of War” movement, should emphatically declare in Chicago that he was not a pacifist because he did not seek to attain peace through disarmament! So little did he know of the peace movement and so self-revealing did the popular error appear to him.
Some pacifists have carried the sound idea of the prime importance of security too far, to the point of declaring that any consideration of disarmament is superfluous and pointless as long as eternal peace has not been attained.
That is a doctrinaire view which does not take the facts into account. Limitation of armaments in itself is economically and financially important quite apart from security. This argument is so well known and so often discussed that there is no need to linger over it. It will be sufficient to point to the enormous burdens which armaments place on the economic, social, and intellectual resources of a nation, as well as on its budget and taxes.
But that is not all. Disarmament or limitation of armaments, which depends on the progress made on security, also contributes to the maintenance of peace. The increase in armaments, the endless arms race – this in itself is a potential cause of war. Influential military men want to demonstrate that their profession has some use. Many people who are disturbed by the terrible growth of armaments become accustomed and resigned to the belief that war is inevitable. They say, “Better a terrible end than an endless terror.” That is the greatest cause of war. Every success in limiting armaments is a sign that the will to achieve mutual understanding exists, and every such success thus supports the fight for international law and order.
Among pacifists it was above all the English who always insisted on the importance of disarmament. They said that the man in the street would not understand the kind of pacifism that neglected to demand immediate restriction of armaments. The smallest success achieved in this field would have a greater effect on public opinion than the most striking progress in international law. The friends of peace on the Continent, primarily the French and Germans represented by such men as Émile Arnaud8 and Alfred Fried, concentrated their efforts more on the problems of organization for international justice.
Apart from these differences, which have reappeared at the present time more sharply and seriously until they have become irreconcilable conflicts, the outcome of discussion has been not only an understanding of the enormous importance of the two problems each considered separately from the other, but also a recognition of their complete interdependence. Let us now review the individual development of each before the war: first disarmament, then security.
In any consideration of disarmament, a distinction must be drawn between the positions of pacifists, of members of parliament, and of governments. We pacifists have not ceased to point to the grave danger of armaments and to insist on their curtailment. We have proposed resolutions and plans to the public and to governments. The conclusion reached in our studies was that the best and perhaps the only way to limit armaments would be through the creation of an international treaty embracing all the great powers and the contention that national budgets provide the only practicable yardstick for the limitation of armaments. We who were pacifists before the war became very moderate in our demands so as not to be regarded as utopian idealists. Often we spoke not of disarmament but of the “limitation of armaments”, and because of this terminology the question was placed on the agenda of the congresses.
Although I am myself its originator, I must mention a proposal which came at the end of this prewar development. I do so because the people most competent to judge have recognized it as the only proposal from the prewar period which is to be taken seriously and which could serve as a basis for further studies9. This proposal was a draft for an international disarmament treaty which I presented to the International Peace Congress in 1913 and then to the Conference of the Interparliamentary Union, both of which were held at The Hague. The draft dealt only with the maintenance of the status quo by keeping budgets at their present normal level, with automatic five-percent reductions over six-year periods. Detailed proposals were given for a machinery of arbitration to cover all doubtful cases and all unavoidable differences of opinion.
Although the members of the Interparliamentary Union deserve great credit in the field of international law, the Union has always been very reticent concerning disarmament. The report which d’Estournelles de Constant10 delivered in Geneva in 1912 on behalf of a study group was nothing more than a very eloquent indictment of the evils and dangers of armaments and militarism, without even a mention of the terms on which arms might be restricted.
The following year, after I had prepared my draft, the Conference of the Interparliamentary Union at The Hague decided to set up a special commission to study the problem seriously. The French were to be represented by their former war minister, Messimy11. I had suggested Erzberger as the German representative because the problem in Germany was to win over the Center Party12. As author of the draft, I was attached to the commission. The date on which it was to convene in Stockholm had already been set, but then the war broke out.
The Czar’s Rescript forced governments to tackle the question of disarmament. The result at the first Hague Conference was merely a resolution which was ineffective but nevertheless of great importance because of its recognition of a principle which the governments had previously opposed. They acknowledged in a resolution approved unanimously that restriction of armaments was desirable for the economic and moral well-being of the nations. As long as it was only we poor pacifists who said that kind of thing we were treated as lunatics, as incurable utopians, or even as traitors. It was of immense significance to our propaganda that governments themselves now accepted our postulates.
