World Peace.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 18th December 1935.

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Photo of Sir Hamilton Kerr Sir Hamilton Kerr , Oldham

I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: while warmly supporting the ideals of collective security and international justice, holds that the time is not yet ripe for proposals as definite as those outlined in the Motion. I am certain the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mandel) for raising this issue. He has spoken with sincerity and eloquence on a subject which he has studied with care, and upon which he feels deeply. When, however, we consider the terms of his Motion we must draw a distinction between the underlying principle and its application. We applaud the principle, for whatever adds to the force and majesty of international authority, whatever measure deters the aggressor from future aggression, we naturally support. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Mr. Entwistle) argued that we must arm justice, that we must give justice, in the shape of an international authority, not only the scales which weigh human behaviour, but the sword of temporal power. Such a proposition would have delighted the ingenious and eloquent jurists of the Holy Roman Empire. It likewise has found an eloquent advocate in this century in M. Pierre Cot a former French Air Minister.

But when we consider the application of this principle, considerable technical difficulties arise. Let is look at the one or two examples of international police forces which history shows. There was the international police force of 1900, commanded by General Waldersee, which went to Peking to relive the imprisoned legations, and put to flight the ill-organised and ill-equipped forces of the Dowager Empress. There was the instance given by the hon. Member who moved the Motion, of the Saar police force earlier this year That force went to the Saar with the support, if not the invitation, of the two great Powers concerned, Germany and. France. When it arrived on the scene, it was faced by no hostile armed forces. Therefore, although the example is valuable, we must feel that it is not a fair instance of an armed force in the field. I think that the best example of internatioral co-operation for means of defence to-day exists in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The first characteristic of the British Commonwealth of Nations is a desire for co-operation. Therefore, the Committee of Imperial Defence, when it embarks on its deliberations, knows that its judgments will be accepted more or less by the several members of the Commonwealth. Officers come from the Dominions to the Imperial Staff College to study strategy and tactics. A certain community of ideas therefore exists when an emergency arises. Secondly, there is a standardisation of weapons and equipment which is carried out between the several forces in the British Commonwealth. Most of those forces drill according to the same drill manuals, and they use the same types of munitions. Thus, should an emergency arise, co-operation becomes easy and is readily carried out. Thirdly, the several Dominions undertake financial responsibility for their respective forces. Those are the three conditions which make possible co-operation between the several members of the British Commonwealth.

Can we, wise with this experience, apply some of those facts to the organisation of an international police force? When we come to study the world as a whole we must frankly admit that a general desire for co-operation does not exist. Three great Powers stand outside the League of Nations. There is the United States of America, which, since the days of George Washington, attempts to follow a policy of isolation, and looks with disfavour on European commitments. There is Japan, which, faced with the problem of a fast rising population and with the problem of providing raw materials to industrialise her economic system, seeks outlets on the mainland of Asia. Finally, there is Germany, that great Power in the centre of Europe, which bases its present philosophy on the supremacy of the Aryan race. These three great Powers, unfortunately, stand in the way of complete world co-operation. Therefore, we must frankly admit that conditions, unfortunately, do not exist in the world as a whole for the immediate creation of a police force which depends upon the willingness of the several members to co-operate.

Let us narrow the field to Europe. Even in Europe the absence of Germany from the League presents an enormous difficulty. I cited the instance of the Committee of Imperial Defence devising a common strategy for the British Empire. We must likewise, if the comparison is to be fair, draw the picture of a general staff of this world police force. A police force demands a general staff, commanding officers, and an intelligence service. Can we, in the present unfortunate temper of the world, imagine a staff officer representing a certain nation listening to his colleagues working out plans for applying military measures against his country in the event of his country being an aggressor? Can we imagine him listening with equanimity to his colleagues saying: "The chief aim of our naval blockade would be to deprive you of nickel and of oil, upon which you base your economy. Our authorities believe that a rigorous bombardment with mustard gas of your industrial areas will paralyse your economic system and cow the morale of your civil population." He would be the first, I am afraid, to go back and reveal those plans to his own country, and advise his country so to equip its economic life as to resist any possibility of economic strangulation. Then, in the British Commonwealth there exists a standardisation of weapons and equipment. Is such a measure possible in the organisation of an international police force? At the present moment arms are turned out by the factories of Creusot, Skoda and Krupp, and in the event of an international police force taking the field we can well imagine the disorganisation in the matter of arms among the separate contingents along the lines of communication—always the Achilles Heel of an army.

