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The Idea of a League of Nations, Part Two

A small group of qualified Englishmen have long been working toward Universal Peace from an angle of their own. Forming the League of Free Nations Association, they have divided the principal problems among experts, for extended study, appraisal, and suggestions for solution. These inquiries, eventually to be published in book form, will, in the Atlantic's belief, form a highly important treatise on World Peace; but in the meantime, the group has united in the compilation of the following article, which may well serve as an introducion to all attempts at a League of Nations. The composite authorship of the paper is especially interesting, the names of the collaborators being, --

H.G. Wells, Chairman
Viscount Grey, H. Wickham Steed, Gilbert Murray, Lionel Curtis, J. A. Spender, William Archer, Secretary, A. E. Zimmern, Viscount Bryce, consultant


ANY people have said to themselves like Jeannette in the touching old ballad, --

If I were King of France, or, still better, Pope of Rome.
I'd have no fighting men abroad, no weeping maids at home;
All the world should be at peace, or, if kings must show their might,
Then let those who make the quarrels be the only men to fight.

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See "The Idea of a League of Nations, Part I"

But even Jeannette evidently realized that the idea of making the fate of a tribe or a nation depend upon the fortunes of one or two selected champions was but a pious aspiration, which not even the King of France or the Pope of Rome could translate into practical politics.

There is one theory, indeed, which, if we accept its initial postulate, would make limited warfare logical. If battle be regarded as the trial of a cause before the judgment-seat of God, there is no sound reason for pouring huge armies into it. It is manifest that God can deliver his verdict in the result of a duel of one against one, quite as well as in the result of a war between whole nations in arms. On this theory, war would be an extension to politics of the 'wager of battle' between individuals -- a method of obtaining a supernatural ruling, indistinguishable in principle from the drawing of lots or tossing of a coin. But although men have always talked, and still talk, of 'appealing to the God of Battles,' they have never shown any disposition to accept, save at the last gasp, a judgment which ran counter to their passions or their cupidities. Whatever may have been their professions, their practical belief has always been that 'God is on the side of the big battalions,' or, in other words, that war is a part of the natural order of things, the immeasurable network of cause and effect, and no more subject to special interventions of Providenec than commerce, or navigation, or any other form of human activity. Nor is there any reason to suppose that they will ever believe otherwise. If it be difficult to conceive them, in their disputes, abiding by the awards of impartial reason, it is a hundred times more difficult to conceive them accepting the wholly unreasonable awards of artificially and arbitrarily restricted violence.

These truths are so obvious that it may seem idle to insist upon them. Nobody, it may be said, proposes that Paris and Berlin should in future settle their disputes, like Rome and Alba Longa, by selecting three champions apiece and setting them to cut each others' throats. In this crude and elementary form, indeed, the proposal does not appear; but disguised applications of the same principle are constantly commended in the writings of those who, holding war to be eternally inevitable, seeks refuge from sheer despair in the belief that it is possible to subject it to rule and limit, and say to it, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no further.' They cannot or will not see that any conventional limitation is foreign to its very essence. It is perfectly possible, and consonant with human nature that nations should agree not to appeal to force, and should hold to that agreement even when one or the other believes itself to have suffered injustice. But it is utterly impossible and inconsistent with human nature that, having appealed to force, they should agree to exercise it only within limits, and accept impoverishment, humiliation, servitude, -- in a word, defeat, -- rather than transgress the stipulated boundaries.

