CHAPTER XVIII
THE OUTLOOK



I join with you most heartily in rejoicing at the return of peace.  I hope it will be lasting and that mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures, have reason enough to settle their differences without cutting their throats ;  for in my opinion, there never was a good war or a bad peace.
—BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.


THE story of the rise and development of the arms merchants reveals them as a growing menace to world peace.  When they began centuries ago to adapt gunpowder for war, their products were primitive and crude ;  to-day their death machines represent the acme of scientific achievement.  For centuries the development of arms and munitions depended on the haphazard and isolated work of the individual inventor ;  to-day industrial research laboratories have systematised and accelerated invention to an appalling degree.  In the early days of the industry the making of arms and munitions was literally manu-facture, that is, hand work, which was naturally slow and inexact ;  to-day the Industrial Revolution and the Machine Age have brought about mass production with the greatest exactitude.

Wars have undergone a similar fundamental change.  Feudal and dynastic conflicts fought with small armies and few casualties have been transformed into national wars with millions of men and millions of victims.  Ancient and medieval wars were fought with Lilliputian arms.  The map of the world was changed and the political destinies of nations were decided by 5,000 to 30,000 soldiers.  The Greek forces engaged in the battle of Marathon, for instance, so decisive in the history of ancient Greece, amounted to 5,000 to 6,000.1  Alexander the Great’s epoch-making wars were fought with 30,000 to 40,000 Macedonians.2  The battle of Hastings, which delivered England into the hands of the Normans, found 7,000 Normans arrayed against 4,000 to 7,000 Anglo-Saxons.3  The Hussite armies of the fifteenth century which held all Europe in nervous terror, never numbered more than 5,000.4

The early armies of America, were naturally rather small.  At Bunker Hill the American army numbered 16,000 ;  Burgoyne’s vital campaign was carried on with 6,000 soldiers ;  Yorktown found 9,000 Americans and 7,000 French opposed to 7,000 British ;  the first American standing peace-time army consisted of 80 men.5  But with the French Revolution national wars and national armies appeared on the scene.  Immediately the size of armies began to increase.  Napoleon’s famous battles were fought with hundreds of thousands ;6 by 1870, in the Franco-Prussian War, almost a million Germans were in France ;7  and in the World War the enlisted men exceeded 66,000,000.

A similar significant development took place in armaments.  The simple, relatively inexpensive weapons of earlier ages were displaced by highly scientific death machines, and the cost of these, together with the upkeep of the huge armies, brought a rapid increase in national war budgets.

This increase is reflected in the statistics of the expenditure of ammunition since 1859 which follow :

Expenditure of Artillery Ammunition in Recent Wars8

The development is shown even more pointedly in the following table which covers one year of the U.S. Civil War and one year of the World War :

The money costs of these arms and armies is stupendous.  In order to equip the first 5,000,000 American soldiers in the World War, the cost of ordnance alone was estimated at between $12,000,000,000 and $13,000,000,000.

“ This was equal to about half of all the moneys appropriated by Congresses of the United States from the first Continental Congress down to our declaration of war against Germany . . . out of which appropriations have been paid for the cost of every war we ever fought, including the Civil War, and the whole enormous expenses of the Government in every official capacity for 140 years.”9

Another way to realise what the “ new warfare ” costs is to take the military and naval budgets of various countries from 1863 to 1913.10 The figures for the United States from 1791 down to the present are also illuminatin :

No fundamental political attitudes have been changed by the World War.  The nations continue their reliance on “mass murder” as a means of settling vexing problems.  Armies and navies and air forces have increased, military budgets mount every year, new and more frightful weapons make their appearance every month.  None of the basic causes of war have been removed and the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact, and other agencies and methods designed to bring about a peaceful settlement of international disputes have shown a distressing ineptitude in dealing with pressing world problems.

Every modern war threatens to involve half the world, bring disaster to world economy, and blot out civilisation.  The question is urgent then :  What will be done about the armament industry ?

The future may very well bring fiercer and more destructive wars and increased business for the arms makers.  Certainly one great current of world affairs is flowing strongly in that direction.  The business of the arms industry is steadily increasing—it was the only industry which flourished in spite of the world depression—and governments are everywhere drawing closer the ties which bind them in a virtual partnership with the merchants of death.

