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Whatever we do or fail to do will influence the course of history.
– Arthur Henderson
It has become impossible to give up the enterprise of disarmament without abandoning the whole great adventure of building up a collective peace system.
It is because I believe that it is in the power of such nations to lead the world back into the paths of peace that I propose to devote myself to explaining what, in my opinion, can and should be done to banish the fear of war that hangs so heavily over the world.
As a first step there must be an offer to achieve equality of rights in disarmament by abolishing the weapons forbidden to the Central Powers by the Peace Treaties.
In some states militant nationalism has gone to the lengths of dictatorship, the cult of the absolute or totalitarian state and the glorification of war.
But to cut off relations with an aggressor may often invite retaliation by armed action, and this would, in its turn, make necessary some form of collective self-defence by the loyal members of the League.
Therefore, let us not despair, but instead, survey the position, consider carefully the action we must take, and then address ourselves to our common task in a mood of sober resolution and quiet confidence, without haste and without pause.
The first condition of success for the League of Nations is, therefore, a firm understanding between the British Empire and the United States of America and France and Italy that there will be no competitive building up of fleets or armies between them.
The years of the economic depression have been years of political reaction, and that is why the economic crisis has generated a world peace crisis.
The nations must be organized internationally and induced to enter into partnership, subordinating in some measure national sovereignty to worldwide institutions and obligations.
The Disarmament Conference has become the focal point of a great struggle between anarchy and world order… between those who think in terms of inevitable armed conflict and those who seek to build a universal and durable peace.
The forces that are driving mankind toward unity and peace are deep-seated and powerful. They are material and natural, as well as moral and intellectual.
In almost every country there are elements of opinion which would welcome such a conclusion because they wish to return to the politics of the balance of power, unrestricted and unregulated armaments, international anarchy, and preparation for war.
The vast upheaval of the World War set in motion forces that will either destroy civilization or raise mankind to undreamed of heights of human welfare and prosperity.
In short, it may be said that on paper the obligations to settle international disputes peacefully are now so comprehensive and far-reaching that it is almost impossible for a state to resort to war without violating one or more solemn treaty obligations.
Those nations have a very great responsibility at this juncture of the world’s affairs, for by throwing their joint weight into the scales of history on the right side, they may tip the balance decisively in favour of peace.
Thus, the struggle for peace includes the struggle for freedom and justice for the masses of all countries.
He would see civilization in danger of perishing under the oppression of a gigantic paradox: he would see multitudes of people starving in the midst of plenty, and nations preparing for war although pledged to peace.
This is our world, and we must make the best of it.
Moreover, war has become a thing potentially so terrible and destructive that it should have been the common aim of statesmen to put an end to it forever.
I do not believe that the values which the Western democracies consider essential to civilization can survive in a world rent by the international anarchy of nationalism and the economic anarchy of competitive enterprise.
In our modern world of interdependent nations, hardly any state can wage war successfully without raising loans and buying war materials of every kind in the markets of other nations.
To solve the problem of organizing world peace we must establish world law and order.
Another essential to a universal and durable peace is social justice.
Four years of world war, at a cost in human suffering which our minds are mercifully too limited to imagine, led to the very clear realization that international anarchy must be abandoned if civilization was to survive.
The question is, what are we to do in order to consolidate peace on a universal and durable foundation, and what are the essential elements of such a peace?