It may be objected that codes of law have in fact been devised for the partial humanization of war, and that not until the present time has any civilized belligerent made a practice of disregarding them. But these so-called laws of war have always been conventions of mutual advantage -- rules which all parties held it to be, on the whole, to their own interest to observe. The German WarBook quite frankly places the chief sanction of such trammels upon military action not in humanity, but in the fear of reprisals. We do not deny that man is an emotional being, and even in the midst of his fiercest fighting there are horrors from which the decent man, and even the decent multitude, instinctively recoils. Decent men do not, as a rule want to hurt their wounded prisoners, they rather like to pet them; and they regard people who do otherwise as blackguards. And no doubt it is largely these emotional mercies and generosities which have brought about those rules of chivalry or scruples of religion which form the supposed 'redeeming features' of war. But the necessities of war completely override all such weaknesses as soon as these begin to endanger actual military interests. And the logic of war tolerates them only as cheap concessions to a foolish popular psychology. It must be remembered that undisguised atrocities on a stupendous scale -- such, for instance as the massacre in cold blood of whole regiments of helpless prisoners would be too strong for the stomach of even the most brutalized people, and would tend to bring war into discredit with all but its monomaniac votaries. If we look closely enough, we shall find that all Geneva Conventions and such palliative ordinances, though excellent in intention and good in their immediate effects, make ultimately for the persistence of war as an institution. They are sops to humanity, devices for rendering war barely tolerable to civilized mankind, and so staving off the inevitable rebellion against its abominations.


Criticisms of thc project of a League of Nations have consisted hitherto largely of the statement of difficulties and impediments, rather than of reasons for rejection of the project. All such criticisms are helpful in so far as they enable us to map out the task before us, but none are adequate as conclusive objections. Few of the advocates of an organized world-peace fail to recognize the magnitude of the task to which they invite men to set themselves. But their main contention is that there is really no alternative to the attempt but resignation to long years of human suffering and disaster, and therefore that, however difficult the enterprise may be, it has to be faced. The recital of the difficulties is, they say, a stimulus to thought and exertion rather than a deterrent.

And there are certain objections to the undertaking as such that must be taken up and dealt with in a preliminary discussion.

There is, first, an objection which it will be convenient to speak of as the 'Biological Objection.' It is stated in various forms, and it peeps out and manifests itself in the expressed thoughts and activities of quite a number of people who do not seem to have formulated it completely. But what many of these objectors think and what still more feel may be expressed in some such phraseology as this: --

Life is conflict and is begotten of conflict. All the good qualities of life are the result of the tragic necessities of survival. Life, stripped down to its fundamental fact, is the vehement urgency of individuals or groups of individuals to survive, and to reproduce and multiply their kind. The pressure of individual upon individual and of species upon species sharpens the face of life and is the continuing impetus and interest in life. The conception of life without war is a collection, therefore, not simply utopian but millennial. It is a proposal that every kind and sort and type of humanity should expand and increase without limit in a small world of restricted resources. It is, in fact, absurd. It is an impossible attempt to arrest and stereotype a transient phase of human life. It is inviting paralysis as a cure for epilepsy. It is a dream of fatigued minds. Terrible as the scope and nature of human warfare have become, it has to be faced. The more destructive it is, the more rapid the hardening and evolution of the species life and history move cyclically from phase to phase, and perhaps such an apparent retrogression as we mean when we talk of the breakdown of civilization, may be only part of a great rhythm in the development of the species. Let us gather together with our own kind, and discipline and harden ourselves, in a heroic resolve to survive in the unavoidable centuries of harsh conflict ahead of us.

Now, here is a system of objection not lightly to be brushed aside. True, the element of mutual conflict in life is often grossly overstated and the element of mutual help suppressed. But, although overstated, there are valid criticisms here of any merely negative league of nations project, any mere proposal to end war without replacing it by some other collective process. There do seem to be some advocates of the league whose advocacy is little more than a cry of terror at the disappearance of established wealth, the loss of wasted leisure, and the crumbling of accepted dignities. Those who have faith in the possibility of a world league are bound -- just as the Socialist is bound -- to produce some assurances of a control over the blind pressure of population, that may otherwise swamp the world with prolific low grade races. They are bound to show that their schemes are compatible with a series of progressive readjustments, and not an attempt to restore and stereotype the boundaries, the futile institutions, and the manifest injustices of the world of 1914, with only armaments abolished. They are bound to show that exceptional ability and energy will have, not merely scope, but fuller scope for expression, achievement, and perpetuation, in the new world to which they point us, than in the old. In the years to come, as in the whole past history of life, individual must compete against individual, type against type.

