THE Turks have always owed their power to the dissensions of Christendom. Quarrels between the Greeks and Bulgars first opened the Balkan Peninsula to the Sultans. In 1453 Christianity allowed Constantinople to fall into the hands of Mahomet II. In the nineteenth century Anglo-Russian rivalry preserved the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. In the twentieth century, at the close of the World War, it was Anglo-French rivalry that allowed Turkey, guilty and defeated, exhausted and disheartened, to reestablish herself on both sides of the Straits and to set up her power anew in Constantinople, where, for the first time since the fall of Constantine Dragoses, there was a garrison of Christian troops. Baffled in their immense hopes, the old raias whom the armies of the West delivered from an oppression centuries old, have now suffered a fate more atrocious than after the greatest of the Osmanlis' victories. It is a fact unique in the annals of the civilized world that populations which were settled here for thousands of years before the Turks made their appearance in history have been driven out en masse by a treaty of peace to leave room for the Turkish invaders who pretend that this is their "homeland."

How could such a thing occur? Who is responsible? A part of the responsibility does, indeed, weigh upon France--but a part only. Let us see how large a part.


On September 29, 1918, the armistice granted to the Bulgars by General Franchet d'Espérey seemed to the whole Near East to be the preface to a Turkish capitulation. While General Franchet d'Espérey, commander-in-chief of the Allied Armies in the Balkans, was pursuing his victorious march to Belgrade (which the Serbs entered on November 1st) he ordered the English General Milne to march on the Turkish frontier and Constantinople with eight divisions, three of which were British. Even though it should encounter more or less serious opposition, this movement must inevitably end upon the Bosphorus. The Committee of Union and Progress, which had been sovereign since August, 1914, knew that it was lost. Enver Pasha, one of the triumvirate, did indeed propose bringing up divisions from Anatolia and organizing resistance upon the Tchataldja line, but his suggestion was not carried out. Feeling that serious resistance was impossible, the Committee's sole concern was to prevent the fall of Constantinople and a massacre of the Mussulmans. The triumvirate resigned and was replaced by a ministry headed by Izzet Pasha which was thereafter dominated by a single idea: the conclusion of an armistice.

Naturally enough, and in spite of some ministers who preferred negotiating with the English, Izzet Pasha tried first to get in touch with the commander-in-chief of the Allied Armies, General Franchet d'Espérey; but his first envoy, Colonel Mehmet Bey, was arrested at Dedeagatch by the English military authorities. The colonel returned to Constantinople bearing word that the English did not wish Turkey to make peace with the French. A second emissary--this time a secret one--a Frenchman, M. Savoie, was no more fortunate. British outpost commanders suspected him and held him. Izzet Pasha, having received no word from M. Savoie, and finding the situation growing steadily more critical, consulted his colleagues afresh. Acting upon their opinion he telegraphed to the Vali of Smyrna, Rahmi Bey, a friend of the English, to negotiate with them for an armistice.

In the Mediterranean as in the Balkans the commander-in-chief of the Allied fleets--as provided in agreements with London --had from the beginning of the war been a Frenchman, Admiral Gauchet. If, therefore, the Turkish Government wished to negotiate with the commander of the fleet it had to address either Admiral Gauchet or his immediate subordinate, Vice-Admiral Amet, commander of the second squadron, stationed in the road at Mudros, to the south of Lemnos. But instead the Vali of Smyrna got in touch with Vice-Admiral Calthorpe, commander-in-chief of the British naval forces at Malta. At the same time General Townshend, who had surrendered to the Turks in April, 1916, at Kut-el-Amara, and had been interned at Prinkipo, was set free and summoned to the Sublime Porte. On October 17th he had a long conversation with Izzet Pasha, and that same evening discussed armistice conditions for two hours with Rauf Bey, Minister of Marine. Rauf asked British friendship and protection, stipulating that the Dardanelles should not be forced. On the 18th Rahmi Bey conducted General Townshend and an English captain to Panderma, and thence to Smyrna, whence they set out for Mytilene and Mudros. On the 20th, at Mudros, the general became the guest of Admiral Seymour, commanding the British naval forces in the Aegean Sea.

Without the consent of its allies the British Government concluded a bungled armistice, the gaps in which--especially as concerned the disarmament of the Turkish army--later permitted the Turks to pull themselves together and reestablish their military situation. At this time it was the French Government that desired to smash Ottoman military power once for all, and it was England that held the French back in order to gain a preponderance in Turkey.


Confronted by the fait accompli, neither France nor the other Allies could withhold ratification of an armistice which had been published everywhere and which the whole world regarded as Turkey's capitulation. France refrained from quibbling over the omissions which at that time the great public did not clearly discern, but she held herself in reserve for the outcome. Now the British authorities began again playing the same double game as in October. While assuming an attitude of perfect courtesy toward the French authorities, they did their best to hold them at a distance. Some weeks later, when General Franchet d'Espérey made his formal entry into Constantinople and set up his general headquarters in the Yali of Enver Pasha, at the foot of the Yildiz cliffs, the positions of political importance were solidly in the grip of the British.

