Remarks at Lynchburg College on September 26, 2011
I’d like to thank Dave Freier for inviting me, and all of you for being here. I think I was invited to speak about my most recent book, War Is A Lie, but I asked Professor Freier if it would be all right to speak about my next book, not yet finished, and he agreed. So, the following is a relatively very short summary of a forthcoming book that is not yet finished, and which I need your help with. It would be very helpful to me if you let me know when I’ve finished these opening remarks what was unclear, what didn’t make sense, or what didn’t persuade you, as well as what — if anything — seemed useful or inspiring.
It would also help me a lot if you would raise your hands to show your views on a few questions. First, raise your hand if you believe that war is illegal. I don’t mean particular atrocities or particular types of wars, but war. And I don’t mean bad or regrettable, but illegal. If you’re not sure or think it’s not a good question don’t raise your hand. OK, thank you. Now, raise your hand if you think war should be illegal. OK, thank you. And now raise your hand if you know what the Kellogg-Briand Pact is. All right, that was very helpful. Now, let me tell you a little story, or at least a few pieces of it.
In 1927 and 1928 a hot-tempered Republican from Minnesota named Frank, who privately cursed pacifists, managed to persuade nearly every country on earth to ban war. He had been moved to do so, against his will, by a global demand for peace and a
U.S. partnership with France created through illegal diplomacy by peace activists. The driving force in achieving this historic breakthrough was a remarkably unified, strategic, and relentless U.S. peace movement with its strongest support in the Midwest; its strongest leaders professors, lawyers, and university presidents; its voices in Washington, D.C., those of Republican senators from Idaho and Kansas; its views welcomed and promoted by newspapers, churches, and women’s groups all over the country; and its determination unaltered by a decade of defeats and divisions.
The movement depended in large part on the new political power of female voters. The effort might have failed had Charles Lindbergh not flown an airplane across an ocean, or Henry Cabot Lodge not died, or had other efforts toward peace and disarmament not been dismal failures. But public pressure made this step, or something like it, almost inevitable. And when it succeeded — although the outlawing of war was never fully implemented in accordance with the plans of its visionaries — much of the world believed war had been made illegal. Wars were, in fact, halted and prevented. And when, nonetheless, wars continued and a second world war engulfed the globe, that catastrophe was followed by the trials of men accused of the brand new crime of making war, as well as by global adoption of the United Nations Charter, a document owing much to its pre-war predecessor while still falling short of the ideals of what in the 1920s was called the Outlawry movement.
“Last night I had the strangest dream I’d ever dreamed before,” wrote Ed McCurdy in 1950 in what became a popular folk song. “I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war. I dreamed I saw a mighty room, and the room was filled with men. And the paper they were signing said they’d never fight again.” But that scene had already happened in reality on August 27, 1928, in Paris, France. The treaty that was signed that day, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, was subsequently ratified by the United States Senate in a vote of 85 to 1 and remains on the books to this day as part of what Article VI of the U.S. Constitution calls “the supreme Law of the Land.”
Frank Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State who made this treaty happen, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and saw his public reputation soar — so much so that the United States named a ship after him, one of the “liberty ships” that carried war supplies to Europe during World War II. Kellogg was dead at the time. So, many believed, were prospects for world peace. But the Kellogg-Briand Pact and its renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy is something we might want to revive. This treaty gathered the adherence of the world’s nations swiftly and publicly, driven by fervent public demand.
We might think about how public opinion of that sort might be created anew, what insights it possessed that have yet to be realized, and what systems of communication, education, and elections would allow the public again to influence government policy, as the ongoing campaign to eliminate war — understood by its originators to be an undertaking of generations — continues to develop.
One way to revive a treaty that in fact remains law would, of course, be to begin complying with it. When lawyers, politicians, and judges want to bestow human rights on corporations, they do so largely on the basis of a footnote added by a clerk to a Supreme Court ruling from over a century back. When the Department of Justice wants to “legalize” torture or, for that matter, war, it reaches back to a twisted reading of one of the Federalist Papers or a court decision from some long forgotten era. If anyone in power today favored peace, there would be every justification for recalling and making use of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It is actually law. And it is far more recent law than the U.S. Constitution itself, which our elected officials still claim, mostly unconvincingly, to support. The Pact, excluding formalities and procedural matters, reads, in full:
“The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
“The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”
The French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, whose initiative had led to the Pact and whose previous work for peace had already earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, remarked at the signing ceremony:
“For the first time, on a scale as absolute as it is vast, a treaty has been truly devoted to the very establishment of peace, and has laid down laws that are new and free from all political considerations. Such a treaty means a beginning and not an end.”