But having made these admissions, we may then go on to point out two fundamental misconceptions which entirely vitiate the biological argument as an argument for the continuation of war as a method of human selection. It is falsely assumed, first, that modern war is a discriminatory process, selecting certain types as against certain other types; whereas it is largely a catastrophic and indiscriminate process and secondly, that belligerent states are in the nature of biological units super-individuals, which either triumph or are destroyed; whereas they are systems of political entanglement of the most fluid, confused, and transitory description. They neither reproduce their kind nor die; they change indefinitely: the children of the defeated state of to-day may become the dominant citizens of its victorious competitor in a generation or so. They do not even embody traditions or ideas: France, which went into the Revolutionary wars at the end of the eighteenth century to establish the Republican idea throughout Europe, emerged as an empire; and the defeat of the Russian by the German imperialism led to Lenin's 'dictatorship of the proletariat.'

The essence of success in the biological struggle for existence is preferential reproduction; whereas the modern war process takes all the sturdier males to kill and be killed haphazard, while it sends all the more intelligent and energetic girls into munition factories, substitute work, and suchlike sterilizing occupations. If it prefers any type for prosperity and multiplication, it is the alert shirker, the able tax-dodger, and the war profiteer; if it breeds anything it breeds parasites. The vital statistics of Germany, which is certainly the most perfect as a belligerent of all the belligerent states engaged, show already tremendous biological injuries. Germany in the first four years of the war had lost by the fall in her birth-rate alone nearly 2,600,000 lives, approximately 40,000 per million of the population; Hungary, in the same period, lost 1,500,000 (about 70,000 per million), the United Kingdom 500,000 (or about 10,000 per million). Add to this loss of lives the under-nutrition of the millions that were born and their impoverished upbringing. These things strike at the victors as well as at the vanquished. They are entirely indiscriminate as among good types and bad, while on the whole the battlefield destroys rather the good than the 'unfit for service,' who remain at home to breed.

The whole process which, on a vaster scale, has brought Europe to its present plight may be seen in miniature among the tribes of the Indian frontier. Go up the Khyber Pass and stand on the ridge above Ali Masjid. In front lies a desolate valley, flanked by barren mountains under a blistering sun. On the slopes to right and left, at intervals of about a thousand yards, are oblong inclosures each with brown walls and a little loop-holed tower at one corner. These inclosures are the villages of the Pathan tribes which inhabit the valley, and in the towers are men with rifles, waiting their chance to shoot man or boy who may rashly expose himself outside a neighboring village. For all or nearly all of them are at feud with each other, and though the causes of their warfare are forgotten, it is a point of honor and pride with them never to become reconciled. There have been, roughly, three stages in the history of these feuds. In the first, men fought with knives, daggers, and other primitive weapons, and the result may have been, as a German would argue, 'biologically good.' The fittest survived, the population was kept from increasing beyond the number which an inhospitable soil would support, the arts of peace, such as they were, could be pursued without serious interruption.

The second stage was reached when the flint-lock rifle came on the scene and took the place of knife and dagger. With this the vendetta necessarily became more of a national industry; but the weapon was short of range and irregular in its killing power, and there was still a fair chance of survival, and a certain presumption that the better or more skillful man would escape. But before the end of the nineteenth century the village marksmen had possessed themselves of the Martini-Henry and other long range, high-velocity rifles, brought from Europe by the gunrunners of the Persian Gulf. At this, the third stage, the biological merits of village warfare manifestly began to disappear. The village marksman in his mud-tower now makes the whole valley his zone of fire. Cultivation becomes impossible in the no-man's land between village and village: only behind the cover of the village wall can men sow or plough or reap, tether their cattle, or graze their sheep. Every village must be provided with a communication-trench, so that its inhabitants may pass under cover to the sanctuary  -- guaranteed twice in the week -- of the government-protected road which runs down the centre of the valley. The question now is, not whether the vendetta is biologically good, but whether the tribes can at all survive under it; and weary officials, at a loss to solve the vexed problem which they offer to the government of India, have been heard to suggest that if a few machine guns could be conveyed to the village marksmen and installed in the mudtowers, there would soon be no frontier problem at all.

