MAPW SUBMISSION for DEFENCE REVIEW 2000
Summary of Principal Recommendations
Australia's defence posture and policies should embody a totally non-threatening stance: while demonstrating its full capability to self-reliantly defend itself, Australia must make clear that it has no force-projection offensive capability to threaten others (e.g, via strike aircraft, the Cruise missile option, etc.).
Australia should in addition play a far more active role in the whole area of arms-limitation agreements.
Australia should make clear that it will play no part in the United States proposals to develop a 'National Missile Defence' system and it should....
Renegotiate its ANZUS Treaty commitments to emphasise that under its NPT obligations, Australia will, in all respects, maintain its nuclear-free status.
In view of its military history, as determined by its direct and indirect alliance associations (c.f. section 3) Australia should avoid the 'automatic alliance' response to possible external threats.
Australia should greatly expand its diplomatic and economic efforts in a range of preventive measures designed to improve the sustainability of the region's economies and life-sustaining environments, along with other initiatives to improve the health and general well-being of the peoples of the region.
Non-military organisations, such as Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) with national and international security concerns, frequently find it difficult to communicate effectively with military organisations. Understandably these are primarily concerned with effecting government policies which have military outcomes, rather than with NGOs' other concerns about 'preventive security', especially those involving the economic, political and diplomatic policies set by business and government. Nevertheless, NGOs like MAPW have in common with Australia's Defence establishment, a great concern for our National Security in terms of its core elements: protecting the Nation against physical attack and preserving the well-being and safety of all Australians - and a further common interest in increasing that security.
This short submission comes in three sections:
The first section responds to issues raised in the Defence Review 2000 Public Discussion Paper. The response is critical of the fact that the paper deals inadequately with the causes of Australia's potential insecurity. It is as if we are in a time warp, back in the late 19th Century. And yet its references to great power rivalry do require serious consideration by those who will think in terms of preventive economic, political, and diplomatic action. A much wider debate, including contributions from DFAT and academic sources, among others, on these important issues is urgently needed. Admiral Chris Barrie, Chief of the Defence Force, in attending the recent Conference on "Food, Water and War: Security in a world of Conflict" (August 15) has just made that very point: we have to have a multidisciplinary 'team' approach using all available expertise, whatever its source, in seeking solutions to current and potential threats to our security. We strongly support that initiative.
The second section deals firstly with our approach to the purely military options Australia might have to employ. While we make no claim to military expertise, we seek here to outline some broad principles we believe appropriate regarding the physical defence of our continent and maritime surrounds, - as well as for improving the security of our region through limited off-shore operations concerned with humanitarian support, such as those in East Timor. Secondly, this section refers to the kinds of preventive measures Australia can take in our region to improve the security outlook.
The third section complements the first. It deals with infrequently-considered aspects of 'our' diplomatic-military history, especially its 'alliance aspects'. Since it is our alliances (formal or not) which have, historically, determined so much of our miliary past, it is our defence alliances which are a major concern in this submission. The section is presented as a kind of parable based on what historians can tell us of the type of Great Power thinking which generated World War I, the European war that destroyed the lives not only of some 60,000 valiant Australians but also the 'cream', the best young lives, of Britain and, indeed, of all the combatant countries. That history, which comes to us from Winston Churchill's 'The World Crisis' account,(6) along with those of G.P.Gooch,(14) G.Lowes Dickinson, (9) and other war historians, conveys a story so bizarre, so fantastic, we feel it could not be true - for if it were, all would know that the valiant self sacrifice of all those mostly very young people was both unnecessary and to no good effect. Nevertheless it should be told (as in mere outline here) lest it should be true.
That story revealed by historians is also relevant to the present review because, as we know, the awarding, by its victors, of sole responsibility for World War I to Germany, along with the extremely harsh conditions of settlement, led over the following 20 years inexorably to World War II, a further war of mass destruction, again involving the valiant efforts and sacrifices of so very many Australians. Space limits dictate the brevity of the historical outline but sources (including page references) are given to encourage independent assessment.
(1) RESPONSE to ISSUES RAISED in DEFENCE REVIEW 2000 PAPER
We all take it for granted that Australia's defence must be about preserving and enhancing our National security, and that that security is about protecting the country's physical integrity, along with the well-being and safety of all Australians. At the same time, the Defence discussion paper refers also to 'national interests' which, we believe, may well undermine these two aims.
