|Saturday, 24 February 2024
The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919
III-REPORT UPON NON-ARABIC SPEAKING PORTIONS OF FORMER OTTOMAN EMPIRE
II-THE DANGERS OF A SELFISH DIVISION AND EXPLOITATION OF THE TURKISH EMPIRE
In considering recommendations concerning the future administration of large parts of the former Turkish Empire, involving millions of people, it is imperative that the Peace Conference should make clear to itself from the beginning the serious dangers involved in the selfish and divisive national and corporate policies into which the Allies have been drifting in their treatment of the Turkish Empire and should squarely challenge that drift at once.
No doubt this policy of selfish exploitation in Turkey is in its entirety not the deliberate aim of any Power. Much confusion has unavoidably prevailed. The demands upon the Allies and upon the Peace Conference have been beyond human power wholly to meet. Under the pressure of immediate necessity for some kind of action, many steps have been taken in good faith, which have later proved temptations to selfish advantage, and provocations to jealousy and suspicion. The situation, too, has been most complex, by reason of previous engagements, and of countless inter-relations of interest-private, party, national and international. This complexity has often made it honestly difficult to disentangle exactly the right course.
But, however the drift toward selfish exploitation of the Turkish Empire has come about, there should be no mistake about the fact or its dangers. It needs to be said and heeded that Constantinople is once again a nest of selfish, suspicious hateful intrigue, reaching out over the whole Empire, if not the world. What will it mean if this policy is allowed to prevail? In definitely raising this question, the Commissioners are not for an instant supposing that there is any easy and inexpensive solution of the Turkish problem. The justest solution at best will not be wholly welcome to Turkey, and will encounter her opposition. But in such a solution the Allies could at least know that their sacrifices were being; made for the establishment of progressively righteous relations among men, not for sowing the seeds of endless and bitter discord. In seeking, then, a practical plan for the righteous treatment of the Turkish Empire, the Allies should bear clearly in mind that their fidelity to their announced aims in the war is here peculiarly to be tested; and that, in the proportion in which the division of the Turkish Empire by the Allies is made a division of spoils by victors, and is primarily determined by the selfish national and corporate interests of the Allies, in just that proportion will grave dangers arise.
(1) Such a division, in the first place, would have to be forced upon the peoples concerned-not chosen by them. Every separate occupation of territory would be resented, and felt to be a constant injustice. The feeling of the Turkish people concerning the occupation of the Smyrna region by the Greeks is illustrative. They cannot be convinced that such seizure of territory can be harmonized with the professed principles of the Allies in the war. In such a case there is no possibility of laying the foundations of truly cordial relations with the Turkish people.
(2) In the second place, just because these occupations of territory have to be forced upon the Turks, a large number of troops would be required to establish and maintain each occupation. With the intolerable burdens which the war has brought upon all the nations, and with the insistent demands for the demobilization of troops, this would be certain to prove an increasingly serious situation. The number of troops required for an occupation looked upon as temporary and for police purposes, is no measure of the forces required to maintain an aggressive and permanent seizure of territory, as the Turks themselves proved to their sorrow both in Macedonia in 1903-06 and in Yemen through a series of years. The selfishly divisive policy will go far toward turning Turkey into an armed camp, and breeding a constant state of brigandage.
(3) It should not be forgotten, either in the third place, that this selfishly divisive policy would naturally provoke violent retaliation, as in the whole region of Smyrna. Such retaliation, too, is likely to be visited not only upon the immediate aggressors, but also upon the Christian populations generally. For a selfish division and exploitation of territory may easily induce in the Turks the attitude, that, since the worst from outside is probably to come upon them in any case, they may as well take the occasion to rid themselves entirely of those whom they look upon as internal enemies. In that case, the Allies would have to share the guilt of the Turks.
(4) Such selfish exploitation of Turkey, also, would not only certainly call out the resentment of the most solid portion of the American people, as emphatically not illustrating the ends for which America came into the war, but would also tend to alienate the best sentiment among all the Allies. To eliminate from the cause of the Allies this weight of moral judgment would involve a loss of influence in the world-already greatly diminished-not lightly to be faced.
(5) Such exploitation would mean, too, the deliberate sowing of dissension of the gravest kind among the Allies themselves, threatening the moral unity of their cause and entailing serious world consequences. This situation has already come to pass in no small degree. Only moral blindness can deny it. Suspicion and distrust are rife, and the meanest kind of intrigue against one another has been seen in not a few situations.
It may be doubted if the moral unity of the Allies is more than a fraction of what it was in the war or in the early days of the Armistice. Now that is a calamity well nigh immeasurable and it can be cured by no mechanics. Are the Allies to go on increasing this moral dissension among the world's leaders, and deliberately inviting the moral shipwreck of the world by their policies in Turkey?
(6) Coupled with similar decisions already reached, selfish division and exploitation in Turkey would also go far to convince men of independent moral judgment all over the world-including many previously ardent upholders of the cause of the Allies-that the aims of the Allies had become as selfish and ruthless as those of the Germans had been. That would carry with it its own fateful consequences.
For example, no thoughtful man who had the opportunity of watching in France the stream of American officers and soldiers and of able men enlisted for various forms of service to the soldiers, as they came and went, could fail to see among those men, as the Armistice went on, the spread, like a contagion, of depression and disillusionment as to the significance of the war aims, because of the selfish wrangling of the nations.
The fact should be squarely faced that thousands of Americans who served in the war have gone home disillusioned, greatly fearing, if not convinced, that the Allies had not been true to their asserted war aims, and have been consequently driven to an almost cynical view of the entire conflict-cynicism that made them feel like withdrawing all further American help, and henceforth washing their hands of the whole European imbroglio. This attitude has been reflected in many other American citizens who had been devoted supporters of the Allied cause. Now that is not a good result for America, for the Allied Powers or for the world.
But that situation, and similar situations among the best in all the Allies, can be changed only by some clear demonstration that somewhere and on a large and impressive scale, the often asserted high and unselfish aims of the Allies have been honestly carried out. That would come like an invigorating breeze out of the North, bringing new faith in men and in the genuineness of human ideals and endeavor. That opportunity is offered, in a peculiar degree, in the righteous settlement of the problems of the Turkish Empire.
No namby-pamby, sickly sentimental treatment is called for here. There are great and lasting wrongs in Turkey which must be set right. And there are world relations and interests honestly to be recognized and permanently to be satisfied. For the sake of justice to Turkey herself and to all her subject peoples; for the sake of the honor of the Allies and the renewed confidence of men in them, for the stemming of the tide of cynicism and selfish strife; for a fresh and powerful demonstration of moral soundness in the race; the Allies should recognize the grave danger of all selfish exploitation of Turkey, and turn their backs on every last vestige of it.
NEXT: Consideration looking to a proper division of the Turkish Empire
PREVIOUS: Pertinent action already taken by the Peace Conference
BACK: The King-Crane Commission Report