500.A15/447: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chief of the American Representation on the Preparatory Commission (Gibson)


99. Your No. 195 has been considered with all care possible in short time given, and I do not think that your suggested statement contained therein should be made to plenary conference.

(1) Fundamental objection is that other powers are deliberately encouraged to set up scheme of international supervision and control; and (2) very definite impression is given that only reason this Government cannot join is that the United States is not a member of the League.

Perhaps you do not really intend statement to have that effect, but certainly that is impression made on my mind, and I fear that the other delegations and the public as well would receive it the same way.

(3) One of our principal objections to both the French and British drafts is the provision they carry for international supervision—in your words, based on punishment of an aggressor state—or for international inspection and armament control. Military action or economic boycott is only punishment that could be inflicted, and each is not only impractical and unacceptable to this country, but, in my opinion, very likely to be rejected by other countries. We have insisted constantly that control of armaments as far as this country is concerned must be left to the good faith of nations.

(4) I think that the American delegation should put diplomatically before the plenary conference the arguments set forth in section 3, report of subcommission A,36 by the delegates representing the [Page 187] Governments of the British Empire, Chile, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States. I cannot see why these nations should not urge upon plenary conference the arguments advanced in the report.

(5) I do not think that we impliedly should advocate a plan even for other nations which we would be unwilling to accept for ourselves.

(6) I cannot go over your statement in detail, but in many passages it seems to me that idea of approval of international supervision for other countries is conveyed. In section 2, for instance, you state that if in the reasoned opinion of the Preparatory Commission complete League control will accomplish purpose for which it was convened, the Government of the United States would not wish its special position to be looked upon as obstacle to general agreement; and that it is fully realized that a treaty utilizing to fullest extent the machinery and authority of the League of Nations could best be calculated to meet problem, even should the United States not be able to be party to it. Our point is that we do not wish to be put in position of saying that international supervision is good thing for other nations but not for ourselves.

I have no objection to offer to your making conciliatory and diplomatic statement within limits here set forth and stated already in our instructions. The position of this Government, reduced to its lowest terms and stated in language which perhaps can be modified and put in more conciliatory form may be described thus: The Government of the United States cannot agree, for its part, to any form of international supervision or control of armaments. This Government holds that, as far as it is concerned, sole sanction for execution and enforcement of any convention for reduction and limitation of armaments lies in the good faith of all nations involved, naturally obligating them to a scrupulous observance of their treaty obligations. The United States would have no concern, therefore, in what other powers may decide to do toward establishment of an international supervision or control applicable to themselves.

Principle involved here is of broader significance than any question having to do with efficacy of League machinery or of our nonmembership in League of Nations. The Government of the United States is unable to find itself in accord with proposals for any form of supervision or control of armaments by any international body, whether League of Nations or any other organization. We do not object, of course, to plan of publicity proposed in section 1, part 3, Washington Disarmament Conference.37

Do not construe this message as an instruction to make no statement at all. We think you should use your own judgment as to that, but any statement which you may make on international supervision by League of Nations or any other body should conform to lines indicated above.

  1. Report of Sub-Commission A, p. 167.
  2. Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament, ch. ii, pt. 3, sec. 1, par. (b); Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 258.