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Britain enters the ME theater of war 
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Post Britain enters the ME theater of war
This thread deals specifically with the chain of events described in chapters 13 and 14.

I'm a bit mystified by the chain of events that eventually pulled Britain into the Middle Eastern theater of war, starting with Enver's misguided attacks on Russia in the Caucasus. The process, as I understand it, was this: Enver leads the Ottoman army into the Caucasus. Russia, fearing that it's army is stretched too widely to defend against Ottoman invasion, petitions the British to distract the Ottomans by attacking the Dardanelles. After much wrangling, the British finally decide to do so, but not until after it has become obvious to the Russians that Enver's army poses no real threat. Despite the fact that the concern which necessitated the counter-offensive was no longer operative, the British went through with their offensive in the Dardanelle's, presumably due to their ignorance of Enver's failed attack in the Caucasus. Et voila! the British enter the Middle Eastern theater of war.

Does that sit well with anyone else? I'm not entirely comfortable with the notion that the British committed to the act only because they hadn't yet learned of the failure of Enver's attack on Russia. I wonder if perhaps the British hadn't followed through with their offensive simply because, once the committment had been made, it was just as easy and effective to follow through with it in preparation for attaining other goals... like Kitchener's goal of eventually dealing with the Middle East on British terms.




Wed Aug 02, 2006 2:48 pm
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Post Re: Britain enters the ME theater of war
Since it's been a while since I've read the book, I looked up what the Wikipedia had to say.
The Russian plea for assistance, coupled with the growing stalemate on the Western Front and a perception of the Ottoman Empire as a weak enemy, made the prospect of a campaign in the Dardanelles seem appealing.
From another Wikipedia entry,
Russia, one of the Allied powers during the war, had problems with its seaborne supply routes. The Baltic Sea was locked by the German Navy, while the Black Sea's only entrance was through the Bosphorus, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.

By late 1914, the Western Front, in France and Belgium, had effectively become fixed. A new front was desperately needed. Also, the Allies hoped that an attack on the Ottomans would draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on the Allied side.
Basically, Britain incorrectly thought that attacking Gallipoli would be an easy victory that would provide them a strategic advantage.




Sun Aug 06, 2006 10:40 pm
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Post Dardanelles
From the British perspective, the attack on the Dardanelles was an end run necessitated by the impasse on the Western Front. Russia was geographically isolated from the allies and could therefore neither be supplied nor supported on the Eastern Front. This theater was much more fluid than the Western Front. It offered the opportunity to knock both Austria and Turkey from the conflict and supported British interests in Egypt.

Edited by: minority mandate at: 8/6/06 11:49 pm



Sun Aug 06, 2006 10:48 pm
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Post Re: Dardanelles
The Wikipedia entries leave a little to be desired. The way Fromkin presents it, the British wrangled over the decision of whether or not to invade the Dardanelles. The need to open a new front wasn't all that obvious, and the idea of diverting man power from the stalemate in Europe to a region of questionable importance in the current war made some decision makers nervous. The plan was initially conceived, according to the book, in order to bail Russia out of a perceived threat in the Caucasus, but that threat withered before it made even a dent, and the attack on the Dardanelles still went through. Fromkin suggests that the British stuck to their plan as a matter of sheer oversight, but I wonder if there isn't more to it.




Mon Aug 07, 2006 4:03 pm
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Post Re: Dardanelles
It was a given at the time that the Ottoman Empire - "the sick man of Europe", would soon be dismantled one way or another. The British had a strong interest in protecting their interests in Egypt and the Suez route to their "crown jewel", India. Furthermore, both the English Indian admisistration and the British Eqyptian administration had hopes of expanding their administrations to a meeting place at some place in the Mid-East.

The trick, at the time was to hold the French, and the Russians, with whom the British were still playing the Great Game in Iran, to as few of the spoils as possible.

As Fromkin makes clear, much of the posturing has as much to do with positioning for the presumed successful outcome of the war as the war itself.




Tue Aug 08, 2006 10:42 am
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Post Re: Dardanelles
minority mandate: It was a given at the time that the Ottoman Empire - "the sick man of Europe", would soon be dismantled one way or another.

It was a given among the policy-makers of other nations. Without their interference, I'm not so sure that the Ottoman Empire wouldn't have sprung back under one reform or another. Fromkin notes that the Young Turk reforms, though perhaps right-minded, were being introduced to slowly to keep abreast of the unfolding political situation. But that isn't to say that other reforms might not have worked. The actual dismantling of the Ottoman Empire was effected at the hands of other Empires intent on controlling that territory for themselves, and I don't feel justified in taking them at their word that the whole thing would have fallen apart regardless.