The question which the cilivized world has how to consider is, whether it can survive, or its life be more tolerable than that of these tribesmen under a vendetta of high explosives.

So that when the biological critics says, 'Life is conflict,' we reply, without traversing his premises, that war has ceased to be conflict and has become indiscriminate catastrophe, and that the selective processes that enlarge and enrich life can go on far more freely and effectively in a world from which this blundering, disastrous, non-selective, and even possibly dysgenic form of wastage is banished. But we have to bear in mind that this reply puts upon those who are preparing schemes for a League of Nations the onus of providing for progress, competition, and liberty under the restraints of such a scheme.


It may be worth while to take up and consider here a group of facts that are sometimes appealed to as a justification of war. It is alleged that there has been an extraordinarily rapid development of mechanical, chemical, and medical science since 1914, and a vast and valuable accumulation of experience in social and industrial organization. There has been great mental stimulation everywhere; people have been forced out of grooves and idle and dull ways of living into energetic exertion; there has been, in particular, a great release and invigoration of feminine spirit and effort. The barriers set up by the monopolization of land and material by private owners for selfish ends have been broken down in many cases.

There can be no denying the substantial truth in these allegations. Indisputably there has been such a release and stimulation. But this is a question of proportion between benefits and losses. And all this stir, we argue, has been bought at too great a cost. It is like accelerating the speed of a ship by burning its cargo and timbers as fuel. At best, it is the feverish and wasteful reaping of a long accumulated harvest.

We must remember that a process may be evil as a whole, while in part it is beneficial. It would be stupid to deny that for countless minds the Great War has provided an enlightening excitcment that could have been provided in no other way. To deny that, would be to assert the absolute aimlessness and incoherence of being. But while this harvest of beneficial by-products of the war is undeniable, there is no evidence of any fresh sowing, or, if the process of belligerence and warlike preparation is to continue, of any possibility of an adequate fresh sowing of further achievements. The root from which all the shining triumphs of technical and social science spring, we must remember, is the quiet and steadfast pursuit of pure science and philosophy and literature by those best endowed for these employments. And if the greedy expansion of the war-process is to continue, -- and we have shown that without an organized world-peace it must continue,  -- there is nothing to reassure us of the cotinuance of that supply of free and vigorous educated intelligence, in which alone that root can flourish. On the contrary, it is one of the most obvious and most alarming aspects of the war-process that university education has practically ceased in Europe; Europe is now producing only schoolboys, and the very schools are understaffed and depleted. The laboratories of the English public schools are no longer making the scientific men of the future, they are making munitions. It is all very well for the scientific man of fifty to say that at last he has got his opportunity; but that is only a momentary triumph for science. Where now is the great scientific man for the year 1930? Smashed to pieces in an aeroplane, acting as a stretcher-bearer, or digging a trench. And what, unless we can secure the peace of the world, will become of the potential scientific men of 1950? Suppose it to be possible to carry on this a present top-heavy militarist system for so long a period as that, what will have happened then to our potential Faradays, Newtons, and Darwins? They will be, at best, half educated; they will be highly trained soldiers, robbed of their intellectual inheritance and incapable of rendering their gifts to the world. The progress of knowledge will be slowing down toward stagnation.


A considerable amount of opposition to the League of Nations movement may be classified under the heading of Objections from precedent and prepossession. The mind is already occupied by the idea of attachment to some political sytem which stands in the way of a world-league. These objections vary very much in intellectual quality. Nevertheless, even the most unintelligent demand some attention, because numerically these antatgonists form considerable masses. Collectively, in their unorganized way, they produce a general discouragement and hostility far more formidable than any soundly reasoned case against an organized world-peace.