If wars continue, it is not at all fantastic to predict that the arms merchants will grow increasingly important.  Already the stage in national affairs has been reached where the largest item in national budgets is for past and future wars.  Already war appears as the greatest and most important activity of government.  The economic consequences of this new nationalistic militarism will soon be apparent in the arms industry.

The arms merchants will supply to the government its most vital necessities and inevitably they will grow constantly more important in the councils of state.  An example of what the future holds along this line may be seen in Japan.  There the arms industry is the very centre of economic life.  It was established first, and all other industries were built around it.  The manufacture and trade in arms in Japan is a definite index to its entire economic life.  The whole economic life of Japan is thus oriented toward wax and the arms industry is naturally the heart of this economy.

It is not such a far cry from this Japanese arrangement to the system of “ industrial mobilisation ” now adopted by most of the great powers.  While these nations slur over or extemporise plans for the elimination of unemployment, for wiping out the slums, for establishing social insurance, or any of a dozen constructive measures that might be mentioned, they are preparing the most elaborate blue prints providing for action in case of war.  It would almost seem as though governments exist merely to prepare for war.

This “ industrial mobilisation ” is the education and preparation of industries in peace time for their tasks in war.11  The World War has taught governments that modern war involves the entire economic life of the nation.  What this means may be gauged by a statement of a former United States Secretary of War before a Congressional committee.  He declared that the needs of an army in war included a list of 35,000 different items made up of 700,000 component parts.  To equip an army of 2,000,000 men with shoes requires the hides of 4,462,500 steers for the soles and 3,750,000 cows for the upper parts of the shoes.12  Without making undue demands on the imagination, it can readily be seen what a gigantic economic task is involved in modern war.  In order to prepare for this “ emergency,” the U.S. government has already made contracts with 15,000 industrialists, instructing them in detail what will be expected of them in war.  The War Department is eager to take another step and give out “ educational orders ” to these firms, but thus far it has been unable to carry this out.

This system of industrial mobilisation is a long step toward placing war in the centre of economic life, or to put it another way, to make the arms industry the hub of the industrial machine.  An alliance of governments with war industries threatens to make the armament manufacturers supreme in economic life and after that in government.  A world dominated economically and politically by the armament industry will eventually result, if wars continue unabated.

But other counter-currents are active also.  A growing demand is being voiced that the arms merchants must be rigidly controlled.  Some call for complete government ownership and operation of the industry ;  others put their trust in international control and supervision.  Both of these expedients have a history.  The advocates of government ownership of the arms industry believe that the private arms makers with their unrestricted international sales are one of the chief obstacles to peace.  If now the industry were nationalised, international sale would virtually disappear and the world could live in peace.  This argument deserves close examination.

It requires great industrial skill and equipment and very considerable naturalresources of a specialised kind to produce modern armaments.  Only the leading industrial countries of the world command these qualifications.  For other less favoured nations it is far cheaper and much more efficient to buy their arms abroad than to make them, at home.  Only about ten countries in the world to-day manufacture armaments sufficient to sell to other countries, and three of these (Great Britain, France and the United States) account for 75 per cent. of all arms exports.  Furthermore, no nation in the world to-day produces all of its arms and munitions at home ;  every nation imports some war materials ;  because some other country produces some type of armament better or cheaper than it does.  Concretely this means that even France, England, and the United States import some armaments.

The non-producing countries saw this situation clearly and nothing recurs more persistently in international conferences and treaties on disarmament than the demand of the non-producing countries that their right to buy armaments abroad must not be restricted.  The Hague Convention of 1907 declared :  “ A neutral power is not bound to prevent the export or transit, for the use of either belligerent, of arms, ammunition, or, in general, of anything which could be of use to an army or fleet.”  The Covenant of the League of Nations is more explicit.  After recognising that the private manufacture of arms is “ open to grave objections,” it continues :  “ The Council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those members of the League which are not able to manufacture the munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety.”  The League of Nations Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms was dominated by the insistence of the non-producing countries that the producing countries must sell.  Terms like “ obligation to sell,” “ right of sovereignty includes right to buy,” etc., were flung about daily.

