567. In my mind there remains no vestige of doubt that Italy is irrevocably determined to proceed in Africa and that from whatever quarter opposition is offered it will be met by subjected mass attack.
I am convinced from my contacts with the people, from reports of the attitude of the man on the street and from my observation of the antipathy to England on the part of the soldier and the civilian that the whole population, both military and civilian, are in complete accord with Mussolini's policies as they have been developed up to now and as they are prospected for the future. The press in every issue gives additional expression to the national determination to proceed to war and not to tolerate interference from any source.
The Italian plans have developed step by step over a period of many months. Now they find themselves with more than 200,000 men south of the Suez Canal and there are more than three more divisions preparing to go. The withdrawal of those troops would be a defeat and its effect upon the government here a disaster. Hurried on by a gradually approaching domestic economic crisis I have a distinct impression that opposition from England would be welcomed by the Italians as an opportunity for the demonstration of their imaginary and even possible superior strength in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Malta is only a few minutes by air from the Italian posts in Sicily, and Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said are only an hour removed from the Libyan coast.
The Italian press is heaping abuse upon those who have the courage to stand up in Geneva and give expression to thought opposing the Italian aims; it also castigates French and British socialists who dare to speak of sanctions and inveighs against the united opposition of bolshevism and the "piracy of plutocracy", as they designate the Rickett affair, and charges that all of these are joined in a worthless attempt to stop the progress of Italy.
I have the impression that the Italians are quite willing to accept the delay
which has been occasioned by the Geneva meetings since they are thus afforded
more time for preparation and for the completion of a number of ships they have
recently bought for transport purposes, which are now being transformed at Genoa.
Likewise, I am equally impressed with the fact that they now find themselves
in a position from which a withdrawal is impossible without suffering in effect
a defeat. There is every indication of a carefully prepared, well-calculated,
hard, cold, and cruel prosecution of preconceived plans by the use of an army
and navy which is almost fanatic in idolatry of and devotion to one man and
which is worked up to an emotional pitch unique in modern times.
It is my wish that I could send some word in encouragement of the thought that some compromise might be arrived at in Geneva or elsewhere, but it is my firm belief that a compromise is possible only on Mussolini's own terms and that if these terms are not accepted he will proceed to his objectives despite world opinion and in opposition to whatever forces may be raised against him. Military capitulation is the only alternative.
Your attention should be invited at the same time to the lasting effect necessitated
by this situation on international situations in Europe and on changing political
alignments. The settled friendship between Great Britain and Italy has gone
and will not reappear for generations. In the press today is featured the friendly
exchange of expressions between Chancelor Hitler and the new Ambassador of Italy
to Germany, which presumably is a political warning to France that she must
adhere to her alliance with Italy. But whatever arrangements Italy may be able
to make with Germany in the future and it would appear impossible that a reconciliation
of their clashing interests could be effected, an entirely new element in the
already complicated European situation has been brought about by the changed
situation between Italy and England. The British Empire is directly threatened
by Italy's action in the eastern Mediterranean and if the latter successfully
establishes herself in Ethiopia, the Suez Canal wild be almost as important
politically to Italy as it is to England. If the Canal assumes its present importance
to Italy with 200,000 soldiers south of it, when they achieve their ambition
to have 10,000,000 colonists there, it will have a greater importance, and before
long there will develop the necessity for an alternate route of communication
between Italy and Ethiopia through Libya and across the Sudan which will be
part of their efforts to solidify their position in Ethiopia if they accomplish
their objective there. Thus the present situation is fraught with dangers from
many angles for the future as well as for the present and it is my fear that
its reverberations in the international relations of the world will last at
least during the life of the present generation unless a decisive military defeat
Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 271-273
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