THE ROUT OF THE SANCTIONISTS
Most of Ethiopia still remained unoccupied after Badoglio's entry into Addis Ababa. A British citizen who had been Governor of the Bank of Ethiopia expressed the opinion that the Duce "had bitten off more than he could chew".
"Fit a stiff European shoe to an African foot used only to sandals, and you are bound to get corns unless the shoe is exceptionally well made. Whether the 'Shoemaker of Rome' is sufficiently skilful to be able to sole the Ethiopians in comfort is a question that time alone can show" ( MP. 11.v).
Time was to show that the Ethiopians, no less than any other people in the world, could be cowed into submission by ruthless terror. But in May 1936, the rainy season was imminent, and if the oil embargo had been enforced and the Suez Canal had been closed, Italian victory might well have been transformed into disaster.
By withdrawing to still unoccupied South-western Ethiopia and stubbornly refusing to accept any compromise whatsoever, Haile Selassie would have furnished the sanctionists with a formidable argument to insist on the maintenance and stiffening of the sanctions. But the rout of his armies and the chaos which grew out of his defeat had forced him to leave the country. Having failed to get the Governments of London and Paris to adopt a forthright policy while Ethiopia could still be saved, how could he hope that they would follow an energetic line of action now that there was nothing left to save?
Sanctions had been designed for the purpose either of preventing the outbreak of war or of putting an end to it. There were in the Covenant of the League no provisions governing the case of a war which was brought to a close by the disappearance of one of the two belligerents. It was therefore possible to maintain that the Covenant no longer applied. Sanctions, if continued and intensified now that the war was over, far from being an instrument of prevention, would become, in violation of the spirit of the Covenant itself, an instrument of punishment and revenge.
Many had advocated sanctions—even military sanctions—in the hope that vigorous action on the part of the League would suffice to bring Mussolini to his senses. Sanctions were not meant to lead to war, but "somehow or other" to prevent war and to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. Collective action "was a sort of