Gallipoli and Crimea

Thinking about Anzac Day, with the inevitable mixed emotions, I was struck by the resemblance of the Anzac legend to that of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War – the same incredible bravery of ordinary men commanded by bungling leaders to undertake a doomed and futile mission.

There’s another, even more tragic, echo here. Both the Crimean War and the Gallipoli campaign arose from the same cause – the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the struggle over its partition. But in the Crimean War, the British and French were on the side of the Turks against the Russians. In the Great War, the imperial alliances had shifted, and the Russians formed part of the Triple Entente, while the Turks were on the side of the Germans.

Whatever the justice of the Allied cause in the Great War as a whole, the war with Turkey was nothing more than a struggle between rival imperialisms. The British and French governments signed secret treaties with each other, and with the Russian Czar, promising to divide the spoils of victory. At the same time, they made incompatible promises of independence for the Arabs and of a homeland in Palestine for the Jews.

There are no consolations to be had here. The Great War did not protect our freedom, or that of the world. Rather, it gave rise to the horrors of Nazism and Bolshevism, and, within Turkey, to the Armenian genocide. The carve-up of the Ottoman empire created the modern Middle East, haunted even a century later by bloodshed and misery.

As we reflect on the sacrifices made by those who went to war nearly 100 years ago, we should also remember, and condemn, the crimes of those, on all sides, who made and carried on that war.

Lest we forget.

75 thoughts on “Gallipoli and Crimea

  1. A rather understudied issue is peace feelers in World War 1 such as by the German chancellor in 1916 and the Reichstag peace resolution on 19 July 1917. Pope Benedict XV also tried to mediate with his Peace Note of August 1917.

    It is harder to get out of a war than into one. The problem is credible assurances that the peace is lasting rather than a chance for the other side to rebuild and come back and attack from a stronger position.

    Many wars including World War 1 were products of mutual alarm and test of will. Schelling and others in the 1950s and after studied World War 1 to learn how to not blunder into wars when nuclear weapons now would be used.

    Wars are like bar fights. Both are about not backing down.

    In moralising about World War 1, you under rate the role of unintended consequences and the dark side of human rationality in situations involving collective action.

  2. “Whatever the justice of the Allied cause in the Great War as a whole, the war with Turkey was nothing more than a struggle between rival imperialisms.”

    Given that the Ottoman Empire attacked the Russian Empire in a surprise attack in late October of 1914 (well, a not terrible-well disguised German fleet under Turkish colours) it is not surprising that Turkey got into the war.

    An there was one reasonable justification, once the war was on, to take Constantinople: A decent all-weather route to supply Russia.

    The plan to carve up the Empire later was not all that different from Germany’s plans to carve up captured Europe or the confiscation of German colonies. Opportunistic imperialism yes, but only after the shooting started.

  3. If i may speculate some. Since Dardaneli were the route for Caucus oil and Galipoli campaign was about Dardaneli control, could the Great War be about oil, first war about oil.
    Two Balkan wars were already about kicking Ottoman Empire out of Europe and Austrian- Hungary were natural benefactor of Ottoman Empire decline.
    I think that by 1914 the global planners had idea about importance of oil and routes that control it. Caucus oil reserve was known by then. Saudi oil was discovered much later.

  4. @Jordan I think that the rationale for most wars is a protection and/or expansion of trade. The US War of Independence was the result of an economic war of blockades and trade barriers.

    France entered into the US War of Independence only to witness the resumption and increase in trade between the US and Britain post hostilities. France’s investment suffered from poor returns and it is said that the debt incurred was one of the major drivers of the French Revolution.

    Similarly it was the US embargo on oil trade to Japan that led to Pearl Harbour.

  5. Well put John.

    The author Doris Lessing writes of her father, who lost a leg in WW1. She describes a man who, once a proud defender of the empire, became depressed and disillusioned with how his nation had reduced them to cannon fodder. Lessing says that this mood was shared by a whole generation of men destroyed and abandoned by either the Kaiser or the King.

  6. Describing Pearl Harbour as the outcome of the US oil embargo rather ignores that the militarists ruling Japan had been making plans for an attack on the US since their seizure of power in the early 30s.

    Japan had been at war with China since 1936. They had briefly invaded the Soviet Union and suffered a spectacular if little-known military defeat at Nomonhan. They occupied Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and most of northern China. Empires do that, they attempt to expand in any direction they can and the other empires, including the USA and the USSR, were no different.

    But looking at the course of Japanese aggression throughout the 1930s and then deciding they were forced, by the oil embargo, into a war they had already been planning is, to put it mildly, an extremely forgiving view of Japanese policy.

    Planning for the Pearl Harbour operation itself began in January 1941. The oil embargo was imposed in July 1941. A later event does not often cause an earlier event.

