I believe that a powerful support for the assembly and continuance of such a world congress as this could be easily and rapidly developed in North and South America, in Britain and the British Empire generally, in France and Italy, in all the smaller States of northern, central, and western Europe. It would probably have the personal support of the Czar, unless he has profoundly changed the opinions with which he opened his reign, the warm accordance of educated China and Japan, and the good will of a renascent Germany. It would open a new era for mankind.
Now, this idea of a congress of the belligerents to arrange the peace settlements after this war, expanding by the accession of neutral powers into a permanent world congress for the enforcement of international law and the maintenance of the peace of mankind, is so reasonable and attractive and desirable that if it were properly explained it would probably receive the support of nineteen out of every twenty intelligent persons.
Nevertheless, its realization is, on the whole, improbable. A mere universal disgust with war is no more likely to end war than the universal dislike for dying has ended death. And though war, unlike dying, seems to be an avoidable fate, it does not follow that its present extreme unpopularity will end it unless people not only desire but see to the accomplishment of their desire.
And here again one is likely to meet an active and influential opposition. Though the general will and welfare may point to the future management of international relations through a world congress, the whole mass of those whose business has been the direction of international relations is likely to be either skeptical or actively hostile to such an experiment. All the foreign offices and foreign ministers, the diplomatists universally, the politicians who have specialized in national assertion, and the courts that have symbolized and embodied it, all the people, in fact, who will be in control of the settlement, are likely to be against so revolutionary a change.
For it would be an entirely revolutionary change. It would put an end to secrecy. It would end all that is usually understood by diplomacy. It would clear the world altogether of those private understandings and provisional secret agreements, those intrigues, wire-pullings, and quasi-financial operations that have been the very substance of international relations hitherto. To these able and interested people, for the most part highly seasoned by the present conditions, finished and elaborated players at the old game, this is to propose a new, crude, difficult, and unsympathetic game. They may all of them, or most of them, hate war, but they will cling to the belief that their method of operating may now, after a new settlement, be able to prevent or palliate war.