At the second Hague Conference the obstinate opposition of the German government kept the disarmament question off the agenda. It required a very adroit maneuver by the British government to get even one resolution passed. There was no discussion. The resolution confirmed the one approved by the first Hague Conference and bound the governments to continue their studies. “To continue their studies” was a very euphemistic way of putting it. Actually, they had not yet begun. This chain of events was broken off by the war. The situation today has altered completely.
Let us now return to the problem of security as it was before the war.
For a long time practically the only solution visualized was a court of arbitration. This is the older method, one by which conflicts apparently not soluble through diplomatic channels are placed before an ad hoc court of arbitration. Great progress was made when arbitration treaties were concluded in which the contracting powers pledge in advance to submit all conflicts to an arbitration court, treaties which not only specify the composition of the court, but also its procedure.
Pacifist propaganda and the resolutions of the parliamentarians encouraged such treaties, and toward the end of the nineteenth century their number had increased considerably. The next step appeared to be a worldwide international treaty and the establishment of a permanent international court of arbitration. It is the great accomplishment of the Interparliamentary Union, the apostle of this idea, that it devised a positive recommendation in the form of Descamp’s draft13. It was on the basis of this draft that the first Hague Conference worked out its great Convention14.
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this result of the first Hague Conference, a result that has not been swept away by the war. No one ever suggested that ultimate success had been achieved. Use of the international court of arbitration set up by the conference was optional; there was no obligation to go to it. That meant that it was left to the discretion of the powers concerned whether they availed themselves of this means of settling disputes between states by legal process. In each. case of conflict the goodwill of both parries was necessary before a special agreement could be made to use these facilities. In spite of their inadequacies, however, the organizations which the conference created were of valuable service in preventing war. The best known example is the Dogger Bank incident15.
But this service is not the really important thing. The great significance of the first Hague Conference lies in the fact that, for the first time in the history of mankind, the representatives of all the states of the civilized world united to create an organization whose purpose was the maintenance of universal peace and the settlement of international disputes. That was the beginning of world international organization. I am convinced that when the history of international law comes to be written centuries hence, it will be divided into two periods: the first being from the earliest times to the end of the nineteenth century, and the second beginning with the Hague Conference. Everything which has been achieved so far is based on the ideas of this conference.
Immediately after the conference came the problem of making recourse to the arbitration court obligatory. There were two possibilities: the completion of the Hague Convention with a new general convention, and the conclusion of special complementary treaties.
The first method was attempted at the second Conference in 1907. It failed. Man or special treaties between two states were made, but nearly all included a clause stipulating that questions affecting national honor or the vital interests of a state should be exempted from compulsory reference to an arbitration court. Of a very interesting special type were the treaties patterned after the Bryan model16. These attempted to guarantee peaceful settlement of all disputes and to combine the arbitration court with mediation.
I must say a few words about mediation. It has been gradually realized that it is not possible to entrust the maintenance of peace to the jurisdiction of arbitration courts alone. Arbitration courts can be used for those cases which are suitable for litigation. But the most serious and dangerous disputes arise over conflicts of interest which are not subject to the rules of legal process. In such cases, mediation is needed to decide what is equitable and fair, taking into consideration the interests at stake. A parallel can be found in the social sphere. Dangerous disputes between employers and employees, which can lead to great strikes, are settled by mediation rather than by the courts. It is the same in the international sphere. International mediation needs to be organized just as much as does arbitration.
We pacifists can boast of having been among the first to recognize the necessity of setting up a system for mediation alongside that for arbitration. The Lucerne Congress of 1905 passed the Fried-Quidde motion calling attention to the importance of an organized means of mediation. Seven years later, at the 1912 Conference of the Interparliamentary Union in Geneva, Mr. Kovalevsky, on behalf of Mr. Efremov, the leader of the Russian group, submitted a report on this question. I recall, however, that this resolution evoked little attention. Most parliamentary members had not yet realized how important this problem is and how fundamental it is for the maintenance of peace.
If an organized machinery for compulsory mediation had existed, the World War would probably not have erupted. For the two problems – that of disarmament and peace organization and that of security – the war created a completely new set of conditions. Today it would be ridiculous if we pacifists were to put forward a disarmament program as modest as that of prewar days. Drastic and complete disarmament is now our goal. In terms of practical politics the problem is to know in what way and in how many stages we can approach this objective.
