Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Ottoman Is Not A Cushioned Footstool: Part II

You know what the real problem is? The real problem is that people accept political maps as if the Earth came all marked up in lovely little lines of demarcation, with countries shaded in lovely pastels. Like so many things in contemporary society, political maps are a figment of our imagination. We made it up.

Well, the powers that be made them up, as an outcome of revolts, wars, and greed, mostly because they could. The majority of the land that we now call the Middle East was once long held by the Ottoman Empire.

What a difference a couple of centuries can make, heh?

We know that maintaining our modern day dependency on oil demands that we give attention to the Middle East (and anywhere else that oil has been found, but that’s another discussion). But the story of today’s Middle East begins with the slow erosion and then dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Whether it’s countries or individuals, it’s debt that’ll do ya - every time. By 1881, the Ottoman Empire carried a huge debt, mostly owed to Britain and France. The Sultan cozied up to Germany. The Deutshe Bank secured a concession to build the final leg of the Berlin to Baghdad railway, including subsurface mineral rights and the sole rights to any petroleum in the area, 20 kilometers to either side of the railway. A gigantic strategic coup for a Germany on the make!

This was bad news for Britain and France, and not particularly cheery news for Russia either. What happens next is very interesting and very convoluted, but the quicky version is that Germany was politically isolated; the established petroleum companies were co-opted; the establishment of a constitutional monarchy after the Young Turk revolutions of 1908 and 1909 gained France and Britain an opportunity for moral and political leadership in the corroding Ottoman Empire; and the end of World War I carved up Africa and the Middle East (including a very large protectorate named Iraq). It is a perspective enhancement to realize that the U.S. was not considered a Great Power in these days.

So what were American relations in the eastern hemisphere, with countries other than England and France, and the resulting policies that have evolved since 1776? Consider this, Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States as a unified sovereign nation, doing so in 1777. Don’t hear much about Morocco, but they joined in a treaty of “peace and friendship” with the United States in 1787, which though renegotiated in 1836, remains in force - the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.

Perhaps Morocco was moved to this alliance to solidify its autonomy in the emerging new world politics. It had maintained its sovereignty in spite of Portugal, Spain, and the Ottoman Empire. To have defeated the British certainly made our fledgling nation of interest. Wonder what the first trade exchanges were all about? Anyhoo ...

I suppose my main thesis here, is just to say that American citizens do not have enough information about the Middle East. And that’s putting it mildly! To quote Rick Ungar’s op-ed piece in Monday’s Forbes:

     “If you think our interests are best served by lobbing missiles into Syria or taking an even more active role in their civil war, then you should feel free to criticize this president for not acting in accordance with your wishes. If you believe that this is not a fight that we should engage in, call your Congressional Representatives and tell them to vote against supporting Obama’s war plans.
      But if you are forming these opinions based on the self-interest of the media or the politicians, you might wish to rethink your position based on reality as neither the media nor the politicians are fulfilling their responsibility to give you measured analysis designed to assist you in forming your own perspectives.”

Technology has given us an opportunity to reach beyond the trivia of our own media and the propaganda of our government. I heartily, again, encourage visits to I’m hoping that anyone who has other sites or resources to recommend will post them here. Also, have a look at F. William Engdahl’s essay on ( It is also a reminder that we don't know jack about the Balkans either!

In parting, one last image.


  1. We have President Obama to lead and protect America. His Presidency is helping America recover our social, economic, and military strength after the failure of the Republican Administration from 2001 to 2009.
    I trust his leadership as President so I believe that Americans can support his Presidential leadership without researching all of the things that can go wrong.

  2. I was certain that this was about Assad's chemical weapon stockpile! Hoping the gambit works!