Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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Indo-China and Morocco ; the decay of her
population, her uncertain economic future and
the listlessness which increasingly underlies
the rapid shifts of her politics, have robbed
her ancient ambition of much of its fire. There
remains little but a roving eye and a certain
restlessness of mind, finding constant expres-
sion in many superficial intrigues of the
bureaux or the Bourse, but having no real
root in French political life and threatening


nothing worse than a few passing annoyances
to the chancelleries. Already before the war
the youth of France was turning its back
on such childish things. The ghost of Louis
Quatorze still glimmers in the Quai D'Orsay,
but his influence is passing from the life
of the nation. The younger generation of
Frenchmen are conscious of the vast task of
internal reconstruction that awaits them and
their energies can only be deflected into that
restless policy-mongering abroad which is the
seamy side of French political genius, if Britain
and America, by lack of sympathy and under-
standing, contrive to keep alive the jealousy,
pride and fear which linger in the heart of an
ancient nation prostrated by the sacrifices of
war. France to-day fails to understand the
new Anglo-American co-operation, seeks equiva-
lents for the extension of British and American
control in the Middle East, is suspicious of
British and American prestige at Warsaw,
Constantinople, Prague and Athens, and
demands practical guarantees for her frontiers.
We have gone some way to satisfy this last
demand, for the proposed British and American
treaties of defensive alliance with France, so
far from conflicting with the League, are the
first and essential steps towards enlisting the
wholehearted co-operation of France in its work.
For the French mind, with its ingrained
rationalism, is traditionally sceptical of all
schemes for international union ; it still tends
to use the idea of nationality, as Napoleon used
it, as a move in the ancient game of " divide


et impera " ; and she can only be won over
to the policy of union by a tangible proof that
in such union she can find a real guarantee of her
security. But if we have done something to
eliminate the motive of fear, pride and jealousy
still remain ; and we have done not a little at
Paris to intensify them. Especially in working
out the idea of " mandates/' the special claims
of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa,
put forward at the very outset of the Con-
ference and allowed practically without modi-
fication, were not calculated to facilitate the
acceptance by France of greater restrictions
on her sovereignty in the Cameroons or Togo-
land; while in regard to Syria, Britain and
America have realised too little that they were
in the highly invidious position of advocating
principles nicely, even if unintentionally, calcu-
lated to favour their own interests and to check
those of France. It is vital that we should
work out the conception of mandates honestly
and logically, for any failure to give that
conception real meaning in German East
Africa or in Mesopotamia will rankle dangerously
in French memory. France has lost ground
with both British and American opinion at
Paris, but the fault lies largely with us. If
by lack of understanding we fail to evoke
French genius and French political imagina-
tion in building up the new Europe, no other
gains that we may make can compensate us
for that supreme loss.

The cases of Italy and Japan are very dif-
ferent, Japan has definite eCQ&QljftS aim^ easily


pardonable in a nation with only some fifty years'
experience in Western civilisation, which, at
the moment of its birth, learnt its earliest and
most enduring lessons in policy from the
Bismarckian school of European statecraft.
According to the principles of that school
conquest, extension of territory, is the only
possible cure for an increasing population in
a country lacking mineral wealth. Japanese
expansion may be condemned, but it cannot
be checked by preaching and paper. Remote
in its origins and character from the European
family of nations, the Japanese state is the
great uncertain quantity of the League. The
wrong actually done to China in the Shantung
settlement has been greatly exaggerated, though
the Chinese representatives at Paris have
perhaps been wise, in the interest of their
country, in forcing the issue between Japan
and the Western democracies by making
it the test case of " Wilsonian " principles;
but these clauses in the Treaty are intensely
significant as a warning of European and
American failure, not only in regard to Japan,
but in regard to the Far East generally. That
failure extends from the Volga to Manila and
it is one of the first duties of the League to
place its relations with the two great Asiatic
Powers on some coherent basis.

