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The -writer oj this pamphlet is alone responsible
for expressions of opinion contained in it.







for Study Circles

THE LEAGUE AND ITS GUARANTEES. By Professor Gilbert Murray
THE LEAGUE IN THE EAST. By Pro/essor A. J. Toyvbee






The League and Its

1. ...

The League of Nations is an atle'mpl to tfieei a new and
peculiar international situation. Hitherto it has been usual
to make wars, so to speak, on limited liability. The stakes
for winner and loser were heavy but not absolutely matters
of life and death. The area of war w-as apt to spread, but
not to spread over the whole world. Above all the necessary
preparations, though very expensive, were not absolutely
destructive and all-absorbing. But the Great War has
changed the prospect. The " Next War," if it ever,
will probably involve the whole world; the defeated party, and
probably the victors also, will be uttery ruined and almost
blotted from the face of the earth ; and the mere necessary
preparations for such a war, in the matter of policy and
armament, will be such as to absorb practically the whole
wealth and energy of the nations and leave no room over for
anything beyond the bare struggle for life.

Consequently the nations have said to one another: " W^e
none of us want another war. But as long as there is any
danger of its coming we must make it our first care and the
very foundation of our policy. We must increase our armies
and navies to the utmost limit, we must make secret alliances,
grab strategic frontiers, and — since the competition will be
ruinous — we must each be ready, as soon as ever we are in a
position of advantage, to strike suddenly with our whole force.
We hate this prospect. We want to live at peace with our
neighbours and to devote our energies to improving the
material conditions and developing the higher life of our own
peoples ... if only we could be free from the danger of being
attacked and destroyed. If any superior power can guarantee
us against this fear of attack, as the Law guarantees the
ordinary private citizen in a well-governed community, then
we could cease plotting mutual destruction ; but where is there
such a power? " And the answer has been made: " Let us
form a League of all nations, and guarantee one another."


" A General Association of Nations under specific covenants for
the purpose of aflording mutual guarantees of political independence
and territorial integrity to small and great States alike: " such is
the description of the League of Nations in Mr. Wilson's
Fourteenth Point.

A guarantee in this context impHes both a promise and a
security that the promise will be fulfilled. Let us consider
what exactly are the "specific covenants" under which the
nations make these promises to one another and what security
they offer for their fulfilment.

The firsi spe':ific covenant is contained in Art. X., and deals
specifically with " political independence and territorial integrity."
The Members of the League undertake (i) to respect and (2)
to preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity
and existing political independence of all Members of the
League. That is, all the members agree that they will not
themselves try to seize territory by war, nor take away the
existing independence of any nation by war; and that they
will unite to prevent any other nation doing so.

This engagement both relieves all peaceful nations of their
most pressing fear and removes from possible aggressors their
chief motive. It seems the first and most obvious of the
" mutual guarantees " on which the League must be founded.
Objection, however, is sometimes made to the acceptance of
the status quo or existing state of affairs as a starting point.

" We are not clear," it is said, " that the frontiers of all
nations are drawn exactly right, or that the constitutions of all
countries are just what they ought to be. How can we be
expected to guarantee any frontier which seems to us unjust or
any independence which is badly used?" What is the
answer? It is that the guarantee only applies to cases of
" external aggression." The League never says: "The
present frontiers and constitutions are right and we guarantee
their permanency." It only says: " The present frontiers and
constitutions, whether right or wrong, good or bad, shall not
be corrected by War. If any details in the frontiers are wrong,
as is sure to be the case, we provide a peaceful machinery for
reconsidering and correcting them ; if the constitution or
domestic conduct of a particular nation is objectionable, we
should be glad to see them improved, and are even willing, if
invited, to help with our advice; but we will not tolerate the
attempt to right any alleged wrong by War."

For example : It is commonly believed that half the South
Tyrol, now given to Italy, really by race, language, and desire,
belongs to Austria. And, similarly, that the Shantung penin-


sula, now given to Japan, belongs to China. How, under
the League, are these wrongs to be remedied? There are
three main ways: —

1. The frontier question may be treated as a " disjTiite "
between Austria and Italy, Japan and China, and cither party
may appeal to the Council or Assembly of the League to settle
the dispute. (Art. XH.)

2. Without any dispute arising, any mem.])er o-f the League
may (Art. XI.) bring the matter before the Council or the
Asseml)ly as a " circicmstancG afJecting intcrnatiiona! roJations
which threatens to disturb InternationaJ peace or the good under-
standing between nations on which peace depends."

3. Under Art. XIX. any member of the Assembly may propose
that the clause in the Treaty which fixed this frontier should
be " reconsidered " as having become " inapplicable."

