martes, 14 de julio de 2015

Haile Selassie´s appeal

The Western Mail - 9 july 1936
Before the tribunal which, whatever its defects, represents organised world opinion, Italy and Abyssinia have presented their pleadings.

Both combatant countries thought it worth while to strain every nerve to move the Assembly of the League to its support.

The honour of the day was with the Ethiopian Emperor, who, with a just cause, made full use of the fine debating powers that he has shown throughout the dispute. His abilities found a fitting theatre in an Assembly constituted to maintain law and right. As the head of a small and broken people, Haile Selassie did not hesítate to impeach the League, accusing its members of falling short of their obligations, of adopting in the early critical stages of preparation an "impartial" arms embargo which bore overwhelmingly against the weaker party, and finally of drawing back from decisive action in the final crisis. "Never before has the League had the example of a nation being threatened with being erased from the map by, the most barbarous methods of warfare." For one in Haile Selassie's position to indict a single Great Power, his partial supporter, was more daring than his impeachment of the collective Assembly, but the Emperor did not hesitate to accuse France of having made ineffective the action of the League.

Whatever legal arguments may enfold M. Laval's evasions, Haile Selassie made a sharp point concerning the Addis Ababa railway, the country's only one in the use of which France refused to Abyssinia on the understanding that it was not to be bombed by Italy, and is now making available to Italy as part of the bargaining whereby Italy is to respect French ownership of the line.

The Ethiopian Emperor's survey of the past must have been bitter enough to his hearers, especially to the representatives of Great Britain and France on whom most of the responsibility has fallen, for, from whatever causes, what the League has done falls far short of what Article 16 pledges it to do. No nation regarded Italy's breach of the Covenant as an "act of war" against itself, to be followed by the complete breaking off of all economic intercourse. No financial aid was given to Ethiopia, for the credit of that land was held as worthless, and each individual nation shrank from the invidiousness of giving money for weapons against Italy.
But it was not primarily as the incarnation of its failure that the Emperor appeared before the Assembly. He confronted it with a future choice-if choice be the word-more bitter than the past. Abyssinian resistance, he affirms, is to continue, and his words may be interpreted to mean that he is about to place himself at the head of his people again.

The League has the option of watching the death-struggles of its weak member, or enforcing military sanctions against Mussolini, which at this stage would mean war by the two Powers able to wage it effectively-that is Great Britain and France. They are not prepared to spend blood for this remote and primitive land, and few of their nationals disagree with this decision. The European situation is too threatening, even if the responsibility were not so terrible, and the prospect of an Ethiopian resurrection so unlikely. Nor can economic sanctions now avail. But Haile Selassie's words pointing out to the smaller Powers the danger to themselves in the fate of Abyssinia will awaken many echoes in this debate.

The Western Mail - 9 july 1936
Such persuasive and conciliatory effect as the Note from Signor Mussolini might have had were wiped out by the Emperor's speech, and the stupid demonstration by Italian journalists which preceded it. But the tone of the Italian Note is very significant.

It contains none of the scorn and arrogance which Mussolini has often professed for the League. Italy is plainly eager to open a way for herself back into the League and the "Stresa Front" with Great Britain and France, and is trying to make it as easy as possible for the League to receive her again. Clearly the Italian conversations with Germany, so much dreaded by France, have not been successful, or the language used would have been different. The Duce does not use the term "voluntary mandate", for a mandate of any kind over Abyssinia, if the League were to accept it, would oblige the Italians to render an account of their doings to the League Mandates Commission, and to submit to its criticism and questioning. But, eager to conciliate world opinion, Mussolini would be "honoured" to keep the League informed of the civilising measures that Italy is taking. When sanctions are lifted. Italy will be glad to return.

The new French Government, how ever, pledged to internationalism, has let it be understood that there will be no sudden falling upon the Duce's neck. There is no visible prospect of a loan to Italy that is sorely needed.

Nor can the League recognise and confirm Italy in the possession of Abyssinia. It is noteworthy that the first protest against this possibility comes from Argentina, a country remote from the scene, which contains a very large Italian population, and one, moreover, conspicuously "shaky" in its acceptance of sanctions. Nevertheless, if Italy does choose to respect world opinion and administer Abyssinia in a manner that is sensitive to world opinion, that is so much gained, though the League cannot well take official cognisance of what is done. The United States has gone so far towards pronouncing moral judgment as to apply its principle of non-recognition of sovereignty changed by violent conquest. The League can do no less.

One very interesting fact, always suspected, is now confirmed by the Italian Note. Signor Mussolini's statement that it was not Italy's fault that the Hoare-Laval Plan failed suggests that its terms were agreed on in advance between the Duce and M. Laval in one of those series of negotiations that went on behind the back of Great Britain. That scheme for the partitioning of Abyssinia would have given that country better terms than the complete conquest which now seems her inevitable fate, but while the League's measures were in full operation, and there appeared to be time enough for them to become effective, the Plan proved intolerable to world opinion. The sudden collapse of Ethiopia broke down the moral timetable.

The world has had time to ponder over the results of League impotence in the Manchurian question. It has seen an attempt at international discipline made and fail in the Ethiopian question. There seems a rising feeling that further weakness might engulf Europe in war. Mental and material preparedness which fairly face the possibilities are necessary. It is to be hoped that differing schemes of reform will not cancel each other. Resolution and good faith are the chief essentials.