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Herbert Adams Gibbons.

The reconstruction of Poland and the Near East ; problems of peace online

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to instil doubt of the good faith of France
and Great Britain. Did not the states-
men of the Occidental Powers tell the
world that they took up the sword in de-
fense of small nationalities? It is because
I am in perfect sympathy with the ideal
so clearly and unequivocally set forth by
Lord Grey that I regard the arguments
against the Russian occupation of Con-
stantinople as unanswerable. Lord Grey
said, "We shall struggle until we have
established the supremacy of right over
force and until we have assured the free
development, in conditions of equality and
conformitj'- to their own genius, of all the
states, large and small, who constitute
civilized humanity." Unless Lord Grey
believes that the Balkan States and the
Ottoman subject races do not form a part
of "civilized humanity," he — and all who
80



CONSTANTINOPLE

have applauded his beautiful and soul-stir-
ring setting forth of the cause of the En-
tente Powers — must agree that the argu-
ments against the Russian occupation of
Constantinople are unanswerable.

Here are the arguments. I speak not
from books, but from personal, intimate
knowledge gained by years of travel and
residence in the near East.

1. There is not a single element. Chris-
tian or ^Moslem, among those that make
up the population of the Balkans and of
the Ottoman Empire that desires Russian
sovereignty, and there is no Russian ele-
ment at all in Constantinople or anywhere
around the straits. Pro-Russians do not
exist in the near East, especially in Con-
stantinople. In virtually every other
debatable or contested territory in Eu-
rope, I have found partizans of the Power
or Powers that were ambitious of over-
81



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

throwing the existing political status to
their advantage. Considerations that
make partizans are religious, political, and
economic. Some point of contact is found
and fostered by the outside propaganda.
But Russia has no local support in Con-
stantinople. Xone feels that his par-
ticular political, religious, or economic
interests would be benefited by Russian
occupation. On the contrary, the most
bitter enemies of the Turks, and those who
have suffered most at the hands of the
Turks, never hesitate to tell you frankly
that they prefer the status quo to a change
in favor of Russia. The reasons for this
are easily set forth. The Turks are oc-
casional oppressors. While they can be —
and sometimes are — annoying and harm-
ful through arrogance and inefficiency and
maladministration, for the most part and
for most of the time they allow Christian
82



CONSTANTINOPLE

subjects and foreigners as much liberty as
they would have anywhere else in the
world to carry on their business and amass
wealth. The British and French resi-
dents are of this opinion.^ In Con-
stantinople and along the shores of the
Bosphorus, the Sea of jNIarmora, and the
Dardanelles are probably as many people
as in Serbia. Just as strongly as the Ser-
bians do not want Austro-Hungarian
domination, these people do not want Rus-
sian domination. The Entente Powers
are fighting to free Serbia. We applaud
and second the efforts of the liberators.
By the same token, Turks and Greeks and
Jews and Armenians of Constantinople

1 It is possible to find at the present moment former
Constantinopolitans of French and British nationality
who declare that Russia must have Constantinople.
They do this from the mistaken notion that the interest
of their nations demands this sacrifice, and they are
looking at the prohlem from the point of view of Paris
and I,ondon. The statement in no way represents their
real opinion as Constantinopolitans.

8&



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

and the straits can cite the ideal of the
Entente Powers, and claim our sjnnpathy
and support in their common determina-
tion not to undergo the Russian yoke.

If we consider the vital interests of the
people of Asia JNIinor and the Balkans,
who are equally unanimous in their op-
position to Russia at Constantinople, the
two millions increases to a formidable
number of perhaps thirty millions.
Rumania's only outlet to the world is
through the straits, and Bulgaria's prin-
cipal outlet is through the straits. The
commerce of the Greeks is largely de-
pendent upon the straits. These Balkan
States have every bit as much reason for
not wanting to see Russia at Constanti-
nople as the British have for not wanting
to see Germany at Antwerp. Who would
dare to assert that Russian control of the
straits would "assure the free develop-
84



CONSTANTINOPLE

ment, in conditions of equality and con-
formity to their own genius," of the
Balkan States?