Suppose, however, the Austrians or Chinese then said :
" None of these methods satisfy us. We do not feel suro that
the Council or the Assembly will decide justly ; and even if
they do, our opponents can still make delays and difficulties.
We would sooner trust to our own guns and the righteousness
of our cause ! " The answer must be : " No : we do not allow
guns. Our whole policy is to substitute an appeal to Law for
an appeal to Force. The decision of the Law may be slow :
it may sometimes even be wrong ; there may be some trouble in
enforcing it. But (i) it is the only alternative tO' War, and
(2) it is the best approach to real Justice that human beings
can devise."

Suppose, in defiance of this article, a nation does commit
aggression in order to destroy its neighbour's territorial integrity
or independence ; what does the League do? It treats the
matter as a of War, and deals with it under Article.s
XII. to XVI. We will now consider those Articles and the
" specific covenants " involved in them.


So far, under Art. X., we have all agreed to let each other
alone : i.e., not to attack or invade in order to upset the present
world order. But still, as nations develop and cross one
another's paths, there may arise " disputes likely to lead to a
rupture " : what is to be done in such a case? Suppose, for
example, that Chinese emigrants kept entering Northern
Australia in spite of the Australian prohibition ; that some
were killed in an anti-Chinese riot; and the Chinese Govern-
ment protested against the Australian law. Or suppose, in
spite of the stipulation in Article XXIL of the Covenant ensur-
ing " ec5ual opportunities for the trade and commerce 08 all
members of the League " in African mandated areas, Dutch
traders found themselves excluded or handicapped in French


areas. Or again, suppose on some habitually troubled fron-
tier, like that of Mexico or Afghanistan, the crop of disorders
in some year became dangerously great. In view of such
possibilities, what guarantee will a nation wish to have before
it accepts the invitation to reduce its armaments and give up
its chance of striking the first blow ?

Presumably it will say : " Before I give up my preparations
for war, I wish to 15e assured that I shall not be attacked sud-
denly, before I am ready, when a dispute arises." The League
gives that assurance very elaborately in Articles XII. to XVII.

In the first place every member of the League binds itself not
to<make war suddenly or to take any enemy unprepared. If a
dispute likely to lead to a rupture arises, and a settlement can-
not be reached by ordinary diplomatic channels, all members
of the League agree that " they will submit the matter either (1)
to arbitration or (2) to inquiry by the Council of the League " ; and
"in no case will they resort to war until three months after the
award of the arbitrators or the report of the Council." That means
that they wait, first, until the arbitrators or the Council have
carefully considered the dispute and tried to make a satisfac-
tory award or report, and, secondly, for at least three months
after the award or report is made. (The award has to be made
within " a reasonable time," and the report of the Council
" within six months.")

This gives exactly the guarantee demanded : if this under-
taking is observed, no nation can be attacked unprepared.
What happens if some nation breaks this particular covenant
will be considered later. Let us nov,- see what undertaking
each nation has to give, in order to be sure that each nation,
itself included, is provided with this guarantee. For the
guarantees, as Mr. Wilson says, are " mutual " ; in order to
be relieved of a danger each nation in the League has to
afford the same relief to all others.

" I am involved in a quarrel," a nation may say; " I am,
of course, in the right. If I attacked my opponent now, this
moment, before he is ready, I could beat him and get what I
want. You absolutely forbid me to get justice my own way.
How then am I to get it ? "

The answer of the League will be :—

I. Diplomacy.

First, there is ordinary diplomacy, the simplest and most
obvious method in ordinary cases. Let your representatives
talk it over with those of your opponent, and see if they cannot
find a way. This will be the old pre-War diplomacy, with
one great difference. In the old diplomacy it was always


i^ossible, and easy, for a strong nation to use threats of war,
open or concealed, to back up its arguments. Henceforth this
evil weapon is tiiken away. The strong nation can no longer
bully the weak, because any " threat of war " is ground for
action by the Council of the League, and exposes the threatcncr
to extreme penalties.

Supposing the two disputant nations cannot settle their
difficulty thus, they agree under Art. XII. that the\^ will appeal
to (2) " arbitration " or (3) " mediation " — which, of course,
are not the same thing. Arbitration applies to the sort of
question that, in domestic matters, can be settled in a Court of
Law^ — either a point of law or a question of fact ; mediation, to
the sort of difficulty in which two people who have quarrelled
can be helped out by the advice or kind offices of a mutual

2. Arbitration.

For example : the most obvious point of law w ill be a question
of the interpretation of a treaty. When Austria annexed Bosnia
in 1908 Turke\1 or Serbia or Russia, could (if the League had
been in existence) have said : " This is a violation of the Treaty
of Berlin, which Austria has signed." Austria would perhaps
have denied the charge. That would be a case for Arbitration
by a Court.

Or again, when in 1914 Austria charged the Serbian Govern-
men with complicity in the Serajevo murder and Serbia denied
the charge, that would have been a question of fact and suitable
for Arbitration by a Court.