We all recognise that wars derive primarily from non-military issues, and that economic justice with greater equity is the key to both domestic and international peace. But on the nature of sane, sustainable, economies, the discussion paper says nothing, and on economic growth, it is simply contradictory. Totally ignoring the fact that regional economic growth increases the gulf between rich and poor, we learn on p.10, that "This growth will underpin regional stability..." - yet it soon goes on to say it will undermine stability because of the "emergence of new strategic powers" - i.e., fast-growing economies with lots of force-projecting weapons!! There is an issue there, but more on that below.
But first, apart from the 'Great Power' rivalry issue, there are the broader security-undermining effects of the 'current model' of regional economic growth. Here, three major areas of concern stand out. First, the above-mentioned factor of the widening income gap between 'rich and poor'. Secondly, the impact of current patterns of development on the life-sustaining capacities of the environment. And thirdly, the growth in population numbers
First, the widening gap between 'have' and 'have-nots' is very real. It should have been eliminated long ago. Following the end of WWII, it was recognised in the UN Charter that if we were to eliminate future wars, there would have to be a new order of economic justice. Because it was past 'business as usual' practices which had led to recent wars, such practices would have to be greatly transformed. There followed an obligation on governments to ensure that their peoples had opportunities for full employment, adequate housing, improved health standards and higher standards of living generally. There certainly has been the opportunity for all governments to do just that. In our own region, the growth in 'wealth' since WWII has been simply prodigious, far more than sufficient to satisfy all essential human needs for clean water, good nutrition, adequate housing, preventive as well as therapeutic health care, hospitals, schools, plus educational and recreational programs, etc. Yet, because of the highly skewed distribution of development's 'outcomes', we have witnessed in all these areas, the neglect of large sections of the populations in virtually all countries of the region. And although this situation has developed concurrently with economic growth, we continue to hear that further and faster growth is 'the solution', rather than part of the problem.
In a number of countries a parallel problem is land deprivation/exclusion, where land is taken by private interests for logging, plantation use, or for airports, golf courses, etc. Naturally, these practices have very serious effects on communities' general well-being, including the undermining of good nutrition that depends on subsistence agriculture.
The second factor, the negative impact of economic growth on peoples' life-supporting environments, is all too evident. Through logging, other deforestation, soil erosion, mining and industrial pollution, large-scale agriculture, excessive use of fertilisers, inappropriate irrigation, unsustainable fishing, and a host of other excesses, environments continue to be seriously degraded, that is, less able to sustain their human populations. This is a growing problem of far-reaching proportions. Since to rectify the environmental damage done will be the task of many generations, it requires urgent intervention.
The third factor, population growth, a variable in the region, simply amplifies in proportion to such growth increases, the consequences of the other two factors. Indeed, each factor has a synergistic or 'multiplier' effect in the way it interacts with the others.
So it is evident that the net effect of the current patterns of economic growth is to reduce the security of affected populations. Yet we still hear calls for ever faster rates of this kind of 'economic growth'. Clearly that is not the solution. For one thing, deprived populations are poor supporters of the market; what is needed there is not more wealth, but a far more equitable distribution of existing wealth (including access to land). Only then will there be no cause for domestic market failures, no need for the frantic search for overseas markets in an increasingly market-scarce world. And then, moreover, further development can concentrate on restoring the environment, where there is so much needing to be done! The alternative is growing instability, with deprived populations resorting to more crime, or even civil disorder, as in Indonesia after the recent 'downturn', and as continues today. All of these problems require urgent attention at the social, political and, ultimately, reformed economy level. In short, timely reforms are needed to ensure that economies serve their populations, including their life-sustaining environments. In the situation where the pattern of economic growth has caused the unsustainability and insecurity problems, military solutions simply cannot be the answer. All that response could do is to extend unjust, unsustainable, practices a few more years. And at what cost!!
Returning to the 'emergence of new strategic powers' issue, it is regrettable that although the discussion paper recognises politico-economic factors as underlying the generation of international tensions and war, it fails to advocate appropriate preventive or avoidance measures as the primary response. Nowhere, is there even any mention of arms-limitation agreements, for example. Instead, there follows fatalistic speculation on how Australia may be affected by the looming clash between the established regional powers, the US and Japan (Japan being cast as: "an important force for peace") - and the newly emerging 'strategic powers', especially China. Our very fate is seen to hang on our Ally being able to engineer the correct "balance of power" - as if, historically, such 'balance of power' ever protected any state (see section 3).
