REGIONAL PACTS VERSUS COLLECTIVE
To dismantle the League, the doctrine of "regional pacts" was at hand.
The Covenant of the League had been based on the assumption that all countries were prepared to participate in military, financial, and economic sanctions against the aggressor, in whatever part of the world the aggression occurred. But countries that were remote from the threatened area felt a natural reluctance to take a part in the burden of collective action equal to that of countries which were directly involved in the dispute. Therefore, the reformers of the League maintained that the powers of each geographical area should sign regional pacts of mutual assistance and pool their military forces against any aggression occurring in their own area; the other League members, not directly affected, were to act as second-line supporters, applying only economic and financial measures.
This was tantamount to dismantling the League. The countries directly affected by war in a given area, if they had sufficient strength, could take military action against the aggressor even had the League never existed. The League had been devised precisely for the purpose of enabling those who were weak in a given area to get help from stronger Powers not directly affected. As for economic and financial sanctions, the case of Ethiopia had shown that the Covenant of the League might be circumvented even by Powers which were not at all remote from the area under aggression.
Covenant or no Covenant, all British Conservatives agreed that Germany should never be allowed to threaten British security in the Channel and the North Sea by gaining control over France and the Low Countries. Their "regional pact" was to stop there.
But those in England who worshipped the League had, from 1925 to 1936, accepted the Locarno Pacts, not as a regional substitute for the Covenant, but as a local outcome of a universal principle. During the Ethiopian affair, they realized that most French politicians, while fighting for the Covenant tooth and nail so long as it buttressed the Locarno pacts, would ignore it as soon as French immediate interests were not at stake. As a consequence, in the eyes of large sections of the British people, the guarantee given by Britain to France in the West lost all moral significance and juridical compulsion. Why should Britain worry about the peace of France, while France was concerned only with her own peace?