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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Aristide Briand: Naval Disarmament

Many times Premier of France, Briand [1862-1932] was noted for his strong advocacy of international peace and disarmament. He was a vigorous supporter of the League of Nations and took a leading part in its ses­sions. Here is part of his address delivered on November 21, 1921, at the Washington Conference on Naval Disarmament, which he attended as the French representative.

We know there is one part of Germany that is for peace. There are many people, especially among the working classes, who want to work, who have had enough of this war, who have had enough of war altogether, and are most anxious to settle down in peace, and also to set to work. We shall do everything to help that Germany, and if she wants to restore her balance in the bosom of a pacific republic and democratic institutions, then we can help her, and we shall be able to contemplate the future with feelings of security.

But, gentlemen, there is another Germany, a Germany which has not changed her mind and to which the last war has taught no lesson. That Germany keeps thoughts in the back of her mind; she has the same designs which she entertained before the war; she has kept the same preoccupations and she cherishes the same ambitions as the Hohenzollerns did. And how can we close our eyes to this? How can we ignore this state of things?

This, gentlemen, is happening at our very doors; we have only got to look. This is happening but a few miles from us, and we follow the thoughts of the Germans, or certain Germans, and the evolution which is taking place. And more than that, we have witnessed certain attempts to return to the former state of things.

What is Germany but a vast country of industry—industrially organized? Germany always had two aims. The first was trade, commerce. And that is only natural. The second was war. All her industries, all her manu­factures, have been working to the full during the war, and they have developed since.

Everything is ready in Germany, the plans, the designs and calibers. Everything is there ready to insure a steady manufacturing of guns, machine guns and rifles. Suppose that during a period of diplomatic tension, purposely protracted for a number of weeks, certain of the manufactures, certain of the works, begin to fabricate, just at the begin­ning, just to start the war, just to set the war going, and then go on manufacturing guns and rifles and artillery; what would happen? It is not only in Germany that industry can work to the full. You can make prepara­tions outside. In fact, preparations have actually taken place. In fact, great captains of industry or great industrial magnates have bought important firms in Scandinavia and in other parts of Europe.

It is easy enough to fabricate these guns without our seeing it, outside of our supervision. You know very well that it is possible to build great railroads. You know very well that it is impossible to bring here the proof that Germany is not actually making or purchasing war materials.

It is different from the navy. It is rather difficult to lay the keel of a ship in the stocks, to prepare the dockyards without the world knowing it. But suppose that was possible, do you think you could launch a capital ship without somebody being on the spot and knowing what was happen­ing? But the guns, the rifles, the machine guns—any instruments used on the field of battle—they can be manufactured and cannot be controlled with any measure of certainty.

Ah, gentlemen, this is not the first time in history that France has had to face a situation of this kind. We have known Prussia disarmed. And disarmed by whom? By Napoleon. Well, that Prussia, which seemed prac­tically disarmed, which was harmless to all intents and purposes, we found her again on the battlefield and we were nearly bled white. How can we forget that?

Of course, we know what is often said of the French people. It is often said that we are a frivolous nation and that naturally, when the danger is past, we turn our minds to other things—just as befits a frivolous people. Evidently, gentlemen, we are not the sort of men to keep our eyes steadily fixed on whatever is sad and depressing.

We have not been doing that since the war, but we have been too deeply wounded, I might almost say murdered, to forget the direful lesson which has just been taught us. Gentlemen, there are too many homes in mourning in the country, there are too many men in the streets that are disabled and maimed. Even if we wanted to forget, we could not.

Therefore, we have not the right and we do not intend to leave France defenseless. France must, to all intents and purposes, protect herself.

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