Restore the Turkish Empire!

The Turkish Empire, also called the Ottoman Empire, was founded in 1299 and lasted until 1922. At the start of World War I, the Turkish Empire still included much of the Levant, including what are now Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, and part of Saudi Arabia. The Sultan, as the emperor, was also the head of the Caliphate, the realm of Islam.

Libertarians are generally opposed to empires. However, a great historical error was made by the victors of World War I. The chiefs of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, broke up the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Turkish Empire. Whereas the Arabs helped the British defeat the Turks in the expectation that they would achieve independence, the British and French betrayed these hopes by making the Arab lands colonies. The British obtained Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, while the French took Lebanon and Syria.

Under the Turkish Empire, the diverse religions of the Middle East were able to co-exist. The Empire had a policy of local self-governance under the “millet” system whereby people could use their own religious laws. The term derives from the Arabic word millah, for meaning “nation.” Because they were all under one empire, the ethnic groups such as Kurds and the religious minorities did not fight over land.

Today’s problems in the Middle East, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Syrian civil wars, the dictatorship and war in Iraq, the violence in Lebanon, and the rise of supremacists, all stem from the breakup of the Turkish Empire. That realm had its problems, including violence against Armenians and others, but most of the residents of the former Turkish areas would probably wish they had stayed in the Empire.

With the discovery and development of oil Iraq became of strategic interest. If the Turkish Empire had not been broken up then the oil would have served the Empire; and the dictatorships and tyrannies of Syria and Iraq would have been prevented. Most likely, the Turkish Empire would have been a constitutional monarchy. The retention of the Caliphate would have avoided the nostalgic yearning of Muslims for its restoration by violence.

But now, is it too late? We cannot restore broken Humpty Dumpty, can we? Maybe not, but what is the alternative? Nobody is talking about restoring the Turkish Empire, but there does not seem to be any better solution.

The restoration of the Turkish empire does seem crazy, ridiculous, and absurd. But it would unify the region. There was no Sunni-Shia war under the Turks. Christians were able to follow their faith. Jews who had lived in the region since the BC times did not have to flee.

The new Turkish Empire would include Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq. Kuwait was separate from the Empire, and could join or not as it wished. The government of Turkey would start the process by sending in troops to take control of Syria and sections of Iraq. The other states would be invited to join in.

The new empire would not be called “Turkish,” although Turkey would be the major power holding it together. It could be called the Confederation of the Levant. The states of the confederation would retain their own institutions. Israelis and Palestinians would benefit by joining the new Turkish empire. Just as Muslim cities once had Jewish quarters, the Empire would regard Israel as the Jewish quarter of a Muslim empire, while Palestinian Arabs would no longer be under Israeli occupation; they would constitute a state within a Muslim Caliphate, and the Israeli settlers would recognize the Palestinian jurisdiction by paying rent.

The US is now reluctant to send in troops to pacify the Levant, and Turkey is in the best position to do so. Having become more Islamic, now is the time for it to take the next step and restore an Islamic empire with a Caliphate, but a peaceful, democratic, and tolerant one.

Just as breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a big mistake, which allowed Nazi Germany to swallow up Austria and then Czechoslovakia, so was the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. The European Union has replaced the old European realms as it becomes a new empire of democratic states. Nothing like that is happening in the Middle East.

It’s time to talk Turkey!

43 thoughts on “Restore the Turkish Empire!

  1. A good panorama of the mind. However, this does not really cut it: “violence against Armenians and others,” Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred; there were big massacres in Lebanon in the 19th century. Those are not just small shadows on the sunny millet system.

    Curiously, two Turkish friends of mine were making the same remarks to me a couple of days ago. Yet, it’s not clear ethnic Turks would be interested. They too have become nationalists.

    • I hate to agree with Jacques but I must. I console myself by remembering the saying about broken clocks being right twice per day.

    • I am a monarchist, however I must agree with Mr Delacroix in this issue. In my opinion, The ottoman monarchy was an insult to the very concept of monarchy. A monarch should act as a unifier of his land not a divider.

      “A few bad monarchs” doesn’t automatically mean a bad monarchy or dynasty, but almost “all bad monarchs” from the same dynasty signifies the failure of the dynasty and ultimately the monarchical system itself.

  2. Fred, some points were made, but you left a lot out about how Turkey operates, even in modern times. I would not wish a life in Turkey upon any women. The country looks good on paper. They have passed all kinds of legislation dealing with equal rights for women and anti discrimination laws. Some women have risen to unprecedented heights, even to Prime Minister! The problem is, most of the country ignores these laws and institutions with impunity! Here are just a few examples.