The objection from prepossession is necessarily protean; it takes various forms because men's prepossessions are various: but 'There never has been a League of Nations, and there never will be,' may be regarded as the underlying idea of most of these forms. And the objector relapses upon his pre-possession as the only possible thing. A few years ago people were saying 'Men have never succeeded in flying, and they never will.' And we are told, particularly by people who have obviously never given human nature ten minutes thought in their lives, that world-unity is 'against human nature.' To substantiate these sweeping negatives, the objector will adduce a heterogeneous collection of instances to show the confusions and contradictions of the human will, and a thousand cases of successful mass-cooperations will be ignored: we are moved to doubt at last whether human beings did ever suppress piracy, develop a railway system, or teach a whole population to read and write. If the individual objector is carefully examined, it will be found at times that he is under the sway of some narrow and intense mental inhibition, based on personal habits or experiences. Some of these inhibitions, if they are traced to their source, will be found to be even absurdly narrow. The objector dislikes the idea of a World-League of Nations because it is 'international,' or, worse, 'cosmopolitan,' and he has got into the habit of associating these words with shady finance or anarchist outrages or the white-slave traffic. Or he has had uncomfortable experiences in hotels abroad, or he has suffered in his business from foreign competition. Many of the objections that phrase themselves in some such formulas as 'People will never stand it,' or 'You do not understand the intensity of feeling,' are indeed rather cases for Jung and Freud than for serious dialectics. But from such levels of unreasoned hostility we can ascend to much more reasoned and acceptable forms of prepossessions which must be met with a greater respect.

Most human beings are 'patriotic.' They have a pride, quite passionate in quality, in the race or nation to which they belong: an affection identical in nature with, and sometimes as intense as, that which they feel for family and home, for a certain atmosphere of thought and behavior, for a certain familiar landscape and atmosphere, for certain qualities none the less real because they are often exquisitely indefinable. And they are jealous for this 'national' quality of theirs -- at times almost as men are jealous for their wives. Now, how far does this group of feelings stand in the way of a League of Nations project? A number of vigorous speakers and writers do certainly play upon this jealousy. They point out that the League of Nations project, as it develops, involves controls, not merely of military, but of economic concerns -- controls by councils or committees upon which every country will see a majority of 'foreigners,' and they exaggerate and intensify to the utmost the suggestion of unlimited interference on the part of these same 'foreigners,' with the most intimate and sacred things.

One eloquent writer, for example (Mr. Belloc), declares that the League of Nations would place us all 'at the mercy of a world-police'; and another (Mr. I. D. Colvin) declares that the council of a League of Nations would own all our property as the British now 'own' the empire; an unfortunate parallel, if we consider the amount of ownership exercised by the British Government over the life and affairs of a New Zealander or a Hindu.

Perhaps the most effective answer to this sort of thing is to be found in current instances. One might imagine from these critics that at present every government in the world was a national government; but in spite of such instances as Sweden and France, national governments are the exception rather than the rule. There are very few nationalities in the world now which are embodied in a sovereign government. There is no sovereign state of England, for example. The English, the Scotch, and the Welsh, all strongly marked and contrasted nationalities, live in an atmosphere of mutual criticism and cordial cooperation. (Consider again the numerous nations in the British Empire, which act in unison through the Imperial Government, imperfect and unrepresentative as it is; consider the dissolving nationalities in the American melting-pot; consider the Prussians and Saxons in the German Empire. What is there in common between an Australian native, a London freethinker, a Bengali villager, a Uganda gentleman, a Rand negro, an Egyptian merchant, and a Singapore Chinaman, that they should all be capable of living as they do under one rule and one peace, and with a common collective policy, and yet be incapable of a slightly larger cooperation with a Frenchman, a New Englander, or a Russian? The Welshman is perhaps the best instance of all, to show how completely participation in a great political synthesis is compatible with intense national peculiarity and self-respect.

But if one looks closely into the objections of these 'anti-foreign' alarmists, it will usually become clear that the real prejudice is not a genuine patriotism at all: the objection is not to interference with the realities of national life, but to interference with national aggression and competition, which is quite a different thing. The 'British' ultra-patriot, who begins by warning us against the impossibilitv of having 'foreigners' interfering in our national life, is presently warning us against the interference of 'foreigners' with 'our ' empire or 'our' predominant over-seas trade.

