The United States and Neutralization

“In removing lands and waterways forever from the field of possible war we may effectively check the growing menace of militarism, renew the abandoned work of disarmament, and meet the needs even of the armed and colony-holding nations of to-day.”

When the future historian comes to review the first decade of our twentieth century he may indeed be puzzled, but if he is fair to us he will recognize some of the difficulties under which our world-troubles and world-problems are being worked out. He will see that we are living, not in an ideal state of world-sympathy, but divided among many independent nations separated one from the other by commercial and political differences and by the strong barriers of national patriotism. The persistent conception of world-empire seems at length to have given way before a number of communities intent upon their separate national existences, and uniting only to preserve a balance of power among themselves or to prevent any one from obtaining predominance over the rest. In our own decade this separation has been still further emphasized by tariff walls and colonial preferences, by carefully stimulated patriotisms, and, especially, by an enormous increase in the military and naval armaments of each country. The nations have become less subject to outside coercion, at the cost of an intolerable burden of militarism which has overrun the world.

The price of peace in battleships and cruisers, in coast-defense and dockyards, in armies, arsenals, and maintenance, has become the destructive plague of the civilized world. England has spent in the past year a third of a billion upon her army and her navy. The United States, great peace nation that we are, with a continent’s work to do and millions of acres to be reclaimed and utilized, spent one hundred and ten million dollars on our navy alone; and in twelve years we have increased our standing army three-fold. Four hundred millions from our revenues are pledged annually in pension for past wars or in preparation for wars to come, while a bill to create an Appalachian forest reserve at the cost of a single battleship, a bill which would save double its cost to the nation each year in preserving timber and water-supply and soil, has failed three times, as being too expensive to be undertaken. In France, the financial situation is yearly more hopeless and alarming. Military debts and the expenses of new armaments absorb three-fifths of the entire national revenue. Germany has borrowed the money for her new navy, and thrown the burden on the coming generation; the empire which started life with a credit of a billion dollars is now, after forty years, bearing the burden of a debt more than twice as large. The total expenditure of the world last year upon entirely unproductive armaments by sea and land is not far short of two billion dollars.

This burden is not borne by great and wealthy nations alone. Other countries of lesser resources, and without even hereditary enemies, are arming themselves to the teeth against a possible attack by any nation whatsoever. We read that Norway and Sweden are building navies, that Argentina and Brazil have ordered Dreadnoughts and their attendant cruisers and boats of supply. Not knowing what particular nation to fear, the nations of the world are preparing themselves each against the strongest, and the taxpayer looking about him is informed by the military and naval authorities that in the still further increase of armaments rests his only security from uneasiness and alarm.

Kipling has written a poem that is terrible satire on our modern civilization. Dives, in hell, agrees in return for liberty to maintain peace on earth. He establishes headquarters in the money-centres, lends funds wherewith to purchase arms, and binds the nations so heavily in the bonds of debt that no one of them can afford to fight.

Behold the pride of Moab! For the swords about his path
His bond is to Philistia, the half of all he hath;
And he may not draw the sword until Gaza give the word,
And he gain release from Askalon and Gath.

It is a sordid peace at best, of uncertain duration and, like all things connected with the devil and his ministers, enormously expensive. With the masses of our populations never more averse to war or more generally ignorant of fighting, we are competing in providing ourselves with the most deadly and most expensive weapons in unprecedented quantities. If there is some better way of maintaining our peace, our possessions, our national individualities, and our Christian ideals, than by arming more and more until the nations, already crippled in their industrial and humanitarian development, lead each other down a senseless race to bankruptcy, it is time we thought it out and found it.

In the realization of peace, three methods have been tried. The first of these has been to secure peace by means of international conventions. From these have arisen the Red Cross Society, providing relief from the actual sufferings of war, and protection for those engaged in the care of sick and wounded; the Open Door in China, that the commercial nations of the world may share equally in future opportunities for trade and commerce with the Orient; and finally the establishment of arbitration as a permanently available resource in international difficulties. But none of these measures has put a stop to competitive military preparations. In spite of our Peace Conferences, in spite of the Open Door and the permanent Board of Arbitration sitting at The Hague, each year has seen a steady increase in the sums expended upon military and naval armaments, together with burdens of taxation and mortgages upon the future never before contemplated.

The second method, that of an international agreement for the limitation of armaments, was proposed about eight years ago. It was thoroughly discussed at the last Peace Conference, and, after being blocked there by Germany, has seen been frankly and almost universally abandoned as impossible. Admiral von Koester, late commander-in-chief of the German battle fleet, clearly expressed the attitude of the militarists on this point in his recent speech at Kiel: —

‘I have read with interest all the articles published on the subject,’ said he, ‘and I have not found one that offered any practical proposal. We ought to disarm! In the first place we will take the doctrine that only the absolutely stronger can disarm. He, however, will not do so. Then the vanquished can disarm. About the hardest condition which the conqueror can impose is when he says to the vanquished: “Disarm!” And we Germans know best of all what that means, when we remember the beginning of the nineteenth century, and the conditions imposed upon us then.

