How to Get a Breakthrough in Ukraine
The Case Against Incrementalism
MUSSOLINI'S hope, like that of Stalin, has been to reap the rewards of victory without sharing in its risks. On June 10, 1940, it was logical enough for him to assume that these rewards would be his by a mere declaration of war against the Western Powers. Denmark, Norway and the Low Countries had been overrun by German troops, France was on the verge of collapse, and even the British Isles seemed wide open to Nazi invasion. "There came a moment -- let it now be acknowledged," The Times reminisced editorially on September 3, "when imminent defeat stared the British Empire in the face. That was the time when the retreating Army stood at bay in the Channel ports and the informed judgment of the High Command estimated that not more than 30,000 of them would escape the enemy's clutches. Had that prophecy been fulfilled . . . the British Isles would have lain naked to the invader." But though the prophecy was not fulfilled, Mussolini was in the war and the Mediterranean had become a battlefield.
The Fascist Government has managed to concentrate a very imposing force in North and East Africa. The number of troops in Libya at the end of the summer was certainly in excess of 250,000 and was perhaps as high as 350,000; and some 200,000 troops, including natives, are believed to be located in East Africa.
Mussolini's preparations for the campaign against Egypt, unlike those for the abortive blitzkrieg against Greece, were most careful. The men were seasoned for desert warfare and supplies were available in abundance. British observers expressed admiration and surprise at the speed with which supply dumps followed the advancing units. There appeared to be plenty of motor vehicles, and apparently endless supplies of all types of artillery and ammunition, especially of 75 mm. guns, also anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. The small Fiat tanks, though no match in direct combat against the larger British models, demonstrated their effectiveness in the early days of the Italian advance. Oddly enough, the Italians seemed to be deficient only in aircraft, the weapon which was supposed to be their forte. During the first four months of war, less Italian aircraft was in evidence than had been anticipated, and it was of an inferior quality.
The Italians worked out a specific tactic for desert warfare which showed good early results. Every advance was carried out by two or three tanks making a forward thrust. After them came groups of ten or twelve swift-moving trucks loaded with artillery. Apparently the guns, chiefly of light types up to 75 mm., were sometimes fired directly from the trucks. The infantry, also transported in trucks, came only after the guns, and its duty was to occupy and defend territory seized by the tanks and artillery. The infantry was itself protected by light and anti-aircraft guns on the periphery. "The formation is so characteristic," wrote a British correspondent, "that British staff officers have already dubbed it 'the hedgehog.'" Once a stretch of land was occupied, the advanced units lost no time in fortifying it. Major stations on the road, where supplies of water and ammunition were concentrated, were laid out as "perimeter camps" for defense against the resourceful and daring British armored units which seemed always ready to dart out of the horizon and which frequently took a heavy toll. Obviously, the perimeter camps offered excellent targets for the Royal Air Force, especially since -- for some not easily comprehended reason -- Graziani preferred to establish almost all his camps on the coastal road rather than on the escarpment or in the desert. It was by nipping off some of the perimeter camps, and then cutting the Italian line of communications west of Sidi Barrani, that the British began the counter-offensive which is making such good progress as this article goes to press.
The British Army in Egypt has had to operate under conditions which no one could have foreseen. Britain never expected to be left to fight alone in the Near East. She counted first on a certain amount of military support from Egypt and the Arab countries, even though the value of this assistance was not rated very high. Far more valuable support was expected from the Turks -- at least after 1938, and more especially following the signature of the treaties of alliance in 1939. Above all, British plans were based on the closest possible Anglo-French military coöperation: it was fully expected that the French forces would bear the brunt of the fighting till England's unwieldy empire got into its war stride.
Accordingly, the British Navy coöperated with the French in concentrating large military forces and vast amounts of supplies in Syria and French North Africa. By June 10, 1940, between 125,000 and 175,000 soldiers are believed to have been concentrated in Syria and the Lebanon, with another quarter of a million in Africa. A great deal of motorized equipment and heavy artillery was taken to the Levant; considerable ammunition dumps were established in the mountains of the Lebanon; native troops, including an efficient Camel Corps, were trained in Syria; considerable oil and gasoline supplies were stored away; and perhaps as many as 1,000 aircraft were brought over, many of them modern Glenn Martin bombers, which the Italians are now eager to obtain.