Observe that a decision by a Court is definitely a decision of
legal right or w'rong or of truth or falsehood. Consequently,
if two nations agree to appeal to the Court they must, by the
Covenant, accept its decision and " carry out in good faith any
award that may be rendered." You cannot take a matter into
Court and then, if it goes against you, refuse to accept the

Consequently it is only fair that disputing nations should be
left free to choose whether they wull refer a inatter to this strict
legal arbitration or choose another solution— as long as it is a
I>eaceful one. Also, if they do decide to accept arbitration,
they are not bound to go to one particular tribunal ; they can
agree on any tribunal they like, though the League, as a
matter of fact, has set up a " Permanent Court of Inter-
national Justice," which will be the supreme authority on
international law and the most obvious tribunal to appeal to.


3. Mediation.

Suppose a thickly populated low-wage country, A, is next
neighbour to a thinly populated high-wage country, B ; the
Government of B, in order tO' keep up its own standard of high
wages, passes laws forbidding immigration from A ; A in reprisal
takes all the measures it can to damage B's commerce without
actually breaking any treaty. A situation would easily arise
which was very dangerous but was .not capable of any legal
decision ; that would be a case for Mediation.

Either disputant nation has, by the Covenant, the right to
bring the matter before the Council or Assembly of the
League, asking them to " mediate " and propose a settlement.
The other disputant cannot protest or object, as he could in the
case of a proposal of " arbitration." Mediation may take
place on the motion of any single aggrieved party; but the
result is not as a rule compulsory. It is the " recommenda-
tion " of a council of friends; it is not the " award " of a
Court. But of that presently.

For example, suppose in the dispute about the Austrian
annexation of Bosnia, Austria refused to go to arbitration on
the ground that, though she had technically broken the Treaty
of Berlin, she was justified in so doing because circumstances
had changed and her action was clearly to the benefit of the
parties concerned. " I will not go to Law," she would say;
" because it is not really a question for the Law." Then Serbia
would turn to the Council and say : "I am involved in a dis-
pute with Austria ; we cannot settle it by discussion between
ourselves and Austria will not bring it before the Court. I
appeal to you to mediate between us=" The Council in that
case must mediate, unless for any reason the matter is
referred to the Assembly.

Let us consider this reference. The matter may be
referred to the Assembly either by the Council itself or by
either of the disputants; the consent of the other is not
necessary. This does not mean that there is an appeal to
the Assembly from a report of the Council; there is only a
choice between the Council and Assembly as the mediating
body, and the superior ultimate authority of the Assembly
is just so far recognised that if any one party desires the
matter to go to the Assembly to the Assembly it must go.
For example: Serbia might say, " The Council consists pre-
ponderantly of Great Powers, perhaps they will not be fair
to a small nation." Or, equally, Austria might say: " The
Council contains too large a proportion of my chief rivals."
Or the Council itself may say: " This is a matter on which


the Council may be supposed to have a bias." To avoid any
sucli suspicion it is well that every nation should have the
right of having its dispute referred to the Assembly, i.e., to
the whole body of the League, though the proceeding involves
considerable disadvantages in practice, as will be seen when
we discuss the methods of mediation and the ways of carrying
the report into effect.

The methods of mediation are fairly obvious: the Secre-
tary-General " makes all necessary arrangements for a full
investigation and consideration " of the dispute. Each side
submits papers in statement of its case, and the Council
(or Assembly) can make such inquiries as it thinks tit. In
the end — and at latest within six months — it must issue its
report. But now we have to consider several different possi-
bilities. Let us omit the Assembly for the moment, and take
only the Council.

1. Best of all, the Council may succeed before the six months
are up in finding- a settlement to which both parties agree. This,
for various reasons, is likely to be the usual result partly because
questions of small or middling- importance are naturally much
more numerous than those of extraordinary importance ; and
because under the League, it may be hoped, questions at issue
will not be left to fester until public opinion is inflamed and
irreconcilable ; partly because the consequences of failing to
agree will be so disagreeable to all concerned.

It is obvious that an agreement between the disputants
may often be reached even when the Council is not unanimous.
A minority on the Council — or even a majority — may often
be content to say: " Well, I do not think this the ideal
solution, but of course if the two parties are ready to accept
it I am content."

2. The Council may not succeed in finding a settlement to
which both parties agree, but nevertheless its own view may be
clear and unanimous. (" Unanimous " in these cases means
" unanimous except for the disputants themselves," Naturally
the disputants themselves do not vote.) In that case the
Council publishes its report, containing (i) a statement of the
facts of the case, and (2) a recommendation.