    1. 40 to 50% are married under age and bride prices are still paid in some areas.
    2. Murders of women rose from 66 in 2002 to 953 2009, mostly because they started speaking up for themselves.
    3. Domestic violence is prevalent and mostly not even investigated. The wives knowing that if they go to the authorities they will just be returned to the husband and told to work it out. They become part of the murdered women statistic.
    4. One out of five women can neither read nor write. This is higher in rural areas, and slightly less in others.
    5. Women’s employment has steadily dropped since 2002. Turkey is now behind Saudi Arabia, and even Syria.
    6. Turkey is now one of the major recipients of women sold into the sex slave business.

    So, I don’t think I will be voting to turn back the clock anytime soon. Sorry Fred, but these things need to be addressed before any wishful thinking can be done about an imagined good back in the day!

    • From unicef
      Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012* 94.1
      Adult literacy rate: females as a % of males 2008-2012*
      Survival rate to the last grade of primary: females as a % of males 2008-2012* 101.5%

      From indexmundi
      Literacy rate, adult female (% of females ages 15 and above) in Turkey was 85.35 as of 2009. Its highest value over the past 34 years was 85.35 in 2009, while its lowest value was 45.10 in 1975.

      Literacy rate, adult male (% of males ages 15 and above) in Turkey was 96.38 as of 2009. Its highest value over the past 34 years was 96.38 in 2009, while its lowest value was 77.50 in 1975

    • Hi John. This is what I get from the CIA Factbook

      definition: age 15 and over can read and write
      total population: 94.1%
      male: 97.9%
      female: 90.3% (2011 est.)

      What source is cited for the female literacy number in the Wikipedia entry? What year? You’ll see that the unicef numbers I gave were from an 2009 while the factbook numbers are from 2011. Looks like a very steep increase.

    • Hahah!

      What source is cited for the female literacy number in the Wikipedia entry?

      @Dr A: The “source” John cites via Wikipedia is a website called “Global Giving.” The numbers John uses to form his opinion of Turkish society can be found on an obscure website designed to entice Americans to donate money to charity projects overseas…

  3. A thought-provoking post, as usual Fred!

    I can largely get on board with what you are arguing (and, indeed, I alluded to much the same thing in this old comment), and I understand that your headline was meant to stir up trouble, but there are a few points made in this piece that I’d like to consider a little more in depth.

    First, I appreciate that you are careful to point out that democracy, as the West thinks of it, is not a necessity for a regional confederation. This is one sacred cow that has yet to lose its grip on the minds of the baby boomer generation (the most powerful faction in the West).

    I noticed that the word ‘Kurd’ is only mentioned once, and in tandem with a point about all ethnic groups getting along under a single, minimal, and general framework for government. Nationalism is something that a Turkish Empire would never be able to counter. Indeed, some historians argue that nationalism was what brought down the Ottoman Empire in the first place.

    The Kurds also help to explain why Turkey has done virtually nothing against ISIS.

    A better option would be for the West to recognize the independence of a Kurdistan and then push for a confederation between Kurdistan and Turkey (a la Germany and France in Europe). This would ensure that no ethnic group could dominate politically the other, and would force both groups into working out their differences through the political process rather than a military one.

    This post also ignores the hatred that Arabs (among others) had of the Ottoman Empire. The British and French did not have much trouble convincing the Arabs to fight the Turks, for instance, and while Jacques is quick to make martyrs of the Armenians (how typical!) he ignores the fact that Armenians murdered as many Turks as they could before the Ottomans left for good. And, of course, there was not much Sunni/Shia tension because the Ottomans had no moral qualms (or legal barriers) about crushing dissent, and neighboring Persia’s porous borders made fleeing or exiling dissidents an easy task for Istanbul.

    Bottom line for me: I think Fred does a great job of painting a more coherent picture of the Middle East by upping his analysis to the regional level. I think he ignores the fact that the West will have to play a role in the disintegration of the Sykes-Picot Middle East. I think the Turks will have to play a leading role in a new confederation, but this role needs to look a lot more like the French and German model in the EU and less like the old Ottoman Empire (“the sick man of Europe”).

  4. I am always eager to learn. I would like to know much more than I do about Armenian massacres of Turks.

    The desire for ideological consistency is at the source of more mischief than evil itself!

    • I would like to know much more than I do about Armenian massacres of Turks.

      Google it. Or just re-read this little gem.

