In spite of what she is taking out of the hearts of Mussolini, Flandin, and most other Europeans, Great Britain is treating the world to an almost unbelievable spectacle. She is showing how nicely a government can get along on practically no policy at all.
While the leaders of France and Italy sit in a castle on the shore of Lake Maggiore, scratch their heads, and wonder what, if anything, can be done to curb Adolf Hitler, Great Britain keeps an anxious world guessing. A week ago Stresa took on the light of a New Jerusalem in men's minds. It seemed that for the first time in history Europe had stopped being Europe and was putting her cards down flat on the table for a definite showdown.
The policies of every major power could be discussed with a fair degree of assurance that they would remain fixed. Nazi Germany appeared to have done what Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations only dreamed of: to have brought about a united Europe, agreeing in a common cause, Bourgeois France and Communist Russia had ended a long and scandalous by actually going to bed together, and an alliance for defense was about to be signed. Mussolini, who, since the accession of Hitler, has ceased to be Europe's "tough guy," was willing to be friends with practically any one who would help him guarantee an independent Austria. Even the London press had stopped seeing red, the Times remarking that a general European war was a far greater menace than a world revolution.
And now, the big three having met at Stresa, with Russia standing in the doorway hoping for a belated invitation, Great Britain commits her historical crime of refusing to take drastic steps. Her government, headed by doddering Ramsay MacDonald, shaking on its last legs at home, dares not do anything definite.
If the present opportunity at Stresa, probably Europe's long chance for peace, is allowed to lapse through the maddening dalliance of British statesmen, Great Britain must assume moral responsibility for the next great war. It is a responsibility which a confused world shifted from her to Germany in 1918. The spectacle of Hitler waving at Stalin with an olive branch in his hand and a machine-gun up his sleeve, while Great Britain politely looks the other way, is proving to be no sedative for a Europe suffering from its worst case of jitters since 1914.