It is of course true that emerging new economic giants, in the presence of old ones, is a real source of tension and potential threat to Australia. However, it does not follow that the emerging giant is itself a threat because, as realised since WWII, economic giants don't need to 'acquire' extra territories in order to gain economic influence. The central concerns of newly-emerging powers, such as China, (just as with the old-established ones), are about access to resources, markets, and investment opportunities. Australian governments have never threatened war with Britain, the US or Japan over these issues; indeed they've encouraged overseas interests in all these areas. So there is no need to feel threatened by China's emerging power.
However, there is a problem: In a world of finite resources, markets and investment outlets, the emergence of seriously competing new economic giants is, (both historically, as now) met with hostility by the established economic giants. And the sole hazard in this, for Australia, is that it will actually allow itself to become involved or even promote itself into another's 'conflicts of interest', especially those looming between the US and China.
The government obviously takes the view that we need 'the protection' of our great Ally. In fact we need to realise that it is this very association that is for us the hazard. The US has a great many 'expectations' of Australia, many of which can get us into very serious trouble. We may, for example, be 'expected' to 'protect' transnational mining companies in countries where they are 'no longer welcome' (e.g., Freeport in W.Papua). We could be 'expected' to join a 'multilateral force' to intervene in Korea or protect Taiwan. Having increased supplies of US-derived hi-tech force-projection weaponry would simply make such expectations all the stronger.
Further, being in any way connected with the US 'National Missile Defence' Program would not only make us a potential nuclear target, it would make us an accessory to the destruction of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the launching of a new nuclear arms race. We have heard the Chinese Ambassador make this very point, and we know what the response of India and Pakistan would be if China begins 'to protect itself' in that way. It would all be highly destabilising, to say the least. No doubt it is such considerations that have made Malcolm Fraser, Stuart Harris, General John Baker, and others, so critical of our support of NMD.(17) We should follow their lead. We got badly hurt in Vietnam, (now recognised even by Americans like Robert McNamara as having been 'an unfortunate mistake'). And, considering today's fire-power, with all manner of 'weapons of mass destruction', a 'modern' war on some far-off shore is something we absolutely must avoid.
Instead, we should trust to our own political, diplomatic and, if all else fails, military judgement and skills, to protect our own security, to bolster the region's security as best we can, and to head off any involvement in US plans to 'protect its interests'. And our military skills should concentrate on home defence, setting up Jindalee for proper surveillance,(13) patrolling home waters for illegal fishing, having adequate forces and appropriate equipment to guard the continent - and for limited off-shore operations to help out in humanitarian causes, such as we are involved in, in E.Timor.
(2) Appropriate Defence Postures, Policies and Structures
As an NGO which has as its principal aim the prevention of war, MAPW is attempting here to support principles on which a sane, manageable and truly self-reliant defence policy directed at ensuring Australia's security should be based. It has two broad aspects: (a) the essentially military and (b) the more broadly based security-generating preventive aspects.
(a) Military measures Reaffirming that a core element of Australian security is to protect our country's land mass and maritime surrounds against physical attack and to ensure the well-being and safety of all Australians, we advocate that the ADF be structured accordingly. We must ensure, moreover, that we can accomplish that protection in a fully self-reliant way. Our maritime surrounds represent an enormous defensive advantage and, as the discussion paper points out, few if any foreign powers (even if they wished) have the capacity to invade. Of course we need also the capacity to protect against the more likely low level incursions into our home waters - for illegal fishing, drug trading, migration and so on.
Accordingly, we need to maximise our surveillance capacity by further developing and deploying 'over the horizon' radar (13) and by augmenting our capacity for long-range air and sea patrols. We must ensure appropriate numbers of trained military personnel, both permanent and reserve. And we must ensure that these personnel are adequately equipped for all possible 'home defence' tasks.