2. Russia at Constantinople would
make impossible a logical and equitable,
and hence a durable, establishment of
world peace. In the admirable discourses
of MM. Viviani, Briand, Poincare, Lord
Grey, and Messrs. Asquith and Lloyd
George, there is a plea that has won for
the Entente Powers world-wide sym-
pathy. We are taken to the mountain-
tops, and shown a new era of world his-
tory, in which right rules in the place of
force. We have not regarded the dis-
courses as the rhetoric of polemicists and
the ideal as impracticable; for we believe
in the sincerity of the speakers and in
the soundness of the program set forth by
them as a means of attaining the goal for
which the nations they represent are fight-



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

ing. The peace they intend to give the
world will be durable, because it is to be
logical and equitable. Therefore, we do
not consider the question of granting Con-
stantinople to Russia from the point of
view of mihtary reward or expediency or
Russia's own interest. It is a matter pri-
marily of Balkan and Ottoman interest,
and secondarily of world interest. Is a
peace that means Russian sovereignty of
Constantinople logical^ Is it equitable?
It is not logical. The sequels of past
international treaties clearly indicate the
fallacy of artificial settlements made at
the point of the bayonet. When a nation
accepts a peace dictated by victorious
enemies along the lines of the particular
interests of the victors, it is simply a mat-
ter of yielding to force majeure. The
preparation for the day of revenge begins
immediately. Let us not forget that the
86



CONSTANTINOPLE

war broke out over the question of Serbian
independence. What is the issue between
the Entente Powers and Gennany in re-
gard to Constantinople? If the Entente
Powers are fighting to prevent Constanti-
nople from falling into Germany's hands,
and to save the Balkan States and the
Ottoman Empire from subjugation to
Germany, they are justified in their action,
from the world's point of view, and are
contributing to the world's peace only if
they refrain from using their victory to do
exactly what they fought to prevent Ger-
many from doing. The allies of Russia,
in the near-Eastern theater of the war,
are under the imperative necessity of per-
suading Russia to declare her disinter-
estedness in Constantinople.^ Otherwise,

1 Whatever excuse of expediency may have dictated
the policy of Great Britain and France in this question,
as in the Polish question, up to March, 1917, there is no
excuse since the Russian Revolution for refusing to

87;



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

their contention that they are fighting for
s. durable peace breaks down. There is
no durable peace for the near East in
shutting out Germans, Austrians, and
Hungarians to let in Russians. There is
no durable peace for the world in increas-
ing the Muscovite power in Europe. We
have dreams of a regenerated, democratic,
civilized Russia. The world needs that
sort of Russia. But can we expect it

speak out frankly upon the subject of the future of
Constantinople. What is the solution that has been
agreed upon by France and Great Britain? Why was
M. Miliukoff urged by Paris and London to stick to the
old agreement made with the Czar, when the elements
in Russia responsible for the revolution declared that
the New Russia would have none of Constantinople or
any other conquest? ]M. IMiliukofF, who has the men-
tality of the Young Turks, is a liberal for Russians —
not for other races. His aggressive and impenitent
nationalism almost brought Russia to civil war in the
second month of the new regime. M. Kerensky, Minister
of Justice, made a categorical statement against the
continuation of the Czarist policy of conquests, speci-
fying Constantino])le as an aspiration Revolutionary
Russia could not sponsor. M. Miliukoff, Minister of
Foreign Affairs, replied that Constantinoph was as

88



CONSTANTINOPLE

after a triumphant war has added to the
empire, already so large that its demo-
cratic evolution is seriously handicapped,
territories inhabited by hostile aliens? If
we do, we are believers in chimeras, and
deny the universal experience of mankind.
It is not equitable. Unless we are
going to see disappear from the Great
War the glamour of idealism, principle,
not expediency and national interest, must
be kept steadily in view as the goal of the
struggle. The statesmen of the Entente
Powers interpret the spirit in which their
nations are fighting and the spirit in which
they envisage the problems of peace as that
of right and justice. They have set out
to overthrow militarism, to disprove the

much the dream of New Russia as of Old Russia. Tliis
led to M. Miliukoff's dismissal, and an oflicial declara-
tion to Russia's allies and the world that Russia now
desired a peace "without annexations and without in-
demnities."

