The Chief of the American Representation on the Preparatory Commission (Gibson) to the Secretary of State
[Received 12:20 p.m.19]
16. Your 6, March 22, 1 p.m.20 Text of my speech follows:
“A considerable number of delegates have already stated their views regarding the proposals now before us and have treated the subject more or less exhaustively. I do not propose to deal with the matter at length but feel that it may be desirable for me to make a brief statement as to the views of the American delegation.
To begin with, I should like to touch upon one remark which was made in the course of debate on Monday to the effect that in the opinion of one of the delegations, sincerity, consistency and logic should impel the country which had proposed a multilateral pact against war to support the proposals now before us for immediate and complete disarmament.
I do not feel warranted in taking up the time of this Commission with a lengthy statement on this point. However, in order that there may be no room for misunderstanding I venture to trespass upon your time to the extent of saying that it is precisely on grounds of sincerity, consistency and logic that my Government supports the idea of a multilateral pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy and at the same time finds itself unable to support drastic proposals for immediate and complete disarmament which we do not believe are calculated to achieve their avowed purpose.
Any other attitude on the part of my Government would be lacking in sincerity, consistency and logic, for my Government believes in the one project and disbelieves in the other. We believe that the idea behind the proposal of a pact for renouncing war can be made effective as an articulate expression of an almost universal will for peace; we believe that such an expression is more effective at this time than any scheme, however drastic, for doing away with weapons. We have always stated as our conviction that as we build up the will for peace and confidence in peaceful methods for settling international disputes through regional agreements or otherwise our needs for armaments will automatically decrease. We have never believed that the converse was true and the suppression of armaments would alone and by itself have the effect of creating the confidence which is essential to the successful conclusion of our task.
To turn now to the aspect of the problem which is immediately before us we have been told that one compelling reason for adopting the project for complete disarmament is that public opinion throughout the world is impatient of less drastic measures and insists upon immediate and comprehensive action. I submit that if public opinion were as clamorous as we have been told for action upon drastic schemes such as the one now before us it is inconceivable that this [Page 254]should not have become apparent to us and to our governments. It is to be remembered that in most countries the expression of public opinion is free and unfettered; that governments are responsive to the will of the people and if the people were convinced of the effectiveness of such drastic schemes there is no doubt that they would make their wishes so clearly and unmistakably known that no government could ignore those wishes and survive.
In the course of debate a number of my colleagues have expressed their belief that we need more time for a careful analysis and consideration of the proposals now before the Commission inasmuch as the draft convention was placed in our hands only about a month ago. I venture to point out in this connection that the essentials of the present scheme, of which the convention is merely an elaboration, were placed before the Commission at its November session and that we and our respective governments have therefore had more than three months in which to consider. To my mind however this is neither here nor there. So far as I can recollect it has never been the practice of our Commission to assign committees to study proposals or refer them back to governments for examination if in the first general discussion it became evident that they were not acceptable in principle. I see no reason in the present instance for deviation from this sound and time-saving practice.
For our present purpose it would seem sufficient to point out that the proposals are not only a radical departure from the work we have been engaged upon so far but that they are totally irreconcilable with the draft which is the basis of our discussions. We are engaged upon a study of how to effect a limitation and reduction of armaments by agreement. We are now asked to scrap this work which is the result of several years of negotiation and to accept in its place the total and immediate abolition of armaments. I will confess that the American delegation is unable to see how the two can possibly be reconciled and discussed simultaneously. The question before us is whether we shall continue on the task entrusted to us according to the method approved by our various governments or whether we shall suddenly scrap what has been done and embark upon an entirely different enterprise on the basis of proposals of a type which has frequently been considered in the past and invariably rejected as unworkable.
Incidentally if it is felt that some of the points suggested under this convention would be of assistance in the preparation of our draft, certainly it is to be expected that the representative of any country will in the second reading introduce such amendments to the clauses as they now stand as they may see fit. However, it would certainly seem a cumbersome and unprecedented procedure to give further exhaustive study to the whole of an elaborate scheme presented by a single delegation in order to get the possible benefits of certain clauses therein.
For the reasons I have stated, the American delegation would not feel justified in asking for a delay in order that these proposals might be given further detailed study. So far as we are concerned we feel that we have only one problem—to find and follow the path best calculated to lead us expeditiously to the conclusion of our labors; we are convinced that that path is to be found in the continuance of our previous endeavors, and that we are not justified in abandoning or [Page 255]unduly delaying our efforts in order to embark upon another task which we honestly believe cannot facilitate the reduction and limitation of armaments.”