At the same time, we need to reduce our psychological dependence on and deployment of all of our hi-tech force-projection weaponry. And we should cancel plans for the purchase of more in this category. As we know, these are extremely costly weapons; and they very soon become 'outdated', with consequent pressures for even greater outlays. By their very nature, they provide us with the capability to threaten other states; that may not be our intention, but as the discussion paper points out, "It is also important to make sure that we do not look threatening to others."
Moreover, these are not the appropriate weapons for home defence. For that we need that excellent surveillance capacity to provide for comprehensive and maximum-time warning, a fully trained appropriately-sized mobile force, excellent transport, top class communications facilities, and 'defensive-defence' type weaponry. And we must ensure we have enough in reserve supplies of this weaponry, including all needed categories in ammunition; we do not want to be dependent on some 'overseas supplier' who could let us down. In contrast to going the 'hi-tech' road, all of the above is fully affordable, well within the present budget limits. (5)
A further aspect of a practical defence policy is that Australia should be far more active in the regional arms limitation field. We know that, along with Australia, Singapore and other states have engaged in 'arms modernisation' programs involving force-projection weaponry. And we know that such build-ups increase regional instability, reduce security. There is a problem combating the alliance and commercial pressures to 'keep up with the over-armed Jones's', but the opportunity costs in terms of wasted resources and the security hazards are very great. So, whether through the ASEAN Regional Forum or other, Australia should, for its own security, become far more pro-active in this field.
(b) Preventive Measures Very many opportunities exist, but only a few examples can be given here. Besides the already-mentioned arms-limitation agreements, diplomatic and other governmental measures can be used in a wide range of security-promoting initiatives. As Admiral Barrie has pointed out, (1a) all regional initiatives aimed at raising living standards, minimising poverty, are key elements. Guaranteeing a fair access to resources, such as access to food-producing land and clean water is a major aspect. Ensuring opportunities for employment (including self-employment in agriculture) is another. As he says, history has shown that better access to life's essentials, basic infrastructure and political democracy diminishes the likelihood of inter- and intra-State conflict. Further examples, relating to the need to guarantee food security to peoples in our region were given by Alan Dupont (10) and Indra de Soysa in the same "Food, Water and War" Conference, as was an excellent overview of the very real security problems raised by various dam projects in S.E.Asia.(3) Clearly Admiral Barrie's 'whole of government' or even 'whole of nation' approach is what is required, perhaps through the involvement of community-wide 'think tanks'.
(3) The Alliance Dependence Syndrome - Britain and Australia
Defence alliances, including the non-formal ones that before WWI bound Australia to Britain, Britain to France and, in effect, Britain to Russia, were to have a profoundly tragic effect on all British peoples. Indeed, the system of European alliances had similarly tragic effects on the peoples and economies of all WWI's combatant states.(12,19) However the British 'alliance case' will here be stressed because the long-covert alliance implications affecting Britain were ultimately so greatly to affect Australia and Australians. A calm look back at this man-made history reveals that no matter what World War I was intended to do for its 'victors', (with one exception) all, including Britain, were enormously weakened by it.
Origins of World War I - A Parable
The late 19th and early 20th Century were, as we know, marked by much innovative technology, rapid economic expansion and enormous wealth creation. Markets for greatly expanded production outputs, limited domestically, were sought abroad. Additionally, many countries increased their economic and political power through colonial expansion. Certainly such activities increased the might of competing Empires. Indeed, even before the turn of the Century, an interconnected 'world economy' was the reality.(8,9,11,15,16,24)
In addition, social Darwinism, 'survival of the fittest' was in the air. Industrialists, financiers, and politicians felt that in their highly competitive world, only the 'fittest' could expect (or deserved) to survive. And in all Empires polemicists advanced rhetoric to match the feeling. War was desirable, a necessary and valid way of attaining one's nation's 'manifest destiny'. War was not only inherent but ennobling. The stronger and superior race survived, that advancing civilisation (16,26). This was the kind of thinking that 'justified' not only the subjugation of 'coloured peoples' but which set the stage for wars between the by now closely competing industrial and Colonial Empires: Russian, British, French, German, Austrian, Japanese.
