Courtesy Reuters

The Testing of the League

ON OCTOBER 7 and 10 last, at meetings of the Council and Assembly of the League of Nations, fifty members of the League, acting according to their individual judgment upon the facts of the case, registered their decisions that a fellow-member, Italy, had violated Article XII of the Covenant by resorting to war against Ethiopia. As a result, Article XVI of the Covenant, which declares that a League member resorting to war in violation of Article XII "shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other Members of the League," was brought into force; and a special diplomatic conference known as the "Coördination Committee" was set on foot in order to watch over the execution of the measures undertaken by League members in virtue of that Article.

To the diplomatic world which frequents Geneva and to the officials of the League the events of those few days seemed little less than a miracle. Had they not become inured to the notion that Article XVI was a dead letter? Had not the whole question of implementing it been pigeon-holed since the Assembly of 1921, which had itself adopted a set of resolutions involving a considerable watering-down of the original text? And had not the League's handling of the Sino-Japanese and the Chaco disputes induced amongst Geneva habitués a mood of defeatism -- not to say cynicism -- which reached its height during the steady transport of Italian troops to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland in the course of the past summer? True, the problem of sanctions had been disinterred in April and referred to a committee; but this action had been taken in pursuance of the policy of the "Stresa Front" and seemed therefore to have little relevance to the African policy of the nation acting as host at the Stresa meeting. Moreover, the committee in question, or rather its legal subcommittee (on which Italy was of course represented), had soon become embogged in juridical subtleties which augured

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