CHAPTER XXXVII
THE BEGINNING OF THE END

If we are to believe Aloisi, in September 1935 he went to Geneva with the purpose of persuading the Council of the League to widen the concessions made the month before "so that it would be possible to install in Abyssinia a régime of collaboration with Italy which would enjoy not only the consent but the support of Great Britain and France". Mussolini could have won from the League all the concessions of practical importance he wanted, if only he had putsued a policy of co-operation with the League rather than of defiance. Aloisi did everything he could to prevent Mussolini from declaring war on Abyssinia, and thus breaking with the League. Aloisi had persuaded Mussolini to present the eventual military action against Abyssinia as a "legitimate retaliation" for her aggressive acts. The idea of passing off Abyssinia as the aggressor found favour with the delegates of the Little Entente, and the Balkan countries, and Litvinov was prepared to do his bit.

After a fortnight of what Aloisi describes as his "vigilant labour", the Committee of Five (see above, p. 293) drew up "an honourable basis for the resolution of the conflict". The Rumanian delegate, Titulescu, faithful to French policy, brought pressure to bear on many of the other delegates so that any Italian military action in Abyssinia would be "legalized" and the conflict contained within "limits justified even on the basis of League principles". According to Titulescu, the suggestions made by the Committee of Five allowed Italy a free hand in Abyssinia. If Mussolini accepted the plan and the Negus refused, Mussolini would acquire full freedom of action. If both Mussolini and the Negus were to accept, the League Council would unanimously approve the plan, and all would end happily. Even if Mussolini did not accept, Rumania, Turkey, Soviet Russia, and perhaps Poland would not condemn Italy, and Mussolini would be "legally" enabled to start military operations. In no case would there be any question of sanctions. The important thing was that Italy should accuse Abyssinia of aggression and invoke the principle of self-defence.

On September 16 and 18, Aloisi informed Mussolini of Titulescu's endeavours. Mussolini should accept the plan of the Committee of Five, and be ready to invoke self-defence in case the Negus refused it. In a telegram of September 19, Aloisi explained that the plan had "vast possibilities of development" in view of the fact that within five years it might be subject to revision. If the Italians used these five

-315-

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