The peace movement that made the Kellogg-Briand Pact happen, just like the militarism against which it competed, was given a huge boost by World War I, by the scale of that war and its impact on civilians, but also by the rhetoric through which the United States had been brought into the war in 1917. According to U.S. Socialist Victor Berger, all the United States had gained from participation in World War I was the flu and prohibition. It was not an uncommon view. Millions of Americans who had supported World War I, came during the years following its completion on November 11, 1918, to reject the idea that anything could ever be gained through warfare.
The propaganda machinery invented by President Woodrow Wilson and his Committee on Public Information had drawn Americans into the war with exaggerated and fictional tales of German atrocities in Belgium, posters depicting Jesus Christ in khaki sighting down a gun barrel, and promises of selfless devotion to making the world safe for democracy. The extent of the casualties was hidden from the public as much as possible during the course of the war, but by the time it was over many had learned something of war’s reality. And many had come to resent the manipulation of noble emotions that had pulled an independent nation into overseas barbarity.
However, the propaganda that motivated the fighting was not immediately erased from people’s minds. A war to end wars and make the world safe for democracy cannot end without some lingering demand for peace and justice, or at least for something more valuable than the flu and prohibition. Even those rejecting the idea that any war could in any way help advance the cause of peace aligned with those wanting to avoid all future wars — a group that probably encompassed most of the U.S. population.
Some of the blame for the start of the World War was placed on secretly made treaties and alliances. President Wilson backed the ideal of public treaties, if not necessarily publicly negotiated treaties. He made this the first of his famous 14 points in his January 8, 1918, speech to Congress.
Following the war, disillusioned with its promises, many in the United States came to distrust European peace efforts, as it was European entanglements that had created the war. When the Treaty of Versailles, on June 28, 1918, imposed a cruel victors’ justice on Germany, Wilson was seen as having betrayed his word. When he promised that the League of Nations would right all the wrongs of that treaty, many were skeptical, particularly as the League bore some resemblance to the sort of alliances that had produced the World War in the first place.
Both jingoistic isolationists, and internationalist peace activists with a vision of Outlawry that shunned the use of force even to punish war, rejected the League, as did the United States Senate, dealing a major blow to those peace advocates who believed the League was not only advantageous but also the reward due after so much suffering in the war. Efforts to bring the United States in as a member of the World Court failed as well. A Naval Disarmament Conference in Washington in 1921-1922 did perhaps more harm than good. And in 1923 and 1924, respectively, the members of the League of Nations in Europe failed to ratify a Draft Pact for Mutual Assistance and an agreement called the Geneva Protocol for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, both of which had adopted some of the language of the U.S. Outlawry movement to somewhat different purposes.
Remarkably, these set-backs did not halt the momentum of the peace movement in the United States or around the world. The institutional funding and structure of the peace movement was enough to make any early twenty-first century peace activist drool with envy, as was the openness of the mass media of the day, namely newspapers, to promoting peace. Leading intellectuals, politicians, robber barons, and other public figures poured their resources into the cause. A defeat or two, or ten, might discourage some individuals, but it was not about to derail the movement. Neither was political partisanship, as peace groups pressured Democrats and Republicans alike, and both responded. It was during the peaceful Republican interlude of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, in between the Democratic war-making of Wilson and Roosevelt, that the peace movement reached its height.
European trade unions were pacifist and were working to recover the pre-war idea of a general strike to prevent any movement towards war. Many political parties in Europe were strongly in favor of working to ensure peace. European peace organizations themselves were smaller and less influential than their U.S. counterparts, but they were more unified in their agenda. They favored both disarmament and the League of Nations, as well as other treaties, alliances, and arbitration agreements.
U.S. and European peace advocates came from opposite directions. Americans viewed peace as the norm and as consisting of the absence of war. But Europeans, dealing with constant threats, provocations, grievances, and divisions, believed peace to require an elaborate system of checks on hostilities and means of resolving disputes. The United States imagined the world at peace and sought to preserve it. Europeans strove to build a peace they did not know, with a keen awareness that they could never possibly solve every dispute to everyone’s satisfaction.
Many U.S. peace groups, it should be said however, inclined toward the European perspective, while others did not. The United States had a larger peace movement than Europe did, but a more deeply divided one. Sincere advocates of peace came down on both sides of the questions of joining the League of Nations and the World Court. Nor did they all see eye-to-eye on disarmament. If something could be found that would unite the entire U.S. peace movement, the U.S. government of the day was sufficiently representative of the public will that whatever that measure was, it was bound to be enacted.
