Carrie Chapman Catt

Address Delivered to the Fifth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War - 1930

Carrie Chapman Catt
January 01, 1930
Fifth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War
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All the cause of war which students of international affairs have seen listed at length, have now, by the application of logic and hard study, been reduced to one. That one is the competition of the war systems of nations. How about amplifying this a little, to show how the alleged other causes are swallowed up in this one?

All possible cures of war have likewise been reduced to one: the demobilization of the war institution, not by ruthless destruction, but bit by bit, as fast and as far as it may be replaced by a well-constructed, successfully-operating peace institution. It must be remembered that every nation has a war department, a navy department, probably an air department, and that the possibility of war is the last resort of every diplomatic act. Every nation (Except Denmark?) is prepared for war, and the entire nation quickly slips into a condition of war whenever a carefully spread publicity awakes the war spirit. Wrongs, insults, indignities committed by the opponent, are broadcast as explanations, but when the war is over, historians discover the sole cause to have been rivalry in war equipment. One cause, one cure.

The work yet to be accomplished before there will be a warless world is the demobilization of the war system and the mobilization of a substituted peace system.

Today no king, president, or prime minister would officially acknowledge these points as facts, since the discussion has not gone so far in official conferences, but there are millions of men scattered among all nations who know these facts. Truths spread; what a few know today many know tomorrow. I predict that in the year 2000, when many conferences of statesmen and citizens may be held to review the progress of the twentieth century, the leaders of the entire world will then admit that points Number 1 and 2 are undeniable facts, and that all the peace progress of the seventy years lying between 1930 and 2000 has strictly followed the pronouncement of No. 3. Accepting these three points at least temporarily as facts, I ask you to survey with the situation as it appears in the beginning of the year 1930.

To predict that the twentieth century will be known to future generations as the great peace century requires no particular insight, since the fact appears so plainly obvious. A single century has several times recorded changes so fundamental as to alter completely the trend of human progress. It is not unlikely that at this moment the most revolutionary events of all human history are taking place.

Certainly within the past ten years more constructive progress has been made toward permanent peace than in all the fifty millions of years preceding it. A League of Nations, with most of the world’s states in its membership, has pledged itself to find a way to abolish war. While it has not yet attained its ultimate aim, no one can deny that it has marched steadily forward it that direction.

A World Court, first suggested by our own nation at the Hague Conference in 1899 and again in 1907, has been established with fifty nation members, and we hope with another entering soon. It provides a place and a method for the settlement of all international disputes described by the lawyers as juridical.

Nations with men, money, and munitions enough to start a big war or to engage in one are now called the Great Powers, and at present there are six. Four of these, namely, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, have signed the optional clause of the Court statute which places them under compulsion to submit all juridical causes to this Court. Some thirty-three nations have signed the optional clause. The diplomatic initiative has not yet been ratified by the governments of these powers, but when and if the clauses are so ratified, and when and if Japan and the United States follow their example, all of the great fighting powers will have given and recorded their solemn pledge to submit to the World Court all judiciary causes – and the accomplished fact will be the most amazing act in ten thousand years of history.

More, in the decade just closed, the chief nations of the world have bound themselves to their neighbors by additional treaties of arbitration, all of them important, and some truly astounding. This has been a plan particularly represented on the Western Hemisphere. Several nations have treaties of arbitration with every other nation on the two continents. One reason, if not the chief one, why Canada asked for independent treaty rights was because she desired a share in linking the two continents together by arbitration treaties. A treaty now pending, including all the nations of the Western world, making arbitration compulsory in certain causes, will probably become the law of these two continents, although the process promises the consumption of considerable time and temper.

The most astounding of the arbitration treaties are the famed pacts of Locarno. They are more complete than any that had preceded them, and they bind together in compulsion to peace the nations that occupied the very center of the late war. Lastly, in this marvelous evolution of ten years, came the most dashing and astonishing of them all, the Briand-Kellog pact renouncing war, now signed by fifty-one nations.

Can this be the history of the same world in which thirty-two nations eleven years ago were tearing at each other’s throats? Are these the nations that then were piling high their borrowed billions in order to buy bigger and more destructive munitions than had ever been known before? As Doctor James T. Shotwell wrote recently, we have become “suddenly aware of vast new forces at work for peace.” Standing on the threshold of this new decade, looking backward, all thinking citizens must pronounce the record a glorious and almost unbelievable achievement.

Shall we, then, fold our hands and wait? There are seventy more years in this century, and, alas, I venture to predict that the hardest work in the business of making this great peace century is yet to come. All the progress of the past ten years has been in the direction of building new peace machinery that will keep the world out of war; yet splendid as it is, all the world knows that it is not yet complete enough to prevent war. Any nation in a state of grouch may withdraw from the League of Nations and thus withdraw from its vows. Any nation may withdraw from any treaty. Therefore, any and all peace machinery might break down in a time of stress.

