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it is all but unexplored and unknown. Away from the seaports,
. wild nomads inhabit it. It is a stricken land.
The natural divisions of the country are Tripoli Proper (the coastal zone, from Tunis to the Gulf of Sidra), the limestone plateau of Cyrenaica, with gentle slopes towards the Aujila-Siwa depression in the south, and Fezzan (the southern province of Tripoli). A low-lying, rocky, and sandy coast, there are but few natural harbours. The Port of Tripoli, exposed to gales from the north-east, is unapproachable in stormy weather; Benghazi and Derna are not much safer; Bomba and Tobruk alone are secure and good natural harbours. Vegetation along the coast is confined to a very narrow strip of fertile land, where the rainfall is adequate; but in Cyrenaica conditions are more favourable. The cultivated area round Tripoli town, the Meshia, extends for about three miles inland ; the remainder is invaded by sand dunes, between which are plots of cultivated land and camel-pastures. Wadis, sloping from south to north, intersect the plain and carry off the rainfall from the mountains to the sea in the winter (November to February). These mountains,
) situated at from forty to eighty miles from the coast, present steep ascents on their northern face, and slope gently towards the south. Gharian-one of the objective points of the Italian Expedition-is a mountainous region (in which the highest summit in the country, Jebel Tekut, reaches 2800 feet), supporting the best cultivated lands, with fig and olive trees, vines, and corn. The country southwards becomes more and more desolate and arid up to the vast rocky plateau of Hamada el-Homra. South of the hamada, the oases of Fezzan are first encountered. Perhaps we need go no further. Ample particulars, of which some are given here, are provided in an instructive article by Dr. Adolf Vischer in The Geographical Journal for November 1911.o
Professor J. W. Gregory, who visited Cyrenaica in 1908, says of this country : ‘A section north and south across Cyrene shows that the country consists of three main levels; on the north is a low, narrow coastal plain, which ends inland at the foot of a steep cliff. The cliff is the front of a platform, the surface of which rises from 1000 feet above sea-level at its northern edge to 1300 feet further inland. This sloping platform extends inland for a width of five miles. Then follows another steep ascent to the height of Cyrene, of 1900 feet, and behind this cliff lies a wide undulating plateau, which gradually rises inland to over 2500 feet.' 10 Of the inhabitants, Dr. Adolf Vischer says:
9 I am indebted to the Royal Geographical Society for the use of the sketchmap accompanying this article.
10 'Report on the Work of the Commission sent out by the Jewish Territorial Organisation,' &c. London, 1909.
' Most probably the number does not surpass 150,000; Benghazi, the capital, having about. 12,000, and Derna half that number. They include both Berbers and Arabs. The products of the soil are barley, wheat, and maize, but more important are the products of cattle-rearing. There is little doubt,' he continues, ‘that it forms the most valuable portion of the vilayet, and that which offers most advantages for permanent settlement.' He does not, however, refer to the large number of camels which the Senussi are said to possess in Cyrenaica, apart from their other resources for military action.
The sedentary Berbers who inhabit the Coast towns and the Jebel in Tripoli Proper number, according to Dr. Adolf Vischer, not more than 300,000. The nomad Arabs are more difficult to estimate, but can hardly exceed 50,000. A large number of Jews-about 11,000-live in the town of Tripoli and in Gharian; and there are (or, rather, were) some 4000 Maltese included in the 50,000 population of the capital.
The trans-Saharan trade, of which, in the past, Tripoli was the entrepôt and terminus, is moribund. The camel-caravans that crossed the Sahara traded in slaves, ivory, ostrich feathers, skins, metals, spices, gums, rock-salt, etc., which were exchanged for the manufactures of Europe. Fezzan was an important trade centre; Ghadames and other oases were also objective points for caravans. But with the settlement of Africa and the development of its resources, other and more practical routes from the Central Sudan to the nearest available ports have been opened up, more particularly by the natural highway of the Niger Basin. The great trans-Saharan slave-trade, though not extinct, no longer pays—and never did pay, apart from the trade in ivory, which gave rise to it. But the Senussi are active slavers, and people their oases with captured slaves; those for export were (before the war) taken to Benghazi, and some smuggled through to the Mediterranean littoral. I, myself, saw and photographed a large number of slaves at Siwa, where they were being fattened up for the European market after their exhausting journey across the desert. Apart from the pilgrim traffic to Mecca, the caravan trade of the Sahara will soon be an affair of the past, so far as commerce is concerned.
The commercial resources of Tripoli Italiana are very meagre ; and these are exclusively agricultural-esparto grass, fruits, and vegetables—but the Italians may possibly extend viticulture. Professor J. W. Gregory found no evidence of mineral wealth either in Tripoli or in Cyrenaica; and, in order to develop the agricultural resources of the country, an enormous outlay of capital must be sunk in irrigation works. As a colony of ex
. ploitation, Tripoli is all but worthless to a European Power;
whilst its administration will be very costly, far in excess of its returns. There must be, then, other reasons why Italy has staked her national honour on the conquest of Tripolitania. What are the consequences ?
