The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, AUGUST 21, 1938
Iron-Fisted Dictators Set the Stage:
Heebie-Jeebies for the French
--A Summary by W. J. Cash
Site ed. note: Again, Cash's analysis sitting in Charlotte in August, 1938, the month before the Munich Pact between Hitler and British PrimeMinister Neville Chamberlain, reads nigh the way history reads thereafter. A right-wing government took over Czechoslovakia in October, 1938 and acted as a puppet to the Reich such that the Nazis, without resistance, occupied Bohemia in March, 1939, thus completing a full take-over of Czechoslovakia, a result which the Munich Pact had prohibited by ceding the Sudetenland to Hitler in the fall--so much for "peace in our time". Neither the French nor the British reacted--being precisely that which Cash feared would happen under the weak leadership of Chamberlain. With the invasion of Poland in September, 1939, and the ensuing declaration of war by France and Great Britain against Germany, France next became Hitler's major objective, (after subduing Denmark and making incursions into Norway during April, and taking Belgium and the Netherlands in May), accomplished in June, 1940, and then the Battle of Britain began in August.
Too bad Mr. Bumble hadn't mailed in his subscription payment for The Charlotte News sometime in the summer of 1938.
The one wildcard in the bunch which Cash seemed to overemphasize in its effect was Spain's eventual fall to Franco which in the end had little effect outside Spain--Spain for the most part having remained ostensibly neutral during the War. Cash always seemed unable to see into the future very well with regard to the Spanish situation. (See Fuehrer and Duce Stumped - April 25, 1937.) But as wife Mary tells us in The Suicide of W.J. Cash, he could not grasp the Spanish language at all.
He did, however, understand well the languages of German, and, via Latin, Italian. He had read Mein Kampf, making marginal notes as he read, and he had read Thus Spake Zarathustra and had understood the Nazi perversion of it; he had read Mussolini's thesis in the Encyclopedia Italiano, and he had read The Prince; and he had travelled through Europe in 1927; and he had grown up in a small town in the South and had seen what the Depression was doing to the people around him; and he had observed and he had thought.
WHAT is happening in Europe seems to me to be plain enough. In May Mr. Hitler, swollen with his Austrian triumph, concentrated troops on the Czechoslovakian border, with the obvious intention of staging another putsch just like that which had finally extinguished the old domain of the Hapsburgs. But he got called. First, the Czechs made it manfully clear that he couldn't take them without first whipping their army of 600,000 men and all the manpower of the country beside--a manpower well-armed, too. Then France and Russia made it plain that, if he invaded Czechoslovakia, they would stand by their treaties which bind them to come to her aid. And faced with that, England, in her turn, hastily warned him to lay off. Afterward, Mr. Chamberlain attempted to claim credit for it all, but it is manifest that he deserved none of it.
Anyhow, though, Mr. Hitler had been called. Faced with the fact that to go on probably meant war, at a time when he was not ready for it under any view, he had to swallow his pride and retire, fuming, his prestige dangerously injured at home and abroad.
AND while this was happening, something else was happening, too. In March, Mr. Mussolini had made one of those phoney "agreements" with Mr. Chamberlain of which the latter gentleman so delights--an agreement to get Italian troops out of Spain after Franco had won. Nobody in his wits ever believed that he meant to keep it or to give up the mastery of Spain. But it seemed then to have two advantages: (1) of keeping Mr. Chamberlain safely in office in England, and (2) to give Musso free hand until Franco's victory was complete. And that that victory would be complete in April, nobody had much doubt. Hadn't Franco finally driven a wedge through Spanish Government territory all the way to the Mediterranean and cut off the great storehouse of Barcelona from Valencia? And wasn't he advancing on Valencia at the rate of twenty miles a day?
But by May it was already manifest that this last calculation had somehow gone agley. Franco was bogged down. And as the days went on he got worse and worse bogged down. Moreover, the fact that he turned to conscripting eighteen-year-old boys gave away to the world the fact that he had little backing left among the Spanish people. And then in late July the Loyalists suddenly took the offensive and completely changed the whole face of things. Seizing Gandesa, they threatened to cut Franco off completely from his holdings in Northern Spain, and forced him utterly to abandon the Valencia offensive and rush to take up the defensive in the hills south of Catalonia. Today, it is clear that, with his present forces including the Italians, Franco can't possibly win before next year. And if Franco doesn't win until next year, he may never win--for many reasons, principal of which is the gathering will of the Spanish people that he shall not. If he and his cause are to be saved, they need a couple of hundred thousand Italian troops, with the heaviest equipment, so that he can deliver a smashing blow before Winter comes.
MEANTIME England and France have both been busily rearming. By next year, both will probably have outdistanced anything the bankrupt Italy and Germany can ever hope to match. And meantime, too, the crops have come in. Italy's is bad, but Russia has accommodatingly sold and delivered to her large quantities of wheat. And Germany's, contrary to expectation, turned out pretty well. So now, everything considered, is the critical hour. If Germany is ever going to take over Czechoslovakia and if Mussolini is ever going to take over Spain, they've probably got to do it this Fall.
And that, undoubtedly, is exactly what they are about. By giving Chamberlain another entirely phoney promise to quit demanding return of the old German colonies which England holds, Hitler seems to have purchased his acquiescence and even his active collaboration in the rape of Czechoslovakia. Lord Runciman's role in Prague today is undoubtedly that of coercing the Czechs into agreeing to being gobbled up by the Nazis without a fight. And Hitler's mobilization is partly directed to giving the Czechs such a stunning exhibition of force that they'll despair of effective resistance.
But Hitler's mobilization is much more directed to other things. It is directed first of all at France. And curiously enough, it is probably directed at England, too. France is the great joker in the Czechoslovakian situation. So far, she has strung along, bitterly and reluctantly, with Mr. Chamberlain. But it is very much of an open question that she would heed his demands that she ignore her treaty obligations if Czechoslovakia were invaded. Until this mobilization, indeed, it was perfectly certain that she would strike Germany the moment a German bayonet crossed the Suddetes. But now she is in a most devilishly awkward situation. Hitler's mobilization gives him an advantage of from three to five days in making war. That is, it would take France at least that long to mobilize. And three to five days might very well prove crucial under modern conditions of warfare. It is not impossible that Hitler might actually penetrate the Maginot line in that period. And in any case whatever, it would certainly place France on the defensive. The German mobilization, in other words, is primarily a scheme to frighten France out of her determination to come to the aid of the Czechs. And the very length of the so-called "maneuvers" is a part of the same scheme--a device for intolerably afflicting the nerves of the French people.
BUT it is not only with regard to Czechoslovakia that it is planned to frighten France off, but also with regard to Spain. And it is there that England comes directly into the reckoning, too. Mussolini is certainly working hand in glove with his ally. And he pretty plainly means to send Franco the great armies he needs for a speedy Spanish victory. But France has long been near the explosion point about the Spanish situation, and this is likely to set her blood boiling. More still, in order to prepare the ground for this action Musso has had to have his stooge, Franco, refuse the Chamberlain "agreement" for "withdrawal of foreign troops"--and the act of sending in more soldiers will, of course, be tantamount to tearing that "agreement" contemptuously to pieces. Mr. Chamberlain himself will probably take that lying down. Mr. Chamberlain will plainly take anything lying down. But it is not so certain that the English people will.
However, it is manifest that they are much more likely to do so with Germany's armies hanging bloodily ready, to take advantage of that three to five days--with the prospect that to refuse to take it means war, and in all likelihood, a war fought defensively on French territory--the dreary prospect of the last war all over again.
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