Peace activists know this: theirs is often an uphill struggle. Traditionally they have faced "realist" indictments of the peace and disarmament movement. Thus, they are often charged with representing an impractical pious agenda, of pursuing a "moralistic-legalistic" approach to world affairs, of confusing symptom with cause,1 of lacking a solid intellectual development, and of causing fractious divisions within the peace movement itself. These charges, not all unfounded, point out the need for this article. In Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace, Glen H. Stassen cites the reduction of mediumrange and short-range nuclear missiles in Europe in the 1980s as "a clear demonstration that the people, working together, can sometimes move their governments into peacemaking."2 When so much remains to be done in the cause of peace and disarmament, case histories where aroused citizens have made a difference are needed both to encourage peace workers and to serve as tactical models in furthering the cause of peace, disarmament, and arms reduction.
This article explores how informed peace activists at the time of the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Naval Armament (November 1921-February 1922) modeled many of the key features of successful public advocacy. Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain lauded the Washington Conference as "one of the greatest achievements for peace that has ever been registered in the history of the world." In brief, the Washington Conference, which began on 11 November 1921, effected a Four Power Treaty, signed on 13 December 1921, and a Five Power Treaty, concluded on 6 February 1922. In the Four Power Treaty, the United States, Japan, France, and Britain agreed to respect each other's rights in the Pacific region and to arrange for consultation in the event of disputes. The Five Power Treaty assigned ratios for battleship and aircraft carrier tonnage to be set at 5 for Britain and the United States (525,000 tons for battleships and 135,000 for aircraft carriers), Japan a ratio of 3 (battleships, 272,000; carriers 81,000) and Italy and France set at 1.67 with 75,000 and 60,000 tons of battleships and carriers allowed. "It was believed," notes Ferrell, "that Japan, so long as she had an inferior naval ratio, could safely be allowed mastery of the far Pacific, and the peaceful behavior of Tokyo governments for the remainder of the 1920's seemed to confirm the wisdom of this decision."3 In effect, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes's bold offer in November 1921 to sink over 800,000 tons of American capital ships and head off both Anglo-American and American-Japanese naval arms races in the Pacific ranks as one of the best examples of an innovative and forward-looking American diplomacy. The Washington Naval Conference successfully brought Japan into the international world order for a decade. It took the hammer blows of a global depression and the rise of Fascism to undo this system of treaties and consultations.
Yet this bold example of arms reduction drew strength from a wellinformed and articulate domestic consensus. In the forefront, wrote historian Robert Dallek, was "a handful of clergymen, women, attorneys, intellectuals and political radicals" who "remained true to their vision of a just and peaceful world under law."4 The Washington Conference thus serves as an example of how enlightened peace activists can successfully bring pressure to bear upon foreign policy. First, however, it is necessary to spell out a caveat on the nature of public opinion and diplomacy. It should be mentioned that national leaders and decision makers are typically loath to admit the influences of public pressure on their policymaking. There is, as Melvin Small explains in Johnson, Nixon and the Doves, "the reluctance of decision makers to explain their foreign policies in terms of public pressures, unless they are looking for scapegoats."5 In the Vietnam era, administrators as different as Clark Clifford and Walter Rostow claimed to be isolated from public pressures. …