The European Alliance Systems
Although these Empires expected and prepared for war, all were determined not to face it before they could be confident of the outcome. Hence the elaborate and ever-changing system of alliances and secret treaties designed to ensure 'victory' when war came. Of course, it was not 'friendship' that determined these alliances, but calculated advantage in facing some 'enemy' common to alliance parties. Thus the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy (1882), concluded in secrecy and so maintained until 1914, was directed against France and Russia. The Franco-Russian Treaty of 1891-3 (always Bismarck's nightmare) was to guarantee the status quo against Germany, Austria and England. But why England? For France the grievance was England's occupation of Egypt in 1882; for Russia it was Constantinople and access to the Mediterranian via the Dardanelles. In their preambles, both treaties spoke of the maintenance of peace; yet their concrete terms related to the contingencies of war.(9,14)
Until the turn of the century Britain, protected by sea and the Royal Navy and largely preoccupied with her overseas Empire remained 'in splendid isolation' from Europe, unencumbered by such treaties.(6) However, by 1900 there were, requiring reappraisal, outstanding problems: France and Russia. France, Britain's 'traditional' enemy of many centuries, had in 1898 almost precipitated a war over 'the Fashoda incident' and continued still to press for redress over Egypt and other colonial matters. Tsarist Russia, another major enemy, continued its expansionist activities in Persia and Manchuria. For some years, consideration had been given to an alliance with Germany, home of Britain's 'Teutonic Cousins', linked by blood and Royal ties and strong trading partners. However, there was some ambivalence since strong trading partners were also strong trade competitors and, like the United States, growing industrially at a prodigious, not to say alarming, rate. Moreover, not only was Germany beginning to add on a Colonial Empire in Africa and the Pacific, but in 1900 it announced plans for a battle fleet 'For the protection of trade and the Colonies'. Although Britain retained a very large fleet for just such purposes, it was less than sympathetic with that explanation.
At all events, at the time Britain's major concern was with the expansion of Russia in the Far East and this led to a formal military alliance with Japan. And, notwithstanding its increasing misgivings about the growing Germany: "She was invited to join with us in the Alliance with Japan." (6 p.21) Hard to believe, but there you are. How different our history might have been! As events transpired, Germany declined and Britain turned to pursue other options. That was to recognise that differences with France and Russia were, after all, not insuperable - and to make moves to settle these amicably: "...Initially that meant from 1902 cultivating good relations with France.." (6 p.21) a process which advanced rapidly once France sensed her weakened position after her Ally, Russia, was defeated by Japan in 1904.
And so it came about that, as if by magic, these ancient enemies, England and France, were more or less 'overnight' reconciled, all outstanding differences sunk in the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904. As Churchill wrote: "......the essence of the compact was that the French desisted from opposition to British interests in Egypt, and Britain gave general support to the French views about Morocco" Truly a gentleman's agreement, and what marvellous language to describe a compact between formerly competing Empires which so easily delineates their respective powers over other countries, other peoples. And what a tragic outcome that rapprochement would ultimately have, one alluded to by Lord Rosebury who at the time commented: "My mournful and supreme conviction is that this agreement is much more likely to lead to complications than to peace." (6 p.22)
Algeciras - 1905
The problem was that what was exchanged for the French acceptance of British domination in Egypt, 'support of the French views about Morocco' meant supporting a progressive French takeover in defiance of a still-current treaty signed by 14 European powers, the Treaty of Madrid (1880) which guaranteed both Moroccan independence and an 'open door' to free international trade.(9,14) It was a situation that soon led to an international crisis. As described by Churchill: "Early in 1905 a French mission arrived in Fez. Their language and actions seemed to show an intention of treating Morocco as a French Protectorate, thereby ignoring the international obligations of the Treaty of Madrid. The Sultan of Morocco appealed to Germany, asking if France was authorised in the name of Europe." (6 p.31) Germany succeeded in calling an international conference of all the Treaty's signatories. However, despite Churchill's judgement that "France had not a good case" Britain sided with France, and although ultimately the conference gave nominal support to the principle of open trade access, Germany was effectively 'isolated'. More than that, it is clear that had the crisis come to war, "Great Britain could not have remained indifferent". Indeed, Sir henry Campbell-Bannerman, incoming British PM promptly instituted the beginning of 'military conversations' between the British and French General Staffs "...with a view to concerted action in the event of war." (6 p.32) In line with Lord Rosebury's forebodings, as Churchill put it: "This was a step of profound significance and of far-reaching reactions." further proclaiming "The attitude of Great Britain at Algeciras turned the scale against Germany." Yet since, indeed, "Algeciras was a milestone on the road to Armageddon.", the greater reality was that the scale was in fact turned against all of the future combatant countries since, in human terms, that tragedy engulfed all, including Britain and Australia, there being no 'winners' - only losers.