The Carnegie Endowment for Peace had profited from the war through U.S. Steel Corporation bonds. Its president, Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, and its director of the Division of Economics and History Professor James Thomson Shotwell, would play significant roles in the creation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, after having advocated unsuccessfully for U.S. membership in the League of Nations. Shotwell had a $600,000 annual budget, or about $6.8 million in today’s terms. Other peace groups had even larger budgets. More radical peace groups, often with less funding, in some cases supported the League and the Court, but in addition pushed for disarmament and opposed militarism more consistently, including U.S. imperialism in Central and South America.
One organization deserves particular attention, although it was largely a front for a single individual and largely funded out of his own pocket. The American Committee for the Outlawry of War was the creation of Salmon Oliver Levinson. Its agenda originally attracted those advocates of peace who opposed U.S. entry into the League of Nations and international alliances. But its agenda, of outlawing war, eventually attracted the support of nearly the entire peace movement, when the Kellogg-Briand Pact became the unifying focus that had been missing.
Levinson’s mission was to make war illegal. And he came to believe that the effective outlawing of war would require outlawing all war, without distinction between aggressive and defensive war, and without distinction between aggressive war and war sanctioned by an international league as punishment for an aggressor nation. Levinson wrote:
“Suppose this same distinction had been urged when the institution of dueling was outlawed. . . . Suppose it had then been urged that only ‘aggressive dueling’ should be outlawed and that ‘defensive dueling’ be left intact. . . . Such a suggestion relative to dueling would have been silly, but the analogy is perfectly sound. What we did was to outlaw the institution of dueling, a method theretofore recognized by law for the settlement of disputes of so-called honor.”
Levinson wanted everyone to recognize war as an institution, as a tool that had been given acceptability and respectability as a means of settling disputes. He wanted international disputes to be settled in a court of law, and the institution of war to be rejected just as slavery had been.
Levinson understood this as leaving in place the right to self-defense, but eliminating the need for the very concept of war. National self-defense would be the equivalent of killing an assailant in personal self-defense. Such personal self-defense, he noted, was no longer called “dueling.” But Levinson did not envision the killing of a war-making nation. Rather he proposed five responses to the launching of an attack: good faith, public opinion, nonrecognition of gains, the use of force to punish individual warmakers, and the use of any means including force to halt the attack.
Levinson would eventually urge the nations signing the Kellogg-Briand Pact (also known as the Pact of Paris) to incorporate the following into their criminal codes: “Any person, or persons, who shall advocate orally or in writing, or cause the publication of any printed matter which shall advocate the use of war between nations, in violation of the terms of the Pact of Paris, with the intent of causing war between or among nations , shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be imprisoned not less than ______ years.” This idea can be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, which states: “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.” It was an idea that also influenced the Nuremberg prosecutions. It may be an idea worthy of revival and realization.
Levinson wrote on August 25, 1917: “War as an institution to ‘settle disputes’ and establish ‘justice among nations’ is the most barbarous and indefensible thing in civilization. . . . The real disease of the world is the legality and availability of war . . . . [W]e should have, not as now, laws of war, but laws against war; there are no laws of murdering or of poisoning, but laws against them.”
Many in the United States were averse to the sort of alliances created, for example, in 1925 in Locarno, Switzerland. Under these aggreements, if Germany were to attack France, then England and Italy would have to attack Germany, whereas if France were to attack Germany, then England and Italy would have to attack France. Aristide Briand made a name for himself as a peace negotiator in Locarno, but the Outlawrists’ criticism of such arrangements as sheer madness looks wiser through the lens of later history.
Rather than alliances and unpredictable adjudications, the Outlawrists favored the rule of the written word. The most popular criticism of Outlawry was that it intended to simply wish war away by banning it. The most popular criticism of international alliances was that they would create wars to end wars. While NATO and even the United Nations have indeed been used to launch wars (although the European Union has rendered wars within Western Europe unimaginable), the Kellogg Briand-Pact and the United Nations Charter have banned war, and wars have proceeded merrily on their way not noticing. But all of this criticism is overly simplistic. The United Nations is a corrupt approximation of an ideal never yet realized. And Outlawry, despite passage of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, has never been fully tried.