The international sale of arms, then, has far deeper roots than the “ conscienceless greed ” of the armament manufacturers.  If all private arms makers decided to discontinue their international traffic tomorrow, a world-wide protest of governments would not permit them to do it.  As long as war is a possibility, nations will demand arms.  The world economic situation makes it difficult or impossible for most, if not all, of them to manufacture all types of armaments which they demand.  Hence it is laid down and affirmed in solemn international treaties that arms must at all times be sold freely, even in times of war.  The rules of contraband may interrupt this traffic in war times, but in times of peace and under normal conditions the “ obligation to sell ” is clearly established.

Thus the programme for the nationalisation of armament industries clearly involves a major change in international politics, to which, as long as war clouds obscure the horizon, the non-producing countries of the world will never agree.  True enough, it might be arranged that over a period of years every nation be given its chance to establish its own national armament industry, and thus international traffic might end.  But this expedient is of doubtful value.  Even if all nations agreed to this arrangement—which is very questionable—the result would probably be a vast expansion of arms industries, and international trade would continue in raw materials rather than in finished products.  Furthermore, has not the Japanese arms industry been government-owned from its earliest beginnings and does it not remain so—with some exceptions—to this day ?  Has that fact eliminated war from the Japanese horizon ?

From another aspect there might be a real gain.  It is true that the export trade in arms to-day is only somewhere between 2 and 15 per cent. of the total arms production.  But this apparently minor traffic is far more important than it would appear.  It frequently brings into play the peculiar business methods of the arms merchants, including bribery of officials, gontrol of the press, war scares, etc.  It acts as a lever by which orders can be pried out of other governments.  Furthermore, so many of these sales are made at times when international friction has developed, or during war, that they are a distinct contribution to the origin or continuance of wars.  British armament manufacturers selling tanks to the Soviets or aeroplanes to Hitler when diplomatic relations were strained are interfering in international politics.  Arms merchants selling war materials to South American countries during the recent hostilities are obstructing peace.

Even more important is another aspect of the situation.  Peace-time sales of arms to other countries are merely the preliminary to war-time sales.  No great war has been fought in modern times without lively international traffic in arms.  How long, for instance, would the World War have lasted without international sales of war materials ?  Or the Japanese expeditions into Manchuria ?  If now the nationalisation of the arms industry included the complete and absolute prohibition to export arms of all kinds in times of peace, and especially in times of war, it would be a decided gain for world peace.

But viewing the problem as a whole, with its economic and political background, it seems improbable that this step will be taken, or that, if taken, it would include the most important provision of including times of war.  The simple fact is that the prohibition of the traffic in arms would be almost a revolution in international politics, and the non-producing countries would look upon it as a hostile act of the producing countries, to whose tender—or otherwise—mercies they would thereby be committed in a warring world.

The other important proposal advanced for the solution of the problem is international control.  Several, equivocal efforts in this direction have been made.  The Brussels Convention of 1890, for instance, prohibited the export of arms to all of Africa.  This was said to be in the interest of the suppression of the slave trade.  It probably was.  At the same time it was obviously a selfish measure of the great imperialist powers to keep modern weapons out of their colonies and to hold them in submission.  It is a curious sidelight on this agreement that Abyssinia was so successful in smuggling arms through French Somaliland that it won the historic battle of Adowa in 1896 over the Italians, thus constituting itself the one country in Africa which has maintained its independence against the imperialism of the great powers.  Nor was that the only example of smuggling.  A lively and very profitable trade in contraband arms has flourished for decades, especially along the Mediterranean coast of Africa, which has led to much unrest among the native tribes.13

Not much more can be said for the Convention of Saint-Germain-en-Laye of 1919.  This treaty obviously grew out of the fears of the great powers as to the disposal of the enormous stocks of arms and munitions after the war.  It laid down as a principle that arms could be sold only to the recognised government of another state—not to revolutionaries or rebels.  At the same time it extended the “ prohibited zones ” of the Brussels treaty to the Asiatic Near East.  This convention was signed by 23 states and ratified by 11.  It never went into effect, because the great armsproducing countries had all stipulated that they must ratify in a body or not at all.  The United States refused to ratify, because it did not wish to refuse arms to revolutionary governments in South and Central America.  The barely concealed purpose of the convention was to protect the great powers in the possession of their colonies, protectorates, and mandates.14