Italian claims, on the other hand, are more
definitely strategic. Suffering from the same
economic disabilities as Japan, perhaps to an
even greater degree, her actual claims to
territory have nevertheless been based on


considerations of defence rather than of wealth.
In Africa her ambitions have indeed lacked
even this basis and have resembled rather the
sentimental or jealous land hunger of France ;
but in the Adriatic and in the Southern Tyrol
her aims have been frankly military. Italy
has, indeed, succeeded France as the exponent
of the Latin policy of " divide et imp era " and
the spur given to France by the German danger
is supplied to Italy by the rise of the new
Slav states. British and American opinion
does wrong to deride this fear as wholly imag-
inary. However dangerous may be Italy's
idea of herself as the outpost and the bul-
wark of Latin civilisation ; however retro-
grade may be the Balkan and Danubian
intrigues by which she too often seeks to carry
out this imaginary mission ; however impatient
we may feel with the lingering tradition which
identifies the Jugo-Slavia of to-day with the
memories of Radetzky's Croat soldiery seventy
years ago ; however mad we may think the
attempt to repeat on the Danube and in
Macedonia the crime of Frederick the Great
and Bismarck in Poland the attempt to ward
off future conflicts by ingenious partitions and
the creation of artificial frontiers ; yet we should
be foolish to ignore racial incompatibilities
and the very real weakness of Italy in face of
the ferment of new nationalities across the
narrow strip of the Adriatic. There is no task
of foreign policy more pressing than the recon-
ciliation of Italy with the other members of
the European family, and there is none more


difficult. We have already referred to the
ingrained particularism of France, but this de-
scription is even more applicable to Italy. There
is a certain aloofness, a hardness of texture,
in the Latin character, traceable equally in
Spain, in France and in Italy, which, as America
has found, resists fusion, assimilation, or even
co-operation to a far greater degree than either
the Anglo-Saxon, the German or the Slav.
France escapes from many of the consequences
of these disabilities by her prestige and her
experience in, at least, military leadership,
and she has proved during the war and the
armistice period that she can win acceptance
and exact respect and gratitude from Serb
and Czech where Italy finds only suspicion or
contempt. Italy has no such bridge by which
she can cross the racial gap. She is a problem
in the European family largely because she is
weak. It still remains for some sympathetic
student of international politics to explain why
twentieth century Italy has buried so many his-
toric talents in a napkin. Somewhere along the
road of liberation and union, perhaps in the
sloughs of a parliamentary system hardly suited
to her genius, she appears to have lost so much
of her heritage the leadership in political
philosophy once attained by Beccaria and
Filangieri, the idealism of Gioberti, the states-
manship of Cavour and Manin, the capacity
for strong government shown by Tanucci and
Rossi, all the glamour of great possibilities
which dazzled English liberals in the Risorgi-
Mazzini's glittering vision pfj thg


" Roma del popolo, Italia dell'avenire " and
Rossi's humbler conception of a " governo
forte sulle leggi '* have alike faded. The
European family will know no settled system
until these qualities are evoked again in its

There is in all this little enough to encourage
those who hope for peace and stability in
Europe. If the war has done so little to convert
the chief allies to wiser statesmanship, what
can be expected from our enemies ? Without
attaching too much importance to the outbursts
of political pietists, there is no doubt that the
attitude of the French and Italian representa-
tives at Paris, and the general character of the
proceedings there, have prepared the ground
for a revulsion of feeling both in Britain and
America in regard to Germany. The present
German Government seems to have realised
this and to count upon it. The change that
took place in the European situation in the
month of June has not perhaps been sufficiently
appreciated. At the beginning of that month
German troops and the Baltic Landwehr,
under the direct control of German generals,
had to all intents and purposes conquered
Esthonia and Livonia. Libau and Riga were
practically German ports. The German army
of the East seemed to be preparing for a collision
with Poland in Lithuania, West Prussia, Poland
and Silesia. The Magyar army was pressing
up through Slovakia towards Cracow, and a
working alliance between Budapest and Weimar
seemed an imminent possibility. The resources