  7. @rog
    I think that US War of Independence was fought over control of money supply. The British were trying to limit Colonial script as parallel currency.
    From Wikipedia

    The Currency Act of 1751 restricted the emission of paper money in New England. It allowed the existing bills to be used as legal tender for public debts (i.e. paying taxes), but disallowed their use for private debts (e.g. for paying merchants).[6]

    Another Currency Act in 1764 extended the restrictions to the colonies south of New England.

    Just an awesome descriptions on currency evolution in Early American Currency at Wiki

  8. Participants in a bar fight cannot legitimately claim the allegiance of others based on the justice of their cause. Yet this is what the political classes of both sides did during the Great War.

    Of these political classes, first the Russians, then the Germans, leaders of major, powerful nations, lost their ability to compel compliance from their subjects/citizens. The arrogation of the sovereign right to rule ceased to have credibility. Successor states were compelled to renegotiate terms of legitimacy with their citizens. Some of these new compacts were disastrous. However, the destruction of absolutist or statist systems wasn’t in itself an evil thing, despite the fact that the post Great War consequences included totalitarianism.

    In the end, both absolutist and totalitarian conceptions of the state are no longer credible. This achievement came at the cost of the deaths of tens of millions. But on the other hand, the death of a single person is too high a price to pay for anything.

    It is perhaps a consolation that the longer term consequences of the Great War aren’t all negative. The advent of democracy, the rule of law and the concession of civil rights aren’t minor achievements.

  9. That’s the line pushed by the Japanese right.

    But it really is hard to see how a militarist group that had attacked or occupied all its neighbours except the US in the decade preceding Pearl Harbour, and had spent quite a long time planning how to fight a war in the Pacific, can contend that an embargo caused them to attack the only nearby country they had not yet attacked. And the dates are seriously against them.

    One of the divisions within the ruling clique had been whether to strike north at the USSR, seizing the Soviet Far East as far as Lake Baikal, or south at the European colonies. The military disaster at Khalkin Gol/Nomonhan put an end to the strike north idea and they turned their efforts to strike south. Khalkin Gol comes to an end in August 1939 and serious planning for the Pacific War starts. As I said upthread, Pearl Harbour planning starts in January 1941. The embargo does not happen until July of that year.

  10. @Katz Almost the only predictable benefit of war is that governments that launch wars and lose are discredited as a result.

  11. the only good thing i could say about world war one, Katz, is that it averted civil war in the united kingdom over ireland. the geman socialist party was on course to take government in berlin & women’s suffrage was not long off in england. extension of political rights to bohemia was under discussion in austria hungary. the amelioration of conditions & extension of participation in gov’t you speak of were already in the mix. -a.v.

  12. News of an Australian navy ship joining a US ‘armada’ currently in Japanese waters with all the threat of disputed islands with China – not to mention North Korea – has me wondering if all these geo-political war histories is about to repeat.

  13. In 1914 the German parliament had limited influence over the German government. The Reichstag had no right to unseat the government. Moreover, the SPD were chauvinist proponents of war. They showed little inclination to challenge the Bismarckian illiberalism that was the hallmark of the German Empire. It took the catastrophe of the Great War to jolt the SPD out of its deference to the Hohenzollern Dynasty.

  14. I’m a bit confused by your recount of history.
    What does “gave rise” mean why you say:

    “gave rise to the horrors of Nazism and Bolshevism, and, within Turkey,
    to the Armenian genocide”

    If you mean ‘preceded’, I understand.
    What do you mean by “gave rise”?

    The carve up drew artificial country boundaries
    that had little relationship to or respect for cultures.
    I seem to recollect that the cultures within the Ottoman
    empire didn’t like each other before the Great War
    and don’t like each other now. Shia and Sunni’s
    always fought, didn’t they? Was there a time when
    the Sunni’s and Shia held hands and sung Kum Ba Ya?

    Wasn’t the Middle East conundrum:
    Pan-Arabism
    Pan-Islam
    or
    Pan-Nation

    Egypt, If I remember correctly, was going bankrupt
    in the mid 1800’s (Egypt was an uncontrollable
    obstreperous child of the Ottoman empire and acted
    for the most part independently of Turkey. Nominally,
    Egypt was still part of the Ottoman empire.
    Egypt’s financial woes allowed Great Britain to
    offer help which Egypt reluctantly accepted.
    Great Britain became a large controlling factor in Egypt.
    In other words, at that time Egypt could not manage itself
    in a modern international finance world and sought
    protection from the British. I may have some of these
    facts wrong. If I do, I would be happy to be corrected.

