THE RESURGENCE OF THE
In the turmoil produced by the Rhineland affair, Flandin and Eden forgot Ethiopia.
As for Mussolini, why should he worry about the Rhineland more than the British and the French themselves? He was interested only in the fact that in the Ethiopian affair he was now in an even better bargaining position than before. He agreed "in principle" to negotiate (March 8), but Geneva should realize that (1) Italy was not the "aggressor" in Ethiopia; (2) Italy had gone to war to defend the prestige of her flag, the safety of her colonies, and those rights which had been acknowledged by Great Britain, France, and Ethiopia; and (3) negotiations should be based on the existing and potential military situation. These fundamental points were a matter of "logical intuition" ( LT. 9.iii).
To ensure that no one should misunderstand, the Chairman of the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations declared that "the war was continuing and would continue until victory" (March 9). And Mussolini threw down the gauntlet to Great Britain by moving troops towards Lake Tana. Cortesi wrote:
"Mussolini evidently thinks that possession of the Lake Tana district will give him a trump card in any future bargaining with Britain. He has apparently decided to occupy in á bold stroke that part of Ethiopia that contains the headwaters of the Blue Nile, believing he will thus be in a strong position to deal with Britain in the ultimate peace negotiations" ( NYT. 14.iii).
Now he had settled the Franco-German affair, Flandin (March 20), declared to the French Chamber of Deputies that he was trying "rapidly to bring about simultaneous suspension of hostilities in Ethiopia and of sanctions against Italy".
When the Committee of Thirteen (i.e., the Council of the League minus Aloisi) met (March 23), Mussolini announced in Italy that "what the troops had conquered was from now on territory consecrated to the Motherland"; Italy's duty was "to go straight ahead" despite the "economic siege" "desired and imposed by one single State"; once the Ethiopian war was over, new wars would be in sight:
"When and how nobody can say, but the wheel of destiny turns swiftly. It little matters if the sky is not completely serene today. I tell you that the best cannot be delayed nor will it be delayed."