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frontier, since it threw a shadow over the meeting and provoked angry discussions and threats which were unworthy and futile. Still it had this advantage in that it provided an object lesson for the future, and proved that, unless the Council of the League acts with more prudence in similar cases that may occur, the future of the League risks being compromised.
The principles which form the cornerstone of the League are the equality of all nations whether great or small, and their right to have their independence and territory respected. Just as in private life a citizen of a State cannot deal with a recalcitrant neighbour by taking the law into his own hands, so also a State, Member of the League, is precluded by the Covenant from taking violent action against another State without previous recourse to the League for its mediation or arbitration. Consequently, the Greek Government were in every sense justified in making their appeal to the League on the occupation of Corfu by Italy; but the League should have recognised the limits of their right of interference, and should have had the wisdom not to encroach upon the province of the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris-confided to that body by the Signatories of the Treaty of Versailles-in endeavouring to lay down the actual steps to be taken and the measures of reparation to be exacted for the cruel and barbarous massacre of the Italian Mission. The Council of the League should have acted in co-operation with the Conference of Ambassadors, reserving the right to adjust the question of the occupation of Corfu and the incident at Janina in the event of the Conference failing to do so.
The Italian Government were, on their side, justified in opposing the claim of the League to interfere in the solution of the incident at Janina. To make this clear it suffices to point out that, had the Italian Government not taken the law into their own hands and seized Corfu as a guarantee for reparation due at the hands of the Greek Government, whom they regarded as responsible for the murder of the Italian Mission, there need not have been any ground for an appeal by the Greek Government to the League of Nations. As stated above, the execution of the Treaties of Peace was after their signature confided by the Allies to the Representa
tives in Paris of the Allied Great Powers, whose duty it is to supervise the execution of all the details of the Treaties, amongst these being the delimitation of new frontiers. The Italian Mission had formed part of the International Commission for the delimitation of the frontier between Greece and Albania. That Commission was appointed by, and was acting under the direct instructions of the Conference of Ambassadors in which Italy was represented by her own Ambassador. In its own sphere the Conference enjoys almost unique powers, and from its composition, knowledge of the situation and experience, it was certainly more competent to deal with the crisis on the Albanian frontier than the Council of the League of Nations. For the Italian Government to have agreed to the interference of the League in the solution of the incident at Janina would have been to derogate the responsibilities and duties of the Conference of Ambassadors, a body of the highest status and actually created by the Allies for the solution of all such questions, to a Council composed of the representatives of various Powers with possibly divergent interests and without the special technical knowledge which was essential in order to arrive at a just decision in the matter.
Thus far the Italian Government were acting with right on their side. But, on the other hand, their refusal to admit the competence of the League to express an opinion upon the legitimacy of the occupation of Corfu, or to decide whether such action constituted an act of war as defined by the terms of the Covenant, proved that the Italian Government were also lacking in wisdom by their failure to realise that in so doing they were rendering illusory the force of the Covenant of which they themselves were a signatory, and which, like a boomerang, might well react to their own serious disadvantage on some future occasion.
It should be clearly understood that in the GreekItalian conflict there were two distinct but interdependent issues, the incident at Janina which was dealt with by the Conference of Ambassadors, and the occupation of Corfu which came within the jurisdiction of the League of Nations. What was required was a bridge between the League and the Ambassadors, and this eventually, under the force of circumstances, was found.
As to the final solution of the question by the Council of Ambassadors, as General Smuts said recently in a speech: The less said about it the better.' But it is asserted in official circles in Paris that M. Mussolini would not have accepted less, and that if less had been offered he would have declared war. The question of the amount of compensation was not worth a war.
The proposal of the Council of the League to submit the question of competence to the International Tribunal of The Hague was the only proper course to follow under the circumstances, since such a Court would and could pronounce a decision which would inspire universal confidence, and against which there could be no appeal. The Italian Government made a mistake in rejecting this proposal and in agreeing to the substitution of a Court of International Jurists. Who has ever heard of a litigant, except on the plea of expense, preferring to submit his case to a lower rather than to a higher Court? One can only surmise that the Italian Government are cognisant of the weakness of their case, and prefer that it should be condemned by a lower Court rather than by the greatest International Tribunal of Justice that the world has ever seen.