During the war it was Pope Benedict17 who was the first to propose a radical disarmament program. In his note of August 15, 1917, he said that after the war justice must replace force and that armaments should be reduced to what is adequate and necessary for the maintenance of internal order and the protection of national boundaries. In other words: no armaments against the possibility of war! That constitutes drastic and complete disarmament. There would no longer be an army or navy; these would be replaced by a domestic police force. The cause of drastic and complete disarmament is now advocated by the Soviet delegation. Public life frequently offers the spectacle of strange alliances.
After the war, the Peace Treaties and the creation of the League of Nations put the disarmament question on an entirely new basis.
Article 8 of the Covenant commits the members of the League to reduce their armaments to a specified level. The preamble to Part V of the Treaty of Versailles states that disarmament is imposed on Germany in order to open the way to universal disarmament. In their letter of June 16, 1919, signed by Clemenceau, the Allies declare in the most formal and solemn terms that it is their genuine intention not to stop with unilateral disarmament by Germany alone18.
If we ask how the disarmament promised in the Covenant is to be achieved and what the limits are within which armaments are to be permitted, we will find that the text of the Covenant gives us no useful answer. The two criteria mentioned are that the admissible armaments shall guarantee national security and the fulfillment of obligations to the League. These limits are not absolute but purely relative.
First, consider national security. In his draft for the League of Nations Covenant, Wilson had said that armaments should be reduced to the level necessary for keeping internal order. His was a clear-cut and definite program: drastic disarmament, as had been advocated by Pope Benedict and is now advocated by the Bolsheviks. But Wilson’s text for the Covenant was altered significantly19 “National security” was substituted for “internal order”. This is nonsense.
The volume of armaments necessary to guarantee the military aspect of national security is entirely dependent on the armaments of the other powers. It will be said that national security calls for heavy armaments whenever the powers which must be reckoned with in framing national policy are heavily armed. If these powers reduce their armaments, national security will allow their example to be followed.
The second criterion is the fulfillment of obligations to the League of Nations. In certain circumstances the Council of the League can call on members to participate in military sanctions against a member who has violated the Covenant. Members should therefore be in a position to place their contingents at the League’s disposal.
I am not calling into question the merits of this provision. It does exist, and it apparently assumes the existence of armaments. But within what limits? The higher the general level of armaments of the various countries, the greater must be the armed force at the disposal of the League. The further disarmament goes, the fewer are the military requirements of the League. In other words, both criteria acknowledge that the limits of armaments are dependent on disarmament.
The absolute limits which we do not find in Article 8 of the League of Nations Covenant are given in the Peace Treaties: the disarmament of Germany and of the other defeated nations is supposed to open the way to general disarmament. The inference is that eventually the general level of armament of the whole world is to be aligned with that of the Central Powers.
No one can assume that it would be possible to maintain forever two formulas for armaments, one applicable to the victors of 1918, the other to the vanquished. It is true that Maginot, the French minister of war20, referring to the infamous Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles21, recently called for just that. But no one who considers the problem seriously would agree with him. That kind of thing can be done for a number of years, perhaps for a generation, but not forever. Since it would violate the spirit of the Treaties to allow the Central Powers to rearm, it follows that their disarmament is to be taken as a model for international disarmament.
Pacifists from all countries have unanimously voted for this program at their peace congresses. British, French, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Swiss, Poles joined in this vote. The British pacifists were the first to propose the formula of “the standard of 1919”, that is, the level of armaments specified in the Peace Treaties of 1919. This is not the final program of the pacifists, for we naturally reserve the right to insist on drastic disarmament. But it is the program – under the Covenant and the Treaties – which the victorious powers are duty bound to recognize as their own.
In the area of security the most important advance since the war has been the founding of the League of Nations. Certainly, the Covenant does not go far enough. It is not necessary to review its shortcomings for the benefit of us pacifists. A fundamental defect is that in certain circumstances it recognizes war as a legitimate means of protecting national interests. If a resolution is not passed unanimously, states reserve the right to protect their own interests by those means which they deem appropriate.
