The Collective Guarantee of the Security of Nations
A permanent State of Peace among all civilised nations may be assured by substituting their collective guarantee of external security for the present system, by which each State is its own guarantor. The cost of this superannuated system is enormous and constantly rising, while its total inability to guarantee the weak against the strong furnishes convincing proof that the moment cannot be long deferred before this momentous change forces its own acceptance. Taught by an identical need, primitive society long ago learned how to establish a collective assurance of the security of the individual horde, clan, or tribe. Man, in isolation, had expended the greater part of his time in obtaining subsistence and defending himself from attack. He had, therefore, bought those services at the highest price, but association at once reduced their cost. The collective guarantee continued to demand considerable exertions on the part of each associate, but there was a clear saving both of time and effort, and the resultant security was incomparably greater than anything yet obtained by individual exertion.
A mutual assurance of this kind succeeded on one condition. The individual must cede the right of judgment to the association, in all cases where interest or temper brought him into conflict with a fellow-member; and the verdict must be executed by State agency alone. Whether directly exercised, or delegated to an executive acting in nomine Societatis, the judgment of the community replaced that of the individual. The judgment was always enforced by an irresistible power, while a code of laws—the necessary consequent of the change—defined the rights of each associate, and established the penalties for breach, or attempted breach, of these rights. The severity of penalties was graduated according to the gravity of the offence committed or the degree of damage caused by the attempt.
However imperfect collective justice was, and still is, it has always, and in all cases, proved superior to the individual system. Experience attests the absolute incapacity of man for equitable judgment, when his own interests are at stake. Interest or passion paralyses the capacity for right judgment, and leads men to maintain the most unfounded pretensions. Such a judge executes his own verdict, and no matter how far it is the fruit of blind impulse, instinct, or appetite, nor how obviously all right may be upon the other side, its execution is solely a matter of relative personal strength. While each man is a law unto himself judgment is invariably subordinated to interest and its execution to the rule that "right is might."
National differences are subject to identical influences. Each nation claims to be in the right, and if a sense of justice compels any members of the State to admit that there is reason in the claims of an adversary, the multitude blinded by passion, or the politician lusting after popularity, forthwith denounces them as traitors. When such differences are put to the arbitrament of war, individuals, on either side, condemning the injustice of a judgment passed under the influence of passion or interest, must either join in a struggle which their hearts condemn, or dare—and few have the courage—to disown their country rather than be parties to an unjust act. And finally, between nations as between individuals, the victory is to the strong without regard to abstract right.
In face of the fact that the cost of such autonomy increases every day, is it profitable that each nation shall remain judge, and executor of judgment, in causes affecting its own interests? Improved communications and the enormously extended area of security, have multiplied international interests and with them occasions of conflict. Undreamed-of improvements in the processes and machinery of production have, on the other hand, increased the returns of productive industry, and with them the ability to support a continually growing outlay upon destructive armaments. With augmented opportunity for differences with adversaries whose power was always growing, compelled to have recourse to arms whenever they supposed, rightly or wrongly, that justice was on their side, nations have been allowed no alternative but to incessantly renew and enlarge the apparatus for supporting their judgments. The army and navy have, without doubt, offered careers to certain sections within the nation, and these have encouraged their development for purely selfish reasons. But the multitude, on whom the burden of maintenance falls, has no opportunity of enforcing moderation; armaments are the guarantee of their security. No nation willingly condemns itself, in case of a conflict, to lying at the mercy of its foe for lack of the means of defence, and whatever the injustice or degree of the injury to which it is exposed; neither will it willingly contemplate the fact that, if a war arise, the battle must be fought with insufficient or superannuated arms, and with no better hope than to defer the hour of surrender. If it be only for honour's sake, it must defend its rights, and it will place this interest before every other. Civilised nations have, thus, been driven to increase their powers for destruction concurrently with, and even to a higher degree than, their progress in production. And in Europe, where international interests are peculiarly complex, and each nation stands shoulder to shoulder with its rivals, the peoples are now bowed beneath the load of armed peace.
It may be argued that they have at least preserved the right to judge their own cause and to execute that verdict. But this right—daily bought more dearly—is now only partially existent, and, even in that degree, is enjoyed by none but the strongest. The minor States of Europe expend, proportionately, quite as much as the larger, but, if their right of autonomous judgment has survived, not even themselves will suggest that they are free to attempt its execution. What has been called the Concert of Europe—an association of all the greater States—has arrogated to itself not only the right of hindering or arresting such attempts, but even of modifying or entirely reversing their terms.
This association of the Great Powers, with its self-constituted claims to a right of intervention between independent sovereign States with the avowed purpose of preventing them from executing their individual judgments, has naturally justified its action by some pretension. The pretension is one of a right superior to that of any individual State—the right of civilisation to interdict any act injurious to the community. Such a claim emphasises a new factor in the growing solidarity of interests brought about by industrial progress, and an extended international market. While external economic and financial relations were of no great importance, and the effects of war largely local, neutrals scarcely felt the reaction consequent on a struggle, and this tie remained dormant. But the situation altered so soon as the innumerable connections of a world-commerce sprang into existence The smallest modern war affects neutral interests as certainly as those of the actual belligerents. From this right, inevitable under the circumstances, sprang the right of neutral powers to intervene and compel the reference of disputes to a less violent arbitrament. Great States exercised it upon such of their neighbours as were too weak to resent the interference. The right of every independent State to judge its own cause, and execute its own judgment, was destroyed or limited in this way, and the smaller State was, in point of right, placed in an inferior position to that of its more powerful neighbour.
The smaller States were, naturally, not slow to feel the indignity, but possessed small ability to revolt. An appeal to their prescriptive right to use the judgment of battle entailed injury to all nations. Those nations had their own right to prevent this injury, and to claim indemnity in case of its commission. Debarred from individual exercise of their right of sovereignty, the smaller States may justifiably demand a share in the collective right which the greater States have arrogated to themselves, and to be admitted to the Concert of Europe in the position to which their relative size entitles them.
It is not difficult to forecast the probable results of such a step, and the step will be realised so soon as the burden of a continued State of War, and the crushing costs of the armaments which it entails, shall have become too intolerable.
Whether the tie were one of compulsion or founded on a voluntary basis, an association of all the States of Europe, with the States of other quarters of the globe, must command superior powers to those of any member of the confederacy. Such a confederacy could compel any member to submit all quarrels to some form of systematic arbitration, and the verdicts of such a tribunal would be sanctioned by irresistible force. Disarmament would then follow as inevitably as the feudal lords abolished their private armies when confronted with an Emperor, chief, or King invested with the exercise of sovereign power and controlling the entire forces of the nation. Each State would reduce its armaments to the exact point necessary to enable it to fulfil their remaining purpose—to fulfil the duties of a guarantor of the common security against attack by peoples still outside civilisation. The proportion of these nations is so small that the force necessary for this task could be reduced within limits similar to those of the apparatus maintaining the internal security of States, since the right of individual justice has been superseded by a system of State-justice vested in an authority emanating from the national entity.
The savings to be effected by a cessation of a State of War will be apparent, however cursory has been our glance at the consequences which it entails—the grinding costs under which nations labour, and the losses, directly or indirectly, originated by it. But this economy in blood and treasure will be no more than an incident of the benefits accompanying the advent of a State of Peace. A new cycle of progress will be opened, the era of a new and better life for humanity.