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I: NEUTRALITY, PROVISORY AND ABSOLUTE
THE moment news of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia arrived in Italy, the Italian Nationalists opened a campaign for Italian intervention on the side of the Central Powers and Italian forces began concentrating in the general direction of the frontiers of France.
If, before hurling that ultimatum, the governments at Berlin and Vienna had come to an understanding with Rome, if they had offered Italy the Trentino with a proportionate share in the colonial fruits of victory, it is certain that an overwhelming majority, not of the Italian people, but of Italian statesmen, would have accepted such a proposition and forced the country into the war on the side of Austria and Germany. Adopting for the moment the viewpoint of Italian Imperialists, assuming that a program of Italian expansion could actually be realized in alliance with the Central Powers, one must admit that a war based on the alignments of the Triple Alliance was the one logical, the one genuine, war that Italian imperialism could envisage. It meant that the Austro-German block would be in control of all the eastern Mediterranean basin and of the gateways to Asia. Italy would serve as a mid-European bulwark facing the western Mediterranean against England and France. In return for this, the government in Vienna would make a friendly adjustment of the Adriatic frontiers of Italy and Italians would occupy Tunis, Corsica, Nice, and Savoy, and a portion of the French and English colonies, as these became available, in Asia and Africa.
The fallacy in this policy of an Italian imperialism based on the Triple Alliance was that the policy had no foundation in fact. Nothing of the sort had ever entered a German head (and in fact the negotiation went bankrupt over a mere nothing -- the question of the Trentino). The rulers of Austria-Hungary had no intention of yielding an inch of territory to Italian Nationalists. Germany was not inclined to risk her Austrian alliance by standing out against Vienna in behalf of Italian Irredentism. Both Germans and Austrians, meantime, were sure that they could win even without the army and navy of Italy. Berlin, in particular, was convinced that Italy would fall in with the Teutonic adventure in any event, since Italians would surely foresee a German victory and be concerned as to German reprisals thereafter. Vienna actually preferred Italian neutrality to Italian intervention, since neutrality would obviate awkward discussion as to compensations. Of course, some concessions of a territorial nature would have to be made to Italy; but the character and extent of these could be determined by Berlin and Vienna at their leisure -- naturally they would not affect Austro-Italian frontiers! In the organization of a victorious Central Europe, Italy was to figure as a vassal, not as an allied, state. Her position would be precisely analogous to that of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey!
As to the reciprocal rights and duties involved in the Triple Alliance, disagreement between the Quirinal, on the one hand, and the governments of Berlin and Vienna, on the other, was no new thing in the summer of 1914. The history of that Alliance is the history of a three-cornered negotiation, prolonged over a period of thirty-two years, as to ways and means of making the alliance effective. But down to the summer of 1914 Italian statesmen had always hoped that Vienna, under pressure from Berlin, could be induced to accept the Italian point of view. Not till the last two weeks of July of that year did the rift reveal itself as utterly and finally irreparable. The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia, delivered without the due warning to Italy which both the spirit and the letter of the Alliance called for, and then Austrian hedging as to compensations which had always been specifically contemplated in Article VII of the Treaty of Alliance, brushed the last cobwebs from the eyes of Italian supporters of the Triplice. The attitude of the Central Powers and the unexpected intervention of England on the side of France, struck Italian Triplicist Imperialism dead in its tracks. There was nothing left to do except declare neutrality!
When this situation developed, the Italian Nationalists abandoned overnight their agitation for a pro-German intervention. They followed a policy of watchful waiting for a month, until the Battle of the Marne convinced them that Germany had missed her chance, that victory for the Entente was imminent. Then, about mid-September, 1914, they launched a drive for intervention against their former allies.
However, the bulk of Italian "Triplicists" -- Giolitti's "machine" and the Clericals -- did not follow our Nationalists down this new road. Disappointed, even bewildered, by the attitude of the Teutonic governments on the question of compensations, they could not rid themselves of old habits of thought and feeling that inclined them toward the Triple Alliance. They were still certain, even after the Battle of the Marne, that Germany sooner or later would win (had it not been for the then undreamed of intervention of the United States, they would have been right!). With immediate participation in the war out of the question, the Triplicist majority fell back on a policy of neutrality. But it was a provisional, a temporary, neutrality. They hoped that the Central Empires would eventually see the need of being more generous toward Italy, giving the Italian Government a more conspicuous interest in the profits of the war, and thus enticing Italy into their camp the moment the military balance-sheet should be again in their favor. Triplicist neutrality was just a substitute for Triplicist imperialism.