    “As we reflect on the sacrifices made by those who went to war nearly
    100 years ago, we should also remember, and condemn, the crimes of
    those, on all sides, who made and carried on that war.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I think we should enumerate
    those who made and carried on that war. I don’t think individuals
    are at issue. It is policies, national emotions and those
    who strove to empower those national emotions that should
    be enumerated.

    Just my 2 cents.

  15. Egypt’s nineteenth century financial woes were largely a product of British and French intervention, culminating in actual military occupation in 1882. Britain and France spent most of the first half of the century sabotaging the modernising and industrialising efforts of a string of Egyptian rulers. Britain may have been deeply and genuinely concerned about the probity and viability of Egyptian financial administration, but they were also just a teensy bit interested in a certain canal.

  16. As I mentioned, my recollections might be off-base.
    Alan,
    is there a book or link you can provide for your statements?

  17. After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 John Darwin.

    The discussion of Egypt is actually a little patchy, but Darwin’s discussion of the recurrent nineteenth century pattern of financial crisis followed by battleships and chaps in pith helmets is instructive. The strange Habsburg empire of Mexico is probably the most notable example, although China, Iran, the Ottoman empire and Egypt had very similar experiences.

    Although the austerity mantra had not yet been invented, strangely enough it was the universal cure for ailing nineteenth century marginal states, especially when it came to education, industrial development or naval construction.

    In Empires of the Silk Road Christopher Beckwith touches some of the same issues although obviously his main focus is different.

  18. @Katz

    The German constitution did not give the Reichstag the power to unseat a government, but nor did the constitution of any other European monarchy, including Britain. What happened throughout the nineteenth century was that there would be a constitutional crisis, the monarch would give in and thereafter the government would answer to the parliament. Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries had all been through this process and their monarchs had all surrendered their power to seat and unseat governments. Even Austria-Hungary, by most measures, had a kaiser who reigned but did not rule. Wilhelm II was fairly eccentric on the subject but so were a number of other rulers, including Queen Victoria.

    The SPD was not particularly deferential to the imperial house and Germany would probably have achieved responsible government fairly soon if the war had not happened.

    One of the more unfortunate outcomes of the war, to my mind, was splitting the Ottoman and Habsburg monarchies into conveniently small, poor and ineffectual nation-states on the Western European model, a decision that continues its evil consequences in the contemporary Middle East and the Balkans.

  19. Alan:

    Under certain conditions, after 1688, the British Parliament certainly did claim the right to remove the monarch.

    But more generally, removing the government is not identical to removing the monarch. In Britain, several ministries fell at the vote of Parliament, while the monarch reigned on.

    What might have happened counts for nothing. The point is, it didn’t.

    Being “not particularly deferential” is in the case of responsible government like being slightly barren. Either a government is responsible to the legislature, or it isn’t.

  20. I didn’t speak about removing monarchs, just unseating governments. I’ll just mention there was no British parliament before the Acts of Union in 1707.

    The deposition of Charles I was the act of an English parliament, and one that had been subjected to a military purge. The deposition was done over the passionate protests of the Scots parliament and was disavowed by the English parliament in 1660. James II was not removed. The parliament declared, not unreasonably, that he had abandoned the throne when he fled the country.

    I am unsure why you are arguing that a change of government does not involve removing the monarch when no-one else has argued the contrary.

    Of course responsible government did not exist in Wilhelmine Germany, but the country was moving in that direction along exactly the same trajectory as had the other European monarchies with the exception of Tsarist Russia.

  21. Well yairs, the Act of Settlement of 1701 was passed by the English Parliament. No subsequent British Parliament has made important amendments to it. Under its provisions any monarch rash enough to turn Catholic, marry a Catholic, or raise his/her children as Catholics could be removed.

    Thus I am correct about the British Parliament having the legal right to depose a monarch. And you are incorrect.

  22. The British parliament could probably make a law removing a king or queen, if and only if, they had the unanimous consent of the parliaments of the Commonwealth realms. Judging by the way the legislation to change the succession is moving through various Commonwealth parliaments I’m not sure that consent would be all that easy to get.

    And I really have no idea how any of this relates to Gallipoli, Crimea, or Germany in 1914.

  23. John Quiggin :
    @Katz Almost the only predictable benefit of war is that governments that launch wars and lose are discredited as a result.

    Usually the terms and conditions of the treaty set by the conqueror over the defeated is uneven or unequal thereby laying the grounds for the next war.

  24. two things from the Crimean war.

    The charge of the light brigade although a success was to become a PR disaster and ensured a professional officer class.

    the treatment of the wounded got better.

  25. For an account of the connection between World War ! the subsequent wars across the Middle East it is instructive to read Robert Fisk’s the Great War For Civilization – war reporting from Afghanistan to Beirut provides a window on how that historical moment is still resonating through events today.