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RECX)NSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

obnoxious axiom that might goes before
right. They are not fighting for them-
selves, but for humanity. They are the
defenders of small nationalities. Very
well, then. In their agreement not to
sign a separate peace, the Entente Powers
must have laid down as the basis of the
peace the right of every nation, once freed
from the German yoke and the German
menace, to decide its own destinies.

France and Great Britain are the
splendid examples of nations that have
developed to their present degree of civili-
zation and enlightenment because they
have evolved through many generations
into democracies. By arms the two peo-
ples have overthrown their autocrats and
defended their soil from alien domination.
They have frequently had to repeal in-
vaders. Each has tried to conquer the
other. Within the memory of the present
90



CONSTANTINOPLE

generation they have been on the verge of
war. They have gone through a laborious
period of interior assimilation, civil wars,
anarchy, that extended through centuries.
For Frenchmen and Englishmen to cite
the antagonism between the Balkan races,
and the events of the last thirt\'^ years
since the power of Turkey was weakened
in the Balkan peninsula, as reasons for
putting the Balkan States under foreign
domination or "protection," is illogical
and unfair. Do they expect babies to be-
come men without passing through the pe-
riod of childhood, and then, forgetting
their own slow, painful, uncertain devel-
opment, are they going to declare the right
of others to potential manhood forfeited
because of the faults of childhood ? Great
Britain could never have become what she
is to-day if France had controlled her des-
tinies. Nor could France have become
91



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

what she is to-day under British guidance.
Do French and British beheve that it is
equitable to attempt to force Russian
domination upon the races of the near
East? Certainly not! I can hear now
Premier Viviani's ringing words : "Every
small nation has the right to live its own
life, and it is the glory of France that we
are going into this war to defend Serbia
and Belgium from the German covetous-
ness." And Mr. Asquith, "We shall not
lay down the sword until we have estab-
lished a just peace on the basis of the lib-
erty of small nations."

In the reconstruction of Europe, if Con-
stantinople is to be regarded in the hght
of principle and not as a pawn, the Great
Powers, when they come to the peace con-
ference, will adopt the formula of Lord
Grey in dealing with the Balkans and the
Ottoman Empire, just as they will adopt
92



CONSTANTINOPLE

that formula in dealing with Belgium,
Poland, and the Slavic elements of Aus-
tria-Hungary. Heretofore, in every in-
ternational conference since the Congress
of Vienna set the example of the strong
using the weak as paw^ns, unfortunate
subject races have seen their national as-
pirations discussed and decided wholly on
grounds of expediency and of the interest
of the big fellows who acted on the prin-
ciple that might was right.

The Great Powers, after each war,
have remade the map of Europe with-
out the slightest regard for the principle
of the "free development, in conditions
of equality and conformity to their own
genius, of all the states, large and small."
Poles and Finns, Czechs and Cro-
atians, Serbians and Bulgarians, Greeks
and Rumanians, Turks and Arabs,
Armenians and Syrians, have seen the
93



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

lands in which they Hve and their na-
tional aspirations used as pawns. Dip-
lomats have put them forward to block
the game of other diplomats, and sacri-
ficed them without compunction, when
they thought there was any advantage in
doing so. With the exception of Wad-
dington, the French representative at the
Congress of Berlin, there has not been in a
hundred years a representative of a Great
Power at a peace conference who, in ac-
tion as well as word, was insi:)ired in the
slightest degree with the spirit Lord Grey
has set forth as that which imbues the
Entente Powers in the present hour.
Many diplomats, even at peace confer-
ences, have spoken beautiful words about
the little fellows; but their vote has in-
variably shown cynical and deliberately
calculated selfishness.

If there is to be any change in the spirit
94



CONSTANTINOPLE

and in the result of the next peace con-
ference, it will come only through the
adoption of Lord Grey's noble ideal as a
basis of settlement. The great nations
will consider the interests of the little na-
tions as they consider their own interests,
and they will regard national aspirations
and national revendications in the light of
principle, judging all alike and refuse to
play weaker nations as pawns. This is
ideahsm, this is humanitarianism, this is
self-abnegation; and I suppose many who
read these lines will laugh at what they
call my naivete. But I have a right to
view the near-Eastern question from the
idealistic point of view: for the Entente
Powers have struck that keynote. They
must hold to it and not be carried away
by the lust of conquest. Otherwise their
children and ours will weej) the bitter tears
we are weeping to-day, and bear anew
95



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

the grievous burdens of the present gener-
ation.

