711.00111 Armament Control/888

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck)

In the light of developments of last week, and especially of information given in telegrams from Engert and Kirk and Gilbert45 over the week-end, it is believed that this Government should persevere in its attitude of “watchful waiting” and should continue to take no action toward proclaiming, as for this country, that the “state of war” between Italy and Ethiopia is at an end.

Unquestionably the course pursued by this country, as indicated in and followed under the so-called “neutrality” acts, has made more difficult for the countries members of the League the effort which they have made, under the Covenant, in their handling of the Italy-Ethiopia question. The merits of our attitude and course of action from point of view of interests other than those of this country need not in this connection be discussed. The fact that a number of countries are doing what they can to make the collective system a reality and that this country does not see fit to participate in that effort needs, however, always to be kept in mind. Accepting the fact that we will not participate, there still remains as a practical question for us this question: May not and should not this Government be liberally and sympathetically disposed toward the efforts of those who seek to make the collective system effective to deal with the questions which are of more immediate and direct concern to them than to us; should we not refrain wherever possible from taking action not urgently needing to be taken by us, which action, if taken, will make more difficult the efforts of the others?

In considering the question of any proposal for action by us in reference to the Ethiopia situation, ought we not ask ourselves both of two questions, (1) what real advantage will that action, if taken, be to us; and (2) will that action, if taken, be to the advantage or to the disadvantage of efforts which are being made by other nations in connection with problems in regard to which we have along with them a common interest (such as the problems of peace, of respect for treaties, etc.)?

With regard to the question of our possibly proclaiming the “war” at an end and lifting our embargoes,—would this action, if taken at this moment, be of any real advantage to us? Is our trade or are our interests in general with Italy and/or Ethiopia now suffering losses or impairment because of continuance in existence of the embargoes? [Page 198] Insofar as export trade in arms is concerned, would our trade be measurably increased if the embargo were lifted; and, are we eagerly solicitous for increase in that trade? In the matter of travel, and in that of their business and their relations in general with Italy, are our nationals now suffering any substantial inconvenience or losses or hardship in consequence of the continuance in existence of the embargo?

Would not any action in this connection by us at this time add to the confusion which exists at Geneva and make more difficult the effort which the British Government is making on behalf of the principle of peace and toward preventing new eruptions in Europe?

Insofar as public opinion in this country is concerned, is there any extensive or highly influential demand that the Government lift the embargoes? Is there not a latent interest in the efforts of the League and of the British Government, which, if action were taken by this Government tending to contribute toward further frustration of those efforts, would elicit an outburst of adverse criticism?

It is believed that it would be advisable for this Government to continue to “proceed slowly” in regard to this whole question.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. Prentiss B. Gilbert, Consul at Geneva.