  26. @Alan you missed the english civil war, the glorious revolution and the act of settlement. the last removed 55 from the line of succession.

    The house of commons could depose a government at any time and had done so on 17 occasions between 1782 and 1914 including one vote related to the Crimean war.

    germany was more complicated, but popular support counted as did the fear of social unrest and army mutinies. the french army was in mutiny for much of 1917

    the 1917 papal peace note had the allies on edge. they feared wilson would welcome it, which he did not. if he had, a wide public discussion of allied war aims would hav followed.

    the trouble with the pope’s proposals was he suggested a return to the pre-war status quo. that was not a credible basis for peace rather than a ceasefire while the sides rebuilt

  27. @Jim Rose

    Charles I was deposed and executed by an English parliament that had been put through a military purge of moderate parliamentarians and royalists. The Scots parliament, despite its religious sympathy with Cromwell, protested loudly and then declared war over the issue. The English parliament disavowed the whole thing in 1660. To cite the removal of Charles as a legal precedent is like arguing that the army can legitimately overthrow the government government in Fiji.

    James II abandoned his throne and fled the country and both parliaments took note of the fact and recognised James’ heir-general and heir-male as joint sovereigns.

    Neither is a case of a removal by an actual parliament. James was not removed and the body which removed Charles had been purged of moderates and royalists by the army. After the purge, the Rump was less than half the size of the Long Parliament and only a third to a half of the Rump itself actually attended. If the army seized power in Australia and purged the whole of the senate and half the house I’m not completely sure that anyone would describe the result as a parliament.

  28. france did not stifle egyptian modernisation – france was in fact instrumental in the modernisation of egypt. as england huffed & puffed at it from its corner, french industries, french bankers, and french archaeologists all benefitted from official state sponsored engagement to modernise egypt.

    following waterloo it was out of work french officers who as military advisors modernised the egyptian army. france established a modern military academy teaching medicine & engineering for the first time in egypt.

    france built the railways & the bridges. france built the opera house. verdi wrote aida for its inauguration.

    france invested in the cotton plantations which supplied manchester during the american civil war. and which the english stifled afterwards in their own interests.

    france built the suez canal – a saint simonian project par excellence enthusiastically backed by the would be great saint simonian napoleon III. during the dictatorship of napoleon III it was official french policy to modernise egypt for the benefit of french industry banking and archaeology. egypt’s fortunes suffered seriously after 1870 when its principle european sponsor was deposed and english influence & claims over day to day administration increased.

    it was england & france that brought pasteurised milk to the districts of cairo where the middle class & upper class lived – it was the egyptian brotherhood – a muslim ymca at the time – that brought pasteurised milk to quarters where the poor lived. the british declared the brotherhood a communist organisation in 1922.

    in the 1880s when egypt’s parlous finances could no longer be papered over, its public administration came to be supervised – until 1914 – by a four nation committee with representatives from france, england, austria-hungary and italy being the four nations which had invested most in egypt. -a.v.

  29. Katz, i am aware that the kaiser appointed the chancellor & the ministry and that the reichstag did not vote the budget. and that the upper house was dominated by prussia because bavaria was impotent having entered the union broke because of richard wagner. and that bavaria’s administration was supported by a secret slush fund administered by bismarck. and that extreme rightists on a number of occasions including 1914 threatened to mount a coup d’etat, dissolve the reichstag & repeal universal (male) suffrage, perceiving parliamentarians to have gone too far in their titling at a system stacked in so many ways, as you note, against them.

    but by 1900 even the liberal party & the conservative party were calling for political reform. but the threat to the established junker order & the settlement of 1871, did not come from them, it came from from the socialists, a party whose popular electoral support continued to outgrow the non socialist parties, even after official state prescription & suppression in the 1880s. bismarck’s social reforms – the ones Jack Strocchi mentions from time to time – were undertaken in response to the popularity of the socialist party but did not dent their continuing support. it was only a matter of time only before the socialists would win a majority after which it was widely expected they would lead the call for constitutional reform.

    hence the mood of the establishment in 1914. the continuing popularity & electoral success of the socialists was as much a factor in the junker establishment’s calculations in 1914 as new russian railways & french conscription periods. they gambled on victory in war to give them the prestige to stare down the inevitable calls for political reform. they lost the bet and lost their empire in staring down inevitable necessary political reform. -a.v.

  30. @Jordan
    Re Oil war
    I would doubt it.
    Oil was not the crucial energy source that it is now. Much transportation was either horse or coal or electrically powered, much agriculture was horse (and man)-powered and IICR most electrical generation was either coal or hydro.

