Ever since the days of 1918, when the Germany army retreated across the Rhine, army corps from five different nations have been occupying the Western bank, forming there a sort of magic circle. Germany has been playing in her own back yard, while the erstwhile allies have been sitting on the fence. They have come to no agreement for Germany has been unwilling to give up all her toys, and no one can suggest a satisfactory way to make her do so.
Great Britain and America, officially at least, are satisfied by careful investigation that Germany is not playing hypocrite; France, Italy and Belgium, from the same evidence, have come to the contrary conclusion. Since they are in the majority, and are able to cite the authority of the Reparations Commission, they have proceeded to enter the magic circle. At the same time, significantly, President Harding has noted on the Senate recommendation and ordered the American troops home. Great Britain seems on the point of taking the same step.
Our action is covered by a carefully ambiguous phrase: it has been "deemed expedient". A few newspapers characterize the act as cowardice. That, at least, is absurd: whatever may be said of it as a matter of theory, it is in perfect consistency with our present foreign policy, and until that is amended, we should ask nothing else.
Meanwhile the delinquent on the inside of the circle has been issuing official protests almost as far as paper marks. The German ambassadors have been ordered to withdraw from the three "hostile" capitals. America and Great Britain have been besought for something more than "moral support", with doubtful success. 10,000 citizens of Essen have met in a giant mass-meeting to protest the French "violation of the treaty of Versailles", but have been quieted by advice from the government that resistance would be futile. Yet that same government is reported to have called for a monster parade of protest, in which all loyal sons of the Vaterland will march up Unter den Linden--brandishing umbrellas, no doubt, and shouting "Ich protestiere" with the full convictions of prejudice.
All the tumult and the shouting would savor not a little of the ridiculous if it were not so ominous in its potential results. France has not necessarily committed a hostile act: in her own official words, she is merely sending "a mission of engineers and functionaries" to supervise details of carrying out treaty terms, and nothing more. But the magic circle has been broken. With the spell lifted, there is no foreseeing the end.