THE ENTENTE. T HE black squall which .. was blowing over the
relations of France and Britain when we wrote last week has given place to a smiling sea, as we felt sure it would. M. Briand has enjoyed yet another of his parliamentary successes, and in spite of all his enemies has turned his adversity to glorious gain exactly in the manner of Mr. Lloyd George. How very much alike they are! Now, however, that nerves are no longer on edge and there is no danger of what is intended to be a friendly criticism being mistaken for a provocation, awing to some unfortunate choice of a phrase or an argument, the opportunity seems to be a good one to discus& the general spirit and method of the Entente.
First of all, let us refer to the difficulties in which M. Briand found himself when he faced the Chamber for the debate on Upper Silesia. He was conscious that a large number of. Frenchmen, quite apart from the Silesian question, were not in a mood to be easily appeased. They had had high lopes held out to them in the early days of peace about the indemnity to be paid by Germany. They had been encouraged to believe that the devastated areas would be made good at German expense with little or no outlay on their own part. In spite of the fact that similar high hopes were held out to Englishmen, we think it is true that Englishmen never reckoned very seriously on large payrcienta from Germany. They discount everything which is said at a General Election, and in their humorous outlook upon affairs there is always something of a wink or the whispered: comment, "I don't think." Nevertheless, financial expectations among the French were by no means everything. Frenchmen were, and are, perhaps even more concerned with the physical safety of their country. France is the truest military nation in the world ; she has- an _ Han in her strategical ideas which is matched only by hei élan in the field. Her thoughts play round her sword and its history. Belief in the League of Nations, or in any kind of association of peoples, has never penetrated very deeply in France, and certainly has not removed the nightmare-like memories of what the nation suffered from the arrogance and the threats of Germany during more than forty years. M. Briand in the debate, then, had to satisfy those who believe-in a " strong " policy for France that he had not been weak—that he had not surrendered the French case to Mr. Lloyd George, and had not laid the interests of France upon the altar of British materialism. Now, although M. Briand, being a Breton, can speak with Celtic passion, he is capable of seeing all round a question and of stating a case with moderation and reasonableness just like Mr. Lloyd George. Whether he would be able to steer so unusually difficult a course through the intricate channel among shoals and bring his ship safe to harbour in the latest crisis was, none the less, doubtfuL But he not merely succeeded ; he succeeded with a handsome margin.
In measuring his success we must admit the formidable- ness of the opinion of those who all along wanted to occupy the Ruhr and who, having been thwafted of their ambition when Germany accepted the recent ultimatum, wanted to use affairs in Upper Silesia as a pretext for achieving their ambition after all. The excuse was that German troops had been marched into the plebiscite area and that the Treaty had thus been broken—although it would have been better to acknowledge that as the Poles were the first to break the Treaty (with a good deal of sympathy, be it said, from France) an excuse could fairly be made for the Germans before one was made for anybody else. Fortunately for M. Briand, he received in the nick of time from Germany an explicit assurance—the honesty of which he said he had no reason to doubt—that the Ger- man Government would allow no German troops to cross the frontier or to take part in the fighting in Upper Silesia.
The ground of the strong group in France who wanted to occupy the' Ruhr in any case thus collapsed under their feet. For the rest M. Briand warned his audience that the Entente was necessary to France and that the man who would help to destroy it must have a very frivolous kind of conscience. Like Mr. Lloyd George again, he carried the war into his enemies' camp. He attacked the attackers.
