500.A15A4/1232: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

295. Simon returned from London on Tuesday but we have not yet elicited any indication from him as to the British attitude towards the President’s proposal. The French on the other hand have had rather thorough discussions with us and their attitude on the whole has been much more reasonable than we had anticipated. We have no further indication from the Japanese since the conversation reported in my 277.18

There are various indications of a move in which Simon is concerned to sidetrack the President’s proposal either by breaking it up into its component parts and scattering these through the agenda of the Conference or by giving some measure of approval to its general [Page 254]purpose and consigning it to a committee to make a report “when the Conference reconvenes”. Simon has discussed with various people including the President of the Conference19 the idea of winding up the present session with a resolution setting forth the measure of agreement already attained [on?] aviation, heavy mobile guns, tanks and chemical warfare “both in scope and thus far in detail an extremely attenuated result” and accepting this as the achievement of the Conference.

We feel that it is totally unacceptable for the Conference to content itself with such a limited objective when greater achievement is possible and it is to be borne in mind that any such ending of this Conference would probably mean that the Germans would express complete dissatisfaction and would not return. Their views on this subject would be shared by many other delegations.

A meeting of the Bureau is called for Monday or Tuesday20 to decide on the future work of the Conference and an effort will probably be made at that time to sidetrack the President’s proposal in one way or another. It therefore becomes essential for us to have our course of action clearly mapped out. It seems to us that perhaps the most effective method would be for us to have a draft resolution ready for presentation either in the Bureau or preferably at the conclusion of the consideration of the President’s plan in the General Commission setting forth the results which we consider practicable at this time. We are telegraphing a draft text under our number 29621 and should be glad to have your views as to whether this method of treatment has your approval although we are not sanguine as to its acceptance unchanged.

It seems to us that there are two courses of action open to us:

To insist upon unqualified adoption of the President’s plan and press for its acceptance or rejection at this time. We feel that this would lead to failure to adopt the President’s proposal, in that many of the delegations which approve its purpose feel real difficulties in binding themselves at this time to acceptance of agreements which will have to be worked out in greater detail and of which they cannot foresee the consequences. For instance, Paul-Boncour, French Minister of War, tells us that, while he is quite prepared to go into this matter thoroughly and sympathetically he would be in an impossible position if he accepted now a definite percentage cut in effectives and was then called upon in the Chamber of Deputies for explanations as to how it would work out as regards France and her neighbors.
The other course would be to offer a resolution, as advocated in my 296 to be adopted by the Conference.

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While we realize that there may be criticism if we do not fight for a vote on the President’s plan, we feel that this course would almost inevitably lead to rejection. On the other hand, the second course seems to us to offer a better prospect of achieving substantial results and that time is working for us in various countries. The evolution towards acceptance of the President’s general conception will be accelerated when it is realized that other countries find it afforded time to satisfy themselves as to how our proposal would work out for them.

If the Conference adjourns on the basis of such a resolution as we are submitting it will be apparent our Government has not only rescued it from hopeless floundering but stimulated immediate agreements on a variety of points and brought about a declaration of principle on reductions so that the work which will be going on during the recess would be toward the realization of the President’s program.

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. June 25, 3 p.m., p. 237.
  3. Arthur Henderson.
  4. July 4 or 5.
  5. Infra.