The Foreign Service Journal, November 2015

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2015 61 FS HERITAGE The 44th Secretary of State, a true statesman who displayed exemplary foreign policy leadership, deserves more recognition. BY MAXWE L L J . HAM I LTON AND JOHN MAXWE L L HAM I LTON Maxwell J. Hamilton, a Foreign Service officer since 2008, is currently the Department of State’s Burma unit chief. He has previously served in the Operations Center, Afghanistan, India and Venezuela. John Maxwell Hamilton, Maxwell’s father, is founding dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State Univer- sity, a senior scholar at the WoodrowWilson International Center for Scholars and the author of numerous books. He was a Foreign Service officer in the 1970s. O n Nov. 12, 1921, pre-eminent statesmen from around the world assembled in Washington, D.C., to consider limiting the growth of the Great Power fleets. They were motivated by escalat- ing tensions and the burgeoning costs of a global arms race. Two decades before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese government was already spending half its revenue on the military. Hopes for an agreement were not high. No previous disarma- ment conference had succeeded; the First Hague Conference in 1899 had only acknowledged the desirability of arms limitations. Taking Stock of Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes But the calculus changed when U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes rose to address the delegates seated at Continen- tal Hall’s specially constructed walnut table. Prior to the conference, Hughes had concluded that the only way to achieve success was with a bold proposal. This he sold to President Warren Harding, one of our least visionary presidents. He also convinced Harding of the wisdom of deviating from the standard practice of first floating the proposal to the foreign delegates in a closed session. Hughes feared this would give naysayers too much room for maneuver. Instead, he unveiled the specifics of the initiative in his speech welcoming the conference delegates. A former Supreme Court justice who later became chief justice, Hughes made the case like the lawyer he was. He opened with lulling platitudes, and then stunned the audience by proposing a 10-year freeze on the size of each country’s fleet. Hughes named specific ships to be scrapped, beginning with those of his own country, before turning to Britain and Japan. In less than 15 minutes, said historianThomas Bailey, Hughes had sunk more ships “than all the admirals of the world have sunk in a cycle of centuries.” The result was the Five-Power Treaty, (also known as the Washington Naval Treaty), signed on Feb. 6, 1922, which scrapped warships under construction and halted the production of larger warships for a decade. Yet today, sadly, Hughes is all but forgotten, despite the many