An attempt has been made to rectify this defect in the Covenant. I have in mind the famous Geneva Protocol of 1924 in which war was declared to be a crime and provisions were most carefully worked out to make peaceful settlement of all disputes obligatory. This Protocol, for which Mr. Politis22 and Mr. Benê23 must be given the primary credit, was unanimously approved with great enthusiasm24. That seemed to be the final triumph of pacifism.
But the 1924 Protocol foundered: in Britain a Conservative cabinet replaced that of Ramsay MacDonald25; the Dominions protested against involvement in European affairs; and the British government refused to sign it. The Protocol perished, but the ideas contained in it are not dead; on the contrary, each year gives fresh evidence of their vitality. Various proposals which have been placed before the League of Nations or before the forum of public opinion have the common objective of creating guarantees for the peaceful solution of all quarrels. The formulas change; the idea remains the same. From the deliberations of the Committee on Arbitration and Security, which was set up by the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference, came the suggestions which the League incorporated in the so-called General Act of the autumn of 192826.
In France the belief is prevalent that the guarantees of security must be perfected before disarmament takes place. The French say that a Germany with regained natural strength would be obsessed with nullifying the consequences of the war, either by peaceful means or by a war of retribution. Nationalist demonstrations in Germany have contributed to this anxiety. The French have received information on secret arming. Along with pure fabrications and fantastic exaggerations, there have been genuine grievances. I can speak openly on this matter in the expectation that what I say will be accepted, for I was one of those who campaigned in Germany against secret arming, and in March, 1924, I was imprisoned in Munich under the emergency regulations then in force in Bavaria.
I can say that this secret arming, like everything not in accordance with the obligations accepted, is utterly deplorable and is a manifestation of intentions absolutely irreconcilable with the official policy supported by the great majority of the people and the Reichstag. However, when considered in relation to a war, the material significance of this illegal arming was practically nil. The time when it was concealed by the authorities is gone. And even then, although it was a great danger to internal peace, to the constitution, to the Republic, it was not a danger to other countries, particularly not to France. In accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, Germany is completely disarmed as far as heavy armaments are concerned. These cannot be produced secretly. Heavy artillery cannot be manufactured by cottage industry. So as preparation for war this secret arming was just childish nonsense.
France’s need for special security against the still so remote danger of a war of retribution was satisfied in the fall of 1925 by the Locarno Pact27. It is not necessary to dwell on this at length. The guarantees of peace are reciprocal, and I think it is important to emphasize this. But from the French point of view the most important result was that Germany voluntarily recognized its western boundaries as those stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles. Since Locarno the security of western and central Europe is provided for to the extent that treaties are ever capable of guaranteeing security. We can draw our conclusions from this fact.
There occurred in 1928 an event of primary importance for the progress of international security: the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact28. It may be said that this pact, rather like the resolution of the first Hague Conference which condemned armaments, is nothing more than a declaration, an endorsement of a principle. Nevertheless, the fact that the principle of renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy was formally proclaimed by all states is of the utmost significance. You can be sure that we shall make profitable use of this declaration to remind governments of their obligations and to tell the peoples of the world that it is their duty to deny their allegiance to a government which declares war in contravention of the Treaty.
And still, whether the Kellogg Pact will open a new epoch in the history of international law or whether it will be just an episode, depends on the consequences the signatories draw from it. If it is not to become a dead letter, the Kellogg Pact must be supplemented: first, by revision of the Covenant of the League of Nations in the spirit of the Protocol of 1924 or the General Act of 192929; second, by general disarmament; third, by eradicating from the constitutions and laws of individual states the right to declare war; fourth, by altering criminal law to conform with the fact that it is a crime to declare war; fifth, by a national and international program of education that is harmonious with the concept of banning war.
Now, at the end of this historical and abstract analysis comes the most interesting part of the story. We should examine, weigh, and size up the present situation; we should determine what the League has achieved and what it has left undone with regard to disarmament. But the space available will not allow me to go into the details of this question. I must confine myself to a few summary observations.
In present-day international politics the problems of security and disarmament are more intimately intertwined than in the theoretical treatment I have just given them. When the 1924 Protocol was passed, no one doubted that disarmament must accompany the guarantee of peace. An international disarmament conference was planned for the following year. The United States, Russia, and Germany, which were not members of the League, were invited to participate. This conference was postponed repeatedly from one year to another. Now, it is finally to assemble on February 2, 193230.
