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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

xn       .  THE  BREAKDOWN  OF  THE  CONTROL         219
made to create and guide it. In fact, sound public opinion can only be created by a sound system of national education, and that had been our worst failure—a failure so deplorable in its consequences that it deserves to be dealt with separately and at greater length. During the war it had been deemed convenient to close down the Legislative Assembly, the one constitutional mouthpiece of Egyptian opinion, which could no longer even let off steam in the Press, heavily muzzled by the military censor. Whilst no explanation of British intentions was vouchsafed to the Egyptian people, who saw their future being shaped for them without ever being drawn even into formal consultation, those British officials—and there were plenty of them though they could not make their voices heard — who were clearsighted enough to gauge the danger of such complete estrangement were themselves left without any guidance as to the purpose and meaning of our policy, and often without any information that could enable them to correct the many mischievous statements deliberately put about with the object of creating mistrust, or to encourage the Egyptian friends or subordinates who applied to them for advice. They could only grope their way in the dark and do what good they could, by their individual efforts, and almost, as it were, by stealth.
When Lord Allenby returned from his hurried visit to the Peace Conference as Special High Commissioner to find the country strewn with wreckage from a storm that had only partially abated, his task was, or should have been, not only to set the Egyptian Government on the rails again, but also to repair the vital defects in the machinery of British control which had produced so grievous a breakdown. But the latter was an especially difficult task for a man who had no previous experience at all as an administrator and no knowledge of Egypt or of the East save such as he had gleaned as Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces in Egypt and Syria. The British Government had themselves not yet realised thateral (Jeterioration of the British personnel.   Theyptians,                         jit