      Just curious: You don’t think Armenians massacred Turks during World War I? It wouldn’t surprise me if you were unable to yield to reality, of course; you are the man who once advocated the West bomb Rwanda without first choosing a local side, after all, but I do hope so-called interventionists realize – through Jacques’ example – just how precarious their position really is.

      You want to save Kurds and Yazidis from Sunni Arabs? You’re going to have to arm them.

      You want to save Hutus from Tutsi militias? You’re going to have to arm them.

      You want to save Sunni Arabs from Christian and Alawite Arabs? You’re going to have to arm them.

      You want to save Armenians from Ottomans? You’re going to have to arm them.

      (A better option would be to have open borders, of course, but we all know how unfeasible freedom of movement is.)

  5. It’s a little late for the mass-slaughtered Armenians. I would still like to have a source, any source on how they massacred Turks.

    In my book, there is a difference between casual village massacres and planned mass extermination. The Ottoman Empire tried to wipe out Armenians completely. The Hutus tried to eliminate the Tutsis in Rwanda. No, it was not the other way around as you state. (Maybe you have a source on this too.) This is getting stranger and stranger!

    Open borders would be wonderful but the “precarious lifeboat” argument has not been answered at all: The poor of the underdeveloped world have the capacity to sink the small islands of civilized life by simply going over in large numbers. Immigration controls are a sad necessity. (Says this immigrant.)

    • I’m sorry Dr J, but the double standards you employ don’t impress me. Certainly not enough to be your gopher. Your double standards, your selective memory, leads not to liberty and justice but to lies and injustice.

      Consider your writings in support of the West’s bombing campaign against Libya as one small example:

      There are several benefits to the Libyan/NATO victory for this country […] First, rogues and political murderers everywhere are given a chance to suppose that if you kill Americans, we will get you afterwards, even if it takes twenty years […] Two, Arabs and oppressed people everywhere are figuring that we mean it when we say we like democracy for everyone […] Three, this Obama international victory will cost him dearly in the next election. A fraction – I don’t know how large – of the people who voted for him the first time around oppose all American military interventions.

      You, of course, have yet to acknowledge your mistakes. Instead, you start calling people names!

      Double standards: A cruel reminder of an era that has been eliminated legally here in the US but not quite socially. Only time – and a population willing to jealously guard against such tyranny – will lead to a freer, more prosperous world.

    • Brandon: I have not argued with you about any of my past postings that you so kindly revived. Those were all discussions with some predictive implications. Suppose all such discussions without exceptions proved to be wrong, every one of them. Still, when you say something downright strange about events long past and abundantly studied and discussed, I must ask for factual clarification. That’s not using you as a “gopher” at all.

      And there is no double standard involved. Anyone would be right to correct my facts. Thank you in advance, even.

      It’s necessary to call you on the facts, of course because you can’t even recall correctly tragic events that happened in your lifetime, in Rwanda, for example, about which you volunteered information that is false. I don’t even know if your inversion statement about Tutsis and Hutus was a simple mistake or another attempt to write your own, personalized version of history. Again: I don’t even know.

      Earlier, in this thread, you asserted that Turks killed Armenians without even alluding to a source. You still have not alluded to a source. What’s next: Polish Jews killed Nazis? (A few did a few, actually, in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. It would be OK to say that specifically.)

      What you dub calling you names, is simply ordinary calling a peer to account. Of course, I have an idea in mind: You are obviously intelligent, and you have nimble fingers to do the factual research. When you commit factual blunders, I have to wonder why. Of course, I think it’s caused by ideological rigidity, an intense desire to make events fit into you worldview. If that’s “calling names” so be it. I am performing a public service that is also good for you.

      Here are some readings to help skim the surface of the Armenian attempted genocide. I did not find documentation about Armenian massacres of ethnic Turks. I must not have looked hard enough!
      I don’t care if you, Brandon, open any of these. Another public service!

      A short overview excerpted from a fundamental document, a whole book by the US Ambassador to Turkey, Hans Morgenthau:
      (The references to Ambassador Morgenthau’s actual book are at the end of the statement.)

      The document below is supposed to discredit the Morgenthau testimony. It’s unwittingly damning for Turkish power.

      See also:

      A Turkish journalist of Armenian descent was assassinated in 2007 in full daylight in Istanbul for pursuing the issue publicly. That’s evidence of Turkish innocence, of course!

      Hasan Ceymal, a Turkish investigative journalist with many laurels unrelated to the Armenian question recognizes the reality of the Armenina genocide. Mr Ceymal has no Armenian parentage; he is a Turkish Turk.

