FOURTEEN YEARS OF PEACE
AN ADDRESS BY DR. WILLIAM HAMILTON FYFE, LL.D.
Thursday, November 17, 1932
LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, President,, introduced the speaker.
DR. FYFE : Look !back to 1918, to the ideals with which President Wilson at that time caught the imagination of
the whole world. We still believed then in Reconstruction, in a New World; and both those who gave their lives in the war and we who now survive believed in the slogan "a war to end war". It was the only solace that made endurable that orgy of indiscriminate destruction.
What were our hopes when the war ended? We looked forward to a disarmed and therefore peaceful world, made up of homogeneous, self-governing nations freely sharing with each other the mutual benefit of trade and by means of a committee making and enforcing collective decisions.
How far have we succeeded in realizing those ideals? The answer to that question is inevitably discouraging, but as one looks back on these last fourteen years of failure, misunderstanding and recrimination, there are some gleams of hope. If there were none, it would be a waste of our time to talk together of these matters. I should like to review with you the fate of our 1918 ideals, which are still the ideals of most of us today., and to keep an eye well open for those gleams of hope. For while there's hope, there's life.
The number of homogeneous, self-governing commu
nities has increased since the war ended. Fewer people are living under the galling sense of being in an unrepresented minority. Oppression is always a menace to peace. That menace certainly has not passed away, but it has been to some extent diminished. There are still; of course, some very sore spots, especially within the new frontiers of the central European states. Some nations are left still bitterly resenting loss of territory; others, who were before the war under what they resented as an alien government, with characteristic human unreason, practice oppression on the minorities now under their control; in others again peoples of different nationality, who made common cause against an alien authority, have taken to quarreling with each other now that they are free. There is plenty of gunpowder still lying about. And there is,, of course, the open sore of the Polish Corridor. There are no problems so perplexing as those in which there is a conflict between two rights. Poland rightly demands an outlet on the Baltic: Germany rightly resents the separation of East Prussia. Until that problem is solved or forgotten it is hard for Germany or Poland to live in peace.
And yet, despite these risks, it is not, I feel, these problems of nationality that cause the greatest danger. I believe the danger from that source is less, or at any rate no greater, than before the war and that throughout Europe people are more aware of common virtues, failings and ambitions; they have a stronger sense of common destiny. Former enemies have met and compared notes and made friends. So there is one gleam of hope in a troubled and stormy landscape.
It was part of our hope at the end of the war that peaceful intercourse between nations would be assisted by freeer trade and the clear recognition of the fact that the world has become on economic whole of which each nation is a member, and that if one nation suffers, the other nations inevitably suffer with it. Here a review of the last few years seems to offer nothing but discouragement. Whatever may be the proper function of tariffs in the economic life of a nation, we can all see now that the excessive restriction of international trade has proved suicidal. As long ago as 1927, the report of the World Economic Conference spoke of "the hindrances opposed to the free flow of labour, capital and goods in the effort to obtain self-sufficiency". And yet every nation has continued to go further and further in that effort, from the apparently blind belief that self-sufficiency consists in trying to do all the selling and no buying. The results engulf us at this present. And yet, though economists and statesmen are agreed that modern industry cannot be independent of foreign products, and that economic isolation can only be obtained by sacrificing disastrously our standard of living-in spite of such agreement, no one seems able to lead us out of the maze, because no nation dare take the first step. Here the only ray of hope is shed by the coming world economic conference, which will be in fact another disarmament conference, since its aim is to reduce those devastating economic weapons, high tariffs and war debts, which, like all armaments, are equally dangerous to all parties concerned.
Just as no nation seems ready to take the lead in diminishing tariff restrictions, so too the hope of disarmament is frustrated by the fear that if one nation takes the first step the others may not follow. Suspicion breeds fear and fear breeds danger. And the danger signal has been made clearer in these last months by the claim of Germany to re-arm unless the other signatories to the Treaty of Versailles now at long last redeem their promise to reduce their armaments. It is thirteen years since that promise was made, and the time has come to keep the promise or to let Germany re-arm. What would that mean? A continued competition in aggressive and defensive armaments. And what would be the result of that? Well, between 1909 and 1914 Great Britain, France and Germany increased their expenditure on arms by about 70%. We have seen the result of that and are feeling the full force of the result today. In a world infinitely more nervous and disturbed than it was in 1914, can we doubt for a moment that war would result very soon? Well, you may say, Canada won't be dragged in. These are none of our quarrels. Who then would be the combatants? Great Britain and France against Germany and Italy. Would Russia keep out of the fray' Most competent observers expect that she would directly or indirectly support Germany. In that case Japan would join France and Great Britain and if that happens the United States would be found against Japan. Great Britain, France, Japan against Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States of America. Great Britain after all on one side and the United States on the other. Where would we be then? Oh, you may say, that is mere speculation. True, but remember this. It is a speculation which is only too likely to be realized and in any case it matters little how "the teams 'are composed" or who fights on which side. War, if it comes, will be equally disastrous to victors, vanquished and neutrals. Indeed, there will be no victors or vanquished or neutrals; just common ruin for all, as if a volcano had erupted over the whole civilized world.