    Access to secure oil supplies was crucial for something like the oil-fuelled RN but I doubt that Baku was that important for them. I think they would look more to the Americas. And I doubt that pre-1914 politicians really had the foresight to realize that oil was going to be so crucial post-WWII.

  31. It keeps festering just below the surface- who gained and who didn’t.
    The European powers tended to end up broken, broke or in debt. The common people appeared to gain nothing except perhaps in the new world.
    Financiers perhaps?
    Corporations beholden to international finance, such as oil companies now set on the process of discovering more oil etc to fuel a recovery?
    Who were the decision-makers who created the Great Depression and on what basis were the decisions made?
    Sorry, they are serious question and I’m not an expert.
    Any tips?

  32. @alfred venison

    The benign committee of financial advisers took the precaution of having Alexandria shelled by British and French warships in 1888 before they came ashore to start helping out the Egyptian people with a little professional development in the art of debt collecting. The French had a habit of carrying out the mission civilisatrice at gunpoint, starting with Napoleon’s adventures there from 1798 to 1801. They joined the British in preventing Muhammad Ali from taking Constantinople in 1833 and again in 1839.They joined the British in preventing Egypt from acquiring a modern navy in 1869. They joined the British in imposing a military occupation lasting two years from 1879. They ultimately acquiesced in Britain’s permanent occupation of the country in 1882 in return for British concessions elsewhere in Africa.

    Napoleon III may have been a great Saint-Simonian but he also plunged Mexico into 6 years of bloodshed and misery with his attempt to impose a Habsburg princeling as emperor of that country. The ostensible object of that exercise was debt collection as well. You have to watch out for those benign financial advisers, specially if they bring a large fleet and army with them.

  33. hi Alan
    i am under no illusions about napoleon III – mexico, poland, italy, lebanon, betrayal everywhere he intervened – perhaps i was insufficiently clear about that.

    but he was a saint simonian & the suez canal was a pet project of him & the saint simonians in the 60s. and he modernised the country. of course this was done in a way to indebt the egyptians and advantage french finance & industry but the country was modernised in the process.

    i agree that on numerous occasions france & other powers collaborated to restrict egyptian independence & bolster the ottoman centre but in doing that it did not stifle egypt’s modernisation.

    there is no doubt though that while napoleon III ruled in france, the line of muhamed ali in egypt was relatively safe in its dominion. after him the debacle and egypt falls gradually to the english. -a.v.

  34. Alan :
    The British parliament could probably make a law removing a king or queen, if and only if, they had the unanimous consent of the parliaments of the Commonwealth realms. Judging by the way the legislation to change the succession is moving through various Commonwealth parliaments I’m not sure that consent would be all that easy to get.

    The British parliament may make and unmake any law whatsoever and the validity of a law may not be questioned in any other place. The definitive statement is this in the case of Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway Co. v Wauchope (1842):

    …all that a court of justice can do is to look at the Parliamentary roll: if from that it should appear that a bill has passed both houses and received the Royal Assent, no court of justice can inquire into the mode in which it was introduced into Parliament, what was done to it previously being introduced, or what passed in Parliament during the various stages of its progress through both houses of Parliament.

    The queen is corporation sole in perpetual succession.

    It is settled commonwealth constitutional laws that Queen Elizabeth II has many corporations sole – Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the United Kingdom, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Australia are all distinct corporations sole. She is also a distinct corporation sole for states and provinces.

    Queen Elizabeth is also Lord of Mann (purchased in 1760) and reigns in the Channel Islands as a legacy of her claims to the dukedom of Normandy. The British King also claimed to be King of France for 500 years until 1801.

    Succession to the crown bills must be passed each commonwealth member state because each is a sovereign country. Britain can not make laws to alter the successions to the crowns of those countries.

    The power of the federal parliament to legislate for the successions to the crowns of the 6 Australian states is a question for the lawyers.

  35. @Jim Rose

    That’s what they teach in first semester law class but it is simply untrue.

    The Statute of Westminster 1931 says that succession cannot be altered without the consent of the Commonwealth realms. Your argument about sovereign countries cannot be true because neither Ontario nor New South Wales are sovereign countries. Apparently the Harper government is so reluctant to deal with Québec they are ready to depatriate the Canadian constitution to do it.

    As Wheare says, quoted by Anne Twomey:

    1. Dominion legislation that alters the law touching succession to the throne requires the assent of the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and other Dominions (preamble, paragraph 2 – convention);

    2. United Kingdom legislation that alters the law touching succession to the throne, whether or not it is intended to extend as part of the law of the Dominions, requires the assent of the Parliaments of the other Dominions (preamble, paragraph 2 – convention);

    3. United Kingdom legislation that alters the law touching succession to the throne and which is intended to extend to any Dominion, as part of its law, requires the request and consent of that Dominion (preamble paragraph 3 – convention); and

    4. United Kingdom legislation that alters the law touching succession to the throne shall not extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of its law, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that the Dominion has requested, and consented to, its enactment (section 4 – legal requirement).