Tue Aug 08, 2006 3:43 pm
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Post Ottoman breakup
Fromkin relates: "Picot drafted his own negotiating instructions outlining a strategy to win the concessions that he wanted from the British. They show that he would have preferred to preserve the Ottoman Empire intact for its 'feeble condition" offered France 'limitless scope' to expand her economic influence. Partition had become inevitable, however; it therefore was advisable to take control of Syria and Palestine, even though France would dismember the Ottoman Empire by doing so." (pg 191)

The British wanted the southern part of Arabia to connect Egypt and the Suez to Iran, Afghanistan, and ultimately India. The Russians wanted a weak or non-existant hostile neighbor, and no doubt would have liked to reinstate Orthodox Christianity to Constantinople, and incorporate Serbia into their Empire, and access to the Mediterranean. The Arabs wanted to break away from their masters.

The Ottoman Empire too many strong enemies to survive much longer unless Germany had won the war. Even then, a likely civil war would have altered the Empire eventually.




Wed Aug 09, 2006 12:41 pm
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Post Re: Ottoman breakup
It's not a point I'm really qualified to debate. Some study of Ottoman history is on my short list of things to do, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Until then, I'm doing my best not to jump to conclusions, but I suspect that the need for balancing power among the other major powers would have shielded the Ottoman Empire a bit longer still. France, Britain and Russia all had designs on the territory, and the possibility for conflict arising from those designs might have kept each individual nation from making any serious strides towards them. It seems to me that the War itself is what shook up the status quo enough to make feasible dismantling the OE from without. Otherwise, the balance of power might have stayed the hands of each of the major power until such time as the OE had imploded of its own accord. If that's the case, then the foremost question, as I see it, is that of whether or not it would have imploded. It certainly looked to be on that course, but the proper personalities might still have arisen to bolster the failing Empire, or to transmute the OE into something different.

But as I say, that's the perspective of someone who knows only what he has come across in the past year or so of reading. There's certainly more to the situation than I know. I'm just reluctant to take it as given that the OE was locked into an inescapble downward spiral, especially since that's the rationale given by those who, if the assertion could have been proven false, would have immediately cast about for some other excuse to usurp Ottoman authority.




Wed Aug 09, 2006 3:45 pm
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Post breakup of the OE
The OE was doomed because it could no longer protect itself. It had a couple of centuries of failure at its back. It had lost much of its empire: the Balkans, Egypt, North Africa, and many of its Mediterranean islands. The primary remaining holdings were Arab lands, which had a population approximately as great a Turkey itself. Furthermore, ethnic Turks were not an overwhelming majority in Turkey either, which led to internal stress. It had granted concessions (territorial sovereignty) as well as technical monopolies to several European nations. Much of its commerce and all of its rail roads were owned by foreigners, and its maritime industry was controlled by foreigners.

Mexico found itself in a similar situation at the same time, but was able to throw out most of the US ownership of its basic resources including about a fifth of its real estate and virtually all of its railroads, during the WWI period. But Mexico only had the US to contend with, and Woodrow Wilson was a great respecter of democracy. All the great powers wanted a piece of the OE, however, and many were well on their way to outright ownership of large pieces of it.

China, in a similar situation, disolved into warlord fiefdoms until the communists united the country in 1948.

Although anything is possible (see the Turks victory at Gallipoli) it was an easy money bet that Turkey would be divied up, the burning question was: who would get what. In fact, Turkey was lucky to escape with Anatolia when Greece invaded after the war.




Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:03 pm
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Post Re: breakup of the OE
My impression, while reading the book, that the Ottoman empire would have survived somewhat longer had it not chosen to enter the first World War.

Now, when you consider what would have happened subsequently, you get bogged down in all the possibilities of counter-factual history. For example, in the universe where the Ottomans remain neutral in WW I, did a powerful Nazi Germany arise?

Here's my scenario. In the immediate aftermath of WW I without the Turks, the Ottoman empire would have been relatively stronger in the short term. After all, it would have avoided the enormous costs of the war, and Russia, its greatest threat, was weakened by its own revolution. However, Europe and Russia would recover, making the Ottomans again the "sick man of Europe" protected by balance-of-power concerns.

However, the great powers would soon realize the vast importance of oil and the existence of petroleum reserves in the Middle East. The fight for oil would lead to the breakup of the Ottoman empire, or at least its loss of the Middle East territories.




Sat Aug 12, 2006 8:57 am
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Post breakup
I think you are correct in your observations Julian.

"Considering the tangible benefits that had begun to flow from the policy of non-intervention, it seems astonishing that at about this time [September 1914] Enver Pasha began to plot against that policy . . . . in the wake of the Russian collapse, he seems to have turned to thoughts of Turkey seizing Russian territory" (pgs 69 - 70).

This seems typical of most of the European nations' thoughts about war at the time as being profitable only in so far as their territory and resources could be expanded (and therefore their civilizing influence could be brought to barbaric non-European peoples - how unlike today's thinking - or not).

England and Germany may have had further motivation since they were vying for commercial and maritime supremacy, and England was slipping badly on both fronts.

Had Turkey remained neutral it may have gained a few years of life, however, it would have had to keep the straights open to Russian and British traffic, to the detriment of Germany.




Sat Aug 12, 2006 6:28 pm
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