Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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Diplomacy began more and more to be respon-
sible for the interpretation and enforcement
of recognised international obligations. This


was a work for which the whole diplomatic
machinery was utterly unsuited. Its insuffi-
ciency was all the more pronounced in the
large and growing field of technical business
labour legislation, tariffs, plant and animal
quarantine, shipping regulation, and so forth.
The business of diplomacy was now to watch the
detailed operation of great administrative sys-
tems like the American Bureau of Immigration,
to ascertain the development of French economic
policy on the Ivory Coast, to secure the observ-
ance of complicated commercial treaties, to
devise means for the preservation of salmon in
the Columbia river and the maintenance of
water levels on the Great Lakes. For all this
the diplomatic services, even of the greatest
Powers, had no machinery at all. As a matter
of fact, the existence of this whole range of
business problems between nations has been
recognised in a rudimentary way from the
earliest times. Side by side with diplomatic
machinery, the commercial nations had built
up a consular system to protect the eco-
nomic interests of their citizens. The chaos
in the machinery of international intercourse
before the war was perhaps due to a failure to
develop this consular system quite as much as
to neglect of the better known machinery of

It is perhaps unnecessary to enter here into
any detailed description of the rudimentary
attempts made by the family of nations
before the war to supplement the defects of
diplomacy by more regular methods of handling


international business. Lists of standing inter-
national commissions and bureaux have fre-
quently been published in recent years, from
the Universal Postal Union down to the Inter-
national Statistical Institute, and students are
familiar with the idea, embodied in article 24
of the Covenant, that these commissions should
now be systematised under the direction of the
League. The extension of such organised action
during the war has also been frequently traced,
from the establishment of the Commission Inter-
nationale de Ravitaillement in August, 1914,
down to the Supreme Economic Council at Paris
during the Conference. It is beginning to be
realised how strongly this line of thought has
influenced the organisation of the League of
Nations, how central a position in that organisa-
tion is occupied by the international Secretariat,
and how much depends upon the ability of
this permanent body to develop the work of
the League by grouping round itself the various
existing organs of joint discussion and action.
What is not realised, however, is the full extent
of the possibilities thus opened out. The world
has undeniably been much disappointed by the
form of the Covenant. Instead of a new era,
critics tell us, the peoples have been offered a
new bureaucracy. They desired a parliament
of the nations and they have been given a close
caucus of officials. What relation can devices
so humdrum bear to the passionate desire of
the nations for disarmament, the pacific settle-
ment of disputes, and a final end to national
self-seeking and the wars it breeds ? It is


important to answer this question and to answer
it -right. It is quite easy to give some sort of an
answer. The world is not ready, it may be
said, for more ambitious schemes ; it proved
impossible to secure agreement at Paris on any
general and drastic scheme for disarmament ;
the unpopularity of article 10 in the United
States shows how reluctant the peoples are to
accept any far-reaching obligations at the
present moment ; the discussions which have
raged round the " disputes " articles of the
Covenant have dispelled all hope that the
nations would acquiesce in the principle of
obligatory arbitration or would definitely
renounce, in all eventualities, the right of
" private " war. Much of this is true, but
it is not the right answer. Officials will not
regenerate us ; bureaux will not give us a
new spirit ; even efficient international labour
legislation will not bring peace to the world.
Nevertheless the international Secretariat is
not a pis alter, the last resort of statesmen who,
unable to achieve anything better, have tried to
hide their failure under a few fragments of
internationalism. It is on the contrary the
first and fundamental requisite to peace, and it
is in itself, if properly developed, nothing less
than a revolution in international relations.

The policy of joint responsibilities means,
quite simply, that nations shall in future
approach world problems from the point of
view, not of self-interest, but of the general
welfare. That is nothing but the elementary
principle on which all moral conduct and all


community life is based, but elementary as it is
it has always defied philosophic analysis. A
thousand systems have been invented to explain
and enforce it, but all of them have broken
down. The Greek philosophy of the State as
the organic embodiment of the general welfare
in which alone the individual can realise the
' good life " passes through Hegel's logic to
Treitschke's blasphemy and is whirled away in
the smoke of the guns ; the Manchester attempt
to deduce harmony from the pursuit of en-
lightened self-interest proves itself patently
false in practice. But the simple instinct of the
general welfare remains. It moulds all human
action and does as a matter of fact make itself
felt in every international negotiation. Socialists
may talk of the international proletariat ; con-
servatives may insist on the supreme claims of
patriotism and the national State ; but when
British working men and British diplomatists
actually meet their foreign colleagues of the
Internationale or the chancelleries they are
alike guided by much the same rule-of-thumb
instinct to reconcile national interests with
international fairness and harmony. Plenty
of constructive international work was being
done before the war by a dozen international
bodies, from the International Association for
Labour Legislation at Berne to the Pan-American
Conferences of the Western hemisphere. The
necessity of common action between all members
of the family of nations had been most fully
recognised. If anyone desires to gain a skeleton
idea of the extent of the treaty system built