During the period of our neutrality, as well as during the war, this type of Italian neutrality, essentially pro-German, was being constantly confused with Italian Socialist neutrality. There was really nothing in common between them. Neutrality, with the Triplicists, was a stop-gap for intervention, as yet impossible, on the side of Germany. With the Socialists neutrality was absolute. The war, as Benito Mussolini kept asserting in his Socialist Avanti!, was a struggle between capitalistic governments. Socialists should not be led astray by nonsense as to "national defence." They should think only of destroying the capitalist system as a whole. In point of cold fact, the masses to whom Mussolini preached from these texts wanted only one thing -- to be left alone without wars and without revolutions.
But the very situation of Italy rendered a policy of neutrality extremely difficult to follow. Were the war to end without any gains for Italy, the Socialists would accuse the "bourgeoisie" of having failed to solve "the problem of national integration" and the "problem of raw materials" (colonies). Such an outcome they even hoped for as productive of intenser social unrest. In 1914 Italy was not neutral in the same sense in which Switzerland was neutral -- a fact which we may approve or deplore, but which remains none the less a fact. Accustomed by long tradition -- whether rightly or wrongly is not the question here -- to the pretense and to the desire of playing an active part in European politics and in Mediterranean affairs, Italy could not, from one moment to another, draw back like a snail into her shell and remain an idle and silent spectator till the uproar should cease.
We must also bear in mind that for thirty-two years Italy had been in alliance with the Central Powers and that, consequently, in Germany and Austria, Italian neutrality was regarded as an act of treason worthy of the most exemplary punishment. On the other hand, the manoeuvres of our Triplicists made Italian neutrality an object of suspicion to the governments of the Entente; and they, accordingly, throughout the long war, would have hedged a neutral Italy about with a net-work of military and economic precautions -- sources of daily friction and incessant danger.
The farther removed in history we grow from the facts of those days, the more earnestly we strive to evaluate them dispassionately, the more clearly one thought forces itself upon us: that Italian participation in the war was an unavoidable necessity, that Italian statesmen were free to choose the time and manner of their intervention -- just when and how they would make war, just when and how they would make peace; but that, as between ultimate intervention and prolonged neutrality, they had no choice whatever.
II: SAN GIULIANO'S CONCEPTION OF INTERVENTION
When Italian Triplicist Imperialism came to grief toward the end of July, 1914, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Italy was the Marquis di San Giuliano, a devoted partisan of the Triple Alliance who could see no future for Italy save in opposition to England and France and who had lent his personal prestige and his government's support to the formation of the Italian Nationalist Party in 1910. Now San Giuliano did not have the courage to protest when the Government at Vienna, with the complicity of the Government at Berlin, violated the Treaty of Alliance by serving an ultimatum on Serbia without a previous understanding with Italy. He could not bring himself to repudiate the Alliance and boldly take his stand outside it. To the end of his life he wavered between one camp and the other. A weak man, physically and morally, he could never make an irrevocable decision until some immediate necessity forced him to do so.