‘We now come to the third principle: international disarmament. This must be an international agreements among all peoples. Do you believe that this is at all possible? For such a purpose there would have to be a permanent congress, which would be perpetually calculating in this fashion: “From to-day you have the right to build so many ships. Now, you may build another torpedo-boat because your economic interests have grown, your exports have risen so-and-so much.” I consider that disarmament can only mean the paralysis of free development.

‘There is, as Professor Harms has shown, a fourth principle of disarmament, — disarmament based on alliance. Now, if one wants an ally one must be up to the alliance standard of power. To comply with that rule a nation must bring something with it into the alliance, — an army or a fleet. If it has neither, and brings nothing with it, then it is not worth acceptance as an ally. But even alliances are not of eternal duration. Alliances appear to-day and are gone to-morrow, and the political horizon changes constantly from day to day. Even if ships can be quickly built, the organization, the building up of the system, is a thing that requires many years. Therefore, even in the case of an alliance, one would still need, in order to provide for the eventuality of fresh complications, to build and arm a fleet and to carry it to its full development.

‘There can be no practical value in any proposal for international disarmament.’

And so Germany continues to pile up battleships and taxes, and other nations of necessity follow her lead.

Conventions have done much to promote peace and coöperation among civilized nations, but they have never affected a military appropriation or delayed the laying of a single keel. Increases in armaments must continue so long as they remain competitive. But we have examples of nations which are withdrawn from competition in war-like preparations, the armies of which are never called into action; these nations are protected by the guarantee of their neighbors in secure and honorable peace. There is a third method in the realization of peace, and a means for disarmament which Admiral von Koester did not mention. It is disarmament by neutralization.

Neutralization is the imposition by international agreement of perpetual neutrality over land and water. Its purpose is the removal of objects of international dispute by placing them forever outside of the realm of war, which is lessened by their extent. Since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, neutralization has maintained Switzerland in independence, integrity, and unviolated neutrality down to this day. In 1831 the same protection was extended to Belgium, and in 1867 to Luxembourg, with what effect in reducing the burdens of defense and minimizing the danger line of invasion, any garrison-card of the German or French army will show. Permanent neutrality was applied first to entire states lying between hostile neighbors, but soon it was recognized that points of dispute between nations and objects of attack in time of war were no longer in great part the territories of states themselves, but provinces and colonial possessions, and, most of all, the commercial advantages resulting from the exclusive possession of them. There followed the neutralization of Savoy, the Ionian Islands, the Basin of the Congo, and finally the permanent neutrality of the Suez Canal as an international waterway. In neutralization has lain a remedy ready to our hand, of which we have only slowly realized the power. In removing lands and waterways forever from the field of possible war we may effectively check the growing menace of militarism, renew the abandoned work of disarmament, and meet the needs even of the armed and colony-holding nations of to-day.

What shall be the part played by the United States in the future of neutralization?

In the first place, the United States recognizes, or is interested in maintaining, its provisions in three different parts of the world. It joined with the principal commercial nations in the Treaty of Berlin of 1885, which recognizes the neutrality and the freedom to commerce of the entire basin of the Congo River; and it was the only power present at the conference to propose the permanent neutralization of all that part of Central Africa.

With regard to the Panama Canal, in 1901 there was signed with Great Britain the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty which, while abolishing the unpopular Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, affirmed for any inter-oceanic canal which shall be built across the isthmus the same provisions which govern the neutrality of the Suez Canal as established by the Treaty of Constantinople in 1888. By this it is agreed to maintain: —

1. Freedom of transit in time of war or peace to all vessels of all nations.

2. Freedom of the Canal and its terminals from blockade.

3. A code of procedure for war-vessels entering and leaving the Canal.

4. That there shall be no fortifications along the route.

This treaty with England, which however does not amount to complete neutralization, since it is an agreement between two nations only, further provides that the Canal is to be safeguarded and maintained in neutrality by the United States alone, and consequently is a compromise between neutralization and complete American control.

Since the beginning of the year, we have seen still a third instance of interest in neutralization in the proposal of the Secretary of State to neutralize the Manchurian railways. Whether that proposal is premature or not is undecided. At any rate, it is in conformity with the increased possibilities of neutralization, and with our recognized foreign policy in the past. It was the policy of the late Secretary Hay to urge the united action of all influential countries in maintaining the Open Door of trade in China. It is the policy of the present Secretary to accomplish the same end by uniting the commercial nations, and those with surplus money to invest, such as the United States, Japan, England, Germany, and France, in the building and control of international railways in the East, and thus assuring the Open Door by means of a union of their common commercial interests.

