Similarly, many of those who cited the existence of the terrorist prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba under George W. Bush as being at fault for making people hate the USA are now quiet as church mice after President Obama failed to make good on his oft-repeated promise to close the facility. The blame now must reside elsewhere I suppose. Likewise, it is almost funny to see the leadership of the European Union congratulate the people of North Africa on achieving democracy when they are so adamantly opposed to submitting themselves to the democratic will of their own peoples. However, the Muslim community, and particularly the Arab Muslim community, are no less adept at these blame games than the western and (hardly even nominally these days) Christian countries. I find it particularly strange to see so many disgruntled Arab Muslims shouting abuse at the west and calling for Islamic unity and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate considering that, during World War I, it was Arab Muslims who fought alongside the Christian Allied powers in bringing about the destruction of the last, legitimate Caliph of Islam who was the Turkish Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Just to be clear, for anyone new to this game, I am not among those who think it so. I do not pretend it was all good, but I think it was more positive than not and, while I speak only for myself in this, I find it a little absurd that anyone in the Americas in particular would decry colonialism considering that none of the countries and most of the people of the Americas today would not exist without it. That being my mentality, I am particularly sensitive to colonialism being the modern whipping boy for every problem in the contemporary Third World, to say nothing of the Middle East and North Africa. Of course, everything that is today is based to some degree on all that has been but when it comes to colonialism I think the negative aspects are being exaggerated. I think this is particularly true considering North Africa and the Middle East which were under European colonial rule for a period of time that amounts to a mere speck on the world history timeline when compared to the length of time the region was under the colonial rule of the non-Christian, non-western and non-European Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Now, it should be obvious but I will point it out just to be on the safe side, this does not mean I think the Middle East and North Africa should instead blame modern Turkey for their current problems instead of “the west” (which Turkey is trying to join, but that’s another story). As mentioned, if anything, the Turks would have more reason to blame their problems on the Arabs for turning on their Muslim brethren in the First World War to fight alongside Britain, France and Italy in bringing down the Ottoman Empire. Even after the Turkish Sultan, the Caliph of Islam, called upon all Muslims to unite in a jihad against the Allied powers, Muslims from the Empire of India to the Arabian peninsula and French Algeria disregarded this call and did their part to bring down the Islamic Ottoman Empire -along with her own allies which were Orthodox Bulgaria, Roman Catholic Austria-Hungary and the Protestant and Catholic Empire of Germany. The Arabs have no room to blame the Turks for their present situation and the western powers should not attempt it either. Today the western world complains endlessly about the conflicts and civil wars and unrest in the Middle East, conveniently forgetting that before their predecessors brought down the Ottoman Empire, this was a fairly pacific region and when there were troubles it was the Turks who had to deal with it, not the French, British or Americans. As with any empire, critics can point to examples in the Ottoman Empire that were not so nice but then there was no Assad regime in Syria, no Saddam Hussein in Iraq and no Gaddafi in Libya under either the Turks or the Italians.
The Ottoman Empire is a good example again. Their big mistake was getting involved in World War I. If it makes the Turks feel any better, that was a common mistake at the time as it was a mistake for everyone who got involved in the Great War who had a choice in the matter (I say for the benefit of the Belgians) even if they were on the winning side. Everyone says that the Ottoman Empire was in decline and doomed to inevitable collapse. True, compared to periods in the past, Ottoman Turkey was in decline but, again, that was based on choices and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was not inevitable. This is something people seem to like to say to avoid having to think about real problems and their consequences. They said the same thing about Austria-Hungary; that it was doomed to collapse and there was nothing anyone could do about it, war or no war. As we have talked about before, that was nonsense. Had it not been for the war, it is entirely possible Austria-Hungary would have gone on and might still be with us today. Similarly, the Ottoman Empire was in pretty bad shape but they were making changes, they were developing, updating, making some poor decisions but some wise ones as well. The Ottoman government had control of its own territory, maintained law and order, was in the process of developing a modern infrastructure and when war came managed to threaten the Suez Canal, force the biggest surrender of British forces since the siege of Yorktown in America, had troops in southern Russia and drove the Allies off of Gallipoli. They didn’t win, but that is a respectable list of accomplishments for an empire in decline, supposedly on the doorstep of “inevitable” collapse.
|The last Sultan|