Nevertheless, in his reluctance to go over to the Entente, he had a perfectly clear vision of what an Italian imperialistic policy would have to be, the moment it should be pursued not through the Triple Alliance but through the Triple Entente in conflict with Germany and Austria. While, in fact, between September 16 and October 6, 1914, the rough draft of an alliance between Italy and the Entente was being studied with the various ambassadors, San Giuliano made the acute remark that for the Powers of the Entente the principal adversary was Germany, whereas for Italy it was Austria. For the Entente the Adriatic question was of secondary importance, for Italy it was primary. Before entering the struggle, Italy must have assurances from the Entente that the full weight of Austria would not be left to fall upon Italy while the other Powers were dealing with Germany: "The Entente must not try to spare Austria" (September 17). Furthermore, if Italy would avoid charges of treason to her old allies, she would need a vital, visible, and unquestionable pretext for entering the war (having failed to break the alliance at the moment when he had good grounds for doing so, San Giuliano was now tardily compelled to find some other plausible excuse). This occasion would arise as follows: if Austria were so roughly treated as to be unable to protect territories inhabited by Italians from conquest by the Slavs, Italy would be constrained by higher necessities to move in defence of her kith and kin. Therefore the Franco-English fleet should undertake some important operation in the Adriatic which, in conjunction with movements by the land forces of Serbia and Montenegro, would put Austria in difficulties (September 19). As for the Peace, Italy should not escape from the menace of Austria only to fall under the menace of Russia (at the time, Russia was still on her feet and thrashing Austria soundly). Trieste and the Trentino would not be enough. Istria as far as the Quarnaro and the main watershed of the Alps should pass to Italy. About Dalmatia, San Giuliano had not made up his mind, though the question was first being broached in those days and, to entice Italy into the war, Sazonov, the Russian Foreign Minister, had offered her that territory as early as August of that year. San Giuliano was eager to avoid friction with the Southern Slavs. He did not know whether to ask for some of the islands of the Dalmatian archipelago, and if so, which ones. He thought it necessary to consult the Serbian Government on these points (October 6). He considered it wise to time Italian intervention with that of Rumania. The war should be followed by a security pact among the victors, which would guarantee their several conquests over a reasonable period of years; though such a pact should not obligate the various signatory states to sustain aggressive policies on the part of any of them toward powers not included in the pact.
The salient and capital points in this diplomatic and military system were three: 1. a war "to the bitter end" against Austria Hungary; 2. a post-war alliance of mutual guaranty between the victors; 3. an understanding between Rome and Belgrade as to the disposal of the inheritance from the House of Austria on the eastern shores of the Adriatic.
It might further be observed that San Giuliano's diplomatic conception of the war corresponded exactly with the military conception of it held by General Cadorna in August, 1914. "Since this war is not a local war between Austria and Italy," he wrote, "but a general war involving Russia and Serbia, whose objectives on the enemy's territory are identical with ours, the three armies should work in unison, as regards both time and space, for the attainment of these common ends." And again: "The Russian, Serbian, and Italian armies should exert every energy to encompass the fall of Austria; since, with Austria out of the war, Germany will have to depend on her own resources and will necessarily yield."
The military strategy of Cadorna was the diplomatic strategy of San Giuliano.
III: THE PACT OF LONDON
San Giuliano died suddenly on October 16, 1915, and he was succeeded by Baron Sydney Sonnino.
In July, 1914, Sonnino would have preferred immediate intervention on the side of the Central Powers. In August, when neutrality had been proclaimed, he thought it necessary to keep to the policy of neutrality: "I see," he wrote on the 18th, "that many people are trying to force us into war against Austria. This is a cause of great worry to me; for, unless there be reasons I am not aware of, I cannot see any possible course for us except to adhere to the policy which we have chosen -- an armed neutrality, that is, one which will find us ready for any emergency."
Sonnino was one of those whose confidence in a certain and sweeping victory for Germany was shaken by the Battle of the Marne. On October 26, in reply to a question of Deputy Antonio de Viti de Marco as to whether he desired war inside the Triple Alliance, he said: "At the beginning of the war, I did. We should have entered on the side of our traditional allies, but on terms clearly specified. Now, however, the situation is different." "What were those terms?" he was asked. "The Trentino?" "The Trentino," he replied, "-- and one or two other things!"
Nevertheless, Sonnino presupposed -- and with men of action of his type to foresee a thing is to work on the basis of it -- that the war would not be of long duration. In January, 1915, in a discussion with von Bülow, he predicted that everything would be over by the autumn. The expenses of intervention he thought he could cover by a loan of forty millions (sterling) on the British Exchange. On February 23 he suspected that that sum might not be large enough, that, perhaps, a figure of fifty millions would be safer. Appearing with fresh forces on battlefields where the previous belligerents would be lying exhausted, the Italian army would tip the scales in favor of whichever side it joined, and compel the opposing side hurriedly to accept a compromise peace in order to escape ruin. Strong with the prestige of a victory due to Italian intervention, and supported by a nation still unwearied by protracted fighting, the Italian Government would be in a position to impose its will upon both parties to the conflict, garnering a fat harvest of territorial concessions on either hand. This was the manoeuvre which Premier Salandra was to define as the policy of "sacred selfishness" (sacro egoismo).
