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The Kellogg Pact

ISSUE:  Spring 1929

The Coolidge Conference of 1927 was sprung upon the world as if the work of the Disarmament Conference of the League did not exist. There was much lip-service paid to it in American official commentaries, but it is the deed that matters and not the word. The Kellogg Pact has been presented to the world as if the Covenant itself did not exist. Dr. Charles Clayton Morrison, one of the prophets of the movement to which we owe the Kellogg Pact, hailed its appearance in the following terms: “Mr. Kellogg launched a new idea when he made his offer of a general treaty renouncing war. The idea had taken root in certain circles of American peace thinking but was wholly new to Europe. . . . The fact that America has defined the issue between peace and war in simple unambiguous terms and has chosen peace spells the doom of war. . . . If Christ was standing among us it would be like Him to say, ‘I see Satan falling as lightning from heaven’ . . . It is, we say, the natal day of peace. The peace movement has at last been born. There has been no peace movement until now.” It should be noticed that the name which finally stuck to the Pact is that of the American Secretary of State, though in its intermediate stages it was sometimes described as the Briand or as the Briand-Kellogg Pact. The evolution of its name corresponds to the evolution of its substance—a rather rare occurrence in Anglo-Saxon things. The Kellogg Pact was born in Paris. It owes its origin to that most beneficent and clear sighted of international workers, Professor James T. Shotwell, of Columbia University. In its origin, it was an offer made by M. Briand to the American people to the effect that France and the United States should agree to outlaw war as between themselves. The next stage begins when the Department of State made the counter-suggestion that the Treaty should not be confined to France and the United States. The French Government grew uneasy. It was all very well to outlaw war between France and the United States but when it came to Europe the matter became more delicate, so delicate indeed that it proved too much for France’s legal advisers, and the official correspondence of the French Government seemed for a time to cast a doubt on the compatibility of the American suggestion with the principles of the Covenant. What was it that worried France? The United States insisted on outlawing wars of aggression and no other wars; two are the reasons which explain the uneasiness of France: the first that she wanted to be sure that her capacity to fight against a Covenant-breaking State remained unimpaired by the Pact suggested; the second that she wished to keep intact her right to resort to war under any of the residual cases in which the Covenant tolerates it either by failure of the Council to settle the conflict or by the refusal of the losing State to conform with the award. We recognize here the ever-recurring French anxiety, to maintain a sound line of legal fortresses round her European status quo.

But why was America so difficult about it all? Why was she not content with the French suggestion and limiting herself to outlawing aggressive wars? The first answer we find we may as well give in the terms in which it was couched by Mr. Kellogg himself in his address to the Council of Foreign Relations (New York, March 15th, 1928): “My objection to limiting the scope of an anti-war treaty to merely wars of aggression is based partly upon a very real disinclination to see the ideal of world peace qualified in any way, and partly upon the absence of any satisfactory definition of the word aggressor or the phrase wars of aggression” This answer contains two reasons which however are more closely connected than might appear at first sight. The first of them aptly illustrates the fallacy of current ideas on national psychology. How often have we heard about Anglo-Saxon practical sense and Latin theoretical wind? Leaving aside that “Anglo-Saxon” and that “Latin” which are both misleading and irrelevant, and sticking to “American” and “French,” who is here not merely in the winds of idealism but in the vacuum of irrealism? Is it the French jurist who won’t let go the brass tacks of Security or the American Secretary of State who cannot bear to see the ideal of world peace qualified in any way when drafting an actual anti-war treaty to be signed and ratified on our own practical earth? The claim that a universal, absolute and unqualified renunciation of war is embodied in the Kellogg Pact which the Secretary of State makes here implicitly is, with all respect, preposterous, and no grown-up person can suggest it in earnest without insult to his audience or injury to himself. That is the honest truth which chancelleries long to speak out but are debarred from declaring out of international courtesy. The “ideal of world peace” must be qualified and the “disinclination” to do so in the American Secretary of State is due to the fact that there is only one honest and efficient way of qualifying it, i. e., the organization of the World-Community, a method to which the American State objects for well-known reasons.

This brings us to the second reason put forward by Secretary Kellogg to refuse the qualification suggested by the French to the outlawry of war, namely “the absence of any satisfactory definition of the word ‘aggression.’ ” Now this assertion is contrary to the facts. Thanks to the League of Nations’ work there exists today a satisfactory practical standard of aggression. Moreover let us observe that whether the border cases are easy to define or not, wars may be classed under three perfectly clear heads: Aggressive wars; defensive wars; wars to obtain redress of a wrong after all conciliatory methods have failed.