Bosnia Herzegovina- 1908
There were of course other crises, other 'milestones'. As you might imagine, there appeared to be a fatalistic expectation as to the inevitability of an eventual European war. Austria's annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 further contributed to that sense. Since the Treaty of Berlin (1878) the Austrians had been administering these erstwhile provinces of the weakened Ottoman Empire, but Austria had moved because it wanted to reassert its 'right' lest the newly-emergent Young Turk Revolution should reassert its (equally invalid) 'right'. Since negotiations on the issue had been proceeding with Russia, that country, especially its chief negotiator Isvolsky, was affronted. England and Turkey also protested. Britain and Russia demanded a conference, but Austria, supported by Germany, refused. And while England had stated that it would not go to war over a Balkan quarrel, Russia was pressured to consent to 'recognise' Austria's annexation for otherwise, supported by Germany, Austria would go to war with Serbia. (6 p.36)
It was a precarious, ridiculously dangerous game, all states literally gambling on the probabilities of other power blocks 'giving way' before a 'show down, a war which all knew would be general. It reflected the absolutely chaotic and irresponsible state of European international economic and diplomatic relations, what Dickinson rightly termed "The International Anarchy."(9) Together, ('for their security', of course!) all were arming as fast as they were able. Proposals put forward at the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 to limit types and quantities of arms through verifiable agreements had met with polite but genuine disdain (26 p.229). That applied to all classes of weaponry, including naval arms; although Britain had concerns that Germany might one day 'catch up' it was clearly confident it could maintain its significant ~ 2:1 lead.(6 pp.179,244 )
Agadir - 1911
On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.
Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.
(A.E.Houseman, 'The Shropshire Lad' XXXV)
Thus began Churchill's account of the next crisis. Again a French expedition occupied the Moroccan capital, Fez. Again the German Government raised concerns about access rights of German business in Morocco, specifically at the harbour port of Agadir. On July 1 the Kaiser sent a gunboat, the 'Panther', there 'to protect German interests'. As Churchill commented: "All the alarm bells throughout Europe began immediately to quiver. France found herself in the presence of an act which could not be explained, the purpose behind which could not be measured." On both sides there followed much diplomatic activity and newspaper controversy.
Churchill's own thoughts on the moral rights and wrongs of the situation are instructive. He says (6p.45) "I thought myself that the Germans had a certain grievance about the original Anglo-French agreement. We had received many conveniences in Egypt. France had gained great advantages in Morocco. If Germany felt her relative position prejudiced by these arrangements, there was no reason why patiently and amicably she should not advance and press her own point of view. And it seemed to me that Britain the most withdrawn, the least committed of the Great Powers, might exercise a mitigating and a modifying influence and procure an accommodation; and that of course we tried to do". We are not informed how Britain sought to 'mitigate and modify' the situation, though Churchill goes on to say (p44) that from July 1 until Lloyd George's Mansion House address to the Banker's Annual Dinner on July 21, "not one word was spoken by the German government". We would be left guessing at the basis for Lloyd George's curious address if it were not for other sources (9,14)
In fact Germany was vocal, but only to the French. The two were busy negotiating possible 'compensations' to Germany in the French Congo. Germany, a 'late starter' in the 'Colonial stakes' wanted as compensation all of the French Congo so that, by abutting the 'privatised' Empire of King Leopold II, it could eventually acquire even more territory if and when the Belgian Congo became 'available'. However, left in silence and out of these negotiations, Britain had assumed (wrongly as it happened) that Germany was angling for an Atlantic naval base which might threaten her trade routes. Clearly members of Britain's 'inner' Cabinet had been agonising over this issue as well as feeling great hurt at being 'left out' of the negotiations. It was all too much. Hence the tone of Lloyd George's Mansion House speech. As relayed by Churchill, (p.47) it went:
"I believe it is essential in the highest interests not merely of this country, but of the world, that Britain should at all hazards maintain her place and her prestige amongst the Great Powers of the world. Her potent influence has many a time been in the past, and may yet be in the future, invaluable to the causes of human liberty. It has more than once in the past redeemed continental nations, who are sometimes too apt to forget that service, from overwhelming disaster and even from national extinction. I would make great sacrifices to maintain peace. I conceive that nothing would justify a disturbance of international goodwill except questions of the gravest national moment. But if a situation were to be forced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of heroism and achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated where her interests are vitally affected as if she were of no account in the Cabinet of nations, then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure."