Sonnino began negotiations with Vienna to overcome the obstacle of Irredentism. He offered what, in the language of commerce, he styled reciprocal guarantees with collateral security (forfait). To the Central Empires the Italian Government would pledge its own neutrality during the war, and it would sign a quitclaim giving the Germanic powers a free hand in the Balkan Peninsula. In return the Austrian Government would cede the Trentino and -- "one or two other things," to wit: the district of Gorizia, the district of Gradisca, and six islands in the central Adriatic. Trieste would become a free city.
Had this bargain been accepted, Italian neutrality would have been guaranteed to the Central Powers, but not to the Entente. Having come to a satisfactory understanding with Austria, Sonnino (continuing meantime to arm for war) would next turn to the colonial question. Either he could strike another bargain for Italian neutrality with the Entente, or make arrangements for a coöperation somewhat beyond neutrality with the Central Powers. Doubtless the more conspicuous concessions would come from the latter, who could well afford to be generous, since it would be at the expense of England and France. Thus Triplicist imperialism, ruined in 1914, would come to life again over a round-about route.
However, because of the stubbornness of Franz Joseph and all his Ministries on every point relating to the Austro-Italian frontier, the negotiations with Austria came to nought. By the beginning of March Sonnino had lost all hope of reaching an agreement with the former allies of Italy. It was then that he approached the governments of the Entente, in negotiations which he concluded on April 26 in the Pact of London.
San Giuliano had stopped at the Quarnaro. Sonnino demanded, as his price for intervention, that the Triple Entente guarantee him, at the expense of Austria: the Italian Trentino, the German Upper Adige, Venezia Giulia as far as Longatico, in one direction, and as far as the boundaries of Fiume in the other; Dalmatia as far as the Narenta; and virtually all the islands of the Adriatic.
Where did he get this program? It was the scheme imported into Italy by the agents of the shipping interests in Trieste around mid-September, 1914, just after the Battle of the Marne; and it had been blindly adopted by our Nationalist Party and by the General Staff of the Italian Navy. Of the Navy and not of the Army! Cadorna was opposed to any annexations by Italy on the Dalmatian mainland. Sonnino, however, never consulted Cadorna on this subject. Nor did he consult the Italian Legation at Belgrade as to the effect such stipulations might have in Serbia. The negotiations expounded in the "Green Book" would convince our neutralists that war could not possibly be avoided! Acceptance by the Entente of the Nationalist program would compensate the nation for the sacrifices it would be called on to make!
The governments of the Entente found Sonnino's demands excessive. In March and in April, 1915, he had a foretaste of what the Peace Congress itself would be like four years later. The bickering went on for a month and a half. Not a rock, not a hummock, not a rabbit hole, not an ant hill, but was bitterly and tenaciously contested. Around the insignificant peninsula of Sabbioncello raged a battle comparable to the struggle of the Trojans and the Achaeans for the corpse of Achilles. Sonnino, moreover, had not been very well informed by his friends in the Navy department. In the "Green Book" he asked for the cession of the "Curzolari," supposing this to be the name of the Islands in the central Adriatic, whereas it belongs to the group farther south which comprises Leanto. The Pact of London itself demands two uninhabited rocks, Palazzuolo and Gruica. It calls for a "Canidola," without distinguishing between the larger and smaller island of that name. It makes no mention whatever of Sansego, which is an island of 1500 inhabitants with an important base for navigation. Following these stipulations, Italy would have acquired the shoals of Sansego, while the island itself would have been left to Austria! Furthermore there was a demand for the Pervichio Shoal but not for the Shoal of Saint Mark, which is an important administrative boundary. Similarly Toblach Pass became "Mount Toblach." Videbis, fili mi, quam parva sapientia regitur mundus!
In the end, a compromise was arrived at: Zara and Sebenico to Italy -- Spalato to Serbia -- the Dalmatian islands, half and half!
Certain that the war would soon be over and that a peace could be dictated to Germany and Austria, Sonnino thought he had yielded even too far to the representations of the Entente. The latter, however, had given in to Sonnino, late in April, 1915, only because they felt uneasy about the military situation. They were anxious to get Italy safely into the war before some mishap on the Russian front should thwart the interventionist movement in Italy. The Pact of London was signed on April 26, 1915. One week later the debacle of the Russian army began at Gorlice. Victory in six months, a short war costing the forty millions stipulated in the Pact of London, turned into a prospect much more serious than Sonnino had foreseen.
