would thus go the way of Egypt, and an incurable injury would be inflicted on Anglo-French relations.'
This, or something very like it, represents, I am convinced, the present frame of mind of M. Clemenceau.The French Foreign Office, the French Colonial Party, the shipping interests of Marseilles, the silk interests of Lyons, the Jesuits and the French Clericals, combine to embitter the controversy by playing onFrench historical aspirations with the aid of mendacious reports from French officials in Syria. Relations between the two countries on this subject are getting more and more strained, so that it does mostseriously behove us to consider the method by which this cloud of suspicion can best be dissipated, and anarrangement reached which shall be fair to both countries and of benefit to the Eastern world. It must beadmitted, in the first place, that we have not 'staged' our plan— so far as we have a plan—with anynotable success. We have made a dramatic renunciation, but it has fallen flat. We have made a
, and none have applauded. This is, of course, in part due to the fact that we are not proposing to givethe French anything which they do not believe to be already theirs, and that what is proposed to give themnow is less than what they would have obtained under the Sykes-Picot agreement. But it is also due in partto the fact that, if I am rightly informed, the British officers in Syria have not always played up to theBritish Ministers in Paris. This is vehemently and sincerely denied by General Clayton. But friends of mine from Syria confirm the view, and I know personally of one case in which a British officer, thoughwell acquainted with the Prime Minister’s pledge, thought himself precluded by his instructions fromgiving an Arab deputation, which came to ask for British protection, the clear and decisive answer which, by destroying all hopes, would have effectually removed all misunderstandings. It is easy to guess whatinterpretation the French would put on an incident which must certainly have come to their ears, and isdoubtless only one of many.How came such things to happen? In the main, I have no doubt, owing to the loudly-advertised policy of Self-Determination preceded by a Commission of Enquiry—a Commission that began by beinginternational, and ended being American. This Commission, by the very term of its reference, was to findout what the Arabs of Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia desired, and to advise the Powers accordingly.We gave it our blessing, and directed our of officers to supply it with every assistance. But this obviouslyinvolved, as an inevitable corollary, that the whole future of these regions was still in the balance, and thattheir destiny depended chiefly on the wishes of their inhabitants. No British officer could possibly think otherwise; yet, if he thus spoke and acted, there is not a Frenchman in Syria—or elsewhere—who wouldnot regard him as anti-French in feeling, and as an intriguer against France in practice.II This brings into clear relief what I fear is the unhappy truth, namely, that France, England, and Americahave got themselves into a position over the Syrian problem so inextricably confused that no really neatand satisfactory issue is now possible for any of them.The situation is affected by five documents, beginning with our promise to the ruler of the Hedjaz in1915(2); going on to the Sykes-Picot Agreement with France of September 1916(3); followed by theAnglo-French declaration of November 1918 (4) and concluding with the Covenant of the League of Nations of 1919; and the directions given to the Commission sent out to examine the Arab problem on thespot;—directions which, it must be observed, were accepted by France, Britain, and America, though theCommission itself was, in the end, purely American in composition. These documents are not consistentwith each other; they represent no clear-cut policy; the policy which they confusedly adumbrate is notreally the policy of the Allied and Associated Powers; and yet, so far as I can see, none of them havewholly lost their validity or can be treated in all respects as of merely historic interest. Each can be quoted by Frenchmen, Englishmen, Americans, and Arabs when it happens to suit their purpose. Doubtless eachwill be so quoted before we come to a final arrangement about the Middle East.These difficulties are well illustrated by the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. What its authors aimed atwas the creation of two clearly-defined areas, one carved out of Syria and the other out of Mesopotamia—the first which should be French, as Tunis is French, the other English, as Egypt is English.Between them was to lie a huge tract occupied in part by nomad Bedouins, in part by a sedentaryArab-speaking population, urban and agricultural, who should be independent in the sense that they wouldlive their own life in their own way, but who would be under the patronage, and for certain purposesunder the control, either of France or of England, according as they belonged to what in the agreementwas described as area A or area B. The scheme was not thought out, it had obvious imperfections; but if honestly and sympathetically worked by the superintending Powers it might easily have proved a success.