An exiled Napoleon, and the destruc-
tion of a mihtary machine about which
things were felt and written a hundred
years ago curiously like what is being felt
and written to-day, did not bring peace
and harmony to Europe. No more will
an exiled kaiser and the collapse of the
Prussian militarism bring peace to-day.

Far be it from me to discount the in-
dignation that demands chastisement and
reparation for what has happened since
1914. For I have lived in the midst of
the suffering since the first day of the war,
and know what it means. But the viola-
tion of Belgian neutrality, and the brutal
reign of terror visited upon an unoffend-
ing people through the German invasion,
was not to me, as to most of those who saw
and wrote, an unprecedented event in con-
96



CONSTANTINOPLE

temporary armals, and the beginning of
the horrible precipitation of Europe into
hell. It was not a new story. It was
only another chapter in a story that had
been unfolding for some years, and of
which I have been an eyewitness. Only
those were surprised and shocked who did
not know about the earlier chapters. In
1909, in one city of Asia JNIinor, I saw
within a few days more civilians butchered
than have been killed in all of Belgium
during more than two years of war. The
Armenians were just as much under the
treaty protection of the European Powers
as were the Belgians. Not a single
Power that had signed the Treaty of
Berhn made an official protest to Turkey.
From 1904 to 1914, the near East was in
a turmoil. What was the attitude of
European diplomacy? Disregard of the
legitimate aspirations of small nations;
97



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

indifference to human suffering through
war and oppression; the making of every
move in negotiations for the advantage
of the movers, and with never a thought
of the interest of the moved. Students
of history in the face of a world war must
adopt the attitude of physicians in the
face of an epidemic. If physicians hmit
their attention to specific cases, and think
only of curing the disease when it mani-
fests itself, they keep getting new cases.
To stamp out the disease they must hunt
for the germs. A regenerated Germany,
or a Germany chastised and powerless,
will in no way destroy the germs that make
for war. International diplomacy must
be born again in the spirit of Lord Grey's
program. International diplomacy must
renounce the spirit of self-seeking, and re-
make Europe in such a way as to "assure
the free development, in conditions of
98



CONSTANTINOPLE

equality and conformity to their own
genius, of all nations, gi'eat and small."

As in the case of Poland, so in the case
of the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire.
The Entente Powers, at the end of the
third year of the Great War, have come
to the parting of the ways. If they stick
by their original program, and hold fast
to the ideals that have made their cause
precious to lovers of humanity throughout
the world, there is glorious hope for the
future, and they cannot expect to keep
and increase the sympathy and support of
neutral nations — a sympathy and support
that gi-ows more precious, invaluable in-
deed, as the European conflict reaches its
climax. But if, on the other hand, they
are tempted by lust of conquest engen-
dered in the heat of conflict, or if they
yield to expediency, so easily confused
with right when every nerve is strained to
99



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

win, the durable peace becomes a castle in
Spain. Lovers of France and the advo-
cates of Anglo-Saxon solidarity ought to
urge with all their heart and soul that Con-
stantinople be considered in the light of
principle and not as a pawn. It is only
one of several issues where a choice has to
be made. But Constantinople is in its
potentialities the most important issue,
and in its umnistakable clearness the test
issue.



100



EUROPE AND ISLAM

In the fourteenth century, the West had al-
ready begun to try to impose its commerce, its
customs, its laws, and its religion on the East.
There was not, nor has there ever been since,
a sympathetic "give and take" between Occi-
dent and Orient. In a mint, if the coin when
stamped does not correspond exactly to the
mold, it is rejected. Similarly the West, when
it tries to put every Eastern people through
its mold and finds no exact correspondence, re-
jects. Hence, on the one side, the scorn of as-
sumed superiority: on the other side, a hatred
not only born of fear and of conviction of in-
feriority in material things, but of a sense of
injustice which is none the less vital from a
knowledge that the wrong is not, and will not
be, righted. — The Foundation of the Ottoman
Empire, page 132.

