FROM the moment when Turkey entered the World War on the side of Germany men in all the Entente countries and in America came to one conclusion: “The Turk must be put out of Europe.”
But he was not. True, his lands were lopped off both in Europe and in Asia. He was practically reduced to Asia Minor. It was hoped that his European days were over. But he still hung on in Constantinople, and his influence in the surrounding region continued to be felt.
There arose in Asia Minor one Mustapha Kemal, a man of singular ability and force. About him came Turks in great number, and an army was speedily organized and perfected. A civil government was set up at Angora, a town well situated to be the seat of government. Clever people were called to the administration.
The Kemalists began to negotiate with the Russian Bolshevik! and an arrangement was made, apparently of mutual benefit. On the other hand, the Kemalist Government managed to make an agreement with France. Tired of spending money without much result in the province or Cilicia, the French Government decided to withdraw and concentrate its endeavors in Syria. The arrangement made with the Kemalists provided for the protection of the native Christians in Cilicia, but very many of them, remembering the Adana massacres, placed no faith in such protection and proceeded to follow the French troops into Syria and to find new homes there. The French, it is rumored, even supplied the Kemalists with arms.
The result of the negotiations in Paris three years ago assured to the Greeks protection of the Greek-occupied territory of Smyrna and of the easternmost coast of Asia Minor. Acting upon this, King Constantine, on reassuming the throne, decided to clear the borderland of Turkish marauders; doubtless his object was quite as much to strengthen himself and his throne as it was to help the Greeks in Asia. After a long and varied war, the Greek troops have now not only been swept from the mountains but into the sea. Smyrna has been taken by the Turks, and the Kemalist troops, inspirited by success, are now disposed to march to the Bosphorus and take Constantinople, not only out of the hands of the reigning Sultan, but especially out of the hands of the British and others on guard there.
The question to-day here is: “What will the British do? And if they back up their words by their guns, will the French and Italians stand by and give co-operation?”
The question might be more easily answered if it were as simple as it sounds. It is, on the contrary, a deep problem. In the ultimate analysis, it embraces most of the unsettled questions of the peace settlement resulting from the World War.
Great Britain apparently holds a moral as well as a material advantage. Yet in one respect Great Britain is at a serious disadvantage. Any overt action against Mohammedanism would be instantly resented in India, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt, for, with all the pompous circumstance attending Egypt’s new-found freedom, that country still remains profoundly under British domination. France also might be at a disadvantage as she considers her Mohammedan subjects in Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and elsewhere; but her retiral from Cilicia has given high hopes to Mohammedans everywhere.
England and France are at one as to the necessity of keeping the freedom of the Straits-the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. This is the second thing, as regards Turkey, that should result from the World War. The question is whether such freedom means a necessity to undertake military measures at this time. The defense of the Straits-no matter how much it may be the defense of the individual and selfish interests of England or France or Italy or Rumania or Bulgaria or any other Power-is really the defense of the general interests of all; the defense is necessary, not only for Europe, but even for lands, like our own, outside Europe.
In this whole matter Great Britain is of course the “biggest toad in the puddle,” as becomes her naval preponderance. This would be specially indicated if the Straits were not fortified, because, starting from Gibraltar and Malta, British preponderance would be easily seen. Hence there is much sentiment in Paris towards fortification.
Many Frenchmen also add that neither Great Britain nor France nor any other Power should be in control, but only the League of Nations. This might seem to involve the problem of the admission of Turkey to membership in the League; when it comes to this, my French friends seem a little embarrassed, although they profess that ultimate good will come out of it too. No one seems to place any reliance on statements purporting to emanate from Mustapha Kemal as to the freedom of the Straits and that he does not intend to undertake aggressive action against the Allies. He knows as well as does any other Turk that the real aggressive action against the Allies is to do precisely what is being done-namely, to stir up French jealousy of Great Britain. That inter-jealousy game has worked well for years and has been applied by the Sultans, in turn, to all the Powers in any way interested in Turkey. The “Sick Man” remains agreeably “sick” in Constantinople under those circumstances.
The third thing as regards Turkey that should have resulted from the World War is the giving of guaranties for the protection of the Christian minorities in Asia Minor. The Turk has massacred hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Greeks, and there is every reason to fear that his savagery will be continued. We have only to read the ghastly details of what has happened to Christian women and children in this very year; we have only to be informed that the Turkish army subalterns were seen setting fire to the Christian quarters in Smyrna to be sure of that.
What is now needed is some kind of concerted action into which there can be injected no element of disintegration. It is pleasant to know, therefore, that the French Government has instructed General Pelle, its High Commissioner at Constantinople, to concert plans with the English and Italian High Commissioners so that the Angora Government shall know beyond a doubt that the Allies are in accord at least as to maintaining the neutrality of the zone of the Straits. This can be done, the French maintain, without any military demonstration, and in a way to make the Kemalists realize that it is entirely in their interests to respect the decision of the Allies and not to undertake anything of an offensive nature.
The English doubt this, and the English Government has decided to reinforce both its fleet in the eastern Mediterranean and the British troops under Sir Charles Harington, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces at Constantinople. Not satisfied with this; England invites her Allies to do as much. She even asks Rumania, Jugoslavia, and Greece to participate in the effective defense. Finally, she asks her colonists to help the mother country. What Anzac can resist an appeal that carries with it the association of Gallipoli? The French shrug their shoulders at this. They fear, as I heard them say to-day, that “the Turks will see in it a certain menace.” Exactly what the Turks should see!
Again, the French, like the Italians, have a contempt for the Greeks and decline to “line up” with them. And-most remarkable in a nation of realists-the French actually pretend that the English are seeing a peril which does not yet exist. In this case, it is possible the English may be seeing better than the French.
Certainly Premier Lloyd George received a setback by the defeat of the Greek troops in Asia Minor. Perhaps, smarting under this, and with the prospect of general elections at home in the near future, he is making “a last desperate throw,” as his enemies claim, in the deep political game. But why go still further and call his defense of the freedom of the Straits a wanton war? That statement is hardly warranted. One thing is sure: the Germans eagerly acclaim any dissension in the Entente.
Source: The Outlook, 11 Oct 1922