Finally, we have the question of finance. We must admit, regretfully, that only too often nations have been behind-hand already with their payments to the League of Nations. Can we not well imagine, in the economic crisis prevailing, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of some other nation announcing in his constituent assembly "Unfortunately this year we have had to raise taxes, and we shall have to raise them still more, because our expeditionary force against country X has been an additional strain on our resources." Those arguments seem to me very grave and almost insuperable when we consider the immediate creation of an international police force. Because two requisites for the success of such a force are lacking in Europe at the present moment. The first is that, to be really effective, an international police force should act in a disarmed world. The police in this country are assured of popular support not only by public opinion but because their criminal opponents do not possess weapons. But in a highly armed world an internatnonal police force would necessarily have to possess twice the number of arms of any possible opponent in order to ensure its success.

Secondly, nations have not as yet agreed upon a satisfactory definition of aggression. Many interesting proposals have been put forward, notably the Russian proposal. But such a case as the following might possibly arise. It arose in the Sino-Japanese conflict of 1894. A Chinese transport was proceeding with troops towards Korea to reinforce the Chinese garrisons in that province. A Japanese war vessel came down and sunk the transport and its escort. Who, in this instance, was the aggressor: China, who was sending reinforcements to her garrisons in Korea, probably against Japan, or Japan, who sunk those reinforcements? Since the essence of modern war is speed, a delicate discussion on a subject would really invalidate swift action by a League force. The French plan of 1932 put forward a more ingenious suggestion. It suggested that nations should set apart from among their armed forces separate contingents which, in an emergency, would be able to form the international police force. But, again, grave difficulties arise. Because presumably the officers and men composing those forces would have to swear allegiance to an international authority. They would be, so to speak, extra-territorial units in their own country, and it is one of the fundamental principles of democracies like France and England that the armed forces are under the control of the individual Parliaments.

I am afraid, again, difficulties like those would arise when we come to discuss the principle, so eloquently outlined by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, of a tribunal in equity. This idea has been outlined for Empire purposes—a Commonwealth tribunal—but so far the separate members of the British Commonwealth have not agreed as to its exact constitution. It would be interesting to see how this experiment would work. But, in the troubled state of Europe, we can imagine instances arising somewhat like the following. Say that Hungary went to this tribunal of equity to plead for the revision of the frontiers which the Treaty of the Trianon imposed upon her. Her neighbours of the Little Entente would have had to consent beforehand to an abrogation of their authority in this respect, that they would be willing to accept the findings of this tribunal of equity. I am afraid that in the troubled state of Central Europe, M. Titulescu and his colleagues would not be willing at the present moment, except under very grave threats of force, to accept the decision of such a, tribunal.

It seems to me that, in judging international affairs the saying of the Seventeenth Century French wit and philosopher, La Rochefoueauld, bears a great deal of truth. He said "We should keep a certain proportion between our actions and designs if we wish to draw from them the results they are able to produce."If we limit our objectives, very often we have a, better chance of achieving them. Scientists tell us that so comparatively an uninteresting object as the human foot took 18,000,000 years to develop, and I am certain that a very great idea like that of inter national co-operation must take a certain time to develop. At the present moment we are progressing, I think, aloe; the one possible line—regional security pacts. The classic example of such a pact is Locarno. I hope in time that the idea of mutual assistance contained in this pact will spread all over Europe, and that we shall see the conscience of eankind raised to a state in which all men are willing to act together for the good of the whole. From these small local and regional pacts there may, in the future, be a great security system built up in Europe, and Europe may be as united as she was in those days when Charlemagne, at the height of his power, ruled from Aix-la-Chapelle.