The control of the Manchurian railways is certain to be of no little importance in the future of that country. We are thoroughly aware of the tendency of railway interests to dominate the financial and political activities of a state; and if at some future time the various commercial nations which now control portions of the Manchurian railways should decide to separate their interests, China would be in the greatest danger of being divided as the result of an international misunderstanding. Neutralization of the railroads would at once and forever remove this danger.

But a far more important question than the future of Manchurian railways lies before the people of the United States. Militarism is destructive of better things, and many a loyal American is questioning what occasion the United States may really have for its continued extension. We need not fear invasion; we have no hereditary enemies. If we ask any American why our naval expenditure last year was one hundred and thirty million dollars, and why our standing army, which in 1898 was twenty-five thousand men, — about the size of the London police force, — is now nearly four times that number, he will answer that it is to guard the Philippines. That is true, and if questioned loosely as to what good is to come to America from them, and from the two hundred million dollars spent upon their subjugation and defense, and whether the average citizen is ten cents richer by their possession, he will probably say, ‘What can we do with them? Japan would get them if we let them go.’ But if our presence there is doing us little appreciable good, and, by stirring up our neighbors and wakening China to the presence of an armed foreign power in close geographical relation to her own shores, is doing us positive harm, why not deal with them some other way?

Unless we are really entered upon a career of conquest, — such as characterized empires before us and results in prefectures and dominion over races not our own, — it is time we faced the question fairly: Is there need for our maintaining a double navy, obviously in excess of what is necessary for the protection of our citizens abroad and our country at home, and of further exciting the distrust and jealousy of the East, if we can by neutralizing the islands, and without loss of sovereignty, place them in a position of permanent neutrality?

We are a great nation, the greatest nation to-day of those bordering on the Pacific Ocean, and the future of that ocean lies largely in our hands. We can if we will make it an area of strained relationships, of latent hostilities, and keep it so by expending our resources in competitive armaments against the developing East. And we can neutralize the Philippines, and reduce our navy at once to its proper sphere of home-protection, and make the Pacific in truth a peaceful sea. The effect upon our relations with the East will be instantaneous. If we may believe our returned travelers, the people of China are not hostile and warlike, but peace-loving and industrious, and are being ‘blooded’ to Western ideals of self-protection and competitive armaments only under the pressure of battleships and territorial aggressions. If this is to continue, we may well fear, as Mr. Jefferson says, in the Delusion of Militarism, a meeting with China on the battlefield where numbers—with a little training in rifle-practice—out-weigh the graces of a Christian heart, and the spiritual attainments of two thousand years.

The Philippines can be neutralized; not indeed as Switzerland has been neutralized, but as provinces and islands have been neutralized in the past. They are our property, and we can neutralize them, with the consent and coöperation of the great powers of the world, without losing our sovereignty over them, and without lessening in any way our power or our duty to keep order, to build schools, and to maintain a stable and reasonable government. But we must be prepared to give up something, because while they are our property they are possible points of attack, and we cannot retain exclusive privileges if we throw the responsibility for their defense upon the world.

What would be the situation in the Philippine Islands if they should become internationally guaranteed in permanent neutrality? Something may be learned from examples of neutralization in the past: Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Congo; and most of all from the position of Savoy and the Ionian Islands, because they are not states themselves, but neutralized parts of an otherwise unneutralized whole. We know, for example, that no revenue may be exacted from a neutralized province in time of war, nor may soldiers be levied there, nor may material of a contraband nature be shipped from there to the parent country. We know too that the parent state can neither cede a portion of the neutralized province, nor grant an exclusive right to a coaling station within it, nor permit a passage or occupation by foreign troops. On the other hand, the state may maintain open coaling stations, and keep sufficient troops of its own in the province to maintain security and order, and if necessary to preserve the neutrality of the province by force of arms.

As to the demolition of fortifications there is no fixed rule. Five fortresses of Belgium—Ath, Mons, Menin, Philippeville, and Marienbourg—were demolished by the Treaty of 1831, and most of the others have since been razed. All the fortresses of Corfu were demolished in accordance with the treaty of its neutralization. Switzerland however retains her fortresses, and doubtless owes her inviolability to the fact. They seem to have been reserved because of the importance of the Swiss passes to any one of her neighbors at war with another power, and in case the advantage to be gained might lend inducement to a breach of neutrality. In the Philippines, with the exception of forts necessary to ensure the absolute neutrality of the harbors, no such need for fortifications exists, and their absence would afford the less occasion for a military seizure of the islands.