He dared people who had talked big before the debate to follow a policy which was speculative to the last degree and which would bring eternal odium upon the heads of the authors of that policy if they should fail. The Entente was a reality. Was any sane man going to substitute a gamble for a reality I The result was that alarm, if not a little panic, secretly seized M. Briand's critics and the opposition to him lost all its sting. As M. Briand was good enough to praise the manner in which the British Empire rallied to the side of France in 1914-,. we may add a few words on a matter which delicacy might otherwise have prevented us from mentioning. It is quite true that the British people exceeded all their own estimates of their capacity when they began to create new armies. It was considered here that a colossal effort had been made when a little more than a quarter of a million of men were raised during the Boer War. Every war sets the standard for the next ; and the standard generally accepted here after-the Boer War was that if ever there were a European war we ought to be able to raise, say, 300,000 men to form a left wing of the French Army. Over and beyond that, it was taken for granted, our assistance would be naval. Nobody foresaw the raising of millions of men. We say this not to our own credit, because, as a matter of fact, Germany's threat was levelled against the whole world, and we know perfectly well that when we fought alongside France we were fighting for ourselves as well as for her. But that makes the case for the Entente all the stronger. From the beginning of the late war it was recognized here that our frontier no longer lay along our own coasts but was a line somewhere in Flanders and France. Everything which subsequently happened in the war—the development of air craft, long-range guns, and submarines— confirmed that early opinion. There is nobody now who has any doubt upon the subject. The Entente is necessaTY for both France and Britain. Those who would risk its existence are very bad- friends to both countries. • • But if the Entente is not to be risked, in what spirit must Frenchmen and Thigliaimen maintain 'it? venture to say that the spirit.must.not be that which has animated a good many of the discussions during the past two years. 'The real question for France, as we see it, is whether she wishes to be safe on terms which commend themselves to the English-speaking world. President Harding has just acknowledged that America cannot stand aloof from the troubles of Europe and that the first plank in his policy is co-operation between his country and Britain. That means that the English-speaking peoples are going to form by far the most powerful group in the world. If everything goes well, wilt probably will, Japan will be a supporter of this group because we cannot con- ceive an Anglo-Japanese agreement containing anything which could be in the least objected to by America. Now, one of the chief concerns of both Britain and America in the future will naturally be the safety of France. A weak France, a threatened France, or a France at the mercy of any powerful neighbour would be an invitation to European unrest. There is no manner of doubt, therefore, that Great Britain and America, whose first interest is peace, will never of their own accord want to do anything that could weaken France.
When we discuss the conditions on which French safety is to be secured, however, we reach the crux of the whole matter. The vast majority of Englishmen and Americans —the feeling indeed is virtually unanimous—believe that the governing ideas in the world of the future must be sanctity of contract, the absolute inviolability of treaties until a due period of notice has expired, and the eo-opera- tion of nations not only in finance and trade but in the judicial settlement of international disputes. So far as the French conception of international politics does not square with this Anglo-American scheme difficulties are placed in the way of making France safe. The Anglo-American understanding will go on in any case. That is a certainty. The question is whether a number of "physical safety" people in France—to which school M. Briand himself, we believe, does not belong— will be allowed to colour the whole policy of France -and to oppose the Anglo-American scheme instead of benefiting by it. With all friendliness and sincerity we would say to that kind of French journalist who is ready to fly into a tantrum at a moment's notice that in the nature of things it is easier for Englishmen to understand the mental ways of Americans than it is for them to understand the mental ways of Frenchmen. They own an allegiance to both, but if the way which is not easy is made more diffi- cult they will be tempted to follow the way which is always easy, and that alone. There is no need to enlarge upon this obvious fact. The very differences of temperament and mental habit between -Frenchmen and Englishmen are an explanation of the delight which Englishmen take in France when they go there as visitors, and are also an explanation of their admiration for what is strange and fresh to them. The miracle of the contrasted world which exists at a distance of only about twenty miles from our shores never palls. Englishmen are captivated by the powers of expression, by the apparently higher standard of education, and by the lucidity and coherence of ideas which they encounter -in France. But Frenchmen ought not to forget that we as a nation, though we may seem to them dull _in many ways, are guided by instinct and that we shall be true to that instinct and shall continue to be guided by it. Instinctively we do not tolerate anything which could possibly be interpreted as a failure to observe the Treaty of Versailles or as an attempt to go beyond it. Even willingness to profit by the escapades of irresponsibles, like the Polish uresponsible,s, on the ground that "after all they . did it, _and we cannot help it," has no place in our scheme. We believe that there is bound. to be more trouble if we make people, whether they be Germans or not, a present of grievances. Finally, though we all want to see a free and prosperous Poland we do not believe in a Poland bolstered up by artificial and barely legitimate devices in order that there may be a buffer standing in the way of the junction of Russia and Germany. To think out the future of, the world in that way, instinct tells us is thinking on the wrong lines and must per- petuate instead of removing the causes of strife. 11 the Frenchman who trusts to lora% and armaments, and balances of power, and clever diplomatic strokes will pause and think he will perhaps ,aee that it is better and safer, after all, to have the majority on his side. And the -majority, which will have no more fighting if it can avoid it, is made up of theEnghs- 1E-speaking world.