Thus, at the moment of France's collapse and of Italy's entrance into the war, Britain's meager, rather poorly equipped forces in the Near East were left to cope single-handed with a situation for which they were quite unprepared. Had Mussolini been willing to risk a blitzkrieg in the middle of June, his forces could very likely have reached Suez. By then the French, no longer an asset, had become a positive liability to Britain. Nor could all of their actions be explained either on the ground of military necessity or by the desire of the men of Vichy to assert their authority. Was it, for instance, thoughtlessness or calculated sabotage that M. Massigli, the French Ambassador at Ankara, asked Turkey to fulfill her obligations under the alliance at the very moment when France was suing for peace, and thereby created a situation which, but for the coolheadedness of the Turkish authorities, might have turned out very badly for the British? Did French national interests require that Mr. G. T. Havard, the British Consul-General at Beirut, be forced to take up residence at the small village of Aley, that the British Consul-General at Algiers be placed "practically under arrest," that British consular and diplomatic representatives in Tunis and other French territories be subjected to indignities and hardships and then expelled?
Britain's other Mediterranean friends have not proved much more helpful. In all Allied quarters it had been expected that Egypt and Britain's Arab allies would enter the conflict when the war spread to the Mediterranean. True, the treaties granting 'Iraq and Egypt their independence did not oblige them to declare war on Britain's enemies, but merely to harmonize their foreign policies with those of Britain and, in case of war, to place their communications and other resources at the command of the British military authorities. But the spirit of those treaties, as interpreted in numerous semi-official statements, proclaimed a different attitude, and the failure of the Arab states to declare war on Germany certainly did not augur well. The Arab press and responsible statesmen nevertheless declared that they would not hesitate a moment to throw all their resources behind the Allies if the war should spread to the Mediterranean. Such a course was not only a matter of moral obligation but of self-interest, for every Arab knew that Fascist Italy was as much his enemy as Britain's. Yet when the crisis came, not a single Arab state moved.
Egypt was immediately affected by Italy's entrance into the war. That the attack would be launched against her, not against Tunisia, had been common knowledge since the spring of 1939. And all indications were that Egypt would waste no time before taking her stand beside Britain. Accordingly, a few minutes after Mussolini's declaration of war the British Ambassador, Sir Miles Lampson, called on the Egyptian Prime Minister, Ali Maher Pasha, a liberal grandee and one of the most respected men in the country. What decision they reached is not known, but on the following morning (June 11), the Egyptian Gazette, generally regarded as a mouthpiece for the Embassy, announced that "it is practically certain that Egypt will immediately sever diplomatic relations with Italy." The next day, a secret session of Parliament decided "to support the government in continuing to give the greatest possible assistance to her Ally in her defense of rights and liberty . . ." The meaning of this resolution was clarified on the following day by an editorial in the Gazette which announced that, "In a short time Egypt will be at war with Italy. Her 'fight for independence,' of which much was heard in years past will, this time . . . be a real fight, with individual freedom and national life at stake." On the same day the Prime Minister announced at another secret session of Parliament that Egypt would fight "if Italian troops enter Egyptian territory; if Egyptian towns are bombed by Italian aircraft; if Egyptian military objectives are bombed." Parliament enthusiastically endorsed this policy.
These declarations were followed on subsequent days by still further assurances. On June 19, for example, the Prime Minister told Parliament: "The Government has not issued orders to the armed forces not to defend themselves because the right of defense is a natural one (applause). But the Government ordered them not to take the offensive. . . . The Government reiterates its announcement to this Chamber that it is anxious to carry out Egypt's obligations and also to assist her great Ally -- assistance permeated with a spirit of cordiality and sincerity (wild applause)."
The 'Iraqi Government, not directly menaced, did not issue such unequivocal declarations; but the tone of the press was distinctly favorable to the British. Yet, more than five months have elapsed and neither Egypt nor 'Iraq has moved to honor its promises. The Italian forces advanced across the frontier through Sollum and Sidi Barrani to a point about twenty miles beyond that place on the road to Mersa Matruh. But Egypt remained at peace and Britain had to fight the invader alone.
