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For the moment the aloofness of America is of less consequence than the exclusion of Germany and the outlawry of Russia. Though many valuable results cannot be achieved without American co-operation, the most important objects of the League, so far as Europe is concerned, are capable of being realised by the Society upon its present restricted basis of membership. What is, however, essential to the reputation and effective working of the institution, is that Germany should be admitted with as little delay as may be, and that an accommodation should be arrived at with the Soviet State. Nothing could be more injurious to the prospects of an institution which relies for its influence primarily and in most instances exclusively upon the force of public opinion, than the suspicion that it is the partisan instrument of the Powers who were victorious in the late War. It is true that the admission of Austria and Bulgaria at the first Assembly of the League went some way to dissipate that suspicion. Nevertheless, the suspicion persists on either side of the Atlantic, and will not be dispelled until the Germans take their place among the delegates of Geneva.
That France should still be reluctant to sanction such liberality is not surprising. She has suffered much, and her wounds are still fresh and gaping. Moreover, she acts upon the thesis that, the Covenant being a treaty, and the essential spirit of the Covenant being respect for treaties, no power should be admitted to the League who has not furnished material guarantees of its readiness to abide by its plighted word. And in the conduct of Germany hitherto she fails to find the required manifestations of loyalty. She does not believe that the Germans are disarmed, and she suspects them of shamming beggary to escape the indemnities. The question, however, arises whether, even admitting that these assumptions are well-founded, it would be wise for the League to refuse Germany should she desire admission. What harm could she do in the League which she cannot equally do outside it? And what profits are there attaching to continued exclusion which are not demonstrably overshadowed by the loss attendant upon a failure to build up the League upon the broad basis of general co-operation? Indeed, if the League does not widen its borders, its influence and authority will pass to Conferences framed upon a looser and more liberal principle. It is, at once, a source of weakness and of strength for the League, that its activities are assumed in the political settlement which the Allied and Associated Powers have imposed or have attempted to impose upon the world-of weakness, since an agency for the administration of any part of the Peace Treaties is necessarily suspect to the vanquished parties; of strength, since the Treaties confer upon the League an immediate and established place in the current international activities of Europe.
The League is then at once easy to assail and difficult to uproot. The German critic of the Treaties regards this pacific organisation as in effect an instrument for their defence. The French defender of the Treaties knows that, however distasteful some features of the League may be to Chauvinist opinion, it could not be dissolved without reopening the question of the Saar and of Dantzig. On the whole, it has been a fortunate circumstance that the League has not been invoked to liquidate the penal clauses of the Peace Settlement, and that this unpleasant and thorny business has been left to the Supreme Council and the Reparations Commission. Arbitral awards seldom, if ever, bring general satisfaction in their train; Lord Bryce cites the Newfoundland Fishery Arbitration of 1912 as 'the only or almost the only case in history where both parties were perfectly well satisfied.' It is not then surprising that the League failed to satisfy both parties in the most important political controversy arising out of the Treaties which it has been called on to settle; but it may be urged in defence that the League's Silesian decision was based upon an invaluable principle, and that the forebodings, which were so fully expressed at the time that the division of the “industrial triangle,' would prove fatal to output and economic efficiency, have not in effect been realised.
One of the real difficulties which the League has to confront is money. In all Parliaments grumbles are heard at the expense of the League. Some States are dilatory with their contributions. In every country there is the critical economist who asks himself whether
the League is worth its cost. Let it be explained that the British contribution under the new allocation of expenses does not amount to one two-thousandth part of the cost of the coal strike, that the total annual contribution of the whole world to the League is only oneseventh of the cost of our biggest battleship, that the League has already removed some serious causes of difference which might easily have led to armed conflict, not to speak of its achievement in arresting one little war in the Balkans—such computations and comparisons still fail to remove the objection that this is a contribution to international purposes, and that while all contributions are unpleasant, contributions to international purposes are irritating as well. Meanwhile, those who criticise the League for having done too little may be reminded that we have not yet reached the situation of the world which was contemplated as the destined scene of its operations. The framers of the Covenant postulated a world peace maintained by a world organisation. They did not regard the League as an instrument for procuring peace, but as an organ for averting or postponing war. They did not think of it as an association of a few Powers, but as a combination of all the Powers. And in so far as these two expectations are still unfulfilled, the League necessarily falls short of the original ideas which presided over its making and is hampered in its execution of many important tasks.
