By P. Bell
This booklet examines the position of Chamberlain and the nationwide executive in responding to the strategic difficulties created via the emergence of a two-front hazard from Germany and Japan. It specializes in the 1st defence requisites enquiry of 1933-4, whilst rearmament foundations have been laid and international coverage redefined. It explores the inter-relationship among the various departments of kingdom, and among contributors, within the formula of coverage at a time of quandary, and sheds mild at the debate approximately appeasement.
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Extra resources for Chamberlain, Germany and Japan 1933-4: Redefining British Strategy in an Era of Imperial Decline
In view of the prominent and decisive role Chamberlain was to play in the debates about Germany and Japan, it is useful at this stage to comment on the power balance within the Cabinet. As Chancellor in an administration elected to repair the economy Chamberlain's position was inevitably strong, especially in view of the financial implications of rearmament. Moreover, his concern to restrain defence expenditure, at least until economic health had been restored, naturally tended to enhance his influence over foreign policy, as diplomacy could be seen to some extent as a method of limiting the cost of preparations against multiple threats; it might at least buy time until more 22 Chamberlain, Germany and Japan was affordable.
He did not, however, seem to appreciate what these contingencies implied as regards priorities. Though accepting the need for constant monitoring, he regarded the Far East as the 'outstanding danger' and concurred in the Service Chiefs' conclusions. As with Eyres-Monsell, there was every reason why the Australian High Commissioner should favour closer relations with Japan, but not if it meant curbing Far Eastern preparations. Although the Dominions' preoccupation with Japan was understandable, it is worth stressing that, to some extent, their outlook was short-sighted; for, if Britain ever became involved in a European war because of failure to contain Germany, then it was possible that no fleet might be available to assist the Dominions if Japan took the opportunity to attack in the Far East.
Britain's ability to withstand a two-front war looked no more realistic in relation to the other Services. In a European war, allied to France, overwhelming air superiority against Germany could be assured; but this would only apply 'provided always that no major commitment, such as war with Soviet Russia or in the Far East, occurred simultaneously'; the latter contingency would create a situation of 'considerable anxiety'. Attention was drawn to Japan's formidable air force, 'fast approaching that of the major European Powers', and her strategic advantages in a Pacific war.