of the Entente were utterly inadequate to cope
with the danger. No situation could have been
better suited to revive the gambling spirit in
Germany. It did revive it in Brockdorff-
Rantzau, in many of his colleagues and in the
generals of the eastern armies. That, after
all, Germany resisted this temptation is perhaps
due to Erzberger, more than to any one man.
Whatever his motives, his action saved Eastern
Europe from complete chaos, and while it
could not avert an upheaval in Upper Silesia
or secure the complete withdrawal of German
troops from Livonia, it has placed Germany in a
fail position to take advantage of the unsettled
condition of Western public opinion. The car-
dinal sin of the Peace Conference has been its
failure to impress any clear-cut picture of the
new order on the mind of the peoples. This
failure must be of special interest to Mr.
Graham Wallas and his disciples in the science
of political psychology. From the medley of
decisions reached at Paris no definite pattern
or colour has emerged. To a world passionately
anxious for peace, settlement, certainty, order,
the new Europe appears as a tangle of loose
ends, ravelled and ambiguous. It is by no
means improbable that by strict observ-
ance of the letter of the Peace Treaty,
by open abdication, for the moment, of any
fine-drawn schemes of foreign policy and by a
steady attention to the problems of internal
consolidation and reconstruction, Germany may
succeed, over the next five years, in wiping
many war memories from the mind of their


neighbours and may come to be recognised as
the chief stabilising factor in a fluid and troubled

So far as the territorial settlement is con-
cerned, Germany comes out of the war not
seriously weakened, certainly not incapacitated,
for the task of recovery. The loss of the Saar
coal-fields, even if permanent, is not of the first
importance. The loss of the Silesian fields
would be more serious, but not irretrievable.
The passing of the Lorraine iron basin to
France is the only real economic disaster which,
in this respect, she has to face. Outside the
territorial settlement, the terms imposed on
her are crushing and we shall refer to this
point at greater length in connection with
the general economic condition of the new
Europe ; but the net effect of these terms is
likely to be less than might be supposed at
first sight. Her disabilities under the economic
chapter of the Treaty are, for the most part,
temporary, and open the way for a compre-
hensive rearrangement of economic relations
after the lapse of a few years. The financial
chapter may result in the destruction of hei
assets in the principal allied countries, but
after nearly four years of black lists and
enemy trading regulations, her commercial and
financial connections in Italy, South America,
and perhaps even in the Far East, have not been
broken beyond repair. Only in the reparation
chapter have the Allies devised an engine
which, if utilised to the full, will indefinitely
postpone her recovery. In practice, however,


the provisions of this chapter must inevitably
undergo considerable modification. Their strict
application would destroy German private credit
completely for two years and would cripple
it, perhaps, for a quarter of a century. The
allied governments would be forced themselves
to furnish the capital to restart the industries
on whose production they have established so
complete a lien, and to recreate the Central
European market for their own manufacturers
and traders. Germany can, by a judicious
course of negotiation during the coming months,
almost compel the Reparation Commission to
escape from this dilemma by definitely fixing
her obligations. The very vastness of her
disaster is already consolidating all classes in a
determined effort to stimulate production. The
loss of her merchant marine may be sufficiently
compensated before long by a surplus of Ameri-
can and neutral shipping. On the whole,
it is probable that the rapidity of her recovery
will astonish the world.

A revivified Germany, stable and progressive,
will be by far the most powerful factor in
Europe. And she will remain a menace. We
do wrong to suppose that her ambition arose
solely from the vices of her Government. Her
people have a natural fund of self-satisfaction
and self-reliance which marks them out among
the nations. Their feeling towards their Polish
neighbours is one of ingrained hatred and
contempt, not unmingled with fear. Can the
despised Polacken rule themselves ? To the
German mind there can be only one answer to