The explanation for this extraordinary fact carries us into the very heart of Arab politics, in which many factors must be taken into account. First, much of the confusion now existing in the Arab camp is to be traced directly to Axis activities. The lull in Italian and German propaganda that began in September 1939 lasted only a few months. It was an unnatural lull, due more to temporary disorganization in Axis lines of communications than to anything else, and it ended when the Axis Powers had reorganized those lines by shifting the centers of their system from Cairo to the Yemen on the one side and to Iran on the other. Since the collapse of France, Damascus, Beirut and Aleppo have become the most important centers. This propaganda has followed two distinct lines. First, pamphlets, radio broadcasts and paid agents have been used to produce a defeatist atmosphere by proclaiming Britain's imminent collapse. From four to six times every day, Bari and Berlin have broadcast news of terrific British defeats, with announcers usually making the obvious deduction that to side with Britain under such circumstances would be foolhardy. In Istanbul, both the Germans and Italians found newspapers to take up this line. The Germans had in the Cumhuriyet, until its suppression by the Turkish Government, an ably-edited paper with a large circulation; the Italians supported a French language paper Beyoglu, which until its suppression on September 13 seconded the Cumhuriyet in "emphasizing the present predominant position" of the Axis and in "advising other countries to take account of this fact and shape their policies accordingly." The Germans also published a pictorial magazine Signal which kept Turks informed, by means of colored illustrations, concerning the state of Germany's armed forces and especially of the Luftwaffe. A British paper has described this publication as "a most effective pictorial supplement to the German High Command communiqués." Axis propaganda has reached as far south as Medina and Mecca. This autumn the Italians began to send quantities of pamphlets and numerous agents to carry their gospel among the pilgrims en route to and from the Holy Cities.
More vicious were the stories of British atrocities against Islam. Those have been manufactured on a mass production basis along with secret documents purporting to reveal Britain's evil designs on Arab lands. One of Berlin's favorite stories has been about an alleged treaty between Britain and the Zionists by which the former undertook to deliver to the latter vast stretches of territory reaching from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and beyond. So often was the story repeated that, apparently finding it was taking root, the London and the Jerusalem radios had to issue official denials. Later the Germans embellished the tale by adding that a bomb had been thrown in Jerusalem in protest against the secret agreement and that numerous people had been killed. Again the Palestine radio had to issue a denial.
Other favorites in Berlin have been stories about misbehavior -- especially towards mosques and holy places -- on the part of Australian soldiers and about their inhuman cruelty. Some of those yarns have been rather lurid and apparently appealed to the Arab imagination, for the British again hastened to issue official denials. The Hadhramaut has also figured prominently in anti-British propaganda. First came a series of broadcasts about a constantly spreading rebellion in that area. Then followed circumstantial accounts of how amazingly destructive British bombs had killed Arabs by the thousands -- in the deserts of the Hadhramaut, mind you! Britain replied early in October by putting the Sultan of Shihr and Mukalla on the radio to make the following announcement: "The Italian broadcasting stations have been reporting from time to time that heavy British bombing is being carried out in the Hadhramaut; and this has caused unnecessary unrest among the Arabs. I strongly contradict this statement as it is far from the truth."
No doubt, Axis propaganda has had some influence on Near Eastern opinion; yet its importance should not be overestimated. Much more significant in creating an anti-British climate of opinion have been the social, cultural and political conditions in the various countries themselves.
First, it must always be borne in mind that in the Near East politics is still an intensely personal matter. Ideological differences, or even rival class interests, hardly count in political struggles. If Ali Maher Pasha happens to be Premier of Egypt and advocates the honest fulfillment of treaty obligations towards Britain, that in itself, without regard to the interests of the country, is sufficient to drive Nahas Pasha -- leader of the Nationalist, or Wafd Party -- or any other political bigwig who covets Ali Maher's job, to assume a diametrically opposite view. The same has been true of 'Iraq, where personal hostility to Nuri es-Said Pasha has impelled rival politicians to combat his pro-British policies mercilessly. Even the Zionist National Home has suffered immeasurably from this emphasis on personalities. Such conditions naturally play into the hands of Axis agents. By supporting, financially and otherwise, rival political groups, they are able to atomize public life and to destroy British efforts to create stable political conditions.
To these perennial sources of antagonism the war has added new ones. In each Near Eastern state there are groups which for one reason or another have an interest in coming to terms with the Fascist Powers. In Egypt, the chief Quisling has been the King himself. In his anti-British policy the King has been supported by the large court clique and by some of the shaikhs of al-Azhar, under whose influence he has been since boyhood. From the moment of his accession to the throne in 1938, Farouk has manifested a strong inclination towards personal power in the tradition of Mohammed Ali. But Parliament, the liberal elements in the country and, to a certain extent at least, the British Ambassador have stood in his way. But with the spread of war, Farouk saw an opportunity to rid himself of these elements and came forward as the leader of the pro-Fascist appeasement groups.