The next move was made by the League of Nations.  After some preliminary work by a sub-committee in 1921, a conference was called “ for the supervision of the international trade in arms and ammunition and in implements of war.”  The conference met from May 14 to June 17, 1925, 44 states being represented.  The old provisions as to “ prohibited zones ” and “ legal buyers ” were reaffirmed, with modifications, and an attempt was made to secure adequate statistics of the export of arms in place of the utterly unreliable statistics now being gathered by the League.  The ratification of all important arms-producing countries was again made a prerequisite for adoption, with the result that the treaty is not yet in force.15

The concrete achievements of this conference were negligible, but the problem of international control of the arms industry was clearly revealed.  Amid all the polite speeches of the delegates several things were conspicuous.  The non-producing countries were almost panic-stricken when they considered the possibility that any restrictions might be placed on their “ right to buy,” and they insisted that no such action could be taken.  Similarly it was clear that no move would be tolerated against the private arms industry.  When this was under discussion, the Hon. Theodore Burton, Congressman from Ohio, for years president of the American Peace Society and a leader of the right wing of the American peace movement, leader also of the United States delegation to the Conference, arose to an impassioned defence of the private manufacturer of armaments :  “ What of the private manufacturers, many of whom have the most pacific intentions ?  What have they done that there should be this discrimination against them ?  What hope have the lovers of peace in prohibiting private manufacture if government manufacture may still go on to an unlimited extent ? ”16

Burton’s plea was obviously not personal, but represented the policy of the United States government which depends so largely on private manufacture for its armaments.  As such it discloses the basic problem of international control of the arms makers, that is, that few governments, if any, really want international supervision of the traffic in war materials.  Most governments believe that the unhindered international sale of arms would insure their military preparedness, especially since most of them are entirely dependent on imports for their war materials.  The great armsproducing countries, on the other hand, are averse to harming one of their industries on which they themselves so largely rely for their “ national defence.”

If this conclusion seems unwarranted, a glance at another meeting will perhaps prove convincing.  After the Geneva conference Theodore Burton introduced into the United States Congress a bill proposing an embargo in war times on all war materials.  The bill was specific and aimed at actual armaments, such as guns, ammunition, cannon, machine-guns, or their parts.  It deliberately avoided the problem of so-called secondary war materials, such as soldiers’ shoes and uniforms.  It was introduced on December 5, 1927, reported out of committee on January 30, 1928, and was ready for House action after that.  Suddenly in March, 1928, the House Military Affairs Committee asked the Foreign Affairs Committee for another hearing on the bill, since it “might impair the preparedness programme” or “impinge upon national defence.”  Accordingly another hearing was held.

There appeared before the committee the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, military and naval aides, a representative of the Chemical Foundation summoned by the Speaker of the House, and others.  All of these opposed the bill for reasons of national defence.  They said in effect :  The United States depends on the private manufacturer of arms for most of its war materials.  If these manufacturers are not permitted to sell freely to all nations, they will not be ready when their own government needs them most in time of war.  Furthermore, if foreign nations know that they will not be able to buy from American arms makers in war, they will not buy in peace times.  An embargo in war was represented as a very dangerous procedure, because it might lead to war.  The significance of all this lies in the fact that government department heads led the defence of the private arms maker and of his right to unrestricted international sale “ in the interest of national defence.”17

The problem of international control is further complicated by the fact that the borderline between war materials and non-war materials is exceedingly tenuous.  Before the Committee proceedings just mentioned, for instance, the representative of the Chemical Foundation insisted that chemicals must not be considered war materials.  Similarly it has been argued in regard to all metals, cotton, aeroplanes, scientific instruments, and a host of other items.  All of these are useful in peace and indispensable in war.  The British faced, this problem during the World War in their blockade of Germany.  Their orders in council finally included virtually everything, since it might prove useful in war.  The very character of modern war and armaments makes effective international control difficult, yet something might be achieved if the governments themselves were not so reluctant to submit to any supervision in this matter.