A Preparatory Commission, set up to clear the way for the Disarmament Conference, has tried to work out the text of an international treaty, leaving the insertion of the actual figures to the Disarmament Conference.
The first reading took place in the spring of 1927. I described the outcome of this in a memorandum entitled “The First Step toward World Disarmament”31, which I prepared at the request of the Deutsche Friedenskartell [German Peace Cartel] and which was forwarded to the Secretariat of the League by the International Peace Bureau. The work of the Preparatory Commission was concluded at the beginning of December, 1930. In the April, 1931, issue of Friedennswarte I attempted to outline the negotiations, the main points of disagreement, and the results. Here I will recount only the most important points and their relationship with the question of security and the overall problem of international understanding.
It is significant that in Article 1 of the draft the purpose of the disarmament treaty is said to be to limit armaments and “as far as possible” to reduce them. This “as far as possible” is truly deplorable when considered in the light of the obligation to disarm stipulated in Article 8 of the League of Nations Covenant and of the pledge given in the Peace Treaties to bring world disarmament gradually into line with the treaties’ armaments provisions, and in the light of the general expectation that disarmament would finally be earnestly pursued.
Opposition to disarmament comes particularly from France and her allies. France claims to have disarmed because the duration of military service has been reduced to one year, but this is more than offset by the increase in the size of the regular army. Again, we hear that disarmament can be considered only when France has achieved complete security. Security is here understood to mean not security in the sense of a peace secured by law, but security in terms of military safety, completion of the fortified belt, and so on. This means therefore that we must arm before we are in a position to disarm. This one-sided, purely national view ignores the fact that all national defensive arming “to protect peace” will be interpreted, and must be interpreted, by neighboring states or other potential enemies as a menace, as a danger to peace; whereas on the other hand international disarmament strengthens one’s own military security through the disarmament of others.
So long as predominant French public opinion makes disarmament dependent on this one-sided view of national security, no progress is possible. Unless Mr. Maginot’s remark mentioned above is merely a slip of the tongue, any agreement is impossible. The League of Nations Assembly of 1928 declared that the security situation now would permit an initial universal treaty for the reduction and limitation of arms, which incidentally would itself contribute to increasing international security.
Certain German proposals which failed to secure general acceptance are so patently reasonable that there is no need to waste words on them. I refer in particular to the proposal to take into account the number of trained reservists or the number of recruits trained annually and their length of service, as well as the inventory of war equipment of all types whether for war by land, sea, or air. We do not wish to give the German delegation any particular credit for propounding these ideas, for they grow out of Germany’s interest in bringing the armament level of other countries as nearly as possible into line with her own. This does not alter the fact that they are also demands made by pacifists throughout the world. They reappear in the resolutions of the Délégation permanente of the French peace societies, and the Directorate of the International Peace Bureau has brought them to the notice of the various peace societies.
The British delegation which had aligned itself with the Germans in 1927 did not do so in 1929 and 1930. Even Lord Cecil32 altered his stand on such points as the question of trained reservists, in order to reach agreement with France. Even British pacifists, who moreover had been the first to propose the “standard of 1919”, take offense at the dissatisfaction of the German delegation with the outcome of the Preparatory Commission. Under the influence of Lord Cecil, they are tending more and more to the view that the main thing is that the Conference should achieve something. However inadequate it may be, they claim it will still be better than nothing and a great and fundamental advance over the anarchy which has existed up to the present, that it will at least provide a basis on which to build.
I would like to direct a word of warning to our British friends and to others who hold the same opinion. They overlook the fact that if the Conference results in fixing the level of armaments by treaty at about its present level, with no significant reduction, there will be deep disappointment and bitterness evoked throughout the world, particularly in Germany, and that the consequences within Germany will be of the greatest significance internationally and will inevitably endanger the task of international reconciliation. Such an outcome would produce an overwhelming movement advocating Germany’s withdrawal from the League and the renunciation of the disarmament provisions of the Treaty of Versailles33. I need not describe further consequences. In any case the pacification of Europe would not be possible for a long time – not even under the most favorable conditions.
