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This effort birthed one of the most well-known treaties of the interwar period, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (also known as Pact of Paris) of 1928, renouncing war as an instrument of national policy and stating that “the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts . . . shall never be sought except by pacific means.” The pact revealed how strong peace had become as a global ideology, in interactions among governments and also among the cultural elite and in burgeoning academic programs in international affairs.

Though initiated by French Foreign Minister Briand as a bilateral treaty between France and the United States, President Coolidge and Secretary of State Kellogg favored a multilateral treaty renouncing war. A total of 15 governments initially signed the pact, including the major actors in World War II: Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and Germany. Eventually, the treaty was signed by nearly all nations in the world.

The U.S. Senate approved the treaty with only one dissenting vote; however, the United States made known its “interpretations” of the treaty, as did some other nations. For example, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that the treaty did not prevent an act of war in self-defense nor did it prevent enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine, since that would also be an act of self-defense. Senator Carter Glass of Virginia commented that these “reservations” basically nullified the treaty: “I am not willing that anybody in Virginia shall think that I am simple enough to suppose that [the treaty] is worth a postage stamp in the direction of accomplishing permanent international peace. . . . [I]t is going to confuse the minds of many good and pious people who think that peace may be secured by polite professions of neighborly and brotherly love.” Indeed, diplomatic historian Julius Pratt wryly notes that after approval of Kellogg-Briand, the next item of business of the U.S. Senate was an appropriation for Navy cruisers.

Kellogg-Briand was not able to halt the march toward World War II. Just as World War I demonstrated the futility of the peace machinery that preceded it, the peace efforts of the interwar period were tragically disintegrated by World War II. Ultimately, treaties were brushed aside when they no longer served the interests of states.

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