A LEAGUE OF NATIONS

From The Tribunal September 12th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

The fundamental error running through all the proposals for a League of Nations now before us is that of assuming the efficacy of armed force as an ultimate arbiter. We are told that in the event of any member of the League refusing to accept the findings of the International Tribunal, the whole of the armed forces of the remaining members of the League are to be used to coerce the recalcitrant member.

That way madness lies. Mights is not Right when applied by one nation to another, it cannot be right when applied by a group of nations to one of its neighbours.

Mr. Balfour, speaking in the House of Commons on Aug 8, made a very valuable contribution to the discussion as to the right basis for such a League of Nations as would ensure peace. The fact that he was the moment rebuking pacifists does not detract from the value of his contribution. This is what he said:-

“If you can once make it clear to German minds that in modern civilisation the moral view of a majority of nations is sufficient to coerce recalcitrant members of society; then, and not till then, is there some prospect of that peace which the hon. gentleman, as well as everyone on this side of the House desires.”

Now it is perfectly obvious that it is not only to German minds that this truth must be made clear; minds very much nearer home are sadly in need of enlightenment, Mr. Balfour himself does not seem to realise the implication of his dictum. But it is high time for statesmen and peoples of all nations to recognise the fact that armed force – the doctrine of punishment – is a complete failure in whatever circumstances it may be applied; that just as the only result of the penal system applied to our erring fellows has been to create a permanent criminal class ever at war with society, so, too, the only result of a League of Nations based on punishment by armed forces as a last resort would be to perpetuate the very evil it set out to destroy.

Russia was “punished” in 1856; France was “punished” in 1871; and in spite of the fact the blood-soaked Continent to-day bears ghastly witness to the futility of such methods, we are asked to contemplate 3 more years of war with the object of “punishing” Germany. And even some pacifists are to be found who pin their faith to a League of Nations based on military force!

Is it too much to suggest that the way out of this Hell is to give Christianity a trial? A League of Nations based on the Sermon on the Mount is the only practical method of ensuring peace. The force behind such a League would be that of an enlightened people who, realising their brotherhood, would refuse to be led to the shambles for mutual slaughter because “they have not so much madness left in their brains.”

W.J. Chamberlain

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