Not even the war on Rum Row between the wet fleet and the dry has killed the news interest of a speech on the world court, especially when that speech is made by the fiery Senator Borah. But let the observer take heart at this apparent indication of depth and breadth of thinking in America, the cynic points out that the arguments advanced by the Senator are hopelessly trite and superficial.
Defining as the important issue an antithesis which served his purpose well, Senator Borah declared: "The question is shall we have an independent, judicial tribunal governed by international law or a dependent tribunal governed by international politics?" He answered his latter question with a thunderous "No" by saying that the "fundamental objection to this court as it now exists, is the right or authority which the League of Nations is given to call upon the court for advice or counsel and to treat it in a large measure as a Department of Justice of the League."
The very statement of this fundamental objection refutes its importance. To give advice on legal affairs or politico-legal affairs to the League or to any government is in itself not contrary to the primary purpose of the court: to aid in the establishment of world peace. The old Hague Tribunal to which Senator Borah can hardly object on principal went almost this far, and should certainly have gone that far.
It is foolish to conceive of a world court administering international law in the way that national courts carry out national law, for the law of nations is by no means a fixed and unchanging body of rules. It finds its sanction for the most part only in public opinion, and therefore its very nature requires a close connection with the sphere of politics. Senator Borah's sheerly legalistic ideal world court is a myth and an impossibility.
Nor is his objection to a close relationship with the League valid. It is an advisory relationship solely. Furthermore, the League is not the horrible militaristic monster Senator Borah has pictured it to be. It has accomplished far more for the good of the world in refinancing central Europe for example than timid and provincial American Senators can ever hope to accomplish. And is the United States to believe forever that a valid interest in the affairs of Europe and the world brings with it the plague?