Then look for a moment at the danger on our other flank. When the war ended, Great Britain and Japan were still allied by treaty, but in 1921 this treaty was abrogated because it seemed likely that if war broke out between Japan and the United States, Canada-and perhaps New Zealand and Australia-would join the United States against Japan, even though Japan were still allied to Great Britain. To make up for the loss of that treaty the self-denying ordinance of the Nine-power Pact was signed and also the Washington Naval Treaty. That was 1922. Six years later came the Kellogg Pact. Now Mr. Stimson has recently made it clear that these pacts and treaties all hang together. Japan has broken the Ninepower Pact and the Kellogg Pact. Therefore unless the League can mend the breach, the United States is freed from the provisions of the Washington naval treaty. That means that the United States would: build for naval war. So would Japan. And where should we be then? For it seems improbable that Great Britain would compete in naval armaments against Japan in order to save Canada. We might well become the Belgium of that war.
Where are the gleams of hope in this picture? If you strain your eyes you can see faint gleams not yet extinguished on the letters which form the words Disarrna ment and Collective Responsibility. Those are three words in which the one hope of our children's future is involved. That may sound a gloomy prospect. Let us at least look at the little that has been achieved.
The naval treaties of Washington and of London certainly disappointed many hopes. And yet from a prewar viewpoint they were an astonishing and revolutionary achievement. For the first time, proud and powerful nations voluntarily renounced the right to increase their navies beyond certain prescribed limits. For the first time armaments were limited by international agreement; it was admitted that they were no longer solely a matter of national concern.
The limitation of armies is obviously more difficult and it affected far more nations. The representatives of fifty nations met last February at Geneva. That in itself was another achievement from a pre-war point of view. And they put forward just about fifty different proposals. Can you wonder that the discussion was prolonged and confusing and inconclusive? But before the conference adjourned two principles were adopted and their adoption give some excuse for hope.
1. Quantitative restriction is not enough. To reduce proportionately the numbers of all armies would leave the relative security of the nations as before. There must therefore be qualitative restriction as well. That means that certain kinds of weapons must be specially restricted or altogether abjured, weapons like long range guns and military aircraft, which are specially powerful to break down frontier defences. That is the way to increase the sense of security, by reducing the power of sudden, devastating aggression.
2. The disarming of Germany was both qualitativecertain kinds of armament were forbidden-and quanti tative-the number of effectives was restricted. So too, they agreed, must quantitative reduction accompany qualitative restriction and they voted for "a strict limitation and a real reduction in the size of standing arms".
That is the fruit of six months' conference, the adoption of the principles that certain kinds of offensive arms must be restricted and that the size of armies must be reduced. Not much to be thankful for after six months of discussion. But something. At least some ground for hope. It is easy to jeer but more useful to pray.
And beside these two principles there has emerged a fruitful idea. Disarmament and Security had been regarded as two separate problems. And no one could de cide which ought to be solved first. But during the conference the idea emerged that they were not two mutually exclusive problems but two aspects of the same problem, and that the treaty by which the nations reduce their armaments must at the same time be effective to increase their security. Germany could build certain types of aggressive armament better than France and could put more men in the field. These qualitative and quantitative restrictions would make the French feel more secure. Italy is afraid of the big French guns which threaten her industrial centres: France is afraid of the growing population of Italy. The disarmament treaty can cure both these fears and thus increase the sense of security.
We can understand that easily in Canada, for our sense of security against the United States is directly due to those long miles of undefended frontier. If we kept guns there and military aircraft we should indeed be in danger.
The one real hope lies in accepting loyally and heartily the principle of collective responsibility. The principle that in international as in social life we should not take sides with either party when fisticuffs are in use, but should stop the fight and see that the cause of quarrel is referred to a properly constituted legal tribunal. To accept that principle is the price of peace. If we will not pay that price, we shall have war, ruin, chaos.
And yet I read recently in a Canadian military magazine a description of that essential principle as "an ideal concerning the relations of man which arose from the moral fervour generated by emotional anti-war propaganda". That is as if a professional burglar should speak contemptuously of the "moral fervour generated by emotional anti-burglary propaganda", or as if a lunatic should deprecate action designed to save his fellow men from earthquake or volcano. The fervour that supports the principle of collective responsibility is the fervour of stark realism, the fervour that faces the facts and without prejudice or self-interest calls for the action to which they point.
In contrast let me summarize a recent utterance by Lord Lytton. He said the Japanese had spoken to him and his fellow commissioners of the lives and treasure sacrificed to acquire in Manchuria the rights and interests which Japan claims there, and that they were sensitive a about any outside interference in matters which Japan claimed to be her own concern. Lord Lytton goes on to say that he and his colleagues sympathized with these feelings and recorded them in their report to the League of Nations, but he added "there is one thing for which other nations have made even greater sacrifices, which they value as highly and are equally determined to defend, and that is the organization of collective responsibility for the maintainance of peace." That is the voice of common sense and such common sense is the one real ground of hope for us and for our children. (Loud applause.)
The President voiced the thanks of the club.