Re: Gerard Lowther, Gerald FitzMaurice, and the C.U.P
When reading the section about the Lowther and FitzMaurice report, I had some questions about it. One of these questions was how important were the misconceptions generated by the report. Another question was about the extent to which British misconceptions were the product of this report.
On page 42 Fromkin says that the FitzMaurice and Lowther report "won wide acceptance among British officials and led the British government into at least three profound misconceptions that had important consequences." The first of these was that the report "misled their government into believing that the Young Turks were controlled by two men." The second misconception was "that a group of Jews wielded political power in the Ottoman Empire..." And the third profound misconception was that the "...Young Turk leaders were foreigners, not Turks, and that they served foreign interests."
The first misconception doesn't seem to be much off the mark to me, and to the extent that it was off the mark it is understandable because it was and still is a confusing situation. On page 44 Fromkin claims that this misconception led to the British cabinet thinking that the C.U.P. was a "monolithic body" though he doesn't explain how Lowther and FitzMaurice's "controlled by two men" morphed into this "monolithic body" on the way to the British cabinet. Furthermore, Fromkin states on page 44 that "according to later reports--followed by most historians--[the C.U.P.] was ruled by a dictatorial triumvirate", but that in fact "power was wielded by the C.U.P.'s Central Committee of about forty members, and especially by its general directorate of about twelve members..." 1? 2? 3? 12? 40? Take your pick. Wouldn't surprise me if all those numbers were correct depending on the timeframe and the various issues on the table. That being the case I'm not sure that the Lowther/FitzMaurice estimate of two was wrong to any great extent. By the way, I don't recall Fromkin saying much else in this book about the Central Committe and the general directorate and all those factions ripe for British exploitation.
The second misconception has to do with the supposed control of the Ottoman Empire by a group of Jews. My impression of this period of European history was that such speculation was rampant. First of all, conspiracy theories were everywhere in part because conspiracies existed in many places. Fromkin mentions on p.39-40 that in Turkey starting around 1876 open political opposition was dangerous and "political life was driven underground where secret societies proliferated." This did not take place just in Turkey but was a response in many places to the reactionary forces in Europe that increasingly held power in the second half of the 19th and early years of the 20th century. And in an era where nationalism was an especially potent force, the influence of the international, cosmopolitan Jew was an obvious and easy default explanation for the unexplainable. All this was layered upon centuries of anti-Semitism within Christendom. I suspect that this portion of the Lowther/FitzMaurice report was more symptom than cause, and I don't believe Fromkin makes a convincing case to the contrary.
The third misconception dealt with the belief that the leaders of the C.U.P. were foreigners and served foreign interests. What underlies this argument, I believe, was the widespread, ingrained belief in the inferiority of non-Europeans--since Turks were not capable of sophisticated European political activity then if they engaged in sophisticated European political activity it is because they were actually Europeans or being directed by Europeans. Lowther and FitzMaurice were repackaging a prejudice of the day. Many readers of this report were predisposed toward this argument, and Lowther and FitzMaurice provided a few facts that reinforced that predisposition. In this case Lowther and FitzMaurice may have significantly strengthened this misconception, and the misconception may have had profound effects as Britain and others consistently misread the intentions of the Young Turks and, later, the intentions and abilities of Mustapha Kemal.