A Reply to Lieut.-Col. George A. Drew’s, "Will Canada Support Britain ?"
Faults in British Foreign Policy
A Reply to Lieut.-Col. George A. Drew’s, "Will Canada Support Britain ?"
DEAR Colonel Drew: Instead of "Will Canada Support Britain?" you might have asked, "Will Canada support the League of Nations for peace and Britain's efforts through the League?" Then the answer you expect would have been easier to give for many Canadians who are not bothered by propaganda in discredited United States magazines.
Canada’s self-interest is strongly and unambiguously allied with world peace and the League, as with a statesman’s power you have demonstrated. So our support is attracted by a British Government that is consistently loyal to a League policy. The record and the present methods of the present British Government in foreign policy do not inspire confidence.
Let it be clear that Canada’s welfare dictates this criticism of British foreign policy. Our objections are not borrowed from the I^abor Party opposition in England to the present British Government, nor from doctrinaire free trade, nor from any “ism.” They have a real and solid foundation in the fact that Canadians and British subjects have built up Canada to the sixth trading nation of the world, and are absolutely dependent on world peace for prosperity and happiness.
You, Colonel Drew, would surely very zealously as well as very ably defend the right of a loyal Canadian to form and
express a critical opinion about the policies of our present Governments, both at Ottawa and in the provinces, for instance at Queen’s Park, Toronto. London, England, is a similar case. It is not loyalty to give or to ask blind slavish acceptance of the policy of the moment of a party Government which happens to be in office in London.
The fact is, then, that there is too much disloyalty to the League and to the British Empire and its whole course and purpose, to warrant the claim that the present British Conservative Government deserves the support of the Empire and Canada. Canadians had nothing to do with electing this Government in London. They are bound to accept and support its foreign policy only when that policy is the best for the Empire of which we are a part. Canada’s loyalty under those circumstances has never been seriously in doubt.
Being an authority on world affairs, you know the opinion in England about the
present British Government’s domestic policy. Its half-measures, its substitutes and compromises have gained for it a large public’s active contempt. There is a black record of lost opportunities in this Government’s handling of the problem of the “depressed areas,” which were thickly peopled by export industries like coal and cotton and now are deserted by those industries, leaving the population with no chance of regular work; in this Government’s handling of the matter of milk for the children, who are, hundreds of thousands of them, undernourished while surplus milk is canned un profitably; in this Government’s bonusing of housing for the classes of people who have the money anyway, with the result that many of the new houses are jerry-built. If this record is not bad enough, there are plenty of other failures, including the failure to put the basic coal-mining industry on an efficient footing so it would compare and compete with Germany or France or Belgium.
The present Government in London, on account of these failures in home affairs, was likely to have been defeated at the election last October. But the war between Italy and Abyssinia, and the activity of one young man in the Cabinet who still impressed the public with sincerity, diverted all attention to international affairs. This Government was saved by its promises of a strong League-and-peace policy. Captain Anthony Eden seemed a sincere League supporter who understood that frank and ready British support for the League would make it work and bring peace. The Government was returned to power because it seemed thoroughly committed to a definite foreign policy.
THE APPEARANCES of last October have already been proved false. The promises which decided the British electors and which gave confidence and hope to Canada, have already been broken. A change for the better was promised and expected, but this Government, which was always half-hearted and weak, unsound and unsafe, except during the three months before the election, is a positive danger to world peace and to Canadian prosperity.
The fundamental fault with the present Government in London is that with the exception of Anthony Eden-—a man inspired with your own passion for the
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League and peace—it is not a Cabinet of wise men but a gang of blunderers. These blunderers have caused the glaring faults in British foreign policy which are leading straight to war.
The most notorious blunder of this Government was the Hoare-Laval plan for deserting the League, when the League as an election issue had saved the Government less than two months before. The Hoare-Laval plan for dividing up Abyssinia among the big nations was an example of the old secret diplomacy that preceded the last war, and it was a breach of international law as developed in the League Covenant. The blunder of making Britain a party to the Hoare-Laval proposals means that this Government has already lost the mandate it received at the British elections last October; and so it now has no right to govern the British Isles, much less the whole British Commonwealth.
Canadians are not going to pay for the stupid foreign policy blunders of Sir Samuel Hoare and Sir John Simon and Mr. Stanley Baldwin. Or, more accurately, they are not going to ask to be allowed to help pay for them by rushing offers of money and troops, although the blunders are of such world consequence that we shall probably be forced to pay.
