No. 79 NAI DFA 126/37

Confidential report from Francis T. Cremins to Joseph P. Walshe
(Ass./18) (Confidential)

Geneva, 4 September 1937

With reference to the forthcoming session of the Assembly, and on the assumption that the President will as always participate in the general debate, I have to suggest that amongst the subjects to which he could if he approved refer might be the following. (This minute does not purport to give a text for a statement but merely a possible general line, not necessarily consecutive, as it occurs to me.)

  1. The dangerous international situation, and the deterioration since the previous Assembly.
  2. Spain.
  3. Sino-Japanese dispute.
  4. Mr. Cordell Hull's declaration of the 16th July, and American efforts to promote peace.1
  5. Palestine.

In the present international situation, I think that a purely political statement is called for. This could be a development of the President's last speech, which is even more applicable this year than it was when delivered, in view of the deterioration in the situation2 . The conflicts in Spain, in the Mediterranean, and in the Far East, are no doubt the immediate causes of the present dangers, but the real underlying cause is the general malaise in Central Europe which is the result of the Peace Treaties of 1919, and of the will during the past 17 years on the part of some of the States which won the war to continue the penalties and effects of the Treaties to new generations in the vanquished States. This malaise involves practically 80 or 100 millions of people in Europe. If it did not exist no single State would have ventured to run counter to the principles of the League in the way to which we are in recent years becoming accustomed. To that malaise the present competition in armaments can be traced, but collective security can never be assured by an apparent preponderance in armaments, for, as we can see, new factors continually arise, new weaknesses are discovered, which upset the balance. Effective protest is in any case not possible while some particular State, if interfered with in what it sets itself to do, can hold out the threat of a new world war infinitely more disastrous to civilisation than the last. The Governments of the Great Powers and of other Powers closely concerned can still avoid the danger of a new world war, but they must be prepared to make sacrifices if their peoples are to be spared it. These sacrifices would, however, be of little moment, whatever they might involve - and I have in mind even the return of some territories - in comparison with those which their peoples will be called upon to bear, in defence of the errors of 1919, if war ensues. That is obvious from our knowledge of the Spanish struggle, and of the struggle commencing in the Far East, to the horrors of which gas warfare has mercifully not been added. It is understood of course that any attempt at settlement should necessarily form part of a general settlement, including measures of disarmament. Without limitation of armaments confidence in the future would not be possible.

The difficulties of promoting a just peace now, after the errors and missed opportunities of so many years, are evident, but would they not be accentuated a hundredfold after another general war? What sort of peace, whoever wins - and it is evident that the side with the greatest resources must win, which should be a warning to States whose judgement may be warped by a sense of permanent injustice, or to those who may be tempted to carry threats too far - can be expected after another prolonged war? Will the next generation have to face another catastrophe as a result of it?

Degeneration in the organisation of peace is obvious. Instead of a body of States reasonably armed, and bound together by treaty to settle disputes peacefully and to protect each other against aggression, all the major States and many of the smaller ones feel themselves forced to compete with their neighbours in armaments. Instead of States cultivating friendship with their neighbours, the old policy of making friends with next-neighbour-but-one is too often pursued, (e.g. France-Russia; Germany-Japan; Russia-China; Russia-Czechoslovakia; Germany-Italy; etc.), the result being a vicious policy of encirclement which settles nothing and renders distrust and eventual strife inevitable.

The League has suffered because it was used to guarantee treaties which were too repressive to be borne, and regional arrangements in Europe will fail because it is useless to ask States to guarantee situations which they themselves consider to be unjust. It is clear that all arrangements for collective security must be ineffective unless they have as base a just arrangement.

One looks in vain on the Agenda of the Assembly for a reference to the dangerous international situation which exists today? What sort of situation will exist when the next Assembly meets if the Great Powers do not get together with a definite will to measure and find solutions, not in respect of this or that symptom, but of the underlying problems. Between States which are over-armed peace is at the mercy of incidents, or of agents-provocateurs. In view of the dangers, the Assembly should not separate without demanding in the name of all the people that the Great Powers, which are responsible for the present situation, should proceed to deal with the root cause of the malaise in Europe. These are matters for Statesmen and not for soldiers, and it is only too obvious now that they cannot be allowed to drift indefinitely. Moreover, it is manifest that attempts at economic appeasement are not enough. Greater prosperity in the present situation only means greater facilities for rearmament. These are the facts of the situation, and they should be faced by Statesmen with the courage with which statesmen and peoples will face war. No problems should be regarded as being beyond the power of governments to solve peacefully. At the stage we have now reached, it seems fundamentally a question of plotting the sacrifices and the relief from the burden of armaments which a general political and territorial settlement would entail against the sacrifices which war would involve whether it is won or lost. There is no doubt of the choice which peoples, if they had their way, would make.

A sympathetic reference to Mr. Cordell Hull's initiative of July could be worked in, and also perhaps a reference to the Inter-American Conference of Buenos-Aires (mentioned in Chapter 2 of the Secretary-General's Report - A.6.1937). Views also on Spain and on the Japanese attack on China could be expressed if desired, and the question of Palestine could be referred to if the Minister wishes to express any views, or any hopes of a just and peaceful settlement of that problem.

Perhaps also a reference to the peaceful settlement of the Sanjak problem by the Council might be made. The Iraq-Iran dispute is also being settled peacefully by the parties themselves.

The power of the Press for good or evil, in regard to the promotion of goodwill, is a subject that might deserve a paragraph. Perhaps the question of a reference to religious persecution in Germany and the absurd promotion of a German God might be considered.

[signed] F.T. Cremins
Permanent Delegate

1 Cordell Hull (1871-1955), United States Secretary of State (1933-44).

2 A reference to de Valera's speech to the special session of the Assembly of the League of Nations on 2 July 1936 concerning the withdrawal of sanctions imposed on Italy following her invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935. This speech is published in Maurice Moynihan (ed.) Speeches and statements by Eamon de Valera 1917-73 (Dublin, 1980), pp 282-5 and in Peace and War: Speeches and Statements by Mr. Eamon de Valera on International Affairs (Dublin, 1944), pp 54-9.

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