The Charlotte News
Wednesday, September 13, 1939
The Italian minister to Paris is reported by the Associated Press as having assured the French authorities that Italy is pursuing a course of strict neutrality in this war. In view of that, the following AP dispatch from Basle, Switzerland, is interesting:
Rail traffic between Germany and Italy has increased so much since the start of the European war that the direct line through the Brenner Pass has proved insufficient.
Many trains are being re-routed over the Mannheim-Basle-Gothard route through Switzerland. Inspection under the Swiss neutrality laws showed Germany shipping coal to Italy and receiving foodstuffs.
That indicates pretty clearly that Italy is in fact serving as a base of supplies to Germany. The mention of coal passing from Germany to Italy also adds significance to the French advance in the Saar. If it succeeds, Germany will have a great deal less--perhaps no--coal to send to Italy.
Interesting in this connection of neutrality also is a dispatch from Brussels:
Belgian frontier observers told of large-scale food smuggling into the Netherlands.
That suggests, for one thing, that the British blockade may not be nearly so effective as the admiralty claimed it was going to be. But it also suggests that Holland is playing with fire. The British had more trouble with Holland serving as a base for German importations in the last war than any other nation. And this time they are apt be much less patient. Holland has a very definite stake in an Allied victory, since nothing is more certain than that, if Hitler wins, he will grab her and her tempting empire at once. Moreover, Holland happens to represent the most desirable route for the English and French to strike Germany.
Manteo is a salty village of 547 year-round inhabitants on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, where the first English settlement in America was established in 1584. In the last three years Manteo has been having a Summer boom, principally on account of Paul Green's play, "The Lost Colony," but secondarily because the whole island abounds in history and atmosphere.
Early Monday morning most of Manteo's waterfront, which is its business section, went up in flames, with a roaring blaze that only a collection of frame buildings can make. Loss was estimated at $250,000, which is to say more money than Manteo can stand to lose and still rebuild. Besides, the town ought to be rebuilt with an eye to the picturesque rather than merely to utility.
What Manteo needs, it begins to dawn on us, is some well-heeled philanthropist to play Rockefeller to its Williamsburg. The two places have nothing in common, to be sure. Williamsburg exudes unbridled magnificence and Manteo being in its earlier years probably as it is now, a simple fishing village. But fishing villages can have their charm, and it is more relaxing charm for not having to be put under glass.
Charred Manteo as a rare opportunity of designed reconstruction, ought to be called to the attention of Mr. Rockefeller or that other great philanthropist, PWA's Harold Ickes, or at least the State Department of Conservation & Development.
What the conference between Chamberlain, Daladier, Gamelin, and Chatfield was about, we haven't been told. But it is quite probable that it was Italy, and that the hour is approaching when the heat will be turned on Mussolini to force a decision one way or the other.
The present situation is clearly intolerable for the Allies. Italy is not now a neutral in any legal sense. On the contrary, she stands deftly in the status of an enemy. For she has issued no neutrality proclamation, and she remains a military partner in the Axis. All she has done is to refuse so far to strike, reserving the right to strike when she chooses. Hence if Britain and France pitched into her now and without warning, they would be well within their rights.
And undoubtedly that would already have been done but for the hope that she may be weaned away from Germany and brought into the Allied camp, perhaps after a period of benevolent neutrality. For from the military standpoint, it is preferable to have her as an open enemy than as a secret one, serving as a base of supplies for Germany. That is so, not only because the conquest of Northern Italy and the Brenner Pass represents a comparatively easy way into Germany, but also because she must be smoked out and either brought into camp or engaged in action before the Balkan states, Rumania, Jugoslavia, and Greece will dare join the Allies.
Can Mussolini be brought over? To judge by the recent tone of the Italian press, you would not think so. However, violent press attack on the nation or nations with which he wants to make a deal is a part of Benito's stock in trade, by way of raising the ante. It is not altogether impossible that his adherence to the Axis, for the last few months, at least, has been based on the axioms of his great teacher, Machiavelli, and has been designed precisely to get himself into a good bargaining position for the switch over to the Allies!
On the other hand, it is also barely within the range of possibility that he is attempting to use his position on the fence to extract greater concessions from Hitler within the Axis.
But on the whole, logic seems to suggest the first best thing he can do for himself and for Italy is to go in with the Allies. If he goes with the Axis, victory is apt to be almost as disastrous for him and his country as defeat. Italy will be a mere vassal state of colossal Germany, and himself a mere satrap. Moreover, Italy is so vulnerable by sea and the land routes from France that she would stand to be wrecked in the first few months of the war.
Further still, his people plainly have no wish to fight for Germany, their ancient enemy and oppressor. And certainly, the Church must be reckoned with. Would the Pope and Catholic Italy ever stand for fighting on the same side with a nation whose leaders are not only boldly proposing to restore the ancient gods of pagan Germany but also are more or less allied (how far we do not yet know) with Red Russia? It seems unbelievable.
On the reverse side of the case, he can certainly count on large concessions from France and England if he does come in on their side. According to the rumors, he is already being promised a big hunk of Tunisia, a section of British Somaliland, more power in the Suez Canal, the Djibouti railway. And it is quite likely that he may get a deal more, perhaps even the secret promise of Austria--his most coveted goal--in case of the defeat of Germany. All this may be painful to the Allies, but they can reconcile themselves to it, on the ground that once Germany is eliminated, Italy by itself can be no great menace under any circumstances.
About the only ground of which it can be supposed that he will still choose to go with the Axis is that of personal spite for the past attitude of England and France. But Mussolini is not Hitler, and so far has acted always from the standpoint of cold opportunism rather than from that of emotion.
') } //-->