There is another respect in which events have shown their habitual perversity in frustrating or weakening a well-laid design. It was decreed that the Non-European territories wrested from Turkey and Germany in the war were not to be annexed but. mandated. There was to be no vulgar conquering exploitation. The mandatory Government was to be the Trustee, administrating the estate committed to it by the Allied and Associated Powers impartially, without an eye to profit, under conditions prescribed by the League, and exposed to the surveillance of a mandatory Commission. No one will quarrel with so noble a conception of international duty. What, however, was less regarded at the time was the likelihood that the acquisition of these territories, far from being a source of profit to the Mandatory Powers,
might involve them in heavy pecuniary losses and grave and constant political anxieties. If Palestine is a garden of Eden, the roses have many thorns, and the gardener goes his way amid a cloud of stinging flies. Labouring in an alien land at an ungrateful task, the harassed administrator of the mandated territory may fail to appreciate the criticisms of aliens who neither share his burden nor measure his perplexities; and, as the difficulties of the Mandatory Powers accumulate, the task of the Mandatory Commission becomes increasingly delicate. Nor is the Mandate a form of political relation which is universally popular. With their dark eyes fixed upon French methods in Syria, the susceptible politicians of Bagdad already suspect the Mandate to be an alias for a military ascendancy.
The doctrine of the Mandates is in itself so sound and, moreover, so consonant with British traditions of government, that it is greatly to be hoped that it will strike firm root. What, however, is doubtful is whether there is in the world a sufficient reserve of political and moral power to discharge the multifarious responsibilities which the Covenant lays on the members of the League. We are all a little tired. The war has made everything more uncomfortable than it was before. The strain and the impoverishment of Europe are telling on the nerves. When, then, we learn that it is the duty of the Christian Powers, as it undoubtedly is, to shelter the wretched Armenians, to provide for the protection of the Greek minorities in the Smyrna vilayet, and that as members of the League we are pledged to watch over minorities in Poland and Rumania, and to see that the French observe the spirit and terms of their mandate in Syria, and that the Belgians behave with an equal measure of philanthropic temper in their African possessions; and when we reflect again that it is part of our duty to keep the Magyar within the boundaries which have been assigned to him, and to prevent the Pole from establishing himself in Dantzig or from overwhelming Lithuania, we are tempted to ask ourselves whether we are not laying upon the Angel of Peace a burden heavier than she is at present able to bear. To build up the international mind after the lesion of the last few years is a slow and difficult task. We must not expect too
much at once. If in every year something useful is done and some forward step is taken, we should be reasonably content. A retrospect of the League's activities during the last two years gives no ground for despondency.
It may, however, be asked whether the League, with its Council and Assembly and Secretariat and Commissions, is destined to play a decisive or only a subordinate part in the moulding of international policy. So far its part has been subordinate. It has done some good preventive work, settled some troublesome political controversies, established an International Court of Justice, and discharged the administrative functions devolved on it by the Treaty with reasonable efficiency. But the great political decisions have not been taken in the League. The Prime Ministers of the great nations attend neither Council nor Assembly. The Foreign Secretaries are tied to their offices at home. The debates of the Assembly, though affording a valuable barometer of political feeling in different parts of the world and useful opportunities for mutual acquaintanceship, neither bind the Governments nor appear to exercise a repercussion in those areas of the world in which it is particularly important to augment the force of civilised opinion. Some day, however, the cloud of impending war may again menace the world. Then, however feeble may be the pulse of its diurnal business, the thoughts of peace-loving men will turn to the League, as to a barrier erected by the foresight and wisdom of the statesmen of this age against the surging tides of warlike passion which, being once loosed and having spent their fury, leave behind them famine and pestilence and the undoing of law. Then an appeal will be made to a tribunal whose competence none will deny, for it will have been accepted by all in advance; and such an appeal being once lodged, the true voice of reason and humanity may even at the eleventh hour obtain its hearing.