DURING the thousand years between
the battle of Tours and the battle
of Vienna, which marked the extreme
101



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

advance of Islam in western and eastern
Europe, JMohamniedan states and ]Mo-
hanimedan races were a constant menace
to the security and prosperity of Europe,
because of their military strength, their
control of the ISIediterranean, and the
temptation alliance with them afforded to
European states to strike at one another to
the detriment of Christianity and civiliza-
tion. In the decadence of Islam, Moham-
medan states have remained a menace to
the develojjment of European civilization
and to international harmony and under-
standing. Their flags no longer float
on the Mediterranean. Their military
power is broken. But their very impo-
tence makes them more dangerous than
ever before. They are more susceptible
to diplomatic intrigues. Their defense-
lessness has kept whetted the territorial
appetite of the European Powers. Some
102



EUROPE AND ISLAM

choice morsels have already been de-
voured: Russia was eating steadily until
she reached Ai-menia across the Caucasus
in 1878; and France and England did not
stop for half a century until Tunis was
consumed in 1881 and Egypt in 1882;
Austria revived the European traditions
of the generation before in Bosnia-Herze-
govina in 1908; Italy and France in Trip-
oli and Morocco in 1911.

And after the present war — what more?
Russia already has her hands on the rest
of Armenia, and has publicly stated that
her allies have "awarded" to her Constan-
tinople in the future treaty ; French public
opinion claims Syria; Great Britain, en-
sconced in JNIesopotamia, making des-
perate efforts, has reached Bagdad ; Persia
is the scene of bitter struggles between the
belligerents, none of whom have paid the
slightest attention to Persian protests
103



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

against the violation of her neutrality;
Italy makes no secret of her intentions
in regard to Albania, and is credited with
ambitions in Macedonia to the detriment
of Bulgaria and Greece; and Germany,
with one foot on Belgium and the other
on Serbia, declares her own territorial
disinterestedness, and claims to be the
protector of the integrity of the Ottoman
Empire, and the sole friend left to Islam.
When one is writing on a special phase
of a complex problem, there is danger of
over-emphasis, of exaggerating the im-
portance of the particular phase under
consideration. Perhaps it would be as
na'ive and as oblivious to a multitude of
issues to say that the present war arose
in the near East as to say that Great
Britain came into the war to defend the
principle of Belgium's neutrality. And
yet the history of international relations
104



EUROPE AND ISLAM

during the last hundred years shows in
almost every decade the decisive influence
of the question of the devolution of JNIo-
hammedan lands in the foreign policy of
the Great Powers. Who can deny that
the Eastern question, created by the deca-
dence of Islam and kept in the foreground
of diplomatic preoccupations by the fear
of each Power that every other Power
was trying to "get in on the ground
floor" in IMohammedan countries, has
been the principal factor in European
alliances and European conflicts since the
Congress of Vienna?

Xapoleon's lack of success in holding
Alexander after the Tilsit interview; the
impairment of the Holy Alliance over the
questions raised by the War of Greek
Independence; the policy of England to-
ward France in regard to JNIohammed
Ali; the Crimean War and the treaty of
105



RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NEAR EAST

Paris; French intervention in Syria; Bis-
marck's bribe to Russia in 1870; the atti-
tude of England and Austria toward
Russia in the Turkish War of 1877 and
the Congress of Berhn; Italy's entrance
into the Triple Alliance after France took
Tunis; the Anglo-French Agreement of
1904, with Egypt and JNIorocco as the
principal "compensations"; the Anglo-
Russian Agreement of 1907, for which
Persia paid the piper; Russia's use of her
opportunity in Serbia after Austria-
Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herze-
govina; the effect of maritime considera-
tions upon Italy's international relations
when she found herself in TripoH and
Rhodes; the change in the attitude of the
Balkan States toward one another when
the Powers imposed the Albanian embargo
— had these events no part in preparing
and precipitating the Great War? Are
106



EUROPE AND ISLAM

they not exercising a potent influence
upon the course of the war? Shall we
not have to go back to them, and take
them into account, in the reconstruction of
Europe? To put Prussian militarism in
the place of the devolution of Moham-
medan territories as the summum malum
from which Europe is suffering does not
augur well for the world's hope of a
durable peace.

I have already written on the problem


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Online LibraryHerbert Adams GibbonsThe reconstruction of Poland and the Near East ; problems of peace → online text (page 4 of 9)