Knowing the background, we can feel the hurt in every sentence. But Churchill thought that the City audience "...obsessed with the iniquities of Lloyd George's Budget and the fearful hardships it had inflicted upon property and wealth...." would not have in any way comprehended its significance, taking it rather as "one of the ordinary platitudes of ministerial pronouncements upon foreign affairs." From the present vantage point, we might have agreed with the bankers, even finding it not a little comical. But in the internationally strained circumstances, the European Chancelleries, especially Germany's, were electrified - Lloyd George having till then been in the 'moderate' faction of Cabinet. But in the event, and despite the British expectations of failure and possible war, negotiations between France and Germany had continued and an eventual accommodation reached. Germany received 'compensation' in the Congo (though less than demanded) in return for her recognition of French domination in Morocco. As Churchill (p.66) put it: "The Agadir crisis came to an end . It terminated in the diplomatic rebuff of Germany."
The Agadir crisis may have been resolved, but key members of the Cabinet, including Churchill had been, since Algeciras (1906) totally convinced that a war with Germany, i.e., a general war, was coming and they, in collaboration with the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Service Chiefs of Staff accelerated preparations for it, including for joint operations in France and on the seas. It is important to stress here that, as Churchill repeatedly reminds us, those preparations were all unknown not only to the British public, but also to their representatives in Parliament, including most members of Cabinet.(6 p.46,203) It was indeed, a very secret form of 'mens' business'.
In fact we know that similarly placed 'key leaders' operating within the governments of all the major European powers had, through their 'balance of power' alliances (formal or not) locked their countries into war commitments. Fatalistically, all saw war coming sooner or later and acted accordingly. And the self-fulfilling final logic of the alliance system governing all was that if your ally goes to war with your enemy, even if his cause has no justification whatever, you must promptly go to war in support, for without it your ally will be defeated and your enemy, by then the stronger, will defeat you. Churchill was very aware of this logic with respect to Britain's 'defence arrangements' with France. Britain could not, for its own safety and independence, allow France to be crushed, was the bottom line. Since 1906, right or wrong, Britain would have to side with France. (6 p.202, 205). But what was not calculated was, as eventually happened, that France would be drawn in through its alliance with Russia - and over another Balkan confrontation and war that involved no 'vital interests' for either France or Britain! (let alone Australia).
But the further disturbing element of this history is that because it was secret, privy only to an inner Cabinet clique, that alliance stand would have to remain publicly unavowed. Hence the knowledge of a confirmed commitment to France could not be used as an instrument to prevent war by warning Germany what was at stake. As Churchill wrote in discussing whether war might thus have been averted (p.203): "Suppose after Agadir.......the Foreign Secretary......proposed a formal alliance with France and Russia.....who shall say whether that would have prevented or precipitated war." He then goes on: "But what chance was there of such an action being unitedly taken? The Cabinet of the day would never have agreed to it. I doubt if four Ministers would have agreed to it. But if the Cabinet had been united upon it the House of Commons would not have accepted their guidance." Then comes the 'awful' consequence (!!) of such a democratic option: "Therefore the Foreign Minister would have had to resign." - and the policy he had followed might have been repudiated, along with all those 'informal preparations and non-committal discussions' on which the Triple Entente was based. And by such actions in 1912, the Foreign Minister would have "....paralysed Britain, isolated France and increased the preponderant and growing power of Germany." And that was the bottom line - it was all about which was to be top economy, 'Top Nation'.