Now, leaving aside border cases and questions of definition, the difference between the French and the American proposal was that the French proposal outlawed the first category only while the American proposal outlawed all but the second, or in other words that while the American proposal outlawed the third category the French proposal did not. This difference however in actual practice and within the League would not amount to much. The kind of war in question was no doubt much prized by the French merely as a hypothetical form of defense for the European system. But, given the suppleness of the Covenant and particularly the all but omnipotent mandate which the Council can assume in cases of crisis under Article 11, the chances of actual permissible wars under the Covenant are very small indeed for Members of the League of Nations. The matter however presents quite a different complexion if a conflict outside the League or between a League Member and a powerful outsider be considered. Let us imagine that trouble arises between the United States and Japan over the discrimination laws of California. The United States, bound by the second article of the Kellogg Pact, submit the matter to conciliation, but conciliation fails. Japan then refers the matter to the League Council; the United States refuse to let the League -“meddle” with it. What then? Three months elapse and according to the League Covenant and to the French proposal for a Pact, Japan is free to seek vindication in war. According to the Kellogg Pact, as signed, Japan has no redress whatsoever. The example has been chosen with the United States in the unfavorable light because, according to the Covenant, Japan cannot take an uncompromising attitude since she is bound to conciliate and come before the Council to the bitter end. But the United States remain motu propio outside the League and free from the obligations which the Covenant of the League entails. It is therefore evident that the difference between the French proposal and the Kellogg counter-proposal is all to the advantage of the States which are not Members of the League.

This conclusion becomes still more apparent when the two following facts are taken into account:

First, that while a war of self-defense is of course permissible both under the Covenant and under the Kellogg Pact it is in the Covenant severely watched over and regulated by the complicated system of outlawry which Articles 8-20 of the Covenant imply, while nothing prevents a State outside the League from waging any kind of war it wishes and calling it defensive. Bad faith, though not to be altogether overlooked, is not the greatest danger here. The gravest danger is wrongheadedness, a stout conviction that “my country is in the right” even in ludicrously wrong circumstances. It is impossible to discuss this point without drawing the reader’s attention to the fact that the very nation which suggested the outlawry of war without qualifications should at the same time be waging a war in a foreign country. The Nicaraguan affair may be described in a variety of ways but if the outlawry of war is to be considered as compatible with that the idea is less ideal than some American idealists would have us believe.

The second fact to be considered is that the efficiency of the Pact is naturally proportional to the efficiency of its second article whereby the High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatsoever nature or origin they may be, which may, arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means. Now this article implies such a startling alteration in the policy followed by, the United States not merely in recent years but under Mr. Kellogg himself, that the natural conclusion to which not a few men and even governments have jumped is that the article does not mean what it says. What, for instance, about the Monroe Doctrine? In a note singularly lacking in political wisdom from both the point of view of the world and the national British point of view, the British Government reserved for itself freedom of action (whatever that may mean) in certain areas of the world, invoking the similar position existing under the Monroe Doctrine for the United States. Now the Monroe Doctrine had not been mentioned by the American Government in connection with the Kellogg Pact. It would be a difficult subject to raise without “qualifying the ideal of world peace” which Secretary Kellogg wants to maintain spotlessly unqualified. But there are such things as eloquent silences and despite the indiscreet blurting out of the thing by the British Government, the American Government remained obstinately silent about the Monroe Doctrine. The present writer heard Dr. Clayton Morrison in no less a place than Geneva assert in public that it was the intention of the American Government not to except the Monroe Doctrine from the Kellogg Pact. Such a declaration coming from a man who is counted in both Continents as one of the inspirers of the Kellogg Pact and in general of the outlawry of war deserves the greatest possible attention. It attributes to the American Government so startling a departure from a traditional policy as would seem to require a more positive statement than mere silence even in the face of provocation. Moreover what happens under the black cloak of this official silence? There is only one way of interpreting a silent being: watching his actions. Now the same Secretary of State who has put forward this unqualified ideal of world peace has been actively engaged in renewing treaties of arbitration with a number of powers in which a reservation in favor of the Monroe Doctrine has been introduced now, though such a reservation did not exist in the previous form of the treaty. Treaties have been offered to Great Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Esthonia, Egypt and Spain. All the new treaties bring in the new Monroe Doctrine reservation. The old treaties renewed have been amended so as to insert this reservation. In the circumstances, the inevitable conclusion is that the United States do not mean to arbitrate any question arising out of the Monroe Doctrine, which for practical purposes means any question arising out of events happening on the American Continent.

