Editorial: Allied Friendship Endangered--And For No Good Reason, August 10, 1923



Allied Friendship Endangered -- and for No Good Reason

FRANCE has armed the air on a scale that has never before been known or scarcely dreamed of. In a battle above the clouds she could match her strength against that of the world with more than an even chance of coming out on top. She has 140 squadrons of military flying machines and intends to have 220 squadrons by the end of 1925. These planes are not engaged in the transport of mail or the amusement of spectators at county fairs. They are engaged in the preparation for war, which is the business of an army. They are primarily weapons of offense.

France surveys her ruins and says (the Minister of War speaking): "France is tired of being a battlefield, and if possible will carry the war immediately into the enemy's territory."

Colonel Fabry of the Army Commission of the Chamber of Deputies declares:

The time may come when those who must decide whether to refuse or accept, or even anticipate, war will have to bear a heavy responsibility and, because of the very brutality and efficacy of the first blows stuck, it is important to give them instead of receiving them.

Hitherto experts have calculated in terms of months and weeks how quickly a nation could put an army in the field. Now Europe nervously eyes France and the experts calculate in terms of hours and minutes how quickly the [tricolor] can put an army in the air. That is what France is prepared to do. She has planes which carry 75 millimeter cannons, planes which can transport six machine guns and their crews, enormous bombers which carry explosives by the ton. She has fast climbers and planes which are almost noiseless in flight, special fighting ships armored with battleship steel. Actual troopships of the air are under construction.

JOHN BULL surveys this preparation and is greatly distraught. The situation gives Lord Birkenhead, who is sometimes unjust to France, an opportunity to say in the House of Lords:

France could destroy London and almost every center of population {in England} tomorrow without warning if she wished.

Lord Sydenham, less excitable but far more expert on military questions, says a war could be started and finished by air forces alone. This, he adds significantly, "the French appear to have grasped." So the matter is mulled over by the British cabinet and by the parliament, which has voted an extra $27,500,000 to enlarge Britain's air armada. Says Prime Minister Baldwin:

British air power must include a home defense force of sufficient strength adequately to prepare us against attack by the strongest air force within striking distance of this country.

The country the British are preparing against is France. They make no bones about it. English strategists urge their country to even greater efforts, pointing out that even by 1926 England will be able to send aloft only 624 battle-machines to meet 1,530 that France will then have on the continent ready for the air.

ITALY follows England's lead. After signing the Washington naval limitations pact and cutting her army away down, she unexpectedly announces the creation of a separate air force, with extensive plans for its rapid development into an ever-ready fighting machine. Soviet Russia, too, is providing an air service for its army of 2,000,000. German technicians and German machinery, transported across the border, are doing the work. With characteristic exaggeration Moscow announces 10,000 planes as its goal.

Thus the peace of mind of Europe is disturbed and thus the peace of Europe and the world truly menaced, to say nothing of the miseries of continued taxation for a foolish purpose. Thus also is much of the good work accomplished by the Washington conference vitiated. The naval armament contest is ended only to give way to a contest of air armaments. The United States cannot stand by and twiddle its thumbs. If these other countries build more planes, so must we. If we do not we are foolish. But if we don't all get together and settle the matter as we did the matter of capital ships of the navy we are more foolish still. Let us have an international conference on the limitation of air armament.

The statesmen who will bring about such a conference will have served their fellow men in an important particular. Their names will live for a long time.