And not only that! The contents of the Pact of London were to remain the secret of secrets till the moment of victory, when Italian forces would be entrenched on the lines established in the Pact and the world would be confronted with a series of faits accomplis. Instead, the Pact of London became public property (it was the French Government that let the cat out of the bag) just three weeks after the agreement was signed. Sonnino seems always to have been pursued by just this miserable luck: not one of his guesses ever came true, not one of his hopes was ever realized. From this moment on, the Austrian Government had enough material in hand to present the war to the Slavs of the South as a war of national defence against Italian imperialism. A powerful agent of propaganda had offered his services free to the House of Austria: The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Italy!
Down to the last hour of the war the Austrian General Staff regarded Sonnino's foreign policy as a most useful weapon in its hands. On November 1, 1918, General Weber came to Villa Giusti to get terms for surrender, and on receiving them and finding them outrageous, wrote back to his superiors: "There is no doubt that the Entente will confine its attention to the German Empire. The acceptance of these terms ought to be left to the judgment of the General Staff; for they are calculated to re-arouse the fighting spirit of the peoples of the Monarchy, especially of the Jugoslavs, and perhaps even of the Serbs."
San Giuliano desired a direct agreement between Italy and Serbia, and for that reason he was disposed to say nothing of Dalmatia. Having set this conquest at the center of our "national aspirations," Sonnino had to leave any such agreement out of account. For that matter, once the publication of contents of the Pact of London had become known, no agreement could possibly have been reached. The moment Italy declared war the Serbs let up in their attacks on Austria. They had half a million men, fully equipped, in high morale, and thrown far forward into Bosnia after inflicting two tremendous defeats upon the Austrians. The Pact of London paralyzed and demoralized them. Instead of coordinating their operations with Italy's, they turned toward Albania, and Austria shifted to the Italian front a part of the forces hitherto required to hold the Serbs. Cadorna noted the fact, and even suspected that the Austrians and Serbs had come to a secret understanding. Cadorna was certainly wrong! It was not a question of secret accord between Serbia and Austria, but of public disaccord between Italy and Serbia. Sonnino's diplomacy was hamstringing Cadorna's plan of campaign.
When, in the summer of 1915, the Germans were hinting at an offensive against Serbia, the French proposed that an Italian contingent, under an Italian general, be sent to help meet the attack. Cadorna consented, on the theory that troops thus employed would cost the enemy more attention that they could attract on the restricted sector of the Carso. Sonnino strenuously objected: Serbia was not really an ally, but an enemy. It would be a mistake to aid her! The Serbs themselves mistrusted the Italians and declined their aid. When Serbia collapsed, Sonnino did consent to the rescue of her remnants. The "enemy" was now no longer dangerous; and the favor could be used later on as an argument to induce the Serbs to accept the Pact of London, or as an argument against them, in case they declined to bow their heads.
On September 10, 1917, Pashitch, in a conversation with Sonnino, proposed a "discussion as to ways and means of reaching an agreement between Italy and Serbia, since it was in the supreme interest of both nations to work together on the basis of a sound understanding." "In possession of Trieste and Pola, with half of Istria, some of the islands, and the Port of Valona, Italy could rest assured of her military supremacy in the Adriatic as well as of the enduring friendship of the new state about to rise across the sea." Anyone familiar with diplomatic language can see that this was only a "feeler," susceptible of very noteworthy improvements, as in fact the later Treaties of Rapallo and Rome show it to have been. Sonnino refused to enter into any such discussion. On March 26, 1918, Pashitch admitted that "The Italo-Slavic boundary must be not only demographic, but geographic and strategic as well, with guarantees of cultural rights to the racial islands to be left on either side of such a frontier." Sonnino declined to consider any emendations to the Pact of London.
IV: AUSTRIA AND JUGOSLAVIA
The defeat of Serbia, the Russian rout at Gorlice, stubborn Austrian resistance in the Trentino and on the Carso, dispelled all illusions that Italian intervention would bring the war to an end by the autumn of 1915. Against Russia, the House of Austria had been paralyzed by the internal struggles of the Germano-Magyars with the Slavs; but she found all her subjects united for the war against Italy. The Pact of London had proved to be a Fountain of Youth for Austria!