The greatest difficulty and the point where, if anywhere, the proposal for the neutralization of the Philippines would be likely to fail, is with the tariff. No proposition for their neutralization can be made that does not first fairly meet and answer that objection. There can be no exclusive tariff advantages between the United States and the neutralized Philippine Islands. This is because their value lies neither in the right to spend money and men upon them, nor in the right to build their schools and to maintain government. It lies in their commercial worth, and the extent to which they can be made to furnish exclusive markets for the manufactures of a nation, and an exclusive source of raw materials with which to supply them. We cannot neutralize the Philippines and reserve their markets to ourselves; or at least we cannot count on the continued coöperation of the great commercial nations if we insist on so doing. It is true that there is precedent to the contrary. Savoy is included commercially within the frontiers of France, and Luxembourg was neutralized and yet allowed to join a customs union of the German States. But the markets of Savoy and Luxembourg are of small importance, and the commercial life of small states might be entirely destroyed if it were not for some relaxation of the rule. In order to effect the neutralization of the neutralization of the Philippines there is little doubt that we should have to offer to the cooperating powers the same commercial opportunities in them which we insist upon in China, namely, the Open Door and equal privileges of trade.

But, after all, are we so inefficient that we cannot hold our own in open markets? An Open Door is all our American policy has ever required of the East. In any case we may well question whether closed trade is worth the price of two fleets, of strained and uncertain relations with the East, and of possible and unnecessary wars.

Only one more question remains. We have certain moral duties over the islands and the people which the God of Battles put into our hands. We are still responsible for their peace, for their stable government, for their education, and for the continuance of all those duties which we assumed in haste and have since performed so well. Neutralization will make no difference in our power to continue that work. It is our American purpose, the extent of which is misunderstood abroad. It will become clear under neutralization.

Neutralization of the Philippines cannot be accomplished by ourselves alone. To be effective it must be guaranteed by many world-powers, each of which must agree, not only to respect, but also to maintain, the permanently neutral conditions of the islands. As the French writers put it, they must respecter et faire respecter that neutral character. Therein lies the whole difference between neutrality and neutralization. Any state may declare itself neutral, or obtain through its impartial attitude toward belligerents the general recognition of its neutral character. But neutrality is a transient condition, and a merely neutral state can at any time cease to be neutral and engage in the war. The neutrality of a neutralized state, attained by international agreement, is permanent, and results in its entire exclusion from all hostilities whatsoever except in its own defense.

Could we rely on such an international agreement being sustained? Again we must look to history. Switzerland was neutralized by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and since that time her territory has been entered only once by foreign soldiers, and then only to lay down their arms and receive her neutral protection. With Belgium and with Luxembourg the result has been the same. On December 3, 1870, Prince Bismarck addressed his famous note to the powers, declaring that as Luxembourg was obviously incapable of maintaining its neutrality against a possible invasion of troops hostile to Germany, he considered that its neutrality need no longer be regarded; yet Luxembourg remained inviolate throughout the war. Again, in 1871, although he announced to Austria and England that if the army of MacMahon, then retreating toward French territory, should violate the treaty and pass through neutral Belgium he himself would also violate that territory to oppose him, neither he nor the French general ventured across the neutral line. It is worth noticing, too, that England at the very outbreak of hostilities sent notes to both France and Prussia stating that she was ready to maintain impartially the neutrality of either neutralized state by force of arms. There is little danger, under the guarantee of four great powers, that the Philippines would fail to enjoy unmolested peace, or that the step then taken would not soon be followed by others, assuring still further the peace of the Pacific and the lesser need for armaments and war.

Neutralization is still a new subject, less than a hundred years old. Disarmament by neutralization is an idea of our own decade, but the only way remaining by which disarmament can be effected, and the senseless and ruinous competition in armaments stopped. The problem is facing not only America, but all the world; for neutralization now lies deeper than mere self-interest. Selfishness may have been responsible for the neutralization of a colony in the interests of world-peace is undertaken with higher motives and with other aims. Neutralization means freedom in international intercourse. It is the expansion of the doctrine of the Open Door, and an attack on the doctrine of restricted and exclusive trade.

The conviction is growing among thinking men that the time for intelligent coöperation between the nations is not far away, and that if four great nations—the United States, Japan, Great Britain, and Germany—should unite in affirming the integrity and perpetual neutrality of any part of the world, their example would be followed gladly by all the others.

There is a peculiarly American opportunity lying before us in our relations with the Philippine Islands. We wish neither to retain them in permanent subjection, nor to surrender them to foreign control. It is practical to neutralize them, and by so doing remove the possible misunderstanding with which our presence there is regarded. For ourselves neutralization leads to a decrease in our armaments, and the direction of our resources to far more reasonable ends. To others it would offer an example of relief from the menace of militarism, and point the way to new opportunities for friendly coöperation in the avoidance of war. Who knows but that South America would follow the Republic of the North and, by proposing neutralization throughout her diverse states, lead the nations yet nearer to the distant goal of universal peace?