    Of course, I could be wrong, in which case you should immediately email the 16 Commonwealth realms telling them to abandon their complicated legislative exercise and rely instead on the alleged legislative omnicompetence of the British parliament.

  36. @jrkrideau
    By 1914 there were allready rich and powerfull in oil industry in US. Oil was replacing whale oil that brought riches before and also finding new uses in spreading internal combustion engine use.
    It was clear by 1914 that oil will be an economic engine and i can not belive that rich and powerfull (global planers) would not notice that. They plan up to 100 years ahead (strategic planning). I do not think that strategic planing is only a recent practice.

  37. Baku has, like Tiflis, a mixed population. Although Russians and Tartars form its bulk, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Persia are all represented, most of the Europeans being employed in the manufacture of petroleum. The naphtha springs are said to yield over 170,000 tons of oil yearly.

    Although the wells are fully three miles away, the table-cloths and napkins were saturated with it, and the very food one ate had a faint sickly flavour of naphtha. “I bathed in the Caspian once last summer,” said Mr. B———, despairingly, “and did not get the smell out of my skin for a week, during which time my friends forbade me their houses! Mon Dieu! Quel pays!”

    A RIDE TO INDIA: ACROSS PERSIA AND BALUCHISTÁN.
    BY HARRY DE WINDT, F.R.G.S.,
    1891
    [ http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10974 ]

  38. Pr Q said:

    There’s another, even more tragic, echo here. Both the Crimean War and the Gallipoli campaign arose from the same cause – the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the struggle over its partition. But in the Crimean War, the British and French were on the side of the Turks against the Russians. In the Great War, the imperial alliances had shifted, and the Russians formed part of the Triple Entente, while the Turks were on the side of the Germans.

    So, the Crimean War in the Great Game and Gallipoli in the Great War were all of a piece, a squabble over the spoils of the “sick man of Europe”. Except for a few teensy-weensy differences: Germany did not even exist when the Crimean War started and was against the Entente in the Great War. Whilst Russia was against the Entente in Crimea and for it in Gallipoli. And Turkey was for the Entente in Crimea but against it in Gallipoli.

    But such trifles could hardly bother the Allied “Great Gamers” planning the post-war carve up of the Ottoman Empire. Germany fortifying its positions on the Western Front was nothing to worry about. The Heer was obviously going to be a push over as they showed at Verdun and the Somme. And the Prussian generals were always willing to parley, look how eagerly they embraced President Wilsons 14 points. Likewise the besieged position of Russia on the Eastern Front was of no consequence. We could do without them, as proven by the ease with which the Allies repulsed the Ludendorff offensive. The overriding priority was getting a piece of Palestine after the war, that being the jewel in the crown of Empire.

    Oh…wait a minute, those scenarios play out only in Bizarro world. In reality, Churchill wanted to hit Ottoman Turkey was hit by the Entente because it was the weakest link in the Central Powers. Gallitpoli was supposed to be a way of relieving pressure on Russia on the Eastern Front and avoiding bloodbaths with Germany on the Western Front. Exactly the same rationale lay behind the Allied attack on the Italian empire in the Second World War, again the weakest link in the Axis.

    We know, by Occams Razor inference rather than archival documents, that the attack on Gallipoli, far from being a glittering prize of imperial ambition, was the first instance of what was to become a familiar pattern in 20th C Great Power conflict with the Teutons: the strategy of attacking the “soft underbelly”, “knocking out the props” and assisting our “noble Russian allies”. Anything but a continuation of the bloody slogging match with the Teutonic military across the plains of Northern Europe.

    This Allied diverting & delaying strategy was dreamed up by the same author in both Wars: Winston Churchill. And for the same reason: he wanted to keep Russia in the War in the East to wear down the Central Powers by attrition whilst intriguing to bring the Americans to deliver the knock-out blow in the West and secure a worthwhile victory. Meantime keep the British military engaged in peripheral operations that would not decimate its ranks.

    Churchill was behind the endless diversions to the Mediterranean & Middle East, the strategic bombing campaign, the convoys to keep the Russians supplied and secret weapons (crypto boffins, dam busting, A bombs) to end the war at a stroke.

    No doubt Chuchills Mediterranean adventures in both wars were both strategic blunders. But neither were set up to stake imperial claims. National survival trumps imperial revival every time. particularly when the Teutonic war machine launches itself at your throat.

    All of this was a strategy of avoiding main force battles with the Teutons. And when you look at what happened on the Somme/Verdun in WWI and Stalingrad/Kursk in WWII who can blame him?

