DISARMAMENT DISCUSSIONS 1932-1934
THE FIRST General Conference for the Limitation and Reduction of Armaments assembled at Geneva in February 1932.
At the Washington Conference of 1922 the principle of limitation had been established by treaty for capital ships of the United States, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan; at the London Naval Conference of 1930 this principle was extended to other types of warships of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. Prior to the opening of the General Disarmament Conference in 1932, these were the principal steps taken by the nations of the world to lighten the burden of large armies and navies.
At the beginning of this conference Ambassador Hugh Gibson, speaking for the United States delegation, said that civilization was threatened by the burden and dangers of the gigantic machinery of warfare then being maintained. He recalled that practically all the nations of the world had pledged themselves not to wage aggressive war. Therefore, he said, the conference should devote itself to the abolition of weapons devoted primarily to aggressive war. Among the points advocated by Ambassador Gibson were the following: Special restrictions for tanks and heavy mobile guns, which were considered to be arms peculiarly for offensive operations; computation of the number of armed forces on the basis of the effectives necessary for the maintenance of internal order plus some suitable contingent for defense; abolition of lethal gases and bacteriological warfare; effective measures to protect civilian populations against aerial bombing; abolition of submarines; prolonging the existing naval agreements concluded at Washington and London; proportional reduction from the figures laid down in the Washington and London agreements. (7)
For more than a year the Conference at Geneva struggled with the tremendous problems involved—without making substantial progress. President Roosevelt made an effort in May 1933 to inject new life into the Conference. In a message of May 16 to the heads of 54 governments he stated that if all nations would agree to eliminate entirely from possession and use the weapons which make possible a successful attack, defenses automatically would become