The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 1936
Incompetent Top Hats:
Lion Down The River
--War Forecast, By W. J. Cash
"Signore Benito Mussolini who is celebrated here today because in one imperialistic exploit he captured for the Romans Mare Nostrum, and thumbing his Neapolitan nose at the oligarchical silk hats of Fleet and Downing streets, snipped the life-line of the British empire. W.J. Cash departs from the province of the book page in discussing these things, but his remarks are pertinent and important as bayonets flash again athwart the European horizon. In fine, he sees the downfall of the whole British empire, and tells why with robust directness." (As appeared with this article originally.)
Site ed.note: Cash does not, as the original editorial note above suggested, predict here the downfall of the British, though indicating the end of the empire as "quite possible". He does again, however, predict a world war, one that will make the previous one look like "boy's play". He lays blame for this disastrous state at the doorstep of No. 10 Downing and the Conservative Stanley Baldwin, (who within a short time of this article would be succeeded by Neville Chamberlain who Cash would dub "Mr.Bumble", even before the disastrous "peace in our time" proclaimation at Munich in September, 1938). Cash reckons, and accurately as history recounts, that had Britain been more responsive to stop Mussolini's march into Ethiopia, thus spawning Italy's and Germany's ardor to own the Mediterranean and boot out the British, then Mussolini would have been deposed and executed by his own people. Hitler, in turn, would have had little rallying example to pronounce to the German people. As things stood, Cash argued, Britain's loss of prestige resulting from fear and indecision, had given the dictators their taste of blood and plenty which enabled them to muster the troops and embark on an imperialistic campaign which would eventually spread throughout northern Africa, was already feeding in Spain and Portugal, thus completing the Mediterranean enclosure, and would, with the recent mutual protection pact between Italy, Germany, and Japan, allow supply depots in the Pacific in the Dutch East Indies. And each of the the things which Cash predicted here either came to pass or, in the case of the Dutch East Indies, were being attempted by the Axis by late 1941. This was not clairvoyance; it was rather the result of an intuitive understanding of the mindset, enabling distillation of likely action from mere bluster, gleaned from a careful reading by Cash of Hitler's Mein Kampf, (during which Cash made meticulous marginal notations), made more understandable to him from a decades long view just a few miles up the road of the similar Klan mindset, the reading of prior history of warfare in Europe, and the rather mundane task of looking at his trusty Collier's Atlas, always maintained close to his side.
WHEN the history of our time comes to be written, I have an idea that the present English government will be set down as the most astoundingly incompetent which has disgraced Albion in five hundred years. For this government has not only certainly condemned England, and with it most of the world, to a war beside which the last will likely be mere boy's play, but it has also quite possibly sold the British Empire down the river--forever. We know now on the authority of letters written by Signor Mussolini himself, that had the British fleet been steamed across the mouth of Suez with open guns in October, 1935, the expedition to Ethiopia would never have been undertaken. And if Signor Mussolini had not gone to Ethiopia in 1935, there is an excellent chance that before now he would have died in front of a whitewashed wall, at the hands of a revolutionary firing squad of his own countrymen, and that the fatal menace of Fascism would be swiftly expiring in Europe.
Fatal Red Sea Islands
In any case whatever, it is certain that he would not have acquired the strategic base in Africa which Ethiopia affords him, nor those fatal islands in the Red Sea lying straight across the British route to the East. Which is to say that he would never have been able to win control of the Eastern Mediterranean from the British, and above all, to prove to himself and to the world that this British Empire could be bluffed. Which is to say that he almost certainly would never have got his plans for a Wop Empire into motion at all, and he would never have given the example which set the movement toward Nazi Empire into motion, also.
But it is not merely in this instance that the present English government has failed, of course. When the war broke out in Spain last summer, it was common knowledge that the rebellion was Fascist and Nazi inspired--and that Italy expected to be given the Balearic islands, and Germany, Spanish Morocco. It was all too evident, in other words, that here was a scheme deliberately aimed at making Gibraltar important and pitching the British finally and irretrievably out of the Mediterranean--a scheme which indisputably represents another and mighty step toward the building up of the Italian and Nazi empires, at the expense mainly of Britain and France.
The Old Lion Winks
Yet the present government in England not only did nothing about it, in face of the fact that the British fleet was still quite capable of wiping the Italian rag off the Mare Nostrum within a month, and that the French and Russians could be counted on to block Germany--it did something infinitely worse. It actually seems to have winked at the fact that Italian and German arms were being poured into Spain through Lisbon, though Portugal is and has long been a satellite of Britain's, ready to jump through the hoop at her suggestion. And it seems to have done this, in the teeth of every possible interest of the English nation and of every possible group in the English nation, for no other reason than Conservative prejudice--for no other reason than the bitter dislike of the ruling class of England for reform within England or without it, and a preposterous hope that stupid Alfonso XIII might be recalled to the Spanish throne. It is the sort of thing that had it been perpetrated by a man wearing Labor or even a Liberal label, would undoubtedly have set the cry of treason ringing in the halls of Parliament.
That is the record, then. And within eighteen months, this government has supinely yielded the control of the Mediterranean to the Italians with Germany playing second fiddle. Within eighteen months, it has brought England to the point where she has no other way to the East than the long run around the Cape--a route that is many times more untenable today than in those of Disraeli. Within eighteen months, it has almost completely destroyed the great prestige which English arms have maintained since Trafalgar. And within eighteen months, it has brought Italy and Germany up from the status of third-rate powers, essentially timid and cautious despite their bluster, to that of first-rate ones--has let them get the taste of blood well in their mouths and set the light of victory in their eyes.. Today, they roll forward, more and more avidly hungry, filled with grander and grander dreams. Tomorrow, it will certainly be Egypt and (under the new treaty with Japan) the Dutch Indies, and the day after tomorrow, the heart and shanks of Africa, and quite likely, French Morocco.
Fatal Loss Of Prestige
But, you protest--after all this government could not know that if it set the fleet across the Suez in 1935, Mussolini would halt. It did know that, though it could destroy the Italian fleet, it would lose half of its own in the process--and leave the roads of the East wide open to Japan. It wanted to avoid war. It was puzzled and doubtful and afraid.
The sufficient answer is that the government of the British Empire has no business being doubtful and afraid. The sufficient answer is that for three hundred years and more, it has been the British tradition to deal with the situation in hand and let remote potentialities take care of themselves--to open her guns before whatever enemy threatened to stand across her path and reckon up the dangers afterward. It is sufficient answer that perils hemmed the British Empire all about the day Nelson raised his ensign before the French, and that if doubt and fear had ruled that day, Boney would not have died upon St. Helena. It is sufficient answer that any fool knows that, once Mussolini had gone to Ethiopia, war would be inevitable--and more desperate and longer drawn than if it came at once. The sufficient answer is that the loss of confidence and prestige outweighs any number of new battleships and planes.
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