such a question, and it extends in greater or
less degree to the whole Slav race to the
Czech, the Russian, and the Croat. The whole
of Central and Eastern Europe presents itself
to the German eye as a malleable medley of
incompetents. France is at last what Bismarck
hoped to make her bled white and listless.
Italy can be conquered economically and
tempted politically by promises of prosperity
and protection, by sops to her sentimental
ambitions as a colonial power. Can any one
expect that Germans, whether they be states-
men of the old school absorbed in problems of
power, social democrats intent on the moulding
of the Internationale to their will, or revolu-
tionaries lured by the dream of a great coalition
of the European proletariat, will cease to
regard their country as the centre of the family
of nations, marked out to control its destinies ?
Britain and America are the only obstacles to
that dream, and Germany, relying upon their
traditional policy of aloofness, may well count
on using the League of Nations as the focus of
a continental system in which even they will
be unable to dispute Germany's predominance.
To the mind of an Erzberger it would, indeed,
have been folly to miss so certain a future by
any premature and petty aggression on the
shores of the Baltic.

This is the main problem which the League
has to face, and we must not commit the mis-
take of mere railing against German ambition.
Such designs as these might well take an
attractive form, and even a noble one, for the


Europe created at Versailles, outside the eastern
and southern frontiers of Germany, is formless
and distraught. Before all things, it needs
consolidation and conciliation. The new nations
are not incompetent, as Germany may think
them, but they are burdened with a hundred dis-
abilities and uncertainties, and if we do not help
them ourselves Germany may be able to claim just
recognition as the healer of her neighbours.

Immediately to the south of Germany,
Bohemia is almost as much a mongrel state as
was the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ger-
man, Czech, Slovak, and Ruthenian are com-
bined in a union which may prove all too loose.
The future relations between Czech and Slovak
are somewhat uncertain, and may prove a
fertile field for the intrigues of a German element
hankering after union with Germany and Austria,
or of a Hungary intent on regaining its old
frontiers. Bela Kun has already been able to
use the Magyars, who form the small official
class in Slovakia, to assist his designs. The
Ruthenians, included, for lack of a better solu-
tion, in the new state as an autonomous province,
may in the future combine with their brethren
under Polish rule to the north of the Car-
pathians, to form an Ukrainian irredenta, and
though this possibility is perhaps remote, its
mere existence offers material for Bolshevist
intrigue. The relations between Poland and
Czecho-Slovakia are already disturbed by the
Teschen dispute. At least, however, Czecho-
slovakia has wealth and great economic oppor-
tunities ; her outlet to the sea through Germany


has been safeguarded, as far as possible, by the
international regime established on the Oder,
by guaranteed rights of railway transit and
by concessions in the port of Hamburg. The
same cannot be said of her two neighbours in
the Danubian region. Austria, never an eco-
nomic entity, is now reduced to impotence
and penury, even losing on the Bohemian
frontier some of the agricultural districts which
had supplied her capital with food. It is
difficult to foresee any possibility of separate
existence for this fragment of territory, and,
with the rankling memory of Italian annexa-
tions in the Southern Tyrol, Jugo-Slav aggres-
sions in Carinthia, Bela Kun's repeated attempts
to overthrow her government, and the harsh-
ness of the Allies' economic terms, she can
hardly be expected to turn in any other direction
but to Germany for sympathy and assistance.
Hungary, an almost perfect economic unit before
the war, has lost much of her best agricultural
land and most of her mineral wealth. By
herself, she must be almost derelict.

Jugo-Slavia and Rumania alone emerge from
the war with territories reasonably well-rounded
and economically sound, though with lingering
frontier jealousies between them in the Banat.
But in Jugo-Slavia the enmities between Italian
and Croat, German and Slovene, have now been
added on her northern frontiers to the old
Macedonian feud in the south between Serb
and Bulgar a feud which may well be com-
plicated by Italy's presence in Albania even if
her authority there should be confined to


Vallona ; while in Rumania political corruption,
agrarian unrest, the perennial Jewish problem,
and direct exposure to the menace of Bolshevism,
combine to make the government at Bucharest
a somewhat uncertain factor in the Balkan
problem of the future.

