The Failure of the League
There are two truths of which this paper has time and again during the last two years reminded its readers. One is that international relations can only be set in order if there exists a genuine moral will to set them in order. The second is that the League of Nations as at present constituted is nothing more than a permanent table around which the representatives of a certain number of nations can sit in order to discuss and try to implement certain guarded and by no means entirely satisfactory pledges which they have made to one another.
For a long time there was some hope that there existed sufficient moral will to enable these nations to take advantage of the table at Geneva to erect on it with the help of those original pledges an international system, flexible, tending towards justice, practical and dependent for its being put into execution on the agreement of all members. The ideal is in itself not an impossible one, for all voluntary cooperation for a moral purpose is of this kind.
However, it has failed. It is possible, indeed quite likely, that the great majority of individual men and women of Western countries possess sufficient moral will to achieve this end, but it is now certain men and women grouped together as national unities and represented by leaders or delegates with national responsibilities do not. They have not got a moral will because they do not put the impersonal, objective "I ought" before the personal, subjective "I want." That being so, the fact that the league is nothing more than the addition and subtraction of the wills of its membernations makes its ultimate failure inevitable and, in the judgment of some, makes its united action on all deeply controverted points mischievous.
Another Sort of League
The League might have been constituted • otherwise. It might have been based on enlightened self-interest formed into a sovereign body set over its members and independent of them in certain respects. In that case it would have become a kind of federal body governing the relations between its member-states with sovereign powers enforceable by an international police, a properly-constituted court of appeal, etc. And this too is not an impossible ideal since the members of every sovereign power live together under a common rule, which they accept partly through selfinterest, partly through a common moral purpose and partly through habit, whose laws they obey and whose police they uphold for their own greater common good.
The first ideal is the higher one, since it implies a constant and wholly moral effort. The second only implies a great initial moral effort, the effort to accept the fact that individuals are not sufficiently moral to govern themselves and must therefore set up a common law, a force to keep themselves in order even against their future wills. But the first ideal is easier to accept, since the initial effort is smaller, and the real effort is put off until a later date. The nations were prepared to make that effort whereas they were unprepared to make the second. They have not, however, been prepared to live up to it, while they would have had to live up to the second ideal had they had the
courage to make the initial great effort. Great Britain, for example, would have never admitted any international sovereignty over herself, nor would she admit it to-day. And if she appears to have made a more sustained moral effort than some others, it is because she approves of the present distribution of territory and riches in the world. No wonder! She has never yet been really tested. The submission to a sovereign League would test her.
The End of Sanctions
When the League was hard pressed, it did one of two things. It either turned a blind eye to the problem as in the case of Japan or it made an illogical effort to fit into the framework of a voluntary association of nations the penal functions of a sovereign federation. The simple fact was, of course, that the actual beginning of a war between member-nations spelt the failure of the League as constituted. The League's sole hope lay in preventing the war from starting.
The failure and abandonment of sanctions against Italy were inevitable from the first. Italy, not possessing any more than its fellow-members the moral will to set international relations in order even at its own expense, refused to agree to its own punishment. Other nations, knowing perfectly well that there was no League but themselves, never had the will to enforce sanctions which were in certain respects against their own interests and which they realised to imply something quite simple : world war with themselves as belligerents. In other words, the very thing which the League was set up to avoid.
Italy has got away with it, as every other large enough nation with a great need for something anti a fixed will to obtain it would have done.
If the League could be made into an international sovereign federal government it could do its work without a wholly moral will on the part of its members. So long as it remains what it is, it will— at any rate as far as quarrels likely to lead to war are concerned—be useless unless and until nations develop a wholly moral will. And that, we fear, will never be unless and 'until they not only become Chris
tian in name but in practice. Utopia? Yes.
The Turks have been much praised for demanding permission to fortify the Dardanelles instead of adopting the now customary procedure of fortifying the straits themselves and then presenting the world with a fait accompli. Turkey is not very large, nor a very powerful country. The Dardanelles are a matter of first-class importance to at least three great powers, Russia, Italy and Britain. The League of Nations has not succeeded in preventing the localisation of a war against a smaller country. So, on the whole, we are not particularly edified by Turkey's respect for treaty obligations. Since the war utilitarian and selfish action has been so easily hidden behind moral clouds that the direct actions of Italy and Germany had an almost refreshing sincerity about them. Nor is it by any means unlikely that they have in so far cleared the air and made a new settlement the more likely. Hypocrisy is the one state of mind from which no good can ever come. And the pity of it is that millions of really good and sincere people are deceived by moral
professions into believing that nations are as sincere as themselves. The international air will not be cleared until statesmen have learned to tell the truth and distinguish between what they are really prepared to do and what they are not prepared to do.
Whatever comes after the League or whatever is made of the League must be built on the bedrock of fact 'and truth. If nations are still fundamentally selfish it is better to know it and try to make them change than to act as if they were not.
A Picture We Do Not Like
The Star has printed a picture purporting to have come from Milan and representing a body of Italian soldiers marching to battle past a tank on which has been erected an immense statue of the Madonna and Child attended by St. Dominic and St. Catherine.
Under it Lord Cecil has written: "We have heard a great deal of the anti-religious propaganda carried on in Russia, but I doubt whether anything so damaging as this to Christianity has been published in that country."
It need hardly be added that an agency sent us the picture—presumably to put us into a tight corner.
Well, we think the picture is most unfortunate because to our minds it suggests that our Lady is being invoked as the patroness of militarism and war, but we also think that Lord Cecil was a little hasty in his sweeping condemnation. The custom of imploring the protection of God for battleships and even perhaps tanks is not, we imagine, entirely unknown even in this country. It is at least possible that to other minds—those for whom it was meant—the picture symbolises the protection of our Lady over soldiers in danger rather than her encouragement of militarism.
It is also possible that it is a clever piece of anti-Catholic and anti-Italian propaganda for Anglo-Saxon consumption.
And, whether genuine or nOt, it is ridiculous to compare it with the conscious and intended blasphemy of Russian cartoons.
The Neglect of St. Paul
We have published this week some inspiring and helpful thoughts on St. Paul whose feast together with that of St. Peter is being kept on Monday. They are written by one of the most eminent of the growing group of publicists in France who see in the Church the only practical remedy for our troubles, Daniel Rops. His last novel 0 Mort, Oa est ta Victoire was a best seller.
Meanwhile we might also examine our conscience about our neglect of St. Paul in this country. We are told, for example, that there is only one Catholic church dedicated to St. Paul in London, whereas before the Reformation there were many. This neglect is all the more surprising in that it is a common contention among modernists that Catholic Christianity is Pauline rather than Christian. It is only Pauline because St. Paul preached Christ Crucified, but we might do more to remember the great Apostle to whom we owe so much of our fuller knowledge of Christ.