up before the war, let him glance at the list of
general treaties to which Germany is a party,
revived in whole or in part by articles 282-289
and article 295 of the Treaty of Peace. Few
realise how much labour had to be expended at
Paris on this question of revival, or how many
vital national interests were affected by this
chapter of the Treaty. If the really wide-
spread effort towards joint action, evidenced
by this treaty system, did not attain greater
dimensions before the war ; if the spirit of
common action was dampened and suppressed ;
the fault lay not so much in a lack of good-will
as in a lack of the means to give practical effect
to it. Many hard things have been said about
diplomatists, and in so far as these criticisms
take the form of personal attacks they are
almost invariably wide of the mark ; but it is
true that the inadequacy of diplomatic
machinery was perhaps the chief cause of
international anarchy. Frustrated instincts
fade or become perverted and international
good- will was in fact unable to find an outlet for
its energies.

The lack of sufficient machinery for inter-
national consultation reacted on national
psychology in a variety of ways ; but perhaps
its worst effect was to cut off the civil services of
the various nations from contact with each other.
This may seem a startling and obscurantist
statement to many believers in parliamentary
democracy, but it is almost a platitude that the
initiation of all legislation, of all far-reaching
reforms, rests to-day increasingly with the



" bureaucracies/' This is perhaps less true of
the United States than of other countries, but
even at Washington, and in a less degree at the
State capitals, the executive departments are
daily more and more taking the responsibility
for formulating policy out of the hands of
the legislature. This tendency is doubtless
dangerous, and indeed one of the most urgent
problems of the present day is the re-establish-
ment of effective parliamentary control over the
executive ; but nevertheless the complexity of
modern government must of necessity throw
an ever increasing burden, and confer ever
greater power, on the " expert " and the
" efficiocrat." Without them parliaments and
cabinets wander uncertainly, and in Britain at
the present day the lack of clear-cut pro-
grammes, the blurred outlines of government
policy, may perhaps be traced chiefly to Mr.
Lloyd George's characteristic weakness in hand-
ling a large permanent civil service.

Now, hitherto, except in a few international
agencies like the Postal Union, the national
civil services have been almost wholly cut off
from the field of international relations. The
slowness of the family of nations in the past
to confer about even the most technical and
non-contentious matters of common interest
has been quite extraordinary. There is an
International Statistical Institute and an inter-
national Bureau for the publication of Customs
Tariffs, yet up to now there has been so little
statistical co-ordination bet ween the governments
that the German customs statistics continue


to be published in a form which makes it
almost impossible to collate them with those of
other nations. It is almost inconceivable that
a disaster like that of the " Titanic " was
needed to force a world so closely bound together
by the development of international navigation
to convene a conference on safety of life at sea.
For many years before the war the most
ordinary activities of international commerce
were hampered by conflicting legislation or
national practice, yet such elementary reforms
as the establishment of a uniform system of
bills of exchange continued to be agitated at
unofficial international meetings of Chambers
of Commerce and the like without visibly pro-
moting satisfactory action by the governments
concerned. No proposal for international action
excites more suspicion and hostility amongst
anxious defenders of national sovereignty to-day
than the idea of any positive international regu-
lation of trade practices, yet this attitude, so
common among politicians, is not shared by
the business men whom they desire to protect.
The Sixth International Congress of Chambers
of Commerce, held at Paris in June, 1919,
actually proposed the establishment at Berne
of an international " service for the suppression
of unfair competition/' and only lack of touch
between the national Ministries of Commerce
prevented some such proposal from maturing
many years earlier. More serious still, this lack
of contact between national officials has plunged
every government in continual uncertainty as
to its own policy, and has prompted it to assume


a guarded attitude in any " diplomatic " con-
versations with its neighbours. The worst
negotiator, the greatest obstacle to agreement,
is the man who is conscious of ignorance, be his
sentiments never so liberal. The expert is the
greatest steadying factor in modern govern-
ment ; accurate knowledge and scientifically
ascertained facts constantly tend to narrow
the field of debate and reduce the chances of
disagreement. In the international field this
factor is almost wholly lacking. Each govern-
ment has its opinion, but it is nearly always a
little doubtful about it. Knowing that it can
do nothing without affecting its neighbours,
knowing that their action might throw out its
own calculations, it hesitates, conjuring up
imaginary dangers and jealously anxious to
preserve its freedom of action in order to meet
all possible contingencies. It was on the rock
of this uncertainty that the Conference at Paris
split when it dealt with President Wilson's
" points " of " freedom of transit " and
" equality of trade conditions." No general
conventions were concluded on these subjects
mainly because, while the statesmen were
vaguely influenced by past tariff discussions in
their own countries and uncertain of the future
development of such discussions, there had
been no sufficient prior consultation between
the experts and no mature study of facts and
projects. The expert views of the British Board
of Trade and the American Tariff Commission
were, as a matter of fact, substantially identical,
but they had never been elaborated in common.