    More generally, theres a reason why Clausewitz would have called the Great War “balance of power” politics by other means. The 800 lb gorilla in the living room of the Gallipoli campaign was the Teutonic military-industrial complex whose rapid emergence drastically changed the European balance of power. The combination of Prussian militarism – with its rattling sabres, jangling spurs and crashing jackboots – and Saxon industrialism – with its Protestant work ethic, instinctive obedience to authority and technical mastery – was simply over-powering even to the combined might of the Entente.

    This rise of the Teutonic “cold monster” far outweighed any Great Game calculations. Left-wing “historiography” about this have a tired and shopworn feel, like remaindered copies of Lenins “Imperialism” gathering dust on the shelves of a radical bookshop that has seen better days. Why a scholar of Pr Q’s eminence would embarrass himself by dragging out the yellowing & curling pages of these long-forgotten tomes for another airing is beyond me.

    Pr Q said:

    Whatever the justice of the Allied cause in the Great War as a whole, the war with Turkey was nothing more than a struggle between rival imperialisms. The British and French governments signed secret treaties with each other, and with the Russian Czar, promising to divide the spoils of victory. At the same time, they made incompatible promises of independence for the Arabs and of a homeland in Palestine for the Jews.

    One small glitch with this interpretation: the time-line doesnt fit. The Sykes-Picot agreement, which did draw up a post war division of the Ottoman Empire into Entente spheres of influence, was cooked up in November 1915, nearly a year after planning for the Gallipoli fiasco began. Pointing to secret agreements to post-war division of spoils as a consequence, not cause, of Allied strategy.

    Another factual problem with Pr Q’s interpretation was that Ottoman Turkey, the supposed target of all this sordid intrigue by “rival imperialisms, actually started the War in the Southern front in the first place. (Just as Germany started the War in the Western Front, attacking Belgium. And Austria started the War in the Eastern Front, attacking Serbia. Notice a pattern?) She first attacked Russia, shelling Russian ports in October 1914. Her army, largely under German strategic planning and operational command, then launched an offensive in the Caucasus.

    For sure the Allies were keen to use the prospect of a broken up Ottoman Empire as a means of financing the war, an inducement to wavering allies and a means of defraying their own astronomical costs. But to put dreams of imperial avarice in the Gallipoli drivers seat is to confuse economic consequences with strategic cause.

    The latter Allied campaigns in the Ottoman Middle East were a post-facto & ad hoc side-show to a side-show. In any case, the British were ambivalent about Great Gaming that area, how else can you explain their support for Lawrence’s revolutionary insurrections and the general disgrace heaped upon CHurchill after the Gallipoli withdrawal.

    Senior officers in the British Army (Haig) and Admiralty (Fisher) were both adamantly opposed to the Gallipoli venture, And neither of those two characters could be accused of being averse to a little imperial side-action. Their responsibility was, as always, to use British military resources to the strategic main advantage. This was to engage British imperial forces with the Heer on the Western Front where it was sitting on half of France, not in Gallipoli. And to use the Royal Navy to keep the Kriegsmarine a safe distance from British ports, trade & military supply routes in the Atlantic-English Channel-North Sea, not in the Dardanelles.

    You dont have to buy into Pr Q’s plague-on-both-houses black armband “history” or truckle with Trotskyites making mischief with the archives to regret the Great War or oppose militarism in general. The Great War was a disaster for European civilization, unleashing totalitarian forces which completely undermined and then overwhelmed the liberal Christianity that had evolved so nicely from Charlemagne through to Queen Victoria. And it was generally liberal Christians who launched and prosecuted the War, a fact painful and embarrassing for the present commenter, who identifies with this group, to admit.

    No doubt world history would have gone better if things had gone ala Niall Ferguson’s counter-factual: von Schlieffen plan adhered to, Paris falling by Christmas and Germany dictating terms, leaving the Junkers to rule Europe as they in fact are doing now. But things didn’t go differently. As Bertie Wooster wisely observed, they never do.

  39. Who knew Australia attacked the Turkish with a submarine on 25 April 1915?

    The AE1 and the AE2 Submarines – Australia’s first submarines

    Australia’s first submarines, the AE1 and the AE2, were launched in 1913 and were manned by composite Australian and British crews.

    At the outbreak of the First World War the two submarines were sent from Sydney to German New Guinea with the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force and helped to capture the German colony. On 14 September, a day after the official German surrender of the colony, the AE1, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, left Rabaul harbour to patrol Cape Gazelle and never returned. The fate of the submarine was never discovered but it is probable that it was caught on a coral reef and sunk.