I am, by the way, very skeptical about whether it will be possible to reach the goal along the trail blazed by the Preparatory Commission. A treaty is supposed to be concluded regulating in detail a large number of matters concerning armaments. Even if it were successful in improving the stipulations by enlarging their compass to cover limitation of all important elements of military equipment, and even if it should be successful in establishing an acceptable ratio between the armaments of states with universal conscription and of those relying on regulars: then there would still be the task of working the statistics of more than fifty states into the framework of the treaty. I greatly fear that the Conference will not be capable of achieving this. There is but one ratio which is perfectly acceptable to everyone: nothing to nothing. But the Conference certainly will not produce total disarmament. It is to be feared that through haggling over figures it will produce no results at all. The Conference must not be allowed to fail on this account. If the complicated system proposed by the Preparatory Commission does not succeed an attempt must be made to devise a simpler process, perhaps a uniform proportional reduction based on the present armament level or on that of a few years ago. The fact that this would conform roughly with the suggestion of the Russian delegation should scare no one. It must be acknowledged at the same time that the ultimate goal to strive for is a world level of armaments complying with the disarmament provisions of the Peace Treaties.
Very recently the discussion, particularly within the League of Nations Societies, has made gratifying progress. Lord Cecil has proposed that the overall armaments budget be reduced by twenty-five percent. The Commission set up by the Executive Committee of the International Federation of League of Nations Societies, which met in Paris under his chairmanship on March 21 and 22, has recognized the French desire for further consolidation of security (generally understood as security under international law and not as military security), but nevertheless has called on the Disarmament Conference for a substantial reduction in armaments even though the status of the security question is just what it is now. The Commission linked Lord Cecil’s suggestion of a twenty-five percent reduction of the overall armaments budget with the German proposal that a start should be made by restricting individual elements of armaments (personnel establishments and war equipment) according to the suggestions made in the Peace Treaties34.
In conclusion let us consider an obvious objection to the whole concept of disarmament. The time is probably close (or perhaps it is already here?) when the development of technology will render useless the entire armory which is now being discussed – the mass armies, the stocks of artillery and other arms, the navies and fortifications – because frontal war will be supplanted by aerial war from behind the front, war which will use explosives and, despite all the treaties, gas, once the war has started. Disarmament treaties will be militarily useless, for they are practically worthless for air and gas warfare since the necessary war material can be supplied by peacetime industry. If we want to avoid the unthinkable horror of aerial and gas warfare, then we must not make war; we must secure peace. Thus, the problem of disarmament brings us back to the problem of security.
Does the proposal for international disarmament therefore lose its significance? From the military technical point of view perhaps, but not from the economic and political-ethical standpoint. We could release billions of marks for cultural and social work. They could be used to combat destitution and misery. At the same time we would manifest and strengthen the will to preserve the peace by means of disarmament. Therein lies the great significance of a disarmament treaty even when the treaty itself, considered from the purely military viewpoint, may be useless.
Be that as it may, for the sake of the League of Nations it is absolutely essential to achieve some result. When Lord Robert Cecil was speaking about this question some years ago, he said that if the League did not undertake something worthwhile for disarmament, its whole reputation would be endangered and it would risk losing the confidence of the nations of the world. He recently made a similar statement, placing great emphasis on this idea. If the governments, the expert advisers, and the delegates to the Disarmament Conference do not do their duty, then we must appeal to the people, because it is the people who suffer from armaments and all their consequences.
Along with working for disarmament we must work toward securing peace. We must learn to recognize that Europe has a choice only between the total devastation that will result from a future war employing gas and other such modern methods of war, and peace secured by rule of law. In his Zum ewigen Frieden Kant35 discussed how it might be possible to ensure peace. He did not present the point of view of the moral philosopher who bases his hopes on an improvement in mankind. Oh, no! Kant found the only assurance for peace in the idea that war would become so terrible and unbearable that human beings, even though they remain as morally weak as they now are, would be forced to work together for peace.
That moment has already come, and at the very hour in which we live the organizing of international life is a possibility. In Kant’s lifetime the world was too large for such a thing. Seas, mountain ranges, and deserts separated nations from one another, and it took months to circulate a message throughout the world. These difficulties have now disappeared. The same technology which has made war so terrible has given us the means to bring the whole world within one international organization. Naturally, the moral basis of such an organization must not be merely the fear of war. It must be the conviction that it is a moral duty to do away with war and to secure peace. Only on this basis can we hope to reach complete disarmament and a peace secured by treaties.