There remains then but one real way out, disarmament.  The various futile conferences on disarmament have not been in vain if they have opened the eyes of the peace forces to the real problem which confronts them.  Disarmament has not been achieved because of the international political situation.  International politics in turn are determined by our whole civilisation.  Our civilisation has permitted and even fostered warmaking forces, such as nationalism and chauvinism, economic rivalry and competitive capitalism, imperialism and colonialism, political and territorial disputes, race hatred and pressure of population.  The traditional way of establishing an equilibrium between these rival forces has been and is violence, armed warfare.

Disarmament is thus a problem of our civilisation.  It will never be achieved unless these war-making forces are crushed or eliminated.  The problem of disarmament is therefore the problem of building a new civilisation.  All attempts at dealing with disarmament by itself, without consideration of the deeper issues involved, are doomed to failure.  Minor agreements may be reached, limited to a short period of time, but the world will never cease being an armed camp until the basic elements of our present civilisation have been changed.

The same holds true of the armament industry.  A world which recognises and expects war cannot get along without an enterprising, progressive, and up-todate arms industry.  All attempts to attack the problem of the arms makers in isolation—by nationalisation or by international control—are almost certain to fail.

The arms industry is plainly a perfectly natural product of our present civilisation.  More than that, it is an essential element in the chaos and anarchy which characterise our international politics.  To eliminate it requires the creation of a world which can get along without war by settling its differences and disputes by peaceful means.  And that involves remaking our entire civilisation.

Meanwhile those interested in creating a war-less world need not be idle and await the dawn of a new day.  They can support every move made for the peaceful settlement of international disputes ;  they can help to reduce the exorbitant budgets of war and navy departments ;  they can work for regional limitation of armaments and back all treaties which tend to avoid competition in arms ;  they can oppose nationalism and chauvinism wherever they show themselves, in the press, in the schools, on the lecture platform ;  they can strive to bring order into the chaotic, economic and political conditions of the world.

The skies are again overcast with lowering war clouds and the Four Horsemen are again getting ready to ride, leaving destruction, suffering and death in their path.  Wars are man-made, and peace, when it comes, will also be man-made.  Surely the challenge of war and of the armament maker is one that no intelligent or civilised being can evade.




1 Delbrueck, Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte, Vol. I, p. 41.

2 Delbrueck, op. cit., I, p. 149.

3 Ibid., III, p. 153.

4 Ibid., I, p. 9.

5 Albion, Introduction to Military History, pp. 147, 195-217.

6 Gottschalk, The Era of the French Revolution, pp. 407, 444ss.

7 Dumas and Vedel-Petersen, Losses of Life Caused by War, pp. 51, 57.

8 Crowell and Wilson, op. cit., p. 31.

9 Crowell and Wilson, op. cit., p. 32.

10 Kirby Page, National Defence, pp. 56, 222s.

11 War Policies Commission Hearings, 71st Congress, 2d Session, Parts 1, 2, and 3;  Documents by the War Policies Commission, Nos. 264-271, 72d Congress, 1st Session; Seymour Waldman, Death and Profits.  A Study of the War Policies Commission;  Charles Stevenson, "The U.S. is Prepared for Anything," Liberty, Aug. 5, 1933, pp. 48-50;  Anonymous, Die wirischaftlichen Vorbereitungen der Auslandsstaaten für den Zukunftskrieg.  (Includes the programme of 13 countries.)

12 U.S. (House) Foreign Affairs Committee, 70th Congress, 1st Session, Exportation of Arms, etc., p. 8.

13 Freda White, Traffic in Arms, pp. 13-15;  Walter B. Harris, France, Spain, and the Rif, pp. 64, 74, 75, etc.

14 Freda White, op. cit., pp. 18-19;  for text of this Convention see International Conciliation, No. 164, July, 1921.

15 Freda White, op. cit., pp. 19-23;  League of Nations, Proceedings of the Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War.

16 League of Nations, Proceedings, etc., p. 251.

17 U.S. (House) Foreign Affairs Committee, 70th Congress, 1st Session, Exportation of Arms, Munitions, or Implements of War to Belligerent Nations (March, 1928).