    • Thanks, but your “sources” will go unread (at least by me). When it comes to foreign policy, your “arguments” carry no clout. I have never claimed that the Ottoman Empire was a benevolent empire, or that Istanbul did not attempt to slaughter Armenians. You are putting words in my mouth (again), and as a result another straw man has been knocked over. Liar, liar, pants on fire!

      I don’t think – for one minute – that Armenians and the arms they received from Czarist and (later) Bolshevik Russia were innocent victims a la the Jews and Gypsies of Eastern Europe. Whiny liberals such as yourself tend to prey on narratives like the Armenian one because it appeals to your authoritarianism. It sings to your soul and lets you play hero. Unfortunately, like Rwanda and the Levant, there are no good guys and no bad guys in the story of the collapse of empire. Yes, the Turks massacred Armenians (the estimated number of dead grows every year, of course), but it is also true that Armenians massacred Turks. They did it with Russian arms. They did it with Russian instruction. They even targeted and slaughtered non-Turkish Muslims (just ask the Azerbaijanis, or the Kurds). Only a fool would try to claim, with a straight face, that Armenians were innocent victims and Turks the sole bad guys.

      Just out of curiosity (and speaking of strange things and fools): Which side of the Rwandan civil war do you think the West should have chosen?

  6. Brandon: As is often the case, you have secret sources about well known events. It must be nice.

    Again: “Jews kill Nazis” (in the Warsaw ghetto).

    A few days ago, you said this: “You want to save Hutus from Tutsi militias? ” It seems to assert that in the massacres in Rwanda in the 90s, the Tutsis did the massacring. I still don’t know if this is an innocent mistake or a peculiar reading of recent history. Do you know yourself?

    It sometimes happen that what “everybody knows” turns out to be false or simply unsupported. I would put in this category the belief that there exists man-made global warming of such magnitude that action must be taken now. However, the fact that everybody knows something does not automatically make it false: Almost everyone (just guessing) believes that the sun rises in the east. It does, actually. Check it out.

    • As is often the case, you have secret sources about well known events. It must be nice.

      You are being dishonest again. Do you dispute the fact that Armenians slaughtered as many Turks as they could, and many other Muslims as well?

      Comparing the Armenian story in the Caucasus to the Jewish story in Eastern Europe is predictable tripe, but does not hold up to scrutiny. The fact that you still support the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 – even after it has been shown to be a complete and utter failure in every sense of the word – says much about your credibility (and the dishonest charges you level against those you disagree with).

      Also: Do you still deny that there were tens of thousands of US troops in Saudi Arabia on 9/11?

      Regarding the Hutu/Tutsi thing, you are thinking way too hard. I suggest you re-read what I wrote, and try to remember that I simply know more about international affairs than you. (The Cold War ended over twenty years ago, for example.)

  7. “It sometimes happen that what “everybody knows” turns out to be false or simply unsupported. I would put in this category the belief that there exists man-made global warming of such magnitude that action must be taken now.”

    Of course you do. You’re an internet crank.

  8. “(The Cold War ended over twenty years ago, for example.)”

    Only for reality-based people. In Delacroix-land Reagan ‘won’ the Cold War but the ‘Libruls’ lost it over time so now it’s back.

  9. Brandon: Why is it so difficult to answer a simple, direct question? I just want to know if your seeming (seeming) attribution of the mass murders in Rwanda to the Tutsi was a slip of the pen or part of an esoteric understanding of the event. How is this “thinking too hard.” Everybody makes innocent mistakes. Was this one or is it something else?

    If I had written: “As the sun rises in the west,” I would simply say “Oops!” I don’t know why you don’t unless you really believe what you said.

    Your attempt to change the subject by drawing me into the same old polemics is useless. (I have to go to the beach.) You can still republish my past statements over and over again.

    I don’t know which of us knows more about international affairs. I never thought about it. I doubt there is a way to know.

    • I can’t even follow your line of reasoning anymore. What are you trying to convey to us, Dr J?

      If you’re trying to embarrass me for something I wrote, it would help if you cited that something. I grow tired of arguing with your imagination.

  10. Brandon:

    In a previous comment on this thread, you said this:

    “You want to save Hutus from Tutsi militias?”

    This is citation, not my imagination.

    I take the question to mean that you believe that the 1994 massacres in Rwanda were conducted by Tutsis against Hutus.

    Wikipedia, everyone I know and everything I have read state that it was the Hutus who massacred Tutsis. (Wikipedia: “The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority. “)

    The question goes to your respect for facts or to your perception of reality, or simply to understandable carelessness.

    I don’t know if the inversion of the facts in your question was a typo or if it expressed an exotic understanding of reality.