This strong objection to the present Government in London being allowed to commit or involve Canada in any way, is taken on account of its blunders in foreign policy exclusively. The mistakes in home affairs are sorrowful to see because they hurt and weaken the mother country. But they are not our business. On the other hand, British foreign policy is definitely Empire business, and so concerns Canada vitally.
The first great mistake of British policy since the last World War was the failure of Baldwin Governments to express clearly and effectively the forgiving attitude of the British people for the German people, and their sympathy over the unemployment and other economic difficulties of Germany. If British policy had reflected what the British people really felt, hatred and secret re-arming would not have grown up in Germany, and the nervous French would not have felt that Britain was only looking out for herself now, and so they would not have been so severe against Germany.
More Baldwin Mistakes
A SECOND criminal blunder was this -¿^-Government’s killing of one of the greatest peace plans ever made—the plan for the League of Nations to have the only Air Force among European nations, and to use it as an international police force. The other nations had nearly reached agreement on this proposal when Britain killed it by insisting on keeping military planes for bombing native villages on the borders of India. Now this Government is wondering what it can do to save some of the population of England when the air raids start again. They are trying to teach little children to wear gas masks.
Again, this Government was a traitor to the League and peace—and more astonishing still, a traitor and a cheat to itself—by its failure to adopt a strong League policy in connection with Japan’s war against China. An official League commission, headed by Lord Lytton, declared Japan the aggressor. The United States was willing to co-operate with the League. Millions of dollars worth of British investments in China were endangered and the wealthy British trade with China nearly ruined, because Sir John Simon did not come out strongly in support of the League at this time. British prestige in the Far East was lost. The militarists of Japan got the idea that the white race is afraid of them. The danger of a great new war in the Pacific was very much increased.
And this is a direct threat to Canada’s west coast.
Probably Italy would never have planned the war in Abyssinia if the League, with British leadership, had shown how peaceful sanctions could keep Japan from victory over China. Probably Italy would never have started actual war if Britain had urged strong League warnings even as late as last spring, when Italian intentions could no longer be doubted. But Sir John Simon was still Foreign Minister in London.
In the crisis about Italy—now overshadowed by a greater crisis—the United States was active in support of peace and the League in practical ways, in spite of a propagandist magazine article or two unfavorable to Britain and the League. In fact the United States Government actually did more in support of the League’s proposed embargo on oil for Italy, which might have stopped the war by now, than the British Government did. A whole series of United States official acts and statements culminated with a Government threat to foreclose a mortgage it held on the tanker, Ulysses, which prevented the ship from sailing with a cargo of 12,000 tons of oil for Italy. But meanwhile companies in which the British Government is directly interested continued to make large and profitable sales of oil to Italy, and this Government in London did not press for oil sanctions. The United States Government, hampered by the political ignorance of its people, nevertheless offered at this time its most important international co-operation since the war, and the gang of blunderers in London postponed, hesitated, compromised.
Now the final crisis which may easily bring catastrophe to millions of innocent men, women and children of our race and blood, is being dealt with by the same gang by the same methods. There is danger, they say. We must build up a huge fighting force. Are we going to fight Germany, then? Oh, no. Germany is coming back into the League. Why then the armaments? Because there is danger.
If there is any real danger, it must be from Germany. The Rhine is now our frontier, said Stanley Baldwin himself. Mr. Baldwin’s British frontier has been crossed by an armed force. In self-defense, the Government of Britain should, now if never before, press strongly for the full programme of the League, in co-operation with France and Russia and the other countries that feel themselves in danger. If, on the other hand, Germany is not a danger and her re-entry is a true development of the League, Britain’s new armaments should be abandoned as ultimately a danger as well as a tremendous financial burden to herself, because they create fear of British attack and encourage rivalry in Germany.
But what hope is there? One mistake may be retrieved ; repeated failures become an unbreakable habit. Now the League is dead; drowned in a sea of blundering compromises. The last chance of resuscitating the dead League and peace, lies with men like you, Colonel Drew, public men of conscience and ability as well as prestige. You can speak Canada’s message to Britain; a message as welcome to the people of the British Isles as it will be salutary to the so-called British Government in London. Tell this Government that Canada will support it only in League policies of peace.
The alternative to the League policy of collective security is the old and cursed system of military alliances which fought the last Great War. That system is now in operation in Europe again. But Canada will take no part in that system again; and if the League is dead, the militaristic system is not the only alternative.
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