These unforeseen contingencies might have counselled Sonnino to change his attitute toward the Pact of London, with a view to detaching the Slavs from their Austrian allegiance. Actually they confirmed him in another idea: that it was impossible to destroy Austria. "If Austria did not exist, she would have to be invented." This aphorism Sonnino had been hearing since his apprenticeship in diplomacy at the time of the Congress of Berlin, and in following it he was only adhering to a conviction of Lord Beaconsfield, whom he greatly admired. Austria was not to be, could not be, dismembered. As for "principles of nationality," -- "the so-called principle of nationality," the Italian Ambassador to London actually dubbed it -- that was only " fiction of the democrats!"
Six months after the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, Sonnino was still spending money to foment pro-Hapsburg and anti-Serbian agitation in Croatia, trying to resuscitate as much as possible of the old Empire by resoldering German Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia, at least, together.
At bottom, the war as fought along the lines of the Pact of London was less a war against Austria than a war against those Southern Slavs who were aspiring to the Austrian succession. Sonnino was just "getting even" with Austria -- Austria should have accepted the "collateral" he first proposed! With the Slavs it was quite a different matter. The war was not only to deprive them of Dalmatia, but to prevent their consolidation into a nation capable, at some future date, of reclaiming the Dalmatia which Italy would be occupying.
San Giuliano, as a condition precedent to Italian intervention, would have insisted on a concerted attack of the Entente nations by land and by sea to make the Austrian succession available for Italians and Slavs in the Adriatic. Sonnino thought of no such provision. At once, therefore, bickerings began as to the extent to which England and France should assist in the naval campaign against Austria. Sonnino complained that Italy was being left too much to herself. On the other hand he did not want too much help! Cadorna's proposal (it was seconded by Lloyd George) for a gigantic concentration of the Allied forces on the Italian front to put Austria hors de combat, he characterized as "sheer madness:" "Such uses of Allied troops would compromise our foreign policy."
With a total defeat of Austria out of the question, a compromise peace would have to be made in any event, and this would necessarily imply some sacrifice of Italian claims under the Pact of London. A revision would be possible only along lines of concession to Austria. A revision in favor of Serbia might be limited to surrender of claims on Dalmatia; but Austrian demands would cut much deeper. Italy would be forced back to the parecchio -- the "something appreciable" -- of Giolitti. But to accept either of these two alternatives would turn the Italian war into a fizzle. Sonnino, therefore, came to a standstill, his "piece of paper" in his pocket, doing nothing, saying nothing, but sullenly defending that piece of paper against everything and everybody. Without concessions to Serbia, he could not win the war. Without concessions to Austria he could not make peace.
V: "OUR WAR"
Just as Sonnino did not look forward to the disintegration of Austria, so he did not look forward to a total defeat of Germany. His mind had been formed in admiration of Bismarck's Germany and of Beaconsfield's England, and in hatred of France, whose seizure of Tunis had embittered the youthful days of all the men of his generation. These various sentiments blended in his mind into an expectation of a "drawn war" in which Austria would suffer perceptible losses while Germany kept her feet, her resources unimpaired and strong enough to drive her enemies into a compromise peace. This conviction led him to another idea in direct opposition to the policies of San Giuliano. San Giuliano wanted a post-war agreement between the victors mutually to guarantee their respective acquisitions. Sonnino would have nothing of such a contraption. In the "drawn battle" he would be so fixed as to dictate to both parties. Sitting on the fence, able to throw his strength to the one side or to the other, he could extract the greatest possible concessions in territory from both. This state of mind is written all over the Pact of London, in which the new Austrian frontier is drawn with the greatest conceivable minuteness, while the Italian rake-off in African and Turkish territory is left quite undefined. Sonnino preferred to avoid all chance of future friction as to the former. Then with Austria intact and in good humor, and with Germany not wholly crushed, he could reconstruct the Triple Alliance on sounder bases than it had ever had, and be in a position to exact a favorable settlement of the colonial question from England and France. A premise, also, of this policy was Italian freedom from any such post-war alliances as San Giuliano contemplated. The Italian war must be regarded as a localized operation for the interpretation of article VII of the old Treaty of the Triplice -- conducted to be sure in conjunction with the "world war;" but remaining "our war" as our Nationalists said, and as Sonnino instructed his propaganda to say. Italy was a "provisory ally" of the anti-Germanic Entente -- an "allié pour le moment," one of our diplomats actually averred in Paris. On abandoning the Triple Alliance, Sonnino had moved toward the Triple Entente, but had stopped half way. He could retrace his steps any time -- tomorrow, friends with the enemy!