It is curious to see in how many instances certain conventional ideas never properly analyzed, dominate the minds of the critics of the League of Nations project. Many publicists, it becomes evident, think of international relations in terms of 'Powers,' mysterious entities of a value entirely romantic and diplomatic. International politics are for them only thinkable as a competition of those powers; they see the lives of states as primarily systems of conflict. A 'power' to them means the sort of thing which was brought to perfection in Europe in the eighteenth century, in the courts of Versailles, Potsdam, St. Petersburg, and at St. James's, and it means nothing else in the world to them. It is, in fact, a conspiracy against other and competing powers, centering round an aggressive Foreign Office and availing itself of nationalist prejudice rather than of national self-respect. Patriotism is, indeed, not something that the power represents: it is something upon which the power trades. To this power idea the political life of the last two centuries has schooled many otherwise highly intelligent men and by it their minds are now invincibly circumscribed and fixed. They can disregard the fact that the great majority of men in the world live out of relation to any such government with astonishing ease. The United States, Canada, China, India, Australia, South America, for example, show us masses of mankind whose affairs are not incorporated in any 'power,' as the word is understood in diplomatic jargon; and quite recently the people of Russia have violently broken away from such an idea of the state, and show small disposition to revert to it. These objectors are in fact thinking still in terms of the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe -- a very special phase in history. But the fixity of their minds upon this old and almost entirely European idea of international politics as an affair of competitive foreign offices has its value for those who are convinced of the need of a new order of human relationships, because it opens up so clearly the incompatibility with the pressing needs of the present time of the European conceptions of a foreign office and of diplomacy as a secretive chaffering for advantages.

Upon this point we cannot be too clear: it is not nationality that is threatened by the League of Nations, it is this 'power' obsession, which used national feeling in an entirely Machiavellian spirit. And this power idea carries with it much more mischief than the threat of sudden war and the attendant necessities of armament. It is about the nuclei of these European power systems that the current conceptions of economic warfare and territorial exploitation have grown. It is to them that we owe the conception of peace as a phase of military preparation during which there is a systematic attempt to put rivals at an economic disadvantage. And it will be clear that an abandonment of the idea of the world as a conflict of powers involves not merely the abandonment of ideas essentially militarist, but also the abandonment of the idea of the world as a conflict of economic systems.

So, as we penetrate these common prepossessions of an age which is now drawing to a close, the positive as compared with the negative side of the League of Nations proposal opens out. Behind the primarily negative project of 'no war upon earth,' appears as a necessary corollary a new economic phase in history, in which there will be a collective regard for the common weal of mankind. The examination and elaboration of the possibilities of economic world-control, already immensely foreshadowed by the gigantic poolings that have been forced upon the powers allied against Germany, is one of the most rapidly expanding chapters in the study of the League of Nations project.


Another considerable body of criticism hostile to the League of Nations proposal is grouped about certain moral facts. Before concluding these introductory remarks, it is advisable to discuss this, not merely in order to answer so much of it as amounts to an argument against the world-league project, but also because it opens out before us the real scope of the League of Nations proposal. There seems to be a disposition in certain quarters to underestimate the scale upon which a League of Nations project can be planned. It is dealt with as if it were a little legal scheme detached from the main body of human life. It seems to be assumed that some little group of 'jurists,' sitting together in a permanent conference at The Hague or in New York, will be able to divert the whole process of humanity into new channels, to overcome the massive, multitudinous, and tremendous forces that make for armed conflict and warfare among men, and to inaugurate a new era of peace throughout the world.

The change we contemplate here is not to be so easily achieved. It is a project of world-politics, and there is no modest way of treating such a project. It would be better left alone than treated timidly. It is a change in which nations and political and educational svstems are the counters, and about which we must think, if we are to think effectively, in terms of the wealth of nations and millions of men. It is a proposal to change the life and mentality of everyone on earth.

