Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2002 / 11 Teves, 5763
A retrospective on disarmament
The defeated nation had agreed to disarmament verified by the victors, even though it had not been occupied or its capital captured. Especially destructive weapons were proscribed. But the nation had experience evading compulsory disarmament. It mounted guileful resistance to inspectors, and citizens tempted to be helpful were intimidated. Plant inspections were denounced as commercial espionage and impeded. The resisting government insisted that potential "dual use" technologies, and materials that could be precursor elements for proscribed weapons, were merely for civilian uses. (An explosion that killed 11 in a chemical factory revealed the continuing production of chemical weapons.) There were endless controversies about what war materials had existed at the time of the armistice. (Six hundred 105-millimeter gun barrels were found behind a factory's secret walls.) The government's liaison officers gave advance warnings to people at sites to be inspected. Arms were secretly shuffled from one depot to another.
This was weapons inspection in Germany after World War I.
The victors vowed to destroy German militarism using 337 inspectors in a country that then was about the size of today's Iraq. The numerical results were these: 7,000 factories placed under supervision, 33,384 cannons destroyed, 37,211,551 artillery shells destroyed, 87,240 machine guns destroyed, 920 tons of poison gas cylinders destroyed.
German militarism was not destroyed.
One proposal was for the German army to be allowed to train 200,000 one-year conscripts every year. A conscript army was considered more democratic. Critics of that plan argued that over 10 years it would produce 2 million trained men and conscription would legitimize militarism. So Germany's army was restricted to 100,000 12-year volunteers. The results of this arms control?
Most German soldiers were trained as officers suitable for quickly turning conscripts into a mass army. Germany reached a secret agreement with the Soviet Union whereby in exchange for German officers' training of Soviet forces, the Germans would be able to train with heavy weapons forbidden to Germany. The Soviet Union experienced the results of this in June 1941. And because heavy weapons were forbidden to Germany, its army improvised new techniques of maneuver and mobility that came to be called Blitzkrieg. France experienced that in May 1940.
Oh, arms control. Napoleon occupied all of Germany and ordered severe restrictions on its military manpower. But his fate was sealed by the arrival of the Prussians on the Waterloo battlefield.
Some German corporations -- Krupp and Junkers, for example -- did military research and manufacturing at subsidiaries abroad. The German government insisted that flamethrowers were for controlling insects and range finders were for determining cloud heights. The automobile industry became the basis for tank manufacturing. By 1924, the allies estimated it would take Germany just a year to be producing arms at wartime levels.
A 1944 study of the problems of post-World War I disarmament of Germany stressed the impossibility of disarmament-by-inspectors when the government to be disarmed is uncooperative. After 1918 the inspectors' greatest difficulty was procuring reliable data, because the German government connived at concealment. This difficulty "could have been surmounted only by a complete and prolonged military occupation."
In 1919 Andre Tardieu, a French diplomat charged with implementing the inspections, had written to Col. Edward M. House, an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, anticipating reactions to whatever the inspectors reported. He said the "pacifist element" in many nations would "be quite naturally inclined to deny reports disturbing to their peace of mind." So they would "more or less consciously espouse the cause of the German government, which will deny the said reports." He added:
"Germany will deny. The governments will discuss. Public opinion will be divided, alarmed, nervous, and finally, the League unarmed will have brought to pass in the world not general peace but general uncertainty."
Nevertheless, Tardieu was optimistic because "a modern mobilization demands years of preparation and cannot be carried out in secret. Neither of these essentials is henceforth in the hands of Germany." If enforced, the disarmament regime would make Germany incapable of mobilization.
The field marshal who was in command of all German armies at the end of the war agreed: "Months would be necessary to prepare a new war, and do you think the French would look on with their hands in their pockets?"
The field marshal was Paul von Hindenburg, who as Germany's semi-senescent president in January 1933 appointed as chancellor a World War I corporal, Adolf Hitler.
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