REVIEW of REVIEWS

Ethiopian War

Experiences of French and British Point to Perils of War With Natives of Africa

August 1 1935
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Ethiopian War

Experiences of French and British Point to Perils of War With Natives of Africa

August 1 1935

Ethiopian War

REVIEW of REVIEWS

Experiences of French and British Point to Perils of War With Natives of Africa

THAT MUSSOLINI may not find the Ethiopians so easy to conquer as he anticipates is stated by Clarence K. Streit in the New York Times. He writes:

What are the prospects of peaceful settlement of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict by August 25, when, the League Council has ruled and the parties have agreed, arbitration ends?

A little after arbitration ends, the rainy season in Ethiopia also ends, and war can begin then better than peace now. Mussolini’s decision then seems likely to depend on factors that may be divided into military and moral. In both categories there are arguments for peace and arguments for war. On balance the prospects seem now dark.

First, the military factors against war. There are the special Ethiopian difficulties and the general European dangers. Italians with whom the writer has talked count heavily for success in Ethiopia on their practical monopoly of modern weapons, particularly airplanes, tanks and heavy artillery.

The writer was for six months with the French Army in the Riff campaign, when it enjoyed the same superiority over the Moroccan natives. Conditions in Ethiopia seem roughly similar, but less advantageous to Italy. It is less experienced in colonial warfare and less wealthy and operating much farther from its base. Ethiopia is far bigger, more populous, richer and better organized politically than the Riff, and its climatic, mountainous and other natural defenses stronger.

Modem weapons were not of decisive value to the French in the Riff. They won in the end through superiority in infantry, but only after suffering heavy casualties (sometimes as heavy as in World War battles) and massing so many men that they had about ten for each Riffian. The Riff experience would suggest Italy will need some 400,000 or 500,000 soldiers and several years to conquer Ethiopia.

Modem weapons have been developed for use against a civilized enemy in a civilized country, not against an intelligent native in an uncivilized land. Modern weapons are made for use against masses of men— whether in cities or armies—and against big targets of all kinds. The difficulty the French found in Morocco was that there was nothing much to shoot at, or bomb. No cities, railroads, factories, roads, supply depots, armies.

The cost of destruction by modern weapons in such conditions is appallingly high, out of all proportion to the results achieved. Airplanes were used in the end mainly for reconnaissance, communications, supplying beleaguered blockhouses, transporting the wounded.

On the other hand, modem weapons help make the European an easy target for the native. They increase impedimenta and make for massing men more or less around them and in their service. Even without them the mass tactics of armies trained for European fighting give the native no end of things to shoot at.

The only way to beat him cheaply is to learn to fight him his way, as our frontiersman fought the Indians. Otherwise the European can conquer rifle-armed natives of the fighting type such as the Riffians and Ethiopians not by modern weapons but only by vastly outnumbering them.

The British, who have a wide experience in native warfare, and the French, who have been twenty years pacifying Morocco, consider the difficulties of conquering Ethiopia extremely great. They fear that if Mussolini resorts to war there he will be drawn into biting off much more than he can safely chew.

At best it is feared that Mussolini will be drawn into a long and costly campaign —for once in, prestige will require him to continue either to triumph or catastrophe.

For such reasons the British and French fear that an Ethiopian campaign is bound to weaken Italy militarily and financially, and is liable, especially in the event of dis-

aster, to lead to political upheaval and the downfall of Mussolini. Such a situation, they say, greatly risks tempting Germany to make a coup in Austria, with incalculable consequences for European peace. Consequently, the British and French have recently begun emphasizing publicly and privately to Mussolini the military dangers in Ethiopia and Europe.

On the other hand, there are reasons to believe Mussolini will not find this convincing. He is more likely to be impressed by the undoubted fact that the British and French have imperial and other material interests for persuading him to desist than by the fact that their advice may be sound, even though not disinterested. He may admit the great difficulties of an Ethiopian campaign, but he may answer this argument by pointing to the fact that European powers, when they set themselves to it, have always succeeded in conquering native populations in the end.

Growing desire for a National Government for Canada adds interest to this cartoon, published in the Silver Jubilee Number of Punch. It is captioned “Her Protector,” and the note says :

“Mr. Snowden’s refusal to yield an inch to the Trade Union group in the Cabinet on the question of national economy brought about a complete deadlock in the autumn of 1931. On August 24th Mr. Ramsay MacDonald tendered his resignation to the King, but immediately resumed office with a commission to form a National Government, relying on the support of Conservatives, Simonite Liberals, and a handful of Labour Members. His pledge to go to the country at the earliest possible opportunity was fulfilled in the General Election held on October 27th which resulted in the return of the National Party with an overwhelming majority.”