Now the thought of those who direct their attention to the moral probabilities of a world-peace turns largely upon the idea of loyalty. They apprehend man as a creature of intense essential egotism, who has to be taught and trained very painfully and laboriously to unselfishness, and the substitution of great and noble ends for base and narrow ones. They argue that he was in his origins a not very social creature who has been forced by his own inventions into a larger circle of intercourse. He had learned his first unselfishness from his mother in the family group; he had been tamed into devotion by the tribe and his tribal religion; the greater dangers of a solitary life had enforced these subjugations upon him. But he still relapses very readily into base self-seeking. His loyalty to his nation may easily become a mere extension of his personal vanity; his religious faith a cloak for hatred of and base behavior toward unbelievers. In times of peace and security, the great forms in which he lives do so tend to degenerate. And the great justification of war from this point of view is that it creates a phase of national life in which a certain community of sacrifice to a common end, a certain common faithfullless and helpfulness, is exacted as a matter of course from every citizen. Men are called upon to die, and all are called upon to give help and suffer privations. War gives reality to loyalty. It is the fire that makes fine the clay of solidarity Thc war-phase has been hitherto a binding and confirming phase in the life of communities, while peace has been a releasing and relaxing phase. And if we are to contemplate a state of the world in which there is to be no warfare, we must be prepared also, these critics argue, for a process of moral disintegration.

The late Professor William James found enough validity in this line of thought to discuss it very seriously. In his essay on 'The Moral Equivalent of War' he deals very illuminatingly with this question. He agrees that to relieve the consciousness of ordinary men from the probability of war without substituting any other incentive to devotion, may be a very grave social loss. His own suggestion for giving every citizen a sense of obligation and ownership in the commonwealth for weaving the ideas of loyalty and service, that is, into every life, is to substitute the collective war of mankind against ignorance, confusion, and natural hardships, for the war between man and man; to teach this, not only theoretically, but by the very practical expedient of insisting upon a period of compulsory state service for every citizen, male or female. He proposes to solve at the same time this moral problem and an equally grave social problem by making the unskilled or semi-skilled part of the labor in the (nationalized) mines, in the (nationalized) fisheries, in hospitals, in many types of factory, and so forth a public service. Personal freedom, he insists, has invariably been bought, and must always be bought by responsible participation in the toils and cares of that system of law and service which constitutes the framework of human liberty.
See "The Idea of a League of Nations, Part I"

It would be idle to deny the substantial truth in this type of criticism of peace. To recognize it is to sweep out of one's mind all dreams of a world-peace contrived by a few jurists and influential people in some odd corner of the world's administrative bureaus. Permanent world-peace must necessarily be a great process and state of affairs, greater, indeed, than any warprocess, because it must anticipate, comprehend, and prevent any warprocess, and demand the understanding, the willing and conscious participation of the great majority of human beings. We, who look to it as a possible thing, are bound not to blind ourselves to, or conceal from others, the gigantic and laborious system of labors, the immense tangle of cooperations, which its establishment involves. If political institutions or social methods stand in the way of this great good for mankind it is fatuous to dream of compromises with them. A world peace organization cannot evade universal relationships.

It is clear that, if a world-league is to be living and enduring, the idea of it and the need and righteousness of its service must be taught by every educational system in the world. It must either be served by, or be in conflict with, every religious organization; it must come into the life of everyone, not to release men and women from loyalty, but to demand it for itself.

The answer to this criticism that the world-peace will release men from service, is therefore, that the world-peace is itself a service. It calls, not as war does, for the deaths, but for that greater gift, the lives, of men. The League of Nations cannot be a little thing; it is either to be a great thing in the world, an overriding idea of a greater state, or nothing. Every state aims ultimately at the production of a sort of man, and it is an idle and a wasteful diplomacy, a pandering to timidities and shams, to pretend that the World-League of Nations is not ultimately a state aiming at that ennobled individual whose city is the world.

Copyright © The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; February, 1919; The Idea of a League of Nations; Volume 123, No. 2; pages 77-82

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