Britain, Egypt and the Middle East: Imperial policy in the by John Darwin

By John Darwin

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36 In 1919, however, the necessity to meet financial commitments arising out of the war, inevitable delays in demobilising the army, and substantial increases in many items of expenditure such as the pay of the services, postponed retrenchment and enforced further borrowing. The real turning-point in the Cabinet's financial policy, and the real beginning of post-war financial stringency, came with the acceptance by ministers of the report of the Cunliffe Committee on Currency and Foreign Exchanges in the early part of 1920.

Wilson's objections to keeping troops in north Persia were ignored or overridden in 1920; his anxieties about retaining a small and vulnerable garrison in Iraq after the bulk of the occupying force had departed were discounted in 1922. In these circumstances, and especially after the abrupt change in the Cabinet's Irish policy in July 1921, Wilson's relations with ministers deteriorated and he came increasingly to feel that his professional advice counted for little with them, 34 an assessment which the readiness of ministers to license a further reduction in army manpower through the instrument of the Geddes Committee seemed amply to confirm.

Sir Henry Wilson made this point repeatedly in the spring and summer of 1919 when the army's future was under constant 30 BRITAIN, EGYPT AND THE MIDDLE EAST review. 19 The prolongation of the military occupation of the Middle East was not, however, the only call on the army's services in the first months of 1919. A series of political crises within the imperial system itself made necessary the diversion of British troops as local disorder threatened the authority of civil government. 'Insurrection in Egypt and revolt in India', noted the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in April 1919, had resulted in 'urgent demands for reinforcements which are too well found and too insistent to ignore'.

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