THE SUEZ CANAL AND OIL
The Committee that, in line with the decision taken in April 1935, was to define the measures to be applied against an aggressor under Article 16 of the Covenant (see above, p. 202) was set up, after due procrastination, at the end of May. As was to be expected, it begat two sub-committees, which issued two reports in August. They recommended that sanctions should not inflict unnecessary hardships on the innocent citizens of the treaty-breaking country. Food supplies essential to the subsistence of civilian populations should therefore not be withheld. Sanctions should have as their sole object the obstruction of war effort. The most obvious step in that direction was the withholding of arms and munitions, and of key products and raw materials essential to the armament industry. But the raw materials might be essential to ordinary industrial life, and inasmuch as it would be difficult to determine to what ultimate use they might be put, and inasmuch as no hardship was to be imposed upon any single individual, how could raw materials vital to the armament industry be listed? Exports from the law-breaking country to other countries might be interrupted, and since exports pay for imports, the embargo on exports would be equivalent to the cutting off of essential imports. In this case, other countries would suffer no less than the treaty-breaking country. Thus, this method also must be avoided on humanitarian grounds. Credit facilities might be withheld. But unscrupulous intermediaries might help the guilty country to circumvent this restriction. Moreover, the use of economic and financial sanctions might be almost as damaging to the economic life of the other countries. In addition, unless all nations were willing to enforce sanctions, non-participating countries could supply all the needs of the repudiating country. The non-participation of a single important producer might easily nullify all measures, unless vast international machinery were set up to supervise exporters, merchants, and shipowners. Implicit conclusion: take no action. The Committee and its sub-committees obviously thought that their task was to act as some sort of Animal Rescue League, rather than to devise means of preventing or stopping war. By concentrating on the sufferings and misery of the civilian population in the aggressor country they forgot the greater sufferings and misery that would be inflicted on the fighting men and civilians of all the warring nations, more particularly in the territories where military operations would develop.
After receiving this report, the Committee, which should have
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Publication information: Book title: Prelude to World War II. Contributors: Gaetano Salvemini - Author. Publisher: Gollancz. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1953. Page number: 325.
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