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East Meets West at Washington
By NATHANIEL PEFFER
one who lives in the Far East
Tthe conference of the powers at tensified by events, and the enforts to
Washington is almost a last despairing compose it fail one by one. The Paris hope.
I have spent recent years in the Far East and have just returned. When I first went there, China was to Americans a distant thing of pagodas and porcelain, a surviving, shadowy memory of a glorious past, a past interesting to us only historically and archæologically; Japan was a lovely decoration on the border of the East. In five years I have seen those misty concepts take shape in the form of tough realities that touch us intimately and make friction with the touch. The Far East has emerged out of romantic remoteness into focus as a new center of world embroilment, China as a battle ground, Japan as a potential enemy.
In these years, years in which in the East equally with the West forces have been making with tragic scope and swiftness, Japan has risen to imperial eminence and challenge to white supremacy, one of the three great powers. It has crushed its way to dominance over China, planted one foothold in Siberia, another on the equator, and achieved mastery over all eastern Asia. And by some strange play of circumstance in the issue that has been forced by this reshifting in world balance America has been pushed out as the protagonist of the West against the East.
peace conference only complicated it by virtue of the Shan-tung award. The League of Nations, as far as it is concerned, is inoperative. The China consortium, a praiseworthy attempt to neutralize it by an international pooling of interests, is dying of inanition. All have failed. Japan and America stand facing each other on the naked issue. naked issue. And I have returned now from China with a fixed, fatalistic conviction, rooted in instinct rather than founded on logical processes, that Japan and America in this year of 1921 are moving along the road that England and Germany trod twenty years ago, and that the magnetism of halfunderstood and wholly misunderstood forces draws them relentlessly to the same destination.
To us, then, of the Far East the Washington conference is more than a diplomatic conversation on disarmament, more even than an attempt to solve certain Pacific "problems." It is an opportunity to avert war-a war that may draw to its flame the whole civilized world, yellow and white. The conference may fail and war yet not come, but the conference is a positive chance to avert it, and if it fails, then war is brought menacingly nearer.
To us also there is a fitness in the heralding of this international assembly
as a second Paris peace conference. It is equally important. In complexity and scope its tasks are as formidable. Its prime, basic task also is not the solution of specific problems, not the arrangement of boundaries, the redivision of concessions and spheres of influence, or the affixing of definite limits on the number of war-ships afloat, but, just as at Paris, the laying down of a new morality, the making of a new faith. Not Shan-tung, not Yap, not the Twenty-one Demands, has made this situation in the Pacific, but the operation of the old tradition of empires, specially of white empires in non-white territories.
The conference has two different aspects, two distinct issues, rather: limitation of armament and the political status of the Far East. These are interrelated and interweaving in cause and effect, but they demand examination singly to determine their bearing on the whole. The simpler, though the simpler only by comparison, is limitation of armament.
On the desirability in the abstract of a halt in the armament race it is unnecessary to dwell. The arguments The arguments both moral and economic are too familiar for analysis. The inescapable end of such races has been written innumerable times in the pages of history in the blood of innumerable peoples. There is no reason to look for a different end to this one. effect on the already strained economic structure of the world of a progressively increasing expenditure for armies and surface, undersea, and aërial fleets is predictable with mathematical certainty now. Already the race is gathering ominous speed. Japan
counters America's 1916 naval program with its eight-and-eight program. In 1928, when the eight-and-eight program is completed, it will have only
two capital ships fewer than America, and its ships will be newer. American naval men feel, with considerable justice, and already say with emphasis, that America cannot afford to have its margin of superiority so thinned. There will be another American building program. And so on.
On the practicability in the concrete of armament reduction it is necessary to dwell at greater length. I for one do not hold the prevalent belief that it is contingent upon a previous settlement of political differences. Assume that there be deadlock on all political differences, even that the conference adjourn in complete disagreement and there be left no means of settlement but the bloody decision of war. Even with that granted and a mutual acceptance of war as fated, there is yet the possibility of a mutual restriction on the weapons with which we shall fight.
If the present military strength of Great Britain, the United States, and Japan be represented, just for illustration, as five, four, and three, it will have availed them little if they frantically match new ship with new ship, plane with plane, gas with gas, until they stand at ten, eight, and six, as always happens in armament races. Their relative position in a test of strength by battle will have remained the same. The burdens will have been borne by their taxpayers, and national resources and energy deflected from production to no purpose. True, the whole trend of modern warfare has
been toward the integration of whole nations as single fighting units. Nations now go to war with whole populations. But it is not a foreordained trend. It is possible of arrest; in fact, it must be arrested if future wars are not to mean virtual extermination. If we cannot yet permanently and irrevocably outlaw war and, on the other hand, are to escape extermination, I do not see any alternative to the knighthood theory of warfare, arbitrarily limiting employment in warfare to definitely specified and mutually agreed upon resources, both human and material.