When the Covenant was written, all delegates at the Peace Conference were convinced that sometime, somewhere, a nation would violate its vow, refuse to arbitrate its disputes and rush into war. A vigorous opinion sprang up in favor of an international army and navy ready to punish such a nation and to enforce peace by arms, but no organized plan was established. A compromise was written into the Covenant that has been called the economic boycott, but that process remains little more than an untried theory. It was this division of opinion concerning a possible nation that might violate its vow and deserve a penalty which called forth two theories – one, that peace must be enforced by arms, and two, that peace might be controlled by moral suasion. Opposition to sharing in an international army force to apply a penalty was the chief cause that kept the United States out of the League of Nations, and that attitude of mind is still largely maintained by this country. Personally, I believe the United States will not join the League until the Covenant has been revised and amended and the offending clauses have been omitted.

At present, most countries still believe that a nation will one day violate its vow, but by what term that nation shall be officially known, what penalty shall be applied and how, are as yet quite undetermined.

The nations never have lost sight of this big gap in the peace machinery. Now, there is talk of reviewing the best part of the Geneva Protocol, much discussed a few years ago, and either creating a new and separate world treaty, or tacking an amendment on the Briand-Kellogg Pact which would define a nation violating its pact and put a penalty upon its misbehavior. It is proposed to define the status of the nation which refuses to submit its causes of dispute to arbitration or, having done so, declines to accept the award, as an aggressor nation, and for this violation of its signatory pledge a penalty yet to be determined at the conference table will be applied by the method also determined there. To achieve this result may consume years of time. Meanwhile, because this gap is not filled, disarmament conferences move slowly, and many a proposal which would help tighten the peace machinery is not presented at all.

There are many smaller gaps which plague authorities and darken their vision with signs of future wars. “The freedom of the seas,” which is supposed to be the pet of Great Britain; “high tariffs,” which Americans are supposed to adore; “economic rivalries,” which vex all the nations, are a few of a large number of gaps which may take years to fill with peace machinery. To my mind there is one gap larger than any other, including, in fact, all the rest.

In a world which not long ago won a war to end war, which set up a League of Nations to find the processes to achieve that end, which displays much peace machinery, which has now piously renounced war, is it not strange that no sign exists of the diminution of the war machine? Nowhere have men ceased marching, flying, building ships, making munitions, inventing new equipment, and everywhere taxpayers note that despite all the peace conferences the burdensome cost of war rises each year.

Recently a fresh review of war figures has been brought forward by President Hoover. He informs us that the combined nations of the world are now investing annually nearly four billions three hundred millions in the maintenance of war machinery. We are told that this is a larger sum than war preparation in time of peace has cost the world at any previous time. It is a larger sum than was invested in preparations in the year 1914, when all the nations in the world believed that the way to preserve peace was to prepare for war. No nation can possibly believe that now, yet our own government pays annually for war, past, present and future, 82 cents from every dollar of its income.

At the same time it pays two cents from every dollar to maintain the State Department. Here is where peace machinery is built. The Kellogg Pact cost so little that it did not change the total amount expended for the State Department. We may, therefore, say that we spent annually 82 cents from every dollar of the government’s income for war and two cents for peace. If the cost of maintaining the League of Nations for one year is the equal of the cost of one submarine, the cost of maintaining the World Court must be about half a submarine, and as all the rest of the peace machinery of the world is maintained by state departments, we may call the cost of the present peace machinery the equal of one and one half submarines. When a cruiser or two is cut off the amount saved does not lessen the total cost of war in any country, because all that is saved is expended in new adventures of war. The sum that we pay for war is about the same that we paid before the Great War. The larger proportion goes to pay for pensions of past wars and for their cost; but, curiously, our preparedness for future war cost in 1929 twenty millions of dollars more than in 1928.

Mr. Hoover pointed out in his recent congressional message that we are paying a larger annual war bill than any other nation in the world, and this statement cause widespread comment throughout our own and other nations, and brought forth the familiar statement that there are more men under arms today than at any time before the Great War, and from many sources came the remark that probably no nation was really sincere when it renounced war. Senator Borah, commenting upon these figures, added that Great Britain is spending a thousand dollars a minute for armaments, we are spending no less. “In fact,” said he, “we lead the world in two things – in talking about peace and in expending money for armaments.” Every hour that Premier MacDonald spent on his peace mission to this country, the two nations so profoundly moved in the cause of peace were each expending over sixty thousand dollars in preparation for war.

So while there is a “vast new force for peace,” there is also a vast old force for war. It is building ships and cruisers, airplanes and submarines, making guns and bombs, inventing new equipment and spending millions of dollars every day I keeping up to date the war machinery. Hundreds of thousands of men in many lands are building, building armaments of war, and in their midst the psychology and tradition of war, the vast old force is playing upon the hearts and minds of men which cry out for war, more war.

