Thursday, September 23, 2004

Italy in Abyssinia; the League of Nations; the United Nations; the US Invasion of Iraq

I have been reading Evelyn Waugh's travel account "When the Going was Good." Or rather listening to it on tape from the library. At times it is a rather dull description of places in Africa that were probably little known to Europeans, at other times a more interesting account of people he met and hardships he endured.

In 1930 Waugh traveled to Addis Abbaba, the capital of Abyssinia, to see the coronation of Prince Ras Tafari as Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Waugh would not have guessed then that a greater significance would emerge to Jamaicans Rastafarians of the man Ras Tafari.

According to Waugh the Ethiopians were surprised by the attention the coronation received from Europeans. Though he later became a war correspondent, he only hints in this visit that some thought the attention had a sinister purpose. I learned from other sources that some decades before Italy had been defeated when it tried to invade Abyssinia. In five more years Mussolini would be successful. In 1935 when Italy was waging was against them, Ethiopia requested help from the League of Nations of which Italy was a member. The League did not want Italy to invade, and it place mild trade sanctions against Italy. It did not include harsher ones, such as oil. Italy ignored them, demonstrating that the League had little influence when it came to controlling its members. Some have suggested that if Britain or other countries had taken more decisive action Mussolini might not have joined with Hitler or even if he had, the fascists might have been deterred from future invasions.

One could look at the mild action of the League of Nations and compare it to the UN dealing with Iraq, Iran and the Sudan. The UN makes mild and just demands, but is reluctant to authorize hard action after primarily being ignored.