As the first multinational arms control conference in history approached in fall 1921, this preview article asked:
Will the spirit that defeated the work of Mr. Wilson [the U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the country’s entry into the nascent League of Nations] also defeat the plans of Mr. Harding? After the disillusionment and reaction that followed the armistice [which ended World War I], can public opinion once more be raised to a level of clarity and strength that will make partisan issues and personal interests subservient to the welfare of the whole human race?
The answer, perhaps surprisingly, was yes. Or rather, it was yes… for a time.
The Washington Naval Conference would be attended by representatives of nine nations — Belgium, Britain, China, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, and the U.S. — and result in three major arms control treaties.
However, the treaties were not renewed and ultimately expired in 1936. World War II started in 1939, with U.S. involvement beginning in late 1941. It’s unlikely that the treaties would have prevented World War II even if they’d remained in effect, though, since Germany was not a party to the agreements.
The League and the Washington Conference
Published: Sunday, September 18, 1921