For that problem is not solved by the Treaty.
The Conference was faced with two alternatives.
It could either attempt to work out an equit-
able balance of power between the four chief
Balkan states without regard to the part they
had played in the war, or it could treat Bulgaria
definitely as a disturber of the peace, granting
to her neighbours, and especially to Greece, at
her expense and that of Turkey, the utmost
possible extension of territory compatible with
ethnic considerations, and relying upon the
combination of the three powerful states thus
established to repress her ambition and reconcile
her perforce to a subordinate role in the future
Balkan union. It appears to have chosen the
latter course, and was, perhaps, forced to
choose it. The new Bulgaria, excluded from
Macedonia and probably also from the ^Egean,
forfeits every ambition which she has cherished
since the Treaty of San Stefano. She cannot,
indeed, urge that the settlement is inherently
unjust, for her ethnic claim to " Bulgarian "
and Turkish Thrace is, on the whole, less
than that of Greece, if we except certain dis-
tricts to the north of Drama and Seres, and
in the vicinity of Adrianople ; to Macedonia
she can only lay claim on grounds of doubt-
ful racial and linguistic analogy ; and, perhaps,


her only unanswerable complaint is that the
Allies have not demanded from Rumania the
restoration of the old Dobrudja frontier. She
is not even subjected to excessive economic
disabilities, since, in exchange for her sover-
eignty over the third-rate port of Dedeagatch
and the doubtful possibilities of a new port
at Porto Lagos, she will secure rights of transit
through Salonika of far more practical value
to her economic life. Yet a rankling sense
of injustice must long electrify the atmo-
sphere at Sofia ; and it is impossible to regard
the Balkan future without misgiving. Bulgaria
has only to look across Macedonia to find at
Vallona, if not also at Scutari and Durazzo,
another unsatisfied member of the family of
nations. Were Italy to be given " manda-
tory " duties in Albania a solution which is
perhaps the best that can be devised for that
well-nigh insoluble problem she would, in her
present temper, have every motive to make com-
mon cause with Bulgaria against Jugo-Slavia.
Sources of friction will abound ; Scutari, as the
natural commercial outlet of Serbia, will be a
bone of contention ; railway construction in
northern Albania may cause endless disputes ;
Albania still has her irredenta in Serbian territory
at Ipek, Djakova, and Dibra ; there is no assur-
ance that Jugo-Slavia will be able to effect
immediate reforms in the methods of Serbian
administration in Macedonia. Greece, the chief
beneficiary in Europe of the collapse of Bulgaria
and Turkey, owes her present prestige and
position solely to the genius of M. Venizelos.


As a nation she has shown no aptitude for
great affairs and no skill in administration.
With no great resources in men or money, she
is apparently to be burdened simultaneously with
new and far-reaching responsibilities both at
Smyrna and in Thrace. Indeed, in none of the
states from the Erzgebirge to the Morea and the
mouths of the Danube is there any political
tradition or school of statesmanship capable of
bringing forth the wisdom and foresight which
can alone build a new order out of the moraine of
past misgovernment and ancient hatreds. At the
extreme points of this region two commanding
figures stand out for a moment, Mazaryk and
Venizelos ; but the future lies with their
successors, and their isolation is, perhaps, hardly
less complete than that of Diaz or Yuan-shi-kai.
If this is the prospect which meets Germany's
eyes across her southern frontier, she has as
her eastern neighbour another new nation no
less poor in the quality of her statesmanship and,
perhaps, even poorer in the elements necessary
to a stable political society Poland has mineral
wealth and a secure outlet to the sea at Danzig,
directly controlled by the League, but, domi-
nated as she has been politically by Russia and
economically by Germany, she has neither the
political nor the industrial experience required
to enable her to exploit these advantages. The
Jews still form her only middle class, and they
are as yet unreconciled to the new state are,
indeed, in many cases, almost at open war with
it. The Allies have been at some pains to narrow
Polish frontiers so as to exclude non-Polish


populations, but it is probable that the new
State will embrace sufficient German, Lithuanian,
White Russian, and Ukrainian .elements to
make its task of administration delicate and
arduous. To those tasks Poland brings an
imperialistic temper, confirmed rather than
softened by the years of her servitude This
temper may thaw as the National Democratic
Party loses its predominance. She has been
fortunate to find in Pilsudski and Paderewski
leaders of considerable ability and liberality of

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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 8 of 20)