It may be thought that this unanimous report of the
Council ought to have the same binding force as a judgment
of the Court, but the Covenant has decided otherwise.
Members of the League are not absolutely bound to carry


out the " recommendation " of the Council; they are only
bound " not to go to war with any party to the dispute which
compHes with the recommendation." Thus a disputant
who obeys is protected by the full force of the League ; but
a disputant who passively disobeys, so long as he commits
no acts of war and does not otherwise threaten the peace,
suffers no penalty except the condemnation of public opinion.
This decision is probably right. The alternative would be
that the Council should not be free to offer any advice which
it was not prepared to enforce with all the resources of the
League. For example : Suppose by some chapter of accidents
the Council of the League was called upon to make a recom-
mendation on the Irish Question, it might very well wish to
recommend certain guarantees for the fair treatment of
Catholics in Ulster which the municipality of Belfast might
fail to put into operation. This would be regrettable; but,
as long as the peace was preserved, it would hardly be desir-
able that the armies of the League should have to be put in
action to coerce the municipality of Belfast. Thus the right
line for the Council seem.s to be, to recommend the course it
thinks best, and, having published it to the world, let the
public opinion of the world gradually work on the refractory
disputant ... so long, of course, as he does not resort
to war or threats of war.

3. The Council may neither find a settlement to which both
parties agree nor reach a unanimous opinion of its own. This
of course means failure ; to a less or greater degree in proportion
as there is, or is not, a clear and large majority in favour of
some one course. All that can be done is for both sides, or all
j>a,rties interested, to publish their own reports, and for the
several members of the League to " reserve their right of action ";
or, as a last resort, to refer the matter to the Assembly in the
hope that some new solution may emerge.

We must remember that this is an extreme case. To
produce it, the dispute must have been of such an extra-
ordinary nature that (i) the parties themselves could find
no settlement ; (2) no settlement was provided by inter-
national law; (3) the other nations, meeting specially for
the purpose and bent on preserving the peace, could still
find no settlement. If such disputes arise — and it may well
be hoped that in the nature of things they do not really exist
but are only worked up by human error— all the League can
say is: "You must still not fight for three months; after
that we have nothing more to say." Thus war is not, and


cannot be, absolutely forbidden, but an enormous pressure
of forethought, force, and authority is put in operation
against its occiuTence.

Lastly, there is the possible reference to the Assembly. We
spoke above of the motives which might lead one party, or
the Council itself, to make such a reference : the objections
to doing so come merely from the excessive size of the
Assembly. About iifty nations, each with three representa-
tives but only one vote.

Complete unanimity in so large and diverse a body is oul
of the question: what counts as unanimity is (i) unanimity
among those nations which comprise the Council, together
with (2) a bare majority of the rest of the members. A Report
commanding this deg"ree of unanimity has the same force as
a imanimous report of the Cotmcil, and may have rather
more moral authority, since the view of Council would, in
this case, be definitely backed up by the majority of the other
powers of the world.


It mav be asked: " Why this artificial insistence on
Unanimity ? Why should the Council have to be unanimous
before it can act? And, when a dispute is before the
Assembly, why should ' the nations constituting the Council '
have special consideration shown to them ? Why not have
the matter decided simply by a majority, or a two-thirds
majority, of the Assembly? "

This question goes to the very root of the conception on
wliich the Covenant is based. First, we must draw a
distinction. On the one hand there is the pledge not to go
to war without trying other methods first, as laid down in
Arts. XII., XIII."^ and XV. This is an absolute pledge
binding every member of the League and enforced under
Art. XVI. by the whole League. There is no question of
voting- or of unanimity. On the other hand there is the
general agreement to have frequent meetings of the Executive
Council and fairly frequent meetings of the Assembly of the
whole League in order to discuss any matters affecting the
interests of the League and in certain cases to take common
action, in others to suggest to particular nations modifications
of policy or the like. It is to this sphere that the condition of
unanimity applies. The great object of the promoters of the
League is to get all the nations, and especially the great
military nations, to agree to cease conspiring and building
armaments against one another, and with that object to agree
to meet regularly round a table for free and frank discussion


of all international problems and difficulties as they arise.
Now it is comparatively easy for the League to say to any
nation: " Come and confer with the rest of us. You are
perfectly free to maintain your own opinion, and need not do
anything you do not like." But it is very difficult to say :
" Come and confer ; and remember that whatever the majority
decides, you must do, however much you dislike it or dis-
approve of it." Such an invitation would simply not be
accepted. Consequently the rule of the Covenant is that,
apart from: the definite promises about refraining from war, no
new decision taken by the Council is binding on the League
unless it is agreed to by all the members of the Council. Con-
sider the alternative : The Council now consists of England,
France, Italy, Japan (United States absent), Belgium, Spain,
Greece, Brazil. Would it be satisfactory that any decision


Online LibraryGilbert MurrayThe League and its guarantees → online text (page 1 of 2)