Opposed to this policy have been the middle and financial classes, trade union leaders and nearly all intellectuals, as well as the overwhelming majority of the landowners -- in short, all those progressive elements which realize that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain from a Fascist victory. Since they look towards the West for intellectual leadership, they were anxious not to alienate the sympathies of the liberal democracies. Dr. Hafiz Afifi Pasha, one of the very few really able and honest political leaders in Egypt, spoke for all that is best in his country's public life when he appealed, on the fourth anniversary of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty on August 28, for honest execution of its obligations. He emphasized that not only political morality but sheer self-interest dictated such a course. He cited documentary proof of Italy's sinister designs on the country. "If we had not been assured through the treaty of help from Great Britain," he said, Egypt would long since have become an Italian colony, for it "was a great mistake to believe that if Italy attacked Egypt, her only reason for doing so was the presence of British forces." Dr. Ahmed Maher Pasha, President of the Chamber of Deputies and one of the most respected men in Egypt, also came out repeatedly to plead for active support of Britain.
The press, with the exception of a few minor sheets representing the Court and religious cliques, has been overwhelmingly in favor of active defense of the country's independence. Probably no editorial written since the outbreak of the war has been more popular and more widely reprinted than the one which appeared early in August in Al Mussawar in the form of an open letter to Mussolini by its editor, Fikry Abaza, a Nationalist member of the Chamber. "Egypt will never think of replacing the alliance with Britain by a bond with any other Power. If she did, it would not be with the country which has proclaimed her intention of reestablishing the Roman Empire -- a country whose imperialistic tactics have been cruel . . . Believe me, Egyptians are intelligent and they are not deceived by the outpourings of the Rome and Bari radios. Their memories are not short, nor are they blind to what happened in Libya."
The attitude of parliament, the press and the civil service has thus reflected, in general, the interests and sentiments of the intelligent, forward-looking classes. Those interests and sentiments were particularly well represented by the pro-British Ali Maher ministry, which was composed largely of landowners and was one of the best ministries Egypt has had for a long time. In his letter of resignation, delivered at the end of June, Ali Maher declared that the policy of his cabinet had expressed the will of the people and had gained the approval of the nation's representatives in parliament. He would have wished nothing better than to continue that policy, "but for reasons independent of our will and the will of the Egyptian people, we see that it is impossible to remain in power." The appeasement elements had triumphed.
To form a new ministry was not easy, especially as the King refused to deal with the Wafd, the old bogy of the palace-Azhar clique. A fifth-rate politician, never before considered as a possible candidate for the premiership, Hassan Pasha Sabry, was finally brought forward. He succeeded in forming a coalition cabinet with parliamentary support only after promising to declare war if Graziani's legions made serious inroads into Egyptian territory. But even after Sidi Barrani fell on September 16 the Court refused to change its policy, and this produced a split inside the cabinet, with four Saadist (dissident Wafdists) members resigning before the end of September.
Hassan Sabry's sudden death on November 14 produced a new crisis. The Premier fell dead on the floor of parliament while reading a Speech from the Throne in which what was left unsaid was much more conspicuous than what was said. Egypt, it declared, is "anxious to fulfill her obligations toward her great ally Britain and to carry out her alliance of friendship in the letter and spirit;" but nothing was said about the Italian invasion and the Italian bombs on Alexandria, Cairo and Suez. Under ordinary circumstances the King would probably have found it even more difficult to form a ministry than at the end of June; but the dramatic manner of Hassan Pasha's death, as well as the fact that the opposition was unprepared for such a development, played into Farouk's hand. On the very next day, before the opposition elements had a chance to organize their forces, Hussein Pasha Sirry was asked to form a ministry, which he did. The new Premier, like his predecessor, is not a leader of any party, and has no political following of any kind. The Berlin and Bari radios found in the sudden death of the Premier an ideal opportunity for a bit of anti-British propaganda. Although the Minister of Health, who rushed to administer first aid to the stricken Premier, announced the cause of death as apoplexy, the Axis radios proclaimed that the hand of the diabolical British secret service may well have been active.
How long Farouk can continue this game is not easy to foretell. That he is playing with fire is certain: one crowned head of Egypt lost his throne during the First World War for engaging in similar intrigues. But Farouk, young and a stout advocate of Islam, is popular among the illiterate masses and can rely on the solid support of the priestly class. Yet the real test of Egyptian sentiment is still to come. Any approach of the Italians to the Nile delta might create so powerful an upsurge in nationalist sentiment that the King would have to bend before the storm. Even the Court-controlled Sabry cabinet was committed to fight if the Italians reached the populated part of the country. The successful British attack on the Italians in the second week of December is sure to impress Egyptians of all classes. And the heroic resistance of the Greeks cannot but have a further effect on public opinion.