    The AE2, commanded by Lieutenant Commander H. S. Stoker, achieved fame for its operations in the Dardanelles. The AE2 was ordered to sail through the Dardanelles and disrupt Turkish shipping in the Sea of Marmora. No other submarine had yet managed to breach the Turkish defences but, in the early hours of 25 April 1915, the AE2 got past minefields and land-based guns. After torpedoing a Turkish destroyer it reached the Sea of Marmora. The AE2 remained at large for five more days before sustaining irreparable damage while under heavy fire. Stoker was forced to sink the submarine and surrender. He and his crew spent the rest of the war in Turkish captivity. Stoker was awarded the Distinguished Service Order after the war.

    The wreck of the AE2 was located in June 1998. The AE1 has never been found.

    Interestingly, the AE1 was captured after it tried to do a sudden ‘dive’ and literally bounced off the fresh water layer and popped up like a cork.

    Also, Keith Murdoch fabricated the ANZAC myth to turn a disgrace into a matter of national “pride”. A ‘talent’ handed down to his progeny, apparently.

    I might be the only person who noticed that our clownish compatriots at Gallipoli this year were subject to strict security checks and policed by machine gun carrying Turkish military. Sometimes “irony” is the only correct word to use.

  40. Strocchers talks a lot of sense. Then he goes and spoils it all:

    The Great War was a disaster for European civilization, unleashing totalitarian forces which completely undermined and then overwhelmed the liberal Christianity that had evolved so nicely from Charlemagne through to Queen Victoria. And it was generally liberal Christians who launched and prosecuted the War, a fact painful and embarrassing for the present commenter, who identifies with this group, to admit.

    1. “Liberal” Christians had, during the Wars of Religion of the 16th and 17th centuries committed acts of deliberate genocide that depopulated large swathes of Central Europe.

    2. By the end of the 19th century the political classes of Europe were Christian in name only. In fact, their operating principles arose from a triumphalist gloss of social Darwinism.

    Only a fantasist with a grave case of wish fulfilment projectionism could believe that modern Europe ever represented the kinder, gentler aspects of Christianity. The horrors of the Great War weren’t visited upon Europe, they grew out of the continent’s heart and mind.

  41. “The horrors of the Great War weren’t visited upon Europe, they grew out of the continent’s heart and mind.”
    so too the long peace grew out of the continent’s heart & mind.

  42. The Long Peace was when Continental Europe turned its attention from geopolitics and renegotiated the nature of internal relationships between classes. Italians, French, and Austrians killed each other, not their international neighbours.

    It is true that between 1815 and 1914 Europe was spared major international wars. But this was a fluke. Prussia proved itself to be so adept at winning splendid little wars against cleverly chosen enemies, major wars were impossible.

    We can thank Prussian militarism for little wars, not liberal Christianity.

  43. this time, one hundred years ago, britain was preparing its state commemoration of the waterloo centenary in 1915 – one hundred of non involvement in wars on the continent.

  44. Between 1815 and approximately 1902 the British political classes congratulated themselves on the success of their balance of power diplomacy in Europe. By the time that they grew alarmed it was too late to counteract by peaceful means the rise of the German Empire.

    On the other hand, when was the right time for Britain to abandon its policy of splendid isolation?

  45. @Alan – contingency planning for a war is not the same as deciding to start a war. I’m surprised Yamamoto started the operational planning so late.

  46. On the Niall Ferguson stuff about how it might have been better for everyone if the Germans had won the Battle of the Marne, I think its nuts.

    Does anyone think another major war would have been far from coming once major powers learnt that easy success came from brutally overrunning small neutral countries? And Wilhelmine Germany may have had some nice liberal tendencies but it had awfully strong militaristic and reactionary tendencies too, which would have been immensely strengthened by a quick victory. In particular all that Nietschean/Hegelian “might makes right” view of the world would have triumphed, with baleful future results. Ferguson’s views on this may be coloured by the fact that he is himself a reactionary with precisely this worldview.

    Whether Australians making war on Turkey was sensible or moral, there’s no doubt that in the wider picture of WW1 the western Allies, for all their greed duplicity and stupidity, were ultimately on the side of the angels.

  47. counterfactuals needn’t have to focus exclusively on the beginning of the war, they can speculate on how else it might have ended. for example, what if the munich soviet had held out longer or been replicated in enough other german cities to reach a “critical mass”? what if ebert weren’t so enthralled by junkers? what if the factory occupations in italy had consolidated? linked up with bavaria? what if the french army mutinies had spread to the other side? to the home front? the allies? what if lenin had been more interventionist in 1918 1919? marched on berlin with a worker’s & peasant’s volunteer army? i know these things are meant to be ranked for consideration in order of plausibility, and some of mine might be out of court, but i can’t help wondering. -a.v.

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