Outlawry, in Charles Morrison’s outline of it (Morrison was a close ally of Levinson), required that a world court ruling on a body of world law be substituted for war as a means of settling disputes. The International Criminal Court (ICC), finally created in 2002 and having taken jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in 2010, begins to approach this idea, but the United States is not a member, and yet the court is under the thumb of the United States and the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The 1920s critics of the then existing World Court as a creature of the League of Nations would, if brought forward in time, no doubt have a similar critique of the ICC.
Where the argument for Outlawry gets a little hairy is in its refusal to consider any distinction between aggressive and defensive war, while nonetheless countenancing armaments and self-defense. Morrison argues that distinguishing aggressors from defenders is a fool’s errand, as every nation always claims to be fighting in defense, and an initial attack may have been provoked by the other side. (In 2001 and 2003 the United States attacked the distant, unarmed, impoverished nations of Afghanistan and Iraq and claimed to be acting in defense.) Morrison believes that self-defense will almost certainly not be needed, in the future of outlawed war, because war just won’t happen. But were it to happen, self-defense clearly must be envisioned in Morrison’s scheme as something that does not resemble war. For, otherwise, how can the world court of Outlawry determine which nation(s)’ leaders to put on trial?
Ultimately, outlawing war is a process of moral development. Changing the law and establishing a court to enforce it is a means toward changing people’s conception of what is morally acceptable. Viewed in this way, the work of the 1920s that brought about the Kellogg-Briand Pact can be seen as a partial success to be built upon, whether or not any court will ever be able to both prosecute warmaking and avoid the distinction between aggression and defense.
Morrison argued that Outlawry was so clear and so popular that no statesman would dare oppose it. He urged popularizing the peace movement, taking it out of the hands of experts. And he was right about that. He was right about the United States and about the entire world. Nobody opposed banning war. While we still have wars, most people do not want them. Wars may be Tyrannical Ruler Nature, or Corporate Profiteer Nature, but they are the furthest thing from Human Nature.
In 1922, the Lion of Idaho, Republican Senator William Borah, slowly began to roar. Levinson produced a pamphlet on Outlawry at Borah’s request, and Borah republished it as a Senate document, placing it in the Congressional Record. Senator Borah and Senator Arthur Capper of Kansas mailed it to their lists. Meanwhile, Raymond Robins barnstormed the country making speech after speech for Outlawry, and Levinson corresponded at length with anyone and everyone who expressed interest or raised objections. Organizations of all varieties passed countless resolutions in support of Outlawry. School boards and labor unions distributed pamphlets. Prominent figures gave their endorsements.
Groups that supported the Outlawry of war early in the campaign included some organizations that are still around today, but which one cannot imagine even considering taking the same step again, even with the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the U.N. Charter already in existence and formally a part of our law. Among these were the National League of Women Voters, the Young Women’s Christian Associations, the National Association of Parents and Teachers, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, and the American Legion.
When President Harding up and dropped dead in 1923, his Vice President Calvin Coolidge got the top job and the Republican nomination to remain in it after 1924. Indeed, he remained until March 1929. Levinson helped persuade Coolidge to pick Borah for the vice presidency and Borah to accept, but this deal fell through, Borah declined, and Charles Dawes accepted. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg would have occasion to refer to Dawes as “an unmitigated ass” prior to organizing the nations of the world in support of brotherly love. Borah would instead end up in the job of Chairman of Foreign Relations. Outlawry made it into Coolidge’s speech accepting the Republican nomination but not into the Republican Platform. It did, however, make it into the Democratic Party Platform.
While the struggle for women’s suffrage had used marches and civil disobedience, and conscientious objectors to the war had used noncooperation, those were not the primary tools of the Outlawry campaign. Instead there were countless public meetings and packed lecture halls, signed petitions and resolutions, and the support of numerous newspaper editorials.
In 1923, Borah introduced an Outlawry resolution in the Senate, following a tireless lobbying effort by Levinson. Outlawry began to unite peace groups in a way that the League and the Court did not. In 1924 Levinson and the Outlawrists sought unity with their fellow peace-activist League supporters, offering support for World Court membership in exchange for support for the Borah Resolution on Outlawry. In 1925, League and Outlawry supporters reached an agreement, known as the Harmony Plan, backing adherence to the Court Protocol and within two years the backing of Outlawry and the holding of a conference to embody in a treaty the principles that war be made a crime and the Court be given jurisdiction. A third and final plank in this agreement was that the United States would withdraw from the Court if the Outlawry provisions were not put into effect within two years. The plan was reported in national and international newspapers and served as a guide for local peace organizations, even though the peace-movement leadership was back to quarrelling by the end of the year.
