Courtesy Reuters

Geography, Ethiopia's Ally

ACCORDING to the thesis of Signor Mussolini, Italy is obliged by stark necessity, both economic and demographic, to extend her political control over Ethiopia. In view of the strong sentiment for independence pervading this last stronghold (except for Liberia) of an independent African people, it seems certain that the Italian expansion can be achieved, if at all, only through extensive military operations against the armed forces of the Emperor Haile Selassie. The best defense of the Ethiopian people against invasion has always been the nature of the country they inhabit. Under ordinary circumstances, modern methods of warfare have vastly reduced the importance of topography and climate as military factors. But the more we study the program of a possible Italian campaign in Ethiopia the more we must be impressed by the importance of taking full account of the physical factors which will condition any large-scale action in such a remote and difficult land.

Assuming that Italy attacks Ethiopia, there are two bases from which her expeditionary forces can operate -- namely, the two East African colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. The former lies to the north of Ethiopia, on the Red Sea, the latter to the south, on the Indian Ocean just north of the Equator.

Eritrea is a vestigial remnant of the attempt to impose an Italian protectorate on Ethiopia in accordance with the Italian version of the Treaty of Uchiali which Crispi made with Menelik in 1889. It is there that during the summer of 1935 Il Duce has concentrated the bulk of the forces which he has sent to East Africa, and it is thence that the first major Italian attack may be expected to be launched. Geographically, Eritrea lacks any real unity or raison d'être. Economically, its chief value to Italy is that it controls the principal outlet for the meagre trade of Northern Ethiopia; in itself it produces very little, either agriculturally or otherwise. Militarily, it is important because it gives Italy a base of operations

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