Thus were the British people, as well as the peoples of the Dominions, left in total ignorance until after Sarejevo, the very eve of the war, when the Foreign Minister, backed by Prime Minister and one or two others, informed Parliament of 'their' moral commitments to France. There is little doubt that that was also the position within all the combatant countries. And in the final outcome, none of these peoples were 'winners'. The human losses were unspeakable.(9,12,19,25,27) The waste of effort, the material waste, the opportunity costs were simply enormous. Besides the military slaughter of so many young unfulfilled lives, there was a huge toll of civilians, both on land and at sea: the blockade of Continental Europe was extremely 'successful' (25) and the German submarines did their work with extraordinary 'efficiency'. Clearly the only winners in a purely 'material' sense were those countries which were not or little involved e.g., Sweden, Japan and the United States. Technically Japan was at war but it had scarce involvement. United States' soldiers valiantly fought, suffered and died, but coming in relatively late, missed the worst; US industry and trade was given a considerable boost. By contrast Britain suffered a very serious setback; the pre-war British position was never recovered. France fared no better. Russia was an absolute disaster.(19) And the 'defeated' nations suffered even more so. In the case of Germany that suffering was compounded by the terms of the 'peace' settlement which, specifying that country as the sole 'guilty party' in 'starting the war' heaped on its people the severest of financial and material reparations.(18). As we know, the continued blockade (25) and those reparations caused enormous additional suffering. They also resulted in a great bitterness which contributed to the onset of WWII.
Fallout: From War to War
In rounding off this historical section, it should be recalled that the effects of WWI were on such a scale, so tragic, so absolutely horrifying that the populations of European states were fully determined to prevent any recurrence.(4,19,22,23,28) WWI was to have been be the 'war to end all wars'. And we know from the British side great efforts were made. Lord Robert Cecil played a major role in launching the League of Nations which, like Versailles (Part V) provided for verifiable arms-limitation agreements to ensure that 'defensive-defence' reigned (i.e.,not just for Germany, but Europe-wide). He was supported by Nansen, Briand, Stresemann and many others who were concerned about the destabilising effects of arms build-ups (1,4,22,23,28). Very strong support came also from the organisations of ex-servicemen who had survived the war. And, adding their voices were senior military leaders like Field Marshall Sir William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff 1915-1918, and Admiral Lord Wester Wemyss, First Sea Lord 1917-1919, whose 1919 Memorandum to the Admiralty was extremely critical of the destabilising role played by all arms manufacturers before the war. (22,28)
However, as Cecil wrote in his very fine book "All the Way", those whose primary concerns were about 'protecting the Empire' and the freedom to trade in arms, including the Navy and Air Leagues (which gained much support from the manufacturers) had such a strong influence on government, that the Versailles' Treaty, Part V and the Covenant's Article 8 were never honoured.(4,22,23) Cecil had also sought agreement on a Treaty of Mutual Assistance to complement arms limitation agreements, but this too failed to get his government's support.(4,22,23)
And when Hitler came to power, in the face of the failed 'Disarmament Conference of 1932-33', German disarmament was allowed to lapse and manufacturers (already supplying Japan's needs for Manchuria) began also to supply Germany.(22) Indeed, as described by Churchill in his WWII history, "The Gathering Storm", the process was so open that the British government, in defiance of Versailles, 'authorised' Germany's 'right' to rebuild its Navy, including its submarines, in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935. (7) Not surprising that World War II was by then not so far away, further developments being well described by Churchill (7) and Lidell Hart (20).
Australia's Foreign Wars: Origins, Costs, Future?!
Imperial Roots; the Boer War; WWI Early Background
World War One: Origins
World War One - and the Gallipoli Campaign
World War One: Economic Origins
World War One: Human Costs
Outcomes of World War I - the Tragic Path to World War II
Supporting Germany's Rearmament; and the Steady Slide to WWII
World War II and Australia
The Cold War, 'French' Indochina, and the Vietnam Wars
The Korean War - another Civil War in the Cold War
Versailles Treaty Provisions Affecting Germany
The 1899 & 1907 Hague Peace Conferences to Prevent War & Weapons of Mass Destruction
Submission by MAPW to Australia's Defence Review 2000
Survival Through the 21st Century
MAPW Submission on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
The adequacy with which Australia's policy and guidelines for controlling military transfers safeguard Australia's defence, security and international relations
Inquiry into the Implications of Australia's Defence Exports
Ockham's Razor 'Arms and the Man'
Winston Churchill in 1929 on threat to Humankind from future Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Question of Terror' from Eureka Street
Australia and Our Violent Century: Time to Learn
Lord Gowries speech at opening of the Australian War Memorial
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Noel-Baker, Philip |
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