Turning to other achievements of the League of Nations there is no doubt that their most valuable and greatest success has been the reconstitution of Austria, and it is sincerely to be hoped that the negotiations now in progress between the League and the Hungarian Government may result in the League taking the economic restoration of Hungary in hand, and thus re-establishing two elements at least of stability and progress between the crumbling German Empire and the rivalries of the Balkan States. It would be out of place to criticise here at length the foreign policy of those who, by the Treaty of St Germain, destroyed Austria and Hungary, the necessity of whose existence has since proved so essential that they have had, in one case and probably in both, to be restored by the aid of international credits provided by the Allies their destroyers. As was truly said by a great statesman, if there were no Austria, it would be necessary to invent one.
Of the work accomplished during the recent session of the Assembly there can be no doubt that by far the
most important was that of the Third Committee which dealt with the question of the reduction of armaments and a treaty, of mutual guarantee. By Art. 8 of the Covenant of the League the Signatory Powers have agreed to proceed with a steady and progressive reduction of armaments, and, with a view to securing the execution of the provisions of the Covenant in this respect, a temporary and an Advisory Commission have been employed during the past three years to devise the best means of carrying them into effect. In this they have succeeded in a great measure, and important reductions by most of the Signatory Powers have been made, not only in their standing armies and armaments, but also in the limitation of their war expenditure. A great deal remains yet to be done in the control of the traffic in arms and of chemical warfare.
A striking example of general co-operation in the interests of peace has been given by the republics of South America who, by a treaty concluded in Washington during the past year, have agreed amongst themselves to a general reduction and limitation of armaments on a very considerable scale.
Nevertheless, it was felt by many Powers, especially amongst the smaller States, that their strategical position was such that their independence would be imperilled if they were compelled to disarm without previously obtaining sufficient guarantees from other Signatory Powers for their mutual protection. The form of guarantee that many preferred were special treaties with Powers whose interests were identical with their own; but it was felt that this would be to revert to and perpetuate the old system of defensive Treaties which had been one of the primary causes of excessive armaments in the past, and of the late war. It was, therefore, decided that such special treaties should come under, and be included within, the proposed Treaty of Mutual Guarantee. It should be remembered that such treaties are permitted under certain conditions by the Covenant. By this proposal it is understood that a guarantee of security will be given to a nation whose armaments have been reduced in conformity with Art. 8 of the Covenant.
No scheme could have provoked more divergence of views and hostile criticism than the proposed Treaty of
Mutual Guarantee. While the greater Powers regarded the Treaty as a special guarantee of security for the smaller Powers, they, on the other hand, looked upon it as of only real advantage to the greater Powers whose position would not be exposed to a sudden 'coup de main,' while the form of help promised to the smaller States would be of too problematical a nature to be any real protection after their armaments had been reduced to a minimum. Every clause of the Treaty was hotly contested, and the Treaty reached the Assembly in an immature and imperfect form. It was decided to ask the opinions of all the Governments upon it, but it is no secret that a considerable number of them will decline to accept it at any price.
The remaining five Committees appointed by the Assembly performed a great deal of useful work connected with finance, modifications of the Covenant, admission of Ireland and Abyssinia as Members of the League, slave trade, opium, white slave traffic, and other cognate questions coming directly under the League of Nations as international questions already dealt with under various Treaties. It was only in the fifth Committee that humanitarian and educational questions ran riot. Exception should be made in regard to Dr Nansen's work of repatriation of refugees from the war. The success of his work is undeniable, and it could only have been achieved with the support and under the ægis of such a body as the League of Nations. But it is difficult to understand why the League of Nations should maintain at its own expense homes for refugee women and children in Constantinople and Aleppo which should, if still necessary, be supported by private charity. It may be said that the cost is not great, but that is only an additional reason for such homes being maintained by private subscriptions. Endless time was devoted in the fifth Committee to the discussion of such questions as intellectual cooperation, mutual international insurance against catastrophes such as earthquakes and famines, international recognition of University degrees, special travelling facilities for boy scouts and girl guides, and propaganda amongst school children of the aims of the League of Nations. It seems entirely outside the original scope and aim of the League