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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let's Never Fight Again!

     Sometimes we say things and make promises we know that we cannot possibly keep. Usually it is a New Years resolution to cut carbs, write a book, or be nicer. Sometimes it is after a weekend bender when we promise we will never drink again. And sometimes it is while making up with a significant other that we promise to never fight again. Well...governments are just as dumb and naive as the people they are composed of and represent. And perhaps nothing better exemplifies this fact than the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact.

      The First World War was bad...really bad. The world had never seen warfare on such a wide and destructive scale. It was truly the first fully industrialized total war where the flower of a generation was taken on both sides. Indeed the Germans often refer to the war as "Der Kindermord" which literally translates to the murder of the children or more figuratively as the slaughter of the innocents. Such a horrific conflict is perhaps why they called it not only "the great war" but the "war to end all wars". Of course we all know that it did not end all wars. Humanity has let the animals of our lesser nature out to play since with horrifying results. But much like the Doctor Jekyll  in Robert Louis Stevenson classic literary work, humanity wanted to keep their Mister Hyde from getting out again due to shame and regret. This led to a noble but terribly naive attempt to internationally outlaw the practice of warfare as a political tool.

     The Kellogg-Briand Pact was much like President Wilson's League of Nations...but unlike the League, the United States actually agreed to the pact. Along with the United States, other important nations such as the British Empire, France, Germany, Japan, the USSR, and a slew of others became signatories to the agreement. If you plot them on a map of the world you can see that a majority of the world came under the agreement. All in all there was enthusiasm the pact would indeed change the world for the better. Here in the United States, the U.S. Senate embraced it nearly unanimously. That same institution that had rejected the League of Nations saw only one vote against the Kellogg-Briand pact.

     Within two years the pact fell apart. Nations that were signatories simply went around the pact by exploiting loopholes. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. Italy invaded Abyssinia in 1935. And the USSR invaded Finland in 1939. All of them did so without a declaration of war which technically put them in compliance with the agreement. What is funny is that the pact is still in existence as it was created outside the only international governing body of the time, the now defunct League of Nations. As late as the 1970's the pact was still attracting signatories in the island nation of Barbados.

     They often say the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. And the Second World War, the war that was so horrible that it eclipsed the "war to end all wars" was indeed started by three  nations that promised to abide by the pact a decade earlier.


President of the United States Calvin Coolidge Signs the Agreement








Newspaper Cartoon Displaying the Efficacy of the Pact.



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