    The last question matters because one cannot fruitfully debate anything with someone who shares no assumption with one. If you think that the sun rises in the west, I should stop devoting any time to countering you and others should know that extraordinary caution is needed about anything you say.

    Is this clear?

    • Oh sweet Jesus.

      That was what got you all worked up? (Here is the link, btw)

      I also used the Armenians and Ottomans as an example to make my point (which has yet to be contended). According to the rules of your game, I must think the Ottoman Empire still exists today.

      Your attempt to embarrass me is as pathetic and as it is childish. It is childish because most people can see that I was using those examples to make a still-uncontested general point (“you have to arm one side of a conflict if you choose to intervene”), and pathetic because you have no place lecturing others about reality.

      For example: Why don’t you tell us how many US troops were in Saudi Arabia on 9/11? Let me remind you that you are on the record as denying that there were any US troops in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 in the first place.

  11. @fredfoldvary

    I agree wholeheartedly. One of the greatest disasters to befall the near east was the destruction of the Turkish empire and I would support the construction of a new one.

    This actually ties into the world government discussion Brandon and I are having elsewhere on NoL. There are clear benefits to ‘large’, and by large I mean large in territorial jurisdiction, federal governments. Namely federations have an incentive to discourage intra-federation fighting and promote the free movement of people and goods.

    A new Turkish empire would hopefully be secular and more decentralized, but you seem to agree to this already as what you are proposing is a ‘Confederation of the Levant’.

    Unfortunately Turkey seems more interested in joining the EU than it does in reasserting influence over its old domain. Perhaps an alternative strategy would be to see if we can pressure the EU to allow Turkey and the rest of the Levant to apply for EU membership? Subject to meeting certain criteria of course. There is already a good degree of support for allowing Israel to join the EU and the Levant has had political connections with Europe several times throughout its history.

    I worry about how Saudi Arabia might react though. Under what conditions would the Saudi join the EU, and therefore reform their institutions?

    • Michelangelo: Isn’t it the case that there is already large and growing opposition within individual EU countries to anything facilitating the movement of Muslims into the EU and within the EU borders?

      I think there is significant opposition within all EU countries. Correct me if I am wrong.

  12. Brandon: I still (STILL) don’t know if you mean to say that Tutsi militias slaughtered Hutus or if you meant the reverse. You stated the former. If it was a mistake of inattention, you only need to say so.

    I am as bored by this discussion as you are. However, it speaks to your credibility.

    Unwillingness to admit to small mistakes of inattention is itself very important to a person’s credibility.

    Your credibility itself matters because of the success of this blog.

    • Smh. I meant neither. You obviously failed to grasp my point or, more likely, you are ignoring it in order to change the subject (we’ve now gone from a fun-but-theoretical discussion on IR to a denial of Armenian involvement in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to questioning my “credibility”).

      Don’t speak to me of credibility.

      Not when you continue to deny that US troops were in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 or that the earth’s climate is changing, or that the 2003 illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq is something you would “do all over again.”

      PS: I’ve blogged about Rwanda before.

  13. Brandon, Brandon: I said that “the earth’s climate is changing”? You must be confusing me with someone else.

    You are right, I did not understand what you meant when you referred to Tutsis and Hutus ass-backward from everybody else. The subtlety of your thought is too great for me.

    Why persist in trying to fight old wars with me in which I have no present interest? Isn’t there plenty of new material?

    • Brandon, Brandon: I said that “the earth’s climate is changing”?

      No, you have repeatedly denied that the earth’s climate is changing.

      You seem to be unable to comprehend even simple insults these days, much less simple scenarios designed for argument’s sake.

      Answering my questions – “Do you still support Bush’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq?”; “Is the planet growing warmer?”; “Do you still believe that Saudi Arabia was empty of US soldiers on 9/11?” – will go a long way toward re-establishing your credibility in the eyes of many readers and Notewriters here at the consortium.

      If not, you’ll soon find yourself playing the role of the old coot who is quick to insult and slow to comprehend.

  14. “Most likely, the Turkish Empire would have been a constitutional monarchy”, you said.

    As a matter of fact, in much of its late era the Ottoman Empire was a constitutional monarchy. The first constitution –Kanun-i Esasî was accepted in 1876.

  15. When I wrote, “lets talk Turkey,” I didn’t anticipate such a big discussion. Thanks to all who provided insights and information. I still think there could have been a better outcome for the Levant than establishing British and French colonies in the former Turkish Empire.

    • I can’t speak for Fred, but you might want to start here, Dr J.

      Happy New Year!

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