It may be said that this rests on the assumption that the potential strength of the three powers involved is accurately represented by their present military establishments and that this assumption works to the advantage of Great Britain and the disadvantage of the United States. That is true. It is true that the greater wealth of the United States would enable it to outstrip Great Britian and Japan and that the stratification of the present relative position of the three powers thereby would penalize the United States. But that is not a compellingly decisive consideration. For practical purposes of strategy few unprejudiced persons consider seriously the possibility of a British-American war in the present circumstances of international relations. Few but the professional Anglophobes and the professionally military-minded would seriously advocate our embarking now on a great naval program directed against Great Britain.
This consideration has weight only as it applies to Japan and the United
States. The preponderance that America now has at sea over Japan is variously estimated because both powers are building and their programs
are not paced alike. But it undoubtedly is not so great as the Japanese say it is and undoubtly it is greater than American "first-navy" advocates admit. Undoubtly, also, it is great enough for American security, provided Japan halts its eight-and-eight program together with the Uni
ted States. It need be greater only if we contemplate aggressive designs on Japan, and I think only the few Japanophobes among us do. The wider margin of preponderance that we can get by forcing a naval race is not necessary if America abides by its tradition of using its strength only for defense. For Japan America's preponderance is not so serious a cause for concern as the Japanese militarists represent in their appeals for more appropriations. In the first place, it is foredoomed by America's larger population, greater wealth, and higher industrial development. In the second place, it is neutralized by the strategic advantages of Japan's geographical position.
Privately, Japanese naval officers admit this freely enough. In the reception-room of the minister of the navy in Tokio a few months ago this view was put to me with surprising frankness by one of his aides, a captain who had also served on the general staff. By way of disproving belligerent intentions on the part of Japan he was demonstrating to me the security of Japan's position.
"Japan does not particularly need naval equality with the United States,"
lems, to prevent the ruinous consequences that must follow if the new naval race already beginning is allowed to continue. The burden that
he said. "Only an overwhelming preponderance would constitute an active menace to us. Ten years ago it was different. Then America's military strength was negligible. It was exposed in the Philippines, in Hawaii, even on its own coasts. That was Japan's last chance to inflict any damage on America. But the war changed that. It made America the greatest military power in the world. For Japan to contemplate an offensive strategy in the event of a war now would be courting suicide. Now it must base its strategy on the fundamental principle of a defensive war. But it itself is not particularly menaced. For America also it would be foolish to contemplate an offensive strategy. It has no naval base large enough to fit out a whole fleet for battle nearer Japan than Hawaii, three thousand miles away. The Philippines would be of no use, for we could intercept any fleet on its way there. For your navy to risk battle three thousand miles away from its base after a voyage of three thousand miles against a fleet resting on its own base would be reckless folly unless your fleet were three times as large as ours. In fact, Japan's strategy, if war should come, would be to stay in its home waters, capture the Philippines, and then by playing on American impatience and pride of power seek to lure its fleet over here to combat under disadvantageous conditions that might give us the victory. So long as the proportions between our navies remain as they are now, Japan is not particularly alarmed."
It is practicable, then, I believe, without reference to Far-Eastern prob
must rest on the respective peoples can at least be lightened. The political complications that threaten most embarrassment are not those growing out of conflicting national policies, but those growing out of domestic political conditions, those factors that determine the will to disarm. No country is innocent of its jingoist alarmists, its military parties, and its interests that profit by armament manufacture, politically as well as financially. But these are strongest in Japan, and it is from Japan that the most formidable obstruction must come.
Among those who compose the ruling classes of Japan-the elder statesmen, the military clans, and the industrial oligarchy-the desire for the mildest restriction on military programs is negative, and compulsory where it is positive. While I was in Tokio the discussion of a naval truce began to take form as a result of Senator Borah's resolution. I took it up with members of the Hara cabinet, with political leaders, military men, and editors. Nothing that I heard led me to believe that there was a genuine interest in the subject as a practical question. They always told me with little variation in words that they favored a naval truce "in principle but-" The "but" could always be followed through to the admission that they wanted a naval truce after Japan had completed its eight-and-eight program: eight battleships, eight battle-cruisers, and smaller