What is then the value of the Kellogg Pact? First it must be made quite clear that as a pact for the outlawry of war, i. e., as a psychological method for driving war out of human possibilities, the Pact is as good as non-existent. Not only in its reservations and interpretations but in its very essence the Pact does not outlaw all wars. It must therefore be considered merely as one of the systems before the world whereby a certain number of wars are forbidden by collective treaty. Viewed in this light the Pact presents quite a different efficiency according to whether it is considered in its effects on League Members or on non-League Members.

In the first case, that is to say the case of the Members of the League, the Kellogg Pact closes the gaps in the Covenant just as the Protocol did. But as such of course it only outlaws aggressive wars. It forbids neither defensive war nor League wars of collective vindication of rights amounting to collective defensive wars. These two points are now admitted on both sides of the Atlantic. The Kellogg Pact therefore, so far as the League is concerned, is a rough and incomplete sketch of the Geneva Protocol which however has practically the same results as far as outlawry of war is concerned.

As to non-Member States the Kellogg Pact is an instrument of moral discipline without any guarantee of actual efficiency. The non-Member State is free to interpret its second article as it wishes and to find reasons for not going to arbitration (for instance American tacit reservation on the Monroe Doctrine). It is also free to interpret the first article of the Pact as it wishes or as it feels compelled to do by, its own state of mind at the moment, calling the war “defensive war” or “intervention” or any high-sounding name which may appeal to its public opinion.

It will be noticed therefore that from this first point of view the efficiency of the Kellogg Pact may be considered under two heads: its efficiency in stopping permissible wars which are left open by the Covenant; its inefficiency in stopping “defensive” wars which are efficiently stopped by the Covenant; that is why the Kellogg Pact finally shuts up the ring in which the League Members are enclosed but it leaves non-Member States free to escape from the war prohibition ring through the wide opening of the “defensive” war which for them remains gaping.

From another point of view the Kellogg Pact has often been considered as an important step in international politics because statesmen and critics of international affairs have seen it as the beginning of an evolution of the United States of America towards the organized World-Community and the League. The present writer has himself expressed this view during the first period of the international discussion which followed the presentation of the proposal in an article in the London Times, April, 1928. This argument calls in question the whole genesis and evolution of the Pact from the American side. The Pact was evidently born of the Outlawry of War School. This School, we know, is led by idealists of transparent honesty but who hold strong prejudices about Europe and about the League. Their opposition to political conciliation as distinct from judicial settlement is inspired in noble if, I believe, mistaken conceptions. Theirs is the all-or-nothing attitude about outlawry without qualification. The political machinery tried to satisfy this group and incidentally to reap some international kudos for the American Nation by suggesting the multilateral treaty to M. Briand. But it was evident to any experienced internationalist that such a suggestion was bound to raise all the problems which the Protocol had tried to solve—problems which are not due to European wickedness (wicked as Europe no doubt is) but to the nature of things. The obvious step following the initial suggestion of a multilateral treaty should therefore have been a round-table conference, i. e., the conciliatory international method put at the service of the conciliatory international aim. The idea was of course mooted in Europe. Mr. Kellogg frowned hard. For the chief attraction of his Pact was that America could contribute a magnificent “unqualified” idea to the peace movement—could and did in Dr. Morrison’s words begin a movement which had never begun before—without paying a cent in loss of international liberty and independence in its conduct. The Pact therefore, though aiming at peace and cooperation, was transacted by methods of power and isolation. Hence the maze of speeches, declarations, notes, reservations, and silences which obscure its meaning. And on the day the thought was mooted that it might be considered as the first step to further collaboration between the United States and Europe the most authoritative voices in the State rose to put down the error severely. America was ready, to sign that she would not go to war unless she wanted to and that she would arbitrate whenever she thought fit on the points which her Senate would define (for that is ultimately what the Pact means) but she was not going to give up one inch of her international sovereignty, America thus took back in the spirit what she gave in the letter and in the Kellogg Pact she showed the world a magnificent example of splendid isolation and power in terms of idealism.

The result was felt soon enough. The American President, after having congratulated himself and his nation on the idealism of the Kellogg Pact outlawing war, proceeded to advocate a strong navy to guarantee American defense.


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