The League of Nations is the sole basis upon which the victory of the Allies and America can secure effective consolidation. It has become essential simply because without it the chaotic system of state sovereignty is bound to lead to further disaster. It implies simply the co-operation of international resources for the common end of peace. It may not destroy, but it will at least minimize the burden of armaments.
It is being widely argued in the United States that this country can have no interest in such a league. Since America is economically self-sustaining, she is urged not to pledge her resources to repair the evil consequences of other peoples' mistakes; and it is suggested that the derogation of her sovereignty implied in submission to the League is a permanent source of danger.
Initiative on Both Sides.
Yet the whole of this argument is obviously delusive since it depends upon the thesis that neutrality is possible in any future world-war. If the events of the past four years have demonstrated anything, they have demonstrated the falsity of that assumption. The years of American neutrality were, for herself, economically gainful; but they were in no sense morally valuable. It was, moreover, obvious that the situation in Europe would not permit either America or any other neutral permanently to profit by the misfortunes of her neighbors. No nation which, like Great Britain, has cultivated sea-power, can afford to sacrifice its content to the clamour of neutral exporters. That will mean initiative on both sides and, if as with Germany, initiative is translated into outrage, the inevitable consequences will be war. From this aspect, at least, America has nothing to gain by insisting upon the retention of an outworn system.
There is another point of importance. No nation cradled, as America was cradled, in idealism can afford to neglect the demands of trusteeship. The League of Nations calls upon her to be one of the guarantors of European civilization. She would be assuredly unworthy of her origins if she sacrificed that duty to selfish and possibly non-existent claims of her private interest.
Suffered From Friends.
The League of Nations has, doubtless, suffered more from its friends than from its enemies. Those who are ready with cut and dried schemes of international organization, in which Costa Rica and England are equally represented, or in which the International Army drills constantly at the Hague, understand neither the spirit nor the necessity of the time. The vital thing, at the moment, is to train men, and particularly statesmen, to the realization that conference is a better method than war for the settlement of disputes. International Government is bound to grow slowly and to encounter every degree of hesitation and scepticism. The League of Nations at the present time means nothing more than the admission that there is a common good in the world and that we must evolve a common mind and purpose for its continuous achievement. The action required to that end will differ as the problems we encounter differ. The fundamental thing is a willingness on the part of statesmen to confront them in a spirit of co-operation