That is why Italy declared war only on Austria, remaining at peace with Germany till the summer of 1916, till a time, that is, when the failure of immediate victory and the development of an Austrian offensive from Trent compelled closer relationship with the Allies. That is why, on May 21, 1915, just before the declaration of war on Austria, an agreement with Germany was made "for the protection of respective subjects and properties." That is why, two days later, when von Hindenburg (not the general, but the legal advisor to the Embasssy at Rome) observed that "since German and Austrian troops were everywhere combined, an attack on the Austrian Army would be tantamount to an attack on the German Army," Secretary de Martino replied that "that is very distressing information, since a clash between Italian and German troops would arouse in Italy a hatred of Germany which today does not exist and would open such a gulf between the two powers as to make a later rapprochement the work of years." Says Von Hindenburg, further: "De Martino was deeply moved. He repeated several times that Germany and Italy had no incompatible interests of a political nature; and expressed the hope that the war would be fought without too much bitterness to avoid danger of an irremediable break between the two countries."
When victory came, Sonnino found on his hands a dismembered Austria and an impotent Germany, and his scheme for playing both ends against the middle at the Peace Conference vanished into thin air. He was now confronted with French and British diplomats who had understood his game all along and who had put up with him only because Italian "cannon fodder" had been essential in goodly measure to their success in the war. Completely triumphant, they had nothing to fear from Sonnino's devious policies.
It was now the turn of the Entente diplomats to remind the Italians that they had been alliés pour le moment. The war over, the "provisory alliance" had come to an end. Just what did Italy, their ex-ally, expect? A certain amount of Austrian territory was due Italy under the Pact of London. A subsequent Pact of San Giovanni di Moriana has reserved to the Italian government a certain zone in Asia Minor (a dangerous and unsubdued zone, to be sure). These obligations, they, Italy's ex-allies, would be happy to satisfy to the letter -- except that Sonnino himself would have to see about getting Mr. Wilson's consent! As for all the rest, complete freedom of action! Sonnino had been an ideal ally: he had bled his country to help win the victory, and he had freed his allies from any duties as regards the settlement of peace!
If we would understand Sonnino's failures at the Peace Congress, we must go back to this, the first cause of all his mishaps: to the mistaken belief that an "our war" could be fought inside the "world war," to his attitude as a "provisory ally" and as a possible post-war enemy, an attitude which he studiously adhered to in all his dealings with the Allied Governments.
To avoid being crushed by the English and French, who had acquired full freedom of action with the collapse of Germany and would use that freedom without scruple or restraint (as the rules of diplomacy dictated, and as Sonnino would have done himself, had he been able), Sonnino still had one recourse. He might manoeuvre among the dissensions that obtained between the victors, supporting one against the other, and selling his support case by case. Clemenceau wanted not only Alsace-Lorraine, but also the Saar and the left bank of the Rhine. Lloyd George had his eye on the German colonies. Wilson wanted to dominate the Peace Conference as supreme arbiter, and as originator of the League of Nations.
Late in December, 1918, Clemenceau seems to have offered on his own initiative a scheme for an Italo-French entente, which, however, providing for a dismembered Germany and a united Jugoslavia, was at the antipodes of Sonnino's way of thinking. As for Lloyd George, Sonnino might have asked for some colonial concessions in exchange for helping to checkmate Clemenceau's Rhine plans. Did he make any such advances? We do not know.
But there was still another way out: he might have allied himself with President Wilson, who was eager for an agreement with Italy: he might have seconded the President in upholstering the League of Nations, even without believing in it (Lloyd George and Clemenceau followed just that line!). He might have supported Wilson in compelling Clemenceau to rest content with Alsace-Lorraine, and in persuading Lloyd George to go easy with the German colonies and with Turkey. In exchange for all that, he could have asked from Wilson the cancellation of the inter-allied debts and a fair distribution of the colonial mandates. These tactics would surely have succeeded, because they could have relied on receiving support from English liberal-radicals and Laborites and from very considerable democratic elements in France. But Sonnino never could take "democratic ideologies" seriously. He went to the Peace Conference as a neutral vis à vis of Clemenceau and Lloyd George, and as an avowed antagonist of Wilson.