Most newspapers and correspondents abroad found delight in lifting from its context a paragraph in Mr. Hoover’s message to Congress: “Upon the conference shortly to be held in London will depend such moderation as we can make in naval expenditure. If we shall be compelled to undertake naval construction which would appear to be necessary if no international agreement can be completed, we shall be committed in the next six years to a construction expenditure of upwards one billion two hundred millions, beside the necessary further increase in costs for annual upkeep.”

Is it possible that Mr. Hoover really believes that if the Naval Conference now gathering in London loses sight of its main object in a maze of parity, size of cruisers, tonnage, admissibility of submarines, elevation of guns, etc., that no policy is left for us, who so recently renounced war, except to build a bigger war machine? I do not accept this interpretation of Mr. Hoover’s views. I do not think he meant to set forth this proposed policy, although he has not denied it.

A naval conference is made up of technical men who deal with technical questions. But in the event the coming Conference fails, I predict that we will not go back to a big building program, but that another conference may be called and what the technicians could not do, the people will do. This appears to be a case where too much knowledge of the questions involved produces incapacity to act. The people at least know that it is inconsistent to renounce war and then build battleships.

There are other vexatious matters. How may we explain the recent headlines in our newspapers announcing the building of fifty new war planes? What possible need can a nation that has just renounced war have for fifty new war planes? Upon who do we proposed to drop bombs and why? To paraphrase a sentence of that king of cynics, Clemenceau, one may say that the world’s statesmen speak like the angels of peace, but they act like Mars. If we ask our own government why we are to have fifty new war planes, or should we ask a similar question of any other government – for all are equally guilty of talking like the angel of peace while building war machines behind her back – there would be returned a quick and pious answer. “We build only for defense,” each righteous nation would reply.

Once nations took what they wanted and when they wanted it. But wars of aggression are no longer in good form. They have ceased to be ethical, they have in fact become indecent and immoral. Yet careful examination will show that every nation has its statesmen who strategically can wring from any situation as many just causes for defense as its war power needs.

A nice green island in the Pacific, perchance one with rubber possibilities, or a nice arid desert in the Near East, with prospects of oil, might have come under the domain of any wandering power that planted its flag upon it. Now the results may be similar but the processes are different. The backward people of the green island who have never heard of “the vast new forces at work for peace” must at least throw coconuts at the heads of the invaders before a war can begin righteously, and then it becomes, of course, a war for the protection of the lives and property of its citizens at who the coconuts were thrown.

On the desert naughty natives, perhaps mischievous boys, may steal the cat of the major in charge of the mandate, as was once the case, and a war of defense must follow to avenge the horrible insult.

All wars hereafter will be wars of defense. All the nations of the great war said they fought for defense. None of the thirty-two nations admitted any other motive. Defense is the greatest gap in the peace machinery. The first perplexity is that there is no definition of the word defense as it is now used. So revered, so sacred is this word that any attempt to define it or even to discuss its real meaning sends shivers down every back. No international commission has dared approach the questions that defense involves, yet this mystical word that no cabinet officer could define acceptably to his own and other nations is the gap through which armies and navies, poison gases, airplanes, submarines, ambulances, nurses and doctors, may unexpectedly be hurled helter skelter any day into another war. It seems that when the angel of peace speaks of defense she means protection against assault of a wicked neighbor, but when Mars speaks of defense he means keeping all the war machinery ready and oiled so that if a native should steal the major’s cat a penalty may be administered to the people to whom the native belongs, and that in the logical name of defense. The nations of the world must define exactly what defense is and under what conditions defense is really defense before there will be sufficient intelligence to approach the task of filling this gap.

The next step must be a series of treaties which makes the submission of disputes of all varieties to peaceful methods of settlement compulsory. It will probably be a long period before any proposition of this kind is officially made. When it is made, the controversy aroused will be long, bitter, and interspersed with an enormous number of righteous debates, but the development of this question and its final conclusion will probably prove the great historical event of the peace century. It is possible that some proposal including all these gaps may arise and win the approval of all the nations. It is easier, in any event, to know that we must engage in the gap-filling business for a long time to come. Some of you will live to see all these gaps filled.

Should ships and guns be sunk in deep seas, others could be built; should armies be disbanded, others could be mobilized; but when nations by voluntary agreement have pledged themselves to submit to peaceful settlement all causes of disagreement with any other nation, and to recognize the pledge as compulsory, war will end. To expect any dispute which a nation may choose to define as an affront leading to justifiable armed defense is a certain method of continuing war. To make compulsory the settlement of all disputes of all nations by peaceful means is the end of war.

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