Lack of contact between national experts
has thus not merely resulted in failure to solve
technical problems, but has reacted powerfully
on the whole tendency of "high policy/' We
have already noticed in our survey of the new
Europe how fatally mere defects of organisation,
a mere lack of accurate information and perspec-
tive, vitiated much of the statesmanship of the
Council of Four at Paris. This is but an instance
of a long standing weakness. High policy
has been conducted in a rarefied atmosphere,
not as a residuum of unsettled problems emerg-
ing out of the current business of established
administrative departments and referred by
them for solution to the heads of governments
the leaders of peoples but as a specialised
department of government, surrounded with
much parade of inner knowledge, but in reality
conducted in all amateur and unscientific spirit
quite foreign to the conditions of the modern

This probably, not less than the peculiar
vices of autocratic government in Central and
Eastern Europe, is the true explanation of the
non-moral or immoral attitude towards inter-
state relations which brought about the late
war, The members of the family of nations
will try to get the better of each other in handling
any particular problem so long as the conditions
of that problem and the facts out of which it
arises are not dispassionately investigated and
clearly presented. It may be surmised that
there existed among German officials, whose
life work was devoted to the regulation of


social problems such as workman's insurance
and labour exchanges, and to the development
of efficient municipal administration, as great
a reluctance to plunge their country into war
for " reasons of State " and as great a sense
of the frivolity of such a policy in relation to
the true economic interests of Germany as
existed among the peoples of Great Britain
or France. There certainly existed among
British diplomatists a regret, verging on despair,
that it was impossible to link their labours
with the policy of their government as a whole.
International politics had, in fact, been removed
from the sphere of interest of the great bulk of
statesmen and officials responsible for the welfare
of each nation. It had become almost im-
possible to bring to bear upon them the adminis-
trative knowledge and talents of the national
civil services. Foreign policy was, indeed, not
even a department of government ; it remained
the speciality of individual statesmen a hobby,
a mania, or a crushing responsibility according
to the temperament of each. Just as it needed
a civil war in England to bring the Tudor and
Stuart system of bureaucratic taxation into the
field of interest of the average citizen, so it
has taken a universal war to awaken nations to
a sense of the logical connection between their
normal unconsidered business activities the sys-
tem of government under which they live, the
administration they obey, the laws for which
they vote and the obscure labours of the
diplomatic chancelleries.
^ It is to remedy these conditions that tjie


proper organisation of the Secretariat of the
League is the most pressing task before practical
statesmen to-day. In order to realise a policy
of joint responsibilities for which the family
of nations has in reality long been ready, we
have to provide extensive and varied machinery
for dealing continuously with the standing
common interests of nations ; we have to
establish special, but equally recognised and
regular, methods of dealing with matters of diffi-
culty or danger that is with " high policy"
which the ordinary business machinery may fail
to settle ; and we have to bring these two
branches of international affairs into organic
relation with each other, making the heads of
States, \vho can alone solve the problems of
" high policy/' responsible also through a per-
manent central Secretariat for the current non-
contentious work of international adjustment,
and utilising, in return, the educated public
opinion, the accrued good-will, born of normal
international labours, to elucidate, soften and
solve dangerous problems emerging for special
consideration. It is by organisation on these
lines that bodies like the Allied Maritime
Transport Council have marked out the lines
of future international action. This Council has
worked well, because it was staffed, not by
diplomatists, but by officials drawn from the
appropriate administrative services of each of
the countries concerned. Officials of the British
Ministry of Shipping have, in this way, been in
daily touch with the most delicate and important
international questions, and they have solved


