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Germany is to be, nor Russia, nor the twenty odd nationalities of Eastern Europe and Nearer Asia. No man can possibly foresee, not even Mr. James Beck, what adjustments will be required in the years ahead; none can predict what revolution will do to the process and method of trade, nor does anyone know what will be the movements of immigration, or the condition of capital, or the character and policies of any government five years hence. There is a worldwide regrouping in progress. It cannot be controlled by agreement alone. It requires a continuing series of decisions, and a machinery for executing them, and that is the essence of the League of Nations.
It is a constitution of common action adopted by the stable powers in a period of unpredictable change. To suppose that the conference was merely fumbling with a vague future under the pressure of idealists is a complete misunderstanding. The truth has been stated by the man whose statesmanship has been one of the happiest resources of Europe and perhaps the decisive influence in the constitution drafted at Paris. This man is Lieutenant-General J. C. Smuts. In
a pamphlet published the middle of December, 1918, he states the core of the matter as it confronts the Peace Conference:
“ Europe is being liquidated, and the League of Nations must be the heir to this great estate. The peoples left behind by the decomposition of Russia, Austria, and Turkey are mostly untrained politically; many of them are either incapable or deficient in power of self-government; they are mostly destitute and will require much nursing toward economic and political independence. If there is going to be a scramble among the victors for this loot, the future of Europe must indeed be despaired of. The application of the spoils system at this most solemn juncture of the history of the world; a repartition of Europe at a moment when Europe is bleeding at every pore as a result of partitions less than half a century old, would indeed be incorrigible madness on the part of rulers, and enough to drive the torn and broken peoples of the world to that despair of the · state which is the motive power behind Russian
Bolshevism. Surely the only statesmanlike course is to make the League of Nations the reversionary in the broadest sense of these empires. In
this débâcle of the old Europe the League of *** Nations is no longer an outsider or stranger, but
the natural master of the house. It becomes naturally and obviously the solvent for a problem which no other means will solve."
IT is useless to discuss the covenant as if it I were an abstract document snatched from the blue. It is an arrangement devised by men who knew the condition of things, knew that years of trouble are ahead, knew that no final settlement would be made now by mortal man, knew that Europe would revert to anarchy unless the governments of the world agreed to meet regularly, exchange information, make decisions together, and cooperate in the execution of the treaty. ^ They understood that if each nation went its own way and the secret jealousies revived, if the old suspicions were allowed to fester in each foreign office and in each general staff, if heads of governments did not bind themselves to meet around a table and speak face to face, then there was little hope that the world could rise out of the prostration of the war.
They provided, therefore, first of all for the presence in one city of men who can speak for the governments. This in itself is of transcendent importance. For modern diplomacy cannot continue to transact its business through the machinery of embassies and state departments alone. No decision can be made on time, no discussion can take place without involved misunderstanding by the old method of scattered information and criss-cross correspondence between negotiators. You have only to read the dispatches of the Twelve Days which preceded the war to realize the paralysis which results from the lack of any one place where the great decisions of mankind can be centralized. If there is one method of insuring the irritation of ignorance and suspicion it is long distance telegraphic communication between the heads of governments. The mere act of committing ideas to paper for the scrutiny of biographers stiffens the mind and arouses the disastrous desire to pose nobly. There is little good humor in official dispatches; like most newspaper editorials, they are sick with infallibility, and there is nothing worse for the peace of the world than two infallible diplomats uttering strong sentiment at each