* Mr. Quidde delivered a lecture at 2:00 p.m. on December 12, 1927, in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute in Oslo. The Aftenposten for December 13, 1927, published in Oslo, carries a report of the speech but not the full text. Nor does the text appear in Les Prix Nobel, although the 1927 volume states that the lecture was delivered. Correspondence in the files of the Nobel Institute indicates that the script was sent to Mr. Quidde at his request for editing; presumably it was not returned. This translation is based on a text in German that appeared in Europläische Gespräche, April, 1931. A footnote to this text says: “This essay is based on a speech given by the author in Oslo in December, 1927, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and also given in French in February, 1929, in Paris by invitation of the Carnegie Foundation.” Minor changes and editorial emendations were no doubt made to adapt. to the conventions of a printed essay, and certain additions were incorporated to bring the material up to date – two examples, among others, being the brief discussion of the Kellogg Pact concluded in 1928, eight months after Mr. Quidde had given his Nobel lecture, and the longer discussion of the Disarmament Conference at the end of the essay. But in the argument presented and the basic points made, the essay version in German is quite similar to that reported as the speech version in the Aftenposten. The title of the Oslo speech noted in Les Prix Nobel on p. 67 is “Abrüstung und Friede”. But the title as noted on p. 83 in Les Prix Nobel, “Abrüstung und Sicherheit”, is more probably the correct one, for the report in the Aftenposten begins “…there was almost a full house to hear Professor Quidde’s speech on disarmament and security at the Nobel ceremony today”. The title in the essay version is simply reversed to become “Sicherheit und Abrüstung”.
4. Dated August 12, 1898 (New Style, August 24) and sometimes called the first Muraviev Circular, this note circularized certain nations suggesting the advisability of holding an international disarmament conference; the second Muraviev Circular, dated December 30, 1898 (New Style, January 11, 1899), met objections raised to the first one and led to the calling of the first Hague Conference of 1899.
6. The first Hague Peace Conference was held May 18 to July 29, 1899, with 96 delegates from 26 nations attending; for its work, see the Nobel lectures by Gobat and Renault, Vol. 1, pp. 30-38; 143-166.
9. The laureate has appended the following footnote: “In the large anthology Handbuch des Abrüstungsproblems [Handbook of the Disarmament Problem], published by Th. Niemeyer (Berlin, 1928), the only prewar documents included in Chapter VII of Volume 2, plans for Disarmament Agreements, etc., are my plan and my supporting speech.”
13. Édouard Eugène François Descamps (1847-1933), Belgian senator and professor of international law at the University of Louvain. As president of the Interparliamentary Conference of Brussels in 1895, he was charged with recommending to the various states the plan for a convention on an international arbitration court which the Conference had just adopted. His “Mémoire aux puissances” was entitled Essai sur l’organisation de l’arbitage international (Bruxelles, 1896).
15. See Cremer’s Nobel lecture, Vol. I, p. 47, fn. 5.
16. William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), American politician and secretary of state (1913-1915), proposed in 1913 the negotiation of international treaties binding the signatories to submit all disputes, without any exception, to an investigating commission and to abstain from war until reports had been made; eventually thirty such treaties were negotiated.
18. Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), French premier (1906-1909; 1917-1919) and head of the French delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference. The letter referred to was an Allied reply to various German observations, proposals, and counterproposals concerning the peace treaty.
19. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), U.S. president (1913-1921). For the compared texts of three successive versions of the Covenant, see Ferdinand Czermin, Versailles, 1919 (New York: Putnam, 1964), pp. 140-164.
21. Article 23 I of the Treaty of Versailles states: “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”
22. Nikolaos Sokrates Politis (1872-1942), Greek minister of foreign affairs (1916- 1920; 1922; 1936); delegate to the League and rapporteur of the First Committee which, in conjunction with the Third Committee, drew up the Protocol.
26. The Ninth Assembly adopted the General Act for pacific settlement of international disputes and three model bilateral conventions dealing with pacific settlement, nonaggression, and mutual assistance in September, 1928.
33. Germany did withdraw from the League (in 1933) and did denounce the disarmament provisions of the Versailles Treaty (in 1935); the Disarmament Conference continued to meet sporadically until it postponed proceedings indefinitely in 1937.
See the full schedule