Butler met with Briand in June 1926, at which point Briand asked “What can we do next?” Butler replied: “My dear Briand, I have just been reading a book . . . . Its title is Vom Kriege, and its author was Karl von Clausewitz . . . . I came upon an extraordinary chapter in its third volume, entitled ‘War as an Instrument of Policy.’ Why has not the time come for the civilized government of the world formally to renounce war as an instrument of policy?” Briand’s reply was “Would not that be wonderful if it were possible? I must read that book.”
In 1927 the pressure on world leaders for steps to ensure peace reached a climax, and the pieces of a plan to do something about it began to be fitted into place. Political organizations and clubs pushing for peace were springing up by the hundreds. And the question of the League of Nations was no longer there to divide them.
Shotwell met with Briand in Paris on March 22nd. France had just refused a U.S. invitation to a disarmament conference and was still upset about its treatment at the one in Washington and about U.S. accusations of militarism, not to mention U.S. insistence on war debt payment, and U.S. refusal to join the League or the Court. Shotwell suggested removing U.S. suspicions of French militarism by proposing a treaty to renounce war as an instrument of national policy.
On April 6, 1927, Levinson was on a train to New York where he would sail to Europe. He read the day’s newspapers on the train and was overjoyed and overwhelmed by an Associated Press report on a public statement from Briand, the Foreign Minister of France. Shotwell later told both John Dewey and Robert Ferrell that he had written Briand’s message himself. The message proposed that the United States and France sign a treaty renouncing war.
This was public diplomacy at its most public. The Foreign Minister of France was proposing a treaty through the Associated Press. The only downside to such methods was that a response could not be required. And in fact, no response from the U.S. government was forthcoming. And the newspapers didn’t see any story worth pursuing. On April 8th Butler and Borah publicly debated the outlawing of rum, which was of much more interest to the media. Butler, who wanted to abolish war believed banning rum was too difficult. With regard to Briand’s offer, Butler took matters into his own hands. He published a letter in the New York Times on April 25th demanding action in response to Briand’s proposal.
Butler’s letter in the New York Times and a supportive editorial published by the New York Times caught the wider news media’s attention. Newspapers turned it into a big story in the United States and even abroad. This was Butler beginning a dialogue with his colleague Shotwell, but with Butler speaking for the United States and Shotwell having spoken through Briand for France. Not a bad bit of ventriloquism.
Numerous senators spoke up in support of answering Briand’s offer. Borah was opposed to an alliance with France and proposed that the treaty be expanded to include all other nations. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, when he read Butler’s letter, told a friend that Butler and the French were a set of “— —— fools” making suggestions that could lead to nothing but embarrassment. If there was anything he hated, Kellogg said, it was “——– pacifists.”
But as public pressure grew, Levinson and Borah worked to educate Kellogg on Outlawry. When Senator Capper introduced a resolution in November 1927 in support of renouncing war, the nation understood that the farmers of the Midwest were behind Briand’s proposal, or at least not against it. The Pocatello Tribune arrived at this cynical interpretation:
“The real significance of the Capper plan . . . lie in its showing the belief of western politicians that the voters who prevented American entry into the league are aware that if Europe spends a disproportionate share of its limited funds in military preparation it will have little left for American wheat and corn.”
This was, of course, before the weapons exporters came to hold more sway in Washington than the wheat and corn exporters.
The combination of a number of Republican leaders backing former Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes for the 1928 Republican presidential nomination and Capper introducing a resolution coming out of the Butler-Shotwell camp, a resolution that defined aggressive war, may have helped motivate Borah, with his own presidential ambitions, to manipulate Briand’s offer in his own direction. The treaty would end up banning all war in order to (1) avoid banning only aggressive war, and (2) avoid doing nothing. The latter was not an option, given the pressure coming from the peace movement. On December 10, 1927, Jane Addams led a delegation to the White House and delivered a petition with 30,000 names. Coolidge assured her that he would try to achieve the treaty with France. Addams sent the same petition to Briand who thanked her. By January, 1928, to the shock of his staff at the State Department, Kellogg was working hard to achieve a universal treaty, which France did not want, and writing to his wife that he hoped to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
On February 5th, with negotiations stalemated, Senator Borah published a front-page article in the New York Times Magazine, largely prepared by Levinson. The headline was “One Great Treaty to Outlaw All Wars.” Borah claimed that a breach of the treaty by one nation would release other nations from complying with it in relation to that violator. This would allow self-defense. It would also allow France to sign such a treaty while still upholding its treaties forming alliances to respond to war. Kellogg continued to push France, and in March asked the U.S. ambassador to point out to Briand the wisdom of acting while Kellogg was still in office. Coolidge had less than a year remaining as president.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom passed a resolution commending Kellogg on May 5th. So did the American Peace Society. The National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War’s 12 million women planned 48 state conferences through which to influence the Senate when it came time to ratify a treaty renouncing war. On June 23rd, Kellogg wrote to 14 countries. Germany formally agreed on July 11th, and France three days later. Agreeing to sign the pact by July 20th would be Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, India, the Irish Free State, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. And these additional nations would sign on to adhere to it: Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania, the Soviet Union, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, Siam, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. Eight further states joined at a later date: Persia, Greece, Honduras, Chile, Luxembourg, Danzig, Costa Rica, and Venezuela.
