The Ambassador in Argentina ( Weddell ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:20 p.m.]
141. From Gibson. Since the Conference was convened we have accomplished exactly nothing.
After originally holding other views and twice diverted from his position (see my 94, June 21, 3 p.m. and 127, July 12, 4 p.m.) the chairman has recently insisted that: (1) we must hold plenary session at stated intervals for general discussions in order to create an illusion of activity and satisfy public opinion while (2) avoiding fundamental questions until the Bolivian Presidential situation is clarified and until demobilization has been carried far enough to ensure against resumption of hostilities.
I have felt that the chairman was right on the second point but that the period of waiting should be utilized in preparatory work by committees on the various problems which will have to be dealt with. Plenary sessions of the Conference might even be suspended subject to call by the chairman when material is ready for submission by committees or when conditions are more propitious.
While undue importance should not be attached to the committee method it could be of material assistance. The question of exchange and repatriation of prisoners can be dealt with in this way more satisfactorily than in any other while the reference to committees of such questions as communications, transit and economic assistance might at least make it clear that they will become realities only as bilateral negotiations and thus enable the avoidance of inconclusive debates on the subject in plenary session.
With the arrival of Rodriguez Alves64 and the return of Nieto del Rio65 I discussed the question of general procedure with them. We found that we were in agreement and took the matter up separately with Saavedra Lamas yesterday. We assured him we were sincerely anxious to support him but that his present plan seemed to give us nothing to support; that if delay was desirable we felt we should be on safer ground if we could point to committees working. As a result he agreed that the question of exchange and repatriation of prisoners of war be dealt with in the first instance by a small committee and this suggestion was submitted to and adopted by the Conference (my telegram No. 140, July 19, 10 p.m.). However, Saavedra Lamas postponed taking action on setting up any other committees.
The chairman’s acquiescence in the appointment of one commission is obviously merely a sop to the Brazilians, Chileans and ourselves. [Page 103] He made it clear to all three of us that he proposed at all costs to avoid coming to grips with realities for the present and that he still desired the holding of regular plenary sessions. He did suggest, however, that if the members of the Bolivian delegation wished to return to Bolivia to participate in the Presidential campaign he thought we should have to suspend the work of the Conference and any committees for 2 or 3 weeks. Furthermore, he is obviously dallying with the idea of going to Geneva and is torn between the desire to get into the picture and the fear that the League meeting may come to an inglorious end. If the Conference is to do nothing until demobilization is completed it might be desirable for Saavedra Lamas to go to Geneva as his absence would just about cover the demobilization period and afford a good reason for suspending plenary sessions.
As matters now stand the Brazilian and Chilean delegates and I propose, while avoiding joint action or anything that could be regarded as a bloc, to press for committees to do as much of the preparatory work as possible, having already shown that plenary sessions lead to nothing but endless and inconclusive oratory. While our contribution to date may seem very meager I feel that the most we can hope for is to hold the chairman to some consecutive preparatory effort so that when the Conference finally does get to work it can proceed on a basis of prepared reports. Aside from this it is difficult to report any program or probabilities. [Gibson.]