Problems with Unilateral Disarmament 1921
WHY THE ARMIES CAN NOT DISARM
AS ARISTIDE BRIAND, powerful of frame, with shaggy head and bushy downward curving mustache, arose to state the case of France before the Arms Conference, he seemed to one press correspondent to be a perfect living type of the old-time Western sheriff; and he might well have claimed for his country the role of an officer of the law who must keep his hand on his gun lest the powerful desperado he has just captured and disarmed should spring upon him and overpower him.
Many a Frenchman has informed us that France can not disarm on land while she faces across the Rhine a Germany, beaten and disarmed, but potentially strong in manpower and industrial equipment, and not yet proved to be either repentant or genuinely inclined to peace. But outside France are those who find in the German situation no justification for the French military policy, and their views are quoted further on.
France’s view-point, however, as one of the correspondents reminds us, has never wavered. “It considers the fact that it is obliged to maintain an Army of between 700,000 and 800,000 men as one of the great tragedies of the war.” It believes it has cut this Army down “to the lowest point compatible with its colonial and mandate responsibilities and its national safety,” and “no Government which agreed at Washington to reduce the size of the Army without procuring some tangible form of cooperation guarantee could stay in power in Paris a single week.”
With France’s position what it is, with the United States thought to be averse to a guarantee treaty, correspondents and editors hold little hope for a solution of the land disarmament problem at the present time. Moreover, as the New York Globe correspondent points out, whereas the great naval Powers are all here, the chief land Powers are not. Russia, Jugo-Slavia, Roumania, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia are absent. Italy, for instance, “can not very well reduce its Army unless it knows what Jugo-Slavia and even Hungary are willing to do.” So while our press agree with the Washington Post that “it is the ardent hope of man-kind that a plan will be evolved at the Conference which will do away with large standing armies and perhaps abolish conscription,” many can foresee no early fulfilment of that hope. The outlook, declares the Syracuse Herald, is far from promising; and the Houston Chronicle finds reason in the facts above noted “to believe that little can be accomplished at this time by way of reducing land forces on the continent of Europe.”