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CRITICISM SHOULD BE CONSTRUCTIVE 1
Objections to a general League of Nations are numerous. Senator Borah makes merry over it. The funny column of the Evening Sun is filled with hypotheses of its operation and its absurd results. Mr. Lodge and Mr. Knox treat the proposal with more deference. Mr. Lodge in a speech at the dinner of the League to Enforce Peace in May, 1916, advocated the use of force to support an international tribunal's judgment. Since that time he has changed his mind, but in his last speech he appreciates the seriousness of the proposal sufficiently to discuss in more detail the plan of the League. Mr. Knox has favored treaties of universal arbitration of justiciable questions and therefore has also a past to observe.
The force and weight of objections to the League should be gathered first from the attitude of mind of the objector. If he is content to dispose of the matter on the ground that the idea is an old one and has never been realized, we are not likely to have useful help from him. One who does not hope that the great war has changed the feeling of the peoples of the world toward war so that they are willing to bind themselves to a world policy of peace as they never were before will certainly not entertain the plea of the League with patience. He must be waked up before he will give it his consideration. One who has no sense of responsibility about future world peace, but is anxious to return to domestic business and politics, is equally beyond reach.
It is only from those who appreciate our great opportunity in the dreadful results of this war to arouse all peoples to the wisdom of uniting the major force of the world to
1 Article in Public Ledger Jan. 5, 1919.
prevent their recurrence that we can have sympathetic discussion and constructive thought. The proposal of a league of nations should not be flouted because the members of the Senate are justifiably indignant over the way in which the President has ignored them and ignored Congress in this matter. When he returns with a treaty providing for some kind of a league of nations to maintain peace, the people are unlikely to be interested in the personal soreness of the Senate or to accept that as any factor in judging the treaty. The Democrats of the Senate, with only one or two exceptions, will approve what the President submits. If the Republicans who object to the League are numerous enough to defeat the treaty they will have to decide whether their objection is really so weighty and sincere that they wish to furnish it as an issue to the President and his party in the next campaign. The pressure of the popular desire will be to have immediate peace. The party which delays that must have a strong case.
The League of Nations is very strong with the peoples of Europe. It is growing stronger here. Organized labor has approved it. It is going to attract the mass of wage-earners and the plain people as it has abroad. With the President and the Democratic party behind it, Republican objectors who manifest no constructive desire to create machinery to keep the peace, but depend wholly as of old on armament and troops to settle difficulties, will not be heard with favor. The contemptuous skepticism of the Senate cloakroom, the cheap sarcasms of “the old diplomatic and senatorial band,” the manifest spirit of “how not to do it,” will be very poor weapons with which to combat an idealistic campaign for a definite plan for permanent peace and democracy.
The next presidential campaign promises well for the
Republican party if that party, through its congressional representatives, does nothing to change the present trend. But if enough Republican senators attempt to defeat or hold up the treaty of peace because it makes the United States a member of a League of Nations to maintain peace they will seriously endanger the chance of Republican success.
The Senators who discuss any plan for a League should show their interest, not by knocking it out with one blow, but by suggesting changes in it which would be more practical than the ideals proposed and would still serve the general purpose. They should make their consideration hopeful and optimistic by searching for alternative details of method which might avoid the objections they conceive. If any of the critics of the League in the Senate, or out of it, have given such evidence of their sympathetic interest in the project and its purpose, it has not been brought to our knowledge. The whole tone of the objectors has been pessimistic. Running through all their attacks is the cynical assumption that the great war has made no difference in the attitude and duty of the peoples of the world toward war and peace, except that for the time it has injured the power of Germany to make further trouble. They, in effect, advocate the retirement of the United States to its shell of isolation, to reappear again only when the war-making proclivities of any nation, Germany, or any other country, shall threaten the interests of the United States. This is the gospel of despair and national selfishness.
The possibility of a breach of national faith may be pointed out as a weakness of the League. If so, it is inherent in every treaty, the value and utility of which must ultimately rest in the honor of the nations making it. The more responsible the nations the greater their power of per
formance, the keener their appreciation of their honor, the clearer their perception of the value to themselves and the world of maintaining the treaty, the greater the certainty that the treaty will live and effect its purpose.
ROOSEVELT'S CONTRIBUTION TO LEAGUE
OF NATIONS 1
The last editorial of Colonel Roosevelt on the League of Nations, posthumously published, is one of the most important he ever wrote. It is important in its useful suggestions and limitations as well as in the spirit of constructive statesmanship which prompted it and shines through it.
The idea of a League of Nations is not a new one, as Senator Knox pointed out in his Senate speech. Among others, Sully, the great minister of France, proposed it. Tennyson with his poetic vision and pen fixed it forever in memory. In more recent times Theodore Roosevelt, in his speech accepting the Nobel peace prize, revived the thought and gave it more definite character by emphasizing the feature of an international police force which could impose international justice.
During the war, men of action, intensely absorbed in the great and critical task of developing all the energies of the Allies to win in a contest so fraught with the fate of the world, found it difficult to be patient with the discussion of a plan for peace which could only be realized after the war was won, and under which they saw lurking a tendency to a peace by negotiation and without victory. Roosevelt,
1 Article in Public Ledger, Jan. 15, 1919.
Clémenceau and Lloyd George shared this feeling. As might be expected, it found freer expression from the American leader, in his unofficial status, than from the other two. Colonel Roosevelt's nature recoiled from association with an idea he found supported by men without a country who exalt internationalism and deprecate nationalism. With them the League of Nations seems to mean the dilution of that intense and moving love of country, the source of all real effective progress, into a nervous, colorless, fabby and transcendental brotherhood of man. Universal brotherhood should, of course, be an increasing influence in the world and is, but it will never be useful if it means the loss of patriotism. The relation of one to the other should be as love of home and family is to the love of country. The one strengthens the other. The emasculated supporters of internationalism as an antidote for love of country are inclined to regard the home and family as reactionary. Those institutions find no sympathetic protection among the Bolsheviki, foreign or domestic.
Moreover, men of the dynamic type, like Roosevelt, had a suspicion that all pacifists were pressing a league of nations as a stalking horse for compromising the vital principles at stake in the war. Hence their coldness toward the subject and their criticism of any definite plan. But proceeding in due order, these men of action now find themselve fronted by a situation that demands an organization of world force to secure the just fruits of the war. Now they look upon a league of the Great Powers, who won the war, as an existing fact, and they face the problem of how the manifold and complicated purposes of the treaty, after they have been defined and the treaty signed, shall be effectively carried out and maintained. As practical men they now take