those questions by applying to them, not the
vague and general good-will by which diplo-
matists commonly arrive at a compromise,
but the actual technical knowledge which the
administrative services of all nations have in
common, and from which the officials of those
services, no matter what their nationality,
are accustomed by their daily work to draw
certain inevitable conclusions. And these
bodies, created during the war, are not merely
instances of the reference to technical experts
of difficult international problems ; they are
also examples of the way in which such technical
work can be, and must be, brought into organic
relation with the solution of the problems of
high policy. The work of the International
Secretariat of the Allied Maritime Transport
Council constantly threw up a residuum of
difficult problems of high policy, which it was
itself unable to solve ; but this Secretariat was
under the authority and direction of a Council
composed of the responsible Ministers of Great
Britain, France, and Italy and personal repre-
sentatives of the responsible Cabinet officers
of the United States. These men kept a con-
stant eye on the work of the Secretariat and they
held periodical personal meetings in London,
Paris or Rome, at which they discussed the
solution of the residual problems of high policy.
The solution of these residual problems was
found to be easy, thanks no doubt largely
to the urgent pressure of the dangers of war,
but thanks also in great degree to the fact that
any problems presented to the Council for


solution had already behind them as precedents
a series of minor decisions based on imperative
technical considerations which indicated, if they
did not actually determine, the decisions of
the Council. The Council was, in short, called
upon, not to arrive at theoretic rulings on rival
national claims, in the manner of the old
diplomacy, but to do what was necessary to
enable a piece of machinery to run on smoothly
and efficiently.

This is indeed a type of the whole play of
international relations. Fundamentally the
residuum of unsettled problems which the
nations have to solve by special methods of
conference between states in order to forestall
disputes or prevent disputes growing into war,
is of the same nature, and has the same origin,
as the vast bulk of non-contentious international
business which the League will be discharging on
behalf of the peoples of the world day by day and
month by month. Conflicts of policy are either
the product of frivolous or misconceived am-
bitions, in which case mere discussion will
expose and mere exposure solve them, or they
arise out of divergent conceptions of human
welfare and government, divergent readings
of economic or social science, divergent geo-
graphic, climatic or racial conditions, already
necessarily expressed in divergent legislation
and administration. All men agree that conflicts
of laws between states bound by close economic
ties require scientific adjustment, and in the
long run to solve the conflict of laws is to
solve the conflict of policy. It is because this


connection between law and policy has never,
as it were, been embodied in any permanent
constitutional machinery, because international
policy has been removed by convention from the
sphere of interest of the average citizen who
spends his whole life in making, criticising and
obeying national laws, that not only the average
citizen, but the official, who is only the average
citizen in disguise, has failed to grasp the con-
nection between his own activities, his own
social and political conditions, his own ideals of
state education and social reform, and the
great problems of foreign policy dealt with
by his government. This is the fundamental
cause of our calamities and only clear under-
standing is needed for its reform.

The attitude of the United States towards
the Turkish problem may be cited as a concrete
instance. Simultaneously with the birth of
the Monroe Doctrine the United States refused
to recognise the belligerency of Greece in its
rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. This
refusal was not given thoughtlessly but after
long deliberation and difference of opinion
among President Monroe's advisers. But the
refusal once given determined not only the
official attitude of the United States Govern-
ment in Eastern Europe but also the attitude
of American public opinion. The intervention
of the United States in Balkan or Asiatic politics
was, five years ago, inconceivable to any citizen
of the United States. It was assumed that
" America had no responsibilities in Europe."

Yet five years ago the American people


had nevertheless deeply committed themselves
in the affairs of the Near East. Americans
had founded Robert College at Constantinople
and that college had given education and
training in political ideas to most of the states-
men of Bulgaria. It has indeed been said
that the first Principal of Robert College was
the maker of modern Bulgaria. American
missionaries had performed much the same
work of educational leadership in Syria through
the American college at Beirut. Moreover,
American influence had permeated the Balkans
through the unnoticed and unconsidered flow
of Balkan migration to and from the United
States, and Americans were proud of this fact
in so far as they understood it. The city set
upon the hill of American democracy could not,
they said, be hid ; American enlightenment
was inevitably the property of the world. The
future historian alone will be able to disentangle
the threads of Balkan development and judge
how far this American influence has been re-
sponsible for the developments which have
shaken Europe to its foundations, but it is
not difficult to detect the fallacy of an attitude
which could deny the collective responsibility
of the American people, as expressed in its
government, for the welfare of the Balkan
peoples, while applauding the activities of
American educationalists and missionaries and
boasting of the power of American democratic

Now, any permanent machinery for adjusting-
common problems could hardly have failed


to expose this fallacy. Immigration, for
example, is one of the problems of first class
importance to humanity at large which have
increasingly been dealt with by individual
states without any adequate machinery of
common consultation. The most acute phase
of this problem is, of course, that of Oriental
immigration into Canada, the United States
and Australia, and it is the fear of throwing
this particular phase into the arena of regular
international discussion the just desire of
each Western state to reserve to itself complete
freedom of action to protect its people from

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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 13 of 20)