Does anybody know what Persia is called today?
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was put together in an extremely public manner, and as these things go was agreed to very quickly, and with an unusually high number of adhering nations. Most observers give public opinion and public pressure the credit. The U.S. peace movement was fully behind it, and that unity was a new and powerful force. About the public opinion in favor of the Peace Pact it is worth noting a couple of things. First, the propaganda campaign that had brought public opinion around to supporting war in 1917 had been far more extensive, vastly more expensive, and backed up by a police force. The peace movement did not have to intimidate or lie to anyone in the United States to gain their support for Kellogg-Briand. Secondly, the same was true with foreign heads of state acting in accordance with the wishes of their peoples. Unlike the formation of a coalition of nations to invade Iraq in 2003, this coalition of nations to outlaw war was put together without bribery or threats being required.
The highest hurdle remained, namely the U.S. Senate. The peace movement buried it in letters, petitions, resolutions, and lobbying visits. Supportive senators read the petitions into the congressional record. President Coolidge persuaded Vice President Dawes to whip every senator in support of the Pact. The Federal Council of Churches brought the White House a petition with 180,000 signatures. In mid-January 1929, a thousand women peace leaders from around the country lobbied their respective senators in Washington, delivering thousands of petitions. Carrie Chapman Catt, who led this effort, suffered a heart attack during it. The vote was 85 to 1. The Wisconsin state legislature censured its U.S. senator who had voted No. Other senators who had expressed concerns all voted Yes. One explained his Yes vote by saying he did not want to be burned in effigy back in his state.
It would take me another hour to begin to cover the hypocrisies, weaknesses, and shortcomings of this accomplishment. I’ll limit myself here to claiming that it was an accomplishment. It was not just a second-rate effort after the League of Nations failed, nor just a pretense or a fraud. The Kellogg-Briand Pact established the practice of not recognizing territorial claims gained through war, and its revival by another crusading lawyer during World War II (the Pact having been largely forgotten by then) created prosecutions of the crime of aggression — ironically so, in that the Pact had been created precisely in order to avoid creating a crime called aggression. Victors’ justice is not full justice, but punishing leaders following World War II worked out a whole lot better than punishing an entire nation after World War I had.
A new and more faithful revival of Outlawry might again serve us well. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, which has never been repealed, makes a stronger case against wars like Afghanistan and Iraq than does the U.N. Charter. To comply with Kellogg-Briand, wars need not be defensive or U.N.-authorized. Rather, wars need to simply not exist.
Outlawry also removes a major reason why young men and women join the military, namely to make war as a means to achieving peace. If there is no way to peace other than peace, if war cannot have a noble cause, if war has been — as it formally has been — renounced as an instrument of policy, then idealistic militarism goes away from recruiting offices, and the propaganda of humanitarian war suffers as well.
We may also have something to learn from the activism that promoted Outlawry. It was principled, non-partisan, cross-ideological, and unrelenting. More internationalist and more principled anti-imperialist or disarmament proposals, and the proposal to create a public referendum power to block wars, helped to make Outlawry mainstream by comparison. The campaign was built over a period of years through both education and the cultivation of powerful supporters. It was not overly distracted by elections. Its analysis included cold cost-benefit calculations, but front and center was always the morality of the cause of ending war. This campaign worked internationally, nationally, and locally. And its members did not believe victory would come in their lifetimes. But neither were they so self-focused as to imagine that this somehow made eventual victory impossible.
There is one thing that we can say with certainty, and I will close with this: if Outlawry does not win, humanity will lose.
David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of War Is a Lie
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