500.A15A4 General Committee/35: Telegram

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

138. My number 132, April 20, 3 p.m. In supporting British resolution this morning I reviewed the arguments which were presented again today by Boncour against the American proposals and spoke to the following effect:

I stated I should like to review very briefly the discussion which had thus far taken place on our proposal. Briefly, the arguments against this proposal were, I explained, as follows: aggression or offensive weapons cannot be abolished because

They can not be defined.
All weapons are interdependent.
Lack of good faith in the execution of treaties would nullify the effects of abolition and
These weapons might easily be manufactured thus giving advantage to industrial states.

We find that these are not considered insurmountable obstacles for even in the speeches of those who raise them we find that gas should be abolished; regardless whether a completely satisfactory definite plan of its lethal qualities can be made; regardless of its later dependence upon other forms of warfare; regardless of a possibility that a treaty for its abolition might be disregarded; and, regardless of the fact that it is regularly manufactured in the course of commercial chemical industry.

The suggestion which I had brought before the General Commission embodied the items on which there had been the largest amount of agreement up to the present and I had felt that the concessions to general opinion indicated by the enlargement of our previous position should serve as an incentive for a similar liberalization by others. Thus I explained that my proposal was neither a startling innovation nor was it intended as an exclusively American plan but rather a résumé of similar proposals already presented. In stating that the purpose of my Government was to strengthen defense by weakening the possibilities of aggression I said we had had’ no intention of precluding any other means which could add to this sense of security or any arrangements between states in given regions that would further bulwark their feeling of mutual safety. Nor did we feel that the thesis of those who stressed the interdependence of armaments was prejudged by a proposal to deal immediately with certain land weapons.

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I briefly referred to the progress made with respect to limitation and reduction of navies and said was it not logical that we should endeavor now to make similar progress respecting limitation of land armaments.

Whether or not the Commission accepts the first step in dealing with aggressive weapons, I explained, we felt that the discussion on this problem had demonstrated a full agreement on purpose and even more of an agreement on the method of attacking the problem than we might have hoped before the discussion began.

The position of the United States, where chief reliance is not placed on land armaments, had seemed to guarantee the impartiality of the American delegation in setting forth this proposal; and the suggestion that action be taken on items where fundamental agreement had already been obtained had been made for the sole purpose of encouraging further agreements and stimulating mutual concessions.

I said that I desired warmly to support the resolution introduced by Sir John Simon for it seemed that the passage of such resolution would do much to quiet apprehension which might have been aroused, that references to article 8 which does not mention qualitative limitation might possibly rule such limitation out of the treaty. In supporting the resolution I did so, I explained, with the understanding that it was in no wise exclusive of any other means to achieve the end which we seek and stressed that in offering or supporting any proposals we wished to preserve this principle of future liberty of action in search of solutions as only in this spirit could we hope to achieve generally acceptable results. With this understanding in mind it was not we thought necessary in every resolution to attempt to guard and reserve every and all points which have a relation with one another. Thus I considered that the Commission would do far better to adopt the simple form of resolution proposed by the British delegation than any of the more complex drafts already presented.