Conditions not essentially different from those in Egypt exist in 'Iraq, where strong army and pseudo-Fascist cliques, impelled by a thirst for power, have resisted the pro-British policies of the older generation of statesmen that has ruled the country since 1921. Anti-British propaganda has probably played a larger rôle in 'Iraq than in Egypt.
When the war broke out the Germans were already strongly entrenched among the more rabid Pan Arab circles in Baghdad and, odd to say, among some of the Christian intellectuals who were disappointed with the pro-Arab policy of the British. The shrewd and highly polished Dr. Grobba, who served as German Minister during the prewar decade, managed to be everything to all sections of the population; and during the late thirties a number of widely-read papers -- Al-Alam ul-Arabi, for example -- and the Baghdad radio came under his influence. This proselytizing has had fairly free rein, for, ever since the military rebellion of Bakr Sidky in 1936, 'Iraqi politics have been a tugof-war between the politicians and the military -- the latter being strongly under the influence of the Fascist ideology. Between these opposing forces the civil authorities have naturally pursued a policy of extreme caution.
If Egypt and 'Iraq have been very small assets in Britain's war effort, Syria has been a liability. Since the collapse of France, Axis agents have made Damascus and Beirut centers of anti-British propaganda, while valuable British troops have been detached to guard Palestine's northern frontier. Reports of extensive unrest in Syria have appeared periodically in the Near Eastern press. The nationalists grouped around the Kislah Wataniya (National Bloc), who declared a truce at the outbreak of the war, seem to have become active again. Their agitation has been stimulated by the deplorable economic conditions of the country as well as the activities of the Italian Armistice Commission. Thus far, the local French authorities have taken few, if any, steps to grant the Italian demands. These are said to have been so extensive as to include not only demobilization of all armed forces and surrender of war material but the granting to Italy of a voice in the administration of the mandated territories. Very little love is lost on the Italians among any class of the Syrian population, and the threat of increased Italian pressure has had the effect of stimulating the demand for independence. On the whole, however, the French authorities, backed by the large military forces at their disposal, have been able to maintain order.
Somewhat better has been the situation in Palestine, where the British have the loyal Zionists to rely on. The disturbances which began in April 1936 came to end during the first part of 1939, and the British authorities were able to remove six battalions from the country. The collapse of the armed rebellion was not due -- Mr. Malcolm MacDonald to the contrary notwithstanding -- to the publication of the White Paper in May 1939, an act incidentally which in the opinion of the Mandates Commission was contrary to the terms of the mandate and therefore illegal. The fact of the matter is that the rebel bands began to disintegrate, many months before the publication of the White Paper, because London had finally untied the hands of the military and allowed it to go after the rebels in earnest. At the outbreak of European war the Zionists hastened to place their manpower and industrial plant at the service of the British. The Arabs have remained passively neutral.
Unfortunately, even in Palestine the situation is far from satisfactory. The country is bankrupt. Exports of citrus fruits -- the main article of export -- were cut in about half during the last season; the flow of foreign capital has declined; and unemployment has jumped to unprecedented heights. Yet the Government has done practically nothing to alleviate the deepening misery among either Jews or Arabs. The outbreak of war found the country with very small stocks of essential foodstuffs, for which it must rely largely on imports. The Zionists have attempted to obtain badly needed supplies via Basra, but with little success thus far. In addition, the flimsy credit structure on which the Jewish National Home was built has collapsed and the Zionist leaders have as yet found no remedy for the situation. Thus far, the exigencies of war have failed to bring together into some form of a united front the numerous parties which divide the 475,000 Jews in Palestine. Efforts by men like Pinchas Rutenberg, the founder of the Palestine Electric Corporation, to effect a semblance of unity have proved futile. The National Home is today far more divided than even the Arabs.
The Near East would have presented a different picture if farsighted statesmen like Abdur Rahman Azzam, a Libyan refugee who has had first-hand experience with Italian imperialism, Nuri es-Said Pasha and others had succeeded in their efforts to form a solid bloc among the Arab states. Not one of the Near Eastern states, it is true, has a military machine capable of opposing the armies of the Axis for more than a few days. Yet a native force of some 100,000 men officered by Britons and stiffened with British troops could, for instance, have been of considerable value in harassing Graziani's line of desert communications.
