Sir Samuel Hoare's speech to the House of Commons should allay all doubts as to the eventual solution of the East African crisis. In announcing that under no conditions will Britain use military force against Italian aggression, the Foreign Secretary has laid the ghost of a general European conflict and at the same time demonstrated that the cynical attitude long prevalent at Geneva can eventually overcome even the staunchest souls.
This long-awaited declaration of Britain policy was received with unrestrained joy by the Laval government in Paris. It should have been. If France had been asked to write the speech herself she could not have performed more satisfactorily. Now that there is assurance that Mussolini will not be stopped by force. Mr. Laval can continue to announce that a peaceful solution of the Ethiopian affair will be arrived at any day. The gentlemen at Geneva can continue to vote drastic economic sanctions, by which the whole world is supposed to close its doors to Italy, while sanctions are actually adopted by such prolific producers as Ecuador and Spain.
Britain is not to be blamed in retreating from the brave lone stand she has heretofore maintained. Practical Englishmen know well that to hope to end war by economic sanctions as organized by the League is more wishful than realistic. Even if the powers sitting at Geneva were sincere in their present mummery, they would hardly be able to bring Mussolini to his knees. As long as Germany, Japan, and the United States remain beyond the pale, the vows of the world cannot be expressed from Geneva.
The League of Nations, lacking all coercive power whatsoever, can only express pretty sentiments, while the governments back home take whatever steps seem most advantageous to the national policy. Under such a system Britain must realize that to use genuine force against an aggressor would be to hold the fort singlehanded. No nation thinking of its own well-being could ever be so quixotic.