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A Disarmament Fable

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24 October 1928. Aldersbrook (Excerpt)

The newspapers have been pressing during the past two months for the publication of all the papers relating to the Anglo-French Agreement, and when at last they had been made public they were very indignant to find there was nothing that anyone could possibly object to in all that had been done. They then complained that it was not all made public before. When there is nothing of any serious consequence to make public it is very difficult to make it public.

When an agreement has been reached between Great Britain and France to leave off criticizing various points in each other's technical armaments as a step forward towards the larger measure of agreement, if possible, for world disarmament, there is no reason why it should be made public until the different Powers to whom we communicated it, including the United States, had replied to the communication which we made, and having preferred to await their replies, we did not think it right to move from that position by the criticism or clamour in certain sections of the Press.

Now, however, [that] the whole is laid before them, they are disappointed to find that there is nothing or very little in it. The discussion of the last two years has tended to bring naval, military, and air matters into a position of international consequence and prominence which is not at all warranted by anything in the present peaceable state of the world. Governments have been forced to examine all sorts of imaginary and immature possibilities which will never be translated into reality if any of the great and free democracies of the world are able to make their opinion prevail.

In order not to give offence to anyone. I will use a parable:

Once upon a time all the animals in the Zoo decided that they would disarm, and they arranged to have a conference to arrange the matter. So the Rhinoceros said when he opened the proceedings that the use of teeth was barbarous and horrible and ought to be strictly prohibited by general consent. Horns, which were mainly defensive weapons, would, of course, have to be allowed. The Buffalo, the Stag, the Porcupine, and even the little Hedgehog all said they would vote with the Rhino, but the Lion and the Tiger took a different view. They defended teeth and even claws, which they described as honourable weapons of immemorial antiquity. The Panther, the Leopard, the Puma, and the whole tribe of small cats all supported the Lion and the Tiger.

Then the Bear spoke. He proposed that both teeth and horns should be banned and never used again for fighting by any animal. It would be quite enough if animals were allowed to give each other a good hug when they quarreled. No one could object to that. It was so fraternal, and that would be a great step towards peace. However, all the other animals were very offended with the Bear, and the Turkey fell into a perfect panic.

The discussion got so hot and angry, and all those animals began thinking so much about horns and teeth and hugging when they argued about the peaceful intentions that had brought them together that they began to look at one another in a very nasty way. Luckily the keepers were able to calm them down and persuade them to go back quietly to their cages, and they began to feel quite friendly with one another again.