And what did he do there? Just as, during the war, he had based his diplomacy on the mistaken guess that the war would soon be over, so at Paris he manoeuvred as though his other guess -- that Austria and Germany would have a loud voice in the negotiations -- had come true. He could not see that, since this expectation had been disappointed, his hostile isolation in the Big Four frightened absolutely nobody and invited reprisals from all. Even the Almighty Himself, having created Adam and mankind, came one day to realize that he had made a mistake -- and then he sent the Flood. Sonnino, having made the Pact of London, regarded it as a masterpiece of diplomatic ingenuity, perfect, final, ne varietur, to the bitter end. The thicker difficulties gathered along his path, the straighter and straighter ahead he went, along the line of greatest resistance. His diplomatic economy can only be defined as a policy of the smallest results from the greatest expenditures of energy.
VI: THE RESULTS OF THE WAR
And yet, when all is said and done, Italy obtained from the World War all she could reasonably hope to obtain.
What our Nationalists regarded as our most disastrous check at the Peace Conference -- the loss of Asia Minor -- turned out to be the greatest piece of luck that ever happened to Italy in the course of her long history. The governments of England and France had shrewdly taken for themselves Asiatic territories inhabited by non-Turkish peoples, to whom they could present themselves as liberators from the famous "Ottoman yoke." To Italy they had given Asia Minor, that the Italians might act as jailers to the Turk and keep him from molesting their own dominions. Sonnino swallowed this proposition whole. (What ever possessed Venizelos, one day, after Italy had withdrawn from Paris, to snatch this attractive morsel for Greece?)
As for our slender gains in African colonies, it should be observed that the real colonial problem of the Italian people is the problem of emigration, and it cannot be solved by acquiring territories in Africa. One of the greatest shortcomings of Sonnino is never to have considered this vital question of emigration in any of his negotiations for war or peace.
And the Adriatic question, after many pains, has been settled in the way most truly desirable for Italy. To occupy Dalmatia would have been to assume during peace times a permanent "state of war," involving incredible burdens of armament, and to face during possible future wars the necessity of using on a secondary line of defence forces needed for the protection of Venezia Giulia.
And have we gained or lost from the dismemberment of Austria? No longer, on our eastern borders, are we faced with a hostile power of fifty millions of people. Our nearest neighbor on the Adriatic is a kingdon of twelve millions, with more need of our friendship against the German-Magyar-Bulgar danger beyond, than inclined to turn us toward their foes by policies of deliberate antagonism. It may even be said that we have freed ourselves from the menace of Austria much more satisfactorily than France has from the menace of Germany. In proportion as Germany and Russia regain their feet, Italian friendship will be much more valuable to France and the Danube peoples. This happy position, which we have won from the World War, will be precious to our heirs of a half century hence, in fighting new wars, if they are dogs, -- if they are men, in working for the peace of the world. Our generation has given them just this blessing: that they may choose whether they shall be dogs or men, a blessing which we ourselves did not inherit from the Europe of a half century ago, for the nearness of a hostile empire has always obliged us to be more or less dogs in spite of ourselves.
The real harm done by the policies of Sonnino and our Nationalists has been more than anything else a moral one. They brought the Italian people away from the Peace Conference despised by others and dissatisfied with itself. They led the Italian people to believe it had been robbed of the fruits of victory. For the intellectual disorder that has been rampant in Italy since the war, and has all but destroyed our country, the tactics of our Nationalists have been in large part responsible. Take a people peacefully inclined, force it into a gruelling war three years long, and then send it home with the conviction that all its effort has been in vain, that all its sacrifices have been wasted, that its objectives have not been attained, that it has been cheated by everybody -- and can one be surprised if it kicks over the traces and begins to rear around? In very truth Italians have shown themselves possessed of the kindest of hearts in that they have not massacred every one of us who dragged them into the war, and who then -- as the author of our war, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, assured them -- failed to press from the victory the peace for which they had fought.