A Peace to End All Peace
“Diplomacy by Conference” was a phrase, attributed to Maurice Hankey, that described Lloyd George's proceedings in the postwar years. It became the standard description of the unreal world in which the Prime Minister lived. Divorcing himself as best he could from the other responsibilities of his office, he spent more than three years in attending international meetings aimed at shaping the postwar world. The meetings among the Allies began almost as soon as the armistices were signed, and developed into a way of life. Lloyd George, between 1919 and 1922, attended no fewer than thirty-three international conferences; and, even before they began, had engaged in informal meetings, such as those with Clemenceau and with Wilson in London at the end of 1918. The formal preliminaries to the Peace Conference began in Paris in January 1919, and shifted to other locations from time to time. At issue were the terms to be imposed upon the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, and their ally, Bulgaria. The decisions about the Ottoman Empire were agreed upon for the most part at the First Conference of London (beginning in February 1920), were confirmed in the Italian Riviera resort town of San Remo (April 1920), and were embodied in a treaty signed at Sèvres, a residential suburb of Paris, on 10 August 1920.
With respect to the negotiation of the peace settlement in the Middle East, the decisive fact was that it took so much time. Of all the peace treaties, that with the Ottoman Empire was the last to be concluded. Beginning with the informal discussions between Lloyd George and Clemenceau after the armistice, it took sixteen months to reach agreement on substantive matters, and another four months to dispose of remaining issues and sign a treaty. In all, it took nearly two years to conclude the peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire; at the outset Lloyd George had predicted that it would take about a week.
Because of the long delay, situations were allowed to develop, and decisions were required to be made, that in the end proved more important than the terms of the treaty itself. The Allied statesmen thought that they had determined the future of Arabic-speaking Asia by what they did at San Remo, and of the Turkish-speaking Ottoman Empire by what they did at Sèvres; but what they did not do in 1918 and 1919 proved to have more influence on the future of both.