But no Arab bloc has crystallized, even in face of the greatest threat to Arab existence in five centuries. Petty dynastic rivalries and personal feuds among the rulers have stood in the way. Pacts of friendship and brotherhood have gone overboard when they collided with political realities. What, for instance, has become of the Treaty of Arab Brotherhood and Alliance signed at Baghdad on April 2, 1936, once hailed as the dawn of a new era in the Near East? This agreement, providing for a limited unity between 'Iraq and Saudi Arabia, to which the Yemen adhered in 1937, has had few concrete results of any kind. Nor has there been any coöperation between Egypt, Trans Jordan and 'Iraq. Indeed, far from uniting their forces to help Britain fight the Fascist imperialists, some of the Arab states have actually exploited Britain's peril to blackmail her into territorial and other concessions. The Shah of Iran, who only in April 1933 forced the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to sign a new agreement, has used the present situation to extract fresh concessions. The latest agreement, announced in Teheran at the end of August, requires the company to pay the Iranian Government £4,000,000 annually, thereby absorbing virtually all the company's profits for 1939 and leaving nothing for shareholders.
The hostility between Ibn Saud and the Hashemite rulers of 'Iraq and Trans Jordan is one of old standing. Relations between Saudi Arabia and 'Iraq improved after King Feisal's death -- not, however, to the point of bringing about effective coöperation. In fact, the two states compete for the privilege of conquering the Emirate of Kuweit, against which Ibn Saud has taken economic steps and has threatened military ones. 'Iraq, more under British influence, has had to content itself with cultural propaganda in the Emirate. Ibn Saud likewise wants to absorb various islands in the Persian Gulf now under British protection, particularly the Bahrein Islands with their rich oil deposits. He has also lost no opportunity to press his claims for Aqaba, and his unbending attitude in this matter has frustrated every attempt to improve relations between him and the Emir Abdullah.
The relations between other Near Eastern capitals have not been much better. Farouk's ambition to revive the caliphate has not passed unnoticed at Riyadh. Between Cairo and Baghdad there has been a good deal of coming and going, but the exchange of courtesies has not led to any concrete coöperation. Towards Trans Jordan, Egypt has shown studied indifference. Even the two Hashemite branches in Trans Jordan and 'Iraq have not been on the best terms with each other. There was active hostility between Abdullah and Gazi until the latter's death, and public insults, protests and apologies flew thick between their two capitals. Of late, relations have improved somewhat, but there is still no sign of an agreement to pool military resources.
Characteristic is the fact that Abdullah's appeal to the Faithful to aid Britain was sufficient, well-informed sources report, to strengthen Ibn Saud's determination to retain his deadly silence; and all the efforts of Nuri es-Said last April to persuade him to adopt a more friendly attitude ended in failure. Thus, after fifteen months of diplomatic bargaining, during which the war has steadily come closer, the Near East remains as atomized as ever, and there are no signs of the dawn of a better era.
Symbolic of the chaotic conditions prevailing between the Near Eastern states is the failure of Moslem dignitaries to unite on a common platform of action. All talk of a Pan Islamic front has evaporated into thin air. Individual Moslem leaders have come out against the Fascist aggressors and in favor of Great Britain; but they have been unable to get together on a united appeal which alone might impress the Islamic world. Personal jealousies and ancient rivalries have again stood in the way. How can Ibn Saud coöperate with, let us say, Haj Amin el-Husseini or the Shia shaikh Kassif al-Gita, who only last year issued a fetwah forbidding the faithful to make the pilgrimage to Mecca? The shaikh of al-Azhar -- a venerable gentleman -- is convinced that he or his king ought to lead Islam. Needless to say, no Moslem dignitary outside of Egypt holds a remotely similar view. It is not easy to see how these dynastic and personal rivalries can be surmounted, now or for many years to come.
The chaotic conditions here described are largely responsible, no doubt, for Britain's passive policy towards the Near Eastern peoples so far in the present war. Most competent British authorities, having despaired of the Arabs, now know that if imperial communications are to be safeguarded and the Fascist advance stopped, the job will have to be done by British Empire troops. Twenty years of close contact with the Arabs have produced a reaction against the romantic notions which remained as a legacy of Lawrence and his desert braves. Yet the fact remains that Britain could have obtained much more help in the Near East than she has had thus far. Does the vigor with which the British have given aid to Greece and, as I write, are pushing towards Libya augur the adoption of a more dynamic policy?