The balance of power in the Mediterranean may be affected profoundly through the invasion of Tripoli by an Italian expeditionary force; whilst the seizure of Turkish islands may open up questions of European interest. It shapes well for British policy in the Mediterranean, because, if there be any logic in the course of history, it must detach Italy eventually from her subservience to the interests of the Triple Alliance, which in the main are continental. Apart from the integrity of her eastern and western land frontiers-towards France and AustriaHungary, respectively—the national interests of Italy, exposed to attack along an extensive seaboard, lie 'on the water': under the present system of European alliances, the tendency of events must trend more and more in the direction I have predicted, since both France and Great Britain willingly accept Italy as a neighbour in North Africa. In spite of our protestations of good faith and responsibility towards the Mohammedan world, we are disposed to regard benevolently the occupation of Tripoli by a Power with which we have many interests in commonnot the least being the maintenance of Pax Britannica in the Mediterranean, to which she virtually subscribes. Whether Italy herself can make any use of Tripoli as a naval base is, however, another matter. Neither commercial nor naval considerations seem to hold out sufficient compensation for a campaign that must encroach seriously on the resources of Italy. But this campaign of sentiment, for the realisation of national aspirations, is not to be ascribed solely to State aggrandisement : it fulfils a destiny that perhaps arose in the policy of the Italian Republics (Venetian, Genoese, and Sicilian), which enjoyed a monopoly of the trade of Tripoli in the fifteenth century. In the modern partition of Africa, Italy always has been regarded as the residuary legatee of Turkish Tripoli. That circumstances forced her hand into a premature display of force is due to the accidents of Realpolitik, and, perhaps, in some measure to mistrust between the Allies. That the annexation of a country should precede its conquest is only one of the many Gilbertian incidents which characterised the opening scenes in the invasion of Tripoli. For good or ill, the Turkish vilayet of Tripoli is, and must remain, under the crown of Italy, whose national honour is pledged by the declaration of sovereignty. This rash step stands in the way of mediation or peaceful settlement: it is an impasse, more embarrassing to her friends than to her foe.
! It is a strange spectacle : an army of occupation encamped on the seaboard, under the protection of the guns of a supporting fleet : an army, paralysed for the moment, in the absence ! of any definite objective save the seizure of strategic positions on its immediate front: an army forever on the alert, on the defensive, in expectation of sudden attack from the far-flung screen of desert, behind which the mobile enemy can deliver bolts from the blue': an army flanked by a fanatical foethe Senussi of Cyrenaica-whose country is a natural citadel and the most fertile in the vilayet!
Is it not obvious that, before any advance into the desert can be made with safety, Cyrenaica must be reduced to submission, must be conquered and held? Why, we well may ask, is there talk of postponing the campaign of conquest until the autumn, on account of unfavourable climatic conditions, when the most obvious and urgent objective lies on the coast ? Passive resistance will not impair the fighting power of nomad Arabs and hardy Turks inured to life in the desert; supplies may fail them-though they need relatively few-and reinforcements of arms and men may be cut off ; but, of the two belligerents, Italy must be the greater sufferer through a policy of inaction. The moral of the Army-passive under constant strain, in the heats of summer-will be injuriously affected; and sickness may decimate the camps. Sea-borne supplies run up a big bill; and, meantime, the Italian Peninsula is depleted of an appreciable proportion of its military and naval powers of defence, whilst time is given to the enemy in Africa to prepare all sorts of unpleasant surprises, not excluding the possible proclamation of a Holy War against the infidel. Why this truce of God? Can diplomacy win what the arms of Italy cannot immediately exact? It may be so : but time is all on the side of the Turk, who is past-master in passive resistance and masterly inactivity. The evacuation of Tripoli would be a serious blow to the popularity of the Young Turk party; but if defeat in the field be their bach-their fate—they would bow to the decree of Providence. Moreover, European prestige in Africa loses by every day of delay in vigorous offensive action : word has gone forth that Italy is impotent in the accomplishment of her design, and reinforcements are flocking to the standard of Islam.
* The boundaries of Tripoli Italiana,' remarks a correspondent of The Times, writing from Tripoli on the 16th of March, have not been appreciably widened since the final clearing of the oasis; not a yard has been gained since the occupation of Gargaresh on the 20th of January.' Commenting on this lack of initiative, he says, further : The idea of Gharian as an immediate objective would seem to have been abandoned, and
the question now exercising the lay mind is whether any less ambitious operations will be undertaken before the sun makes desert campaigning unduly risky. In Italian interests it appears desirable that some offensive action should be taken, and it is difficult to understand the reasons for the policy of masterly inactivity, which has immobilised a large, keen, and efficient army for more than three months, and is reported to contemplate an indefinite prolongation of the preparatory period.'
No doubt the plan of campaign is influenced by that of the re-conquest of the Egyptian Sudan; of advance by railway construction, step by step, until the Italians find their Omdurman somewhere in the outlying desert. The line of advance-eventually, one presumes, towards Fezzan-is already indicated : the Tripoli-Gargaresh line, and the extension of the Ain-Zara line to Homs. The recent attack in force, by sea and land, on Zwara, though a strategic gain (Zwara being the base of the enemy's line of communication, west of Tripoli), was mere Kriegspiel ; whilst naval operations, beyond the immediate objective in Tripoli, only exasperate Turkey and alienate neutrals. So that, when all is said, the only true objective likely to influence the broad issues of the war seems to be, as I have suggested, the occupation of the tableland of Cyrenaica, which is within striking distance of the Coast. It may be noted, too, that Cyrenaica is a sub-province of Tripolitania, under the direct administration of the authorities in Constantinople. In every respect, it is the key to the situation. It is the Turco-Arab base, the nodality of highest resistance. The best ports are there; the enemy is there, in his strongest position and perhaps greatest force; whilst not far off (160 miles south of Tobruk, the best naval base) is the foyer of the Senussi sect, Jerabub—the Omdurman, in my opinion, of this war. Fezzan can wait--for years, if necessary—but unless Italy can come to terms with the Senussi (which to me seems to be out of the question), the sooner she occupies Cyrenaica the better it will be for her cause.
Fighting the desert is like fighting a swarm of bees in flight : the enemy is too elusive, and the sun is in one's eyes. Cyrenaica is a beehive. One cannot advance into the desert, leaving an enemy-country on one's left flank.
ARTHUR SILVA WHITE.