Nevertheless the policy of the Clemenceau Cabinet and the feeling of the French public did not change a bit. General Franchet d'Espérey manifested the greatest spirit of conciliation in his dealings with the British authorities and adopted a sympathetic attitude toward the various Christian communities. At this time the conviction was dominant in France that the Christian nations of the Balkans would resume complete possession of the territories once conquered by the Sultan and that the Straits would be internationalized under control of the Western Powers. The sole hesitation was over the fate of Constantinople. The feeling prevailed that in October, 1914, the Turkish Government had committed an inexcusable crime in taking part against France and England, that their intervention, followed by the closing of the Straits, had caused incalculable misery, and that no punishment could be too severe for that Government and the people who had obeyed it. The 700,000 Christians at Constantinople were so well aware of these feelings that on the day of General Franchet d'Espérey's triumphant entry they frantically acclaimed the French regiments. It never occurred to them that the Turk could ever return as a master to the ancient Byzantine capital. The Mussulmans themselves, weighed down by the blows of fate, awaited the worst.

Within a few months the French educational institutions filled with pupils. In the fifty-two French schools at Constantinople and in our missionary establishments in Asia Minor more than 90,000 children hastened to take up the study of our language and receive our instruction. The prestige of the Western Powers extended in all directions throughout the Ottoman Empire, and the Turks, overwhelmed by their defeat, never even thought of revenge. Their tattered emaciated soldiers presented a pitiable spectacle. The Allies, however, treated their enemies at Constantinople so mildly, affected so little the mien of conquerors thirsty for vengeance, and showed themselves so pliable toward the numerous Turks who endeavored, with the refinements of Oriental hypocrisy, to fix all responsibility for the intervention of 1914 upon a little group of men, that the Mussulman population plucked up heart and lost both fear and respect together. The former chiefs of the Committee of Union and Progress thereupon did two things: they changed their label to "Renovation," and they set up a cunning propaganda in France. A number of them returned to Paris to exploit their former relations with influential political leaders. They posed as victims of Enver and Talaat, swearing that their sole ambition henceforward would be to make their country an auxiliary of France. Some of them were warmly received by dilettantes bred on the novels of Pierre Loti and Claude Farrere, and by artists, archeologists and tourists who retained pleasant memories of the Turkish peasantry.

In spite of this the Cabinet at Paris remained very firm in its attitude toward Turkey. It even pushed its firmness to the verge of imprudence, for in May, 1919, while the Italian delegation was absent from the Peace Conference, M. Clemenceau joined with Mr. Lloyd George in proposing the occupation of Smyrna to M. Venizelos. Moreover, in June, when the Turkish delegation (led by Damad Ferid Pasha, the opponent of the Committee of Union and Progress) came to Paris to negotiate peace, the French premier administered a glacial douche. On June 29 a note signed by Clemenceau reminded them that Turkey had without any excuse shown herself Germany's willing instrument, and had been guilty of massacres "whose deliberate atrocity equals or surpasses anything in recorded history." Inviting the Turkish Government to "break with an evil tradition of corruption and intrigue," the note did not conceal the fact that the Supreme Council had no desire for further interviews with the Turkish Delegation until Turkey was resigned to the inevitable consequences of her sins.

This blunt dismissal of the men who in 1914 had had the courage to protest against the exploits of Enver, Talaat and Djemal was not very clever. It has been intimated that the British Delegation was at the bottom of the proceeding. In any case, M. Clemenceau fell in with it, forgeting the invariable Oriental custom of demanding more than is expected, and the fact that time out of mind the plenipotentiaries of the Sublime Porte have begun all negotiation by raising the principle of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. This piece of clumsiness provided food for the growth of Turkish nationalism.

At this moment there appeared a leader for the Mussulmans, now infuriated by the occupation of Smyrna. Mustapha Kemal, famous for his gallantry at the Dardanelles and his record in Syria under Falkenhayn and Liman von Sanders, had been sent to Anatolia as inspector of the Third Corps. Damad Ferid hoped thus to get rid of a troublesome soldier and at the same time use him to pull together the military forces which had become disorganized since the armistice. Only the second half of the Grand Vizir's hopes were fulfilled. Mustapha Kemal got hold of the munitions depots that the Allies failed to guard. He armed the Nationalists and laid in a reserve of munitions. Once master of the situation in Anatolia, he defied Damad Ferid, who had him rebuked by the Sheik-ul-Islam instead of laying hands on the man himself. Mustapha Kemal resigned and in July assembled at Erzerum a congress which on August 7th proclaimed a National Pact and affirmed its determination to defend Anatolia against the Entente, the Greeks and the Armenians. Adhesions came from all parts of the country. A second and more numerous National Assembly met at Sivas in September. It demanded the immediate election of a national Parliament and by telegraph summoned the Sultan to cause the evacuation by the Powers of all territories beyond an established line drawn straight from the south of Mosul to Alexandretta. The Sultan in terror dismissed Damad Ferid and on October 20 replaced him by Marshal Ali Riza Pasha.

Disagreements between the English and French now became obvious. The former openly took sides with Damad Ferid, while the latter showed their sympathy for the Nationalists. The British authorities at Constantinople made less and less secret of their purpose of keeping the Sultan in leading strings and ousting the Allies by degrees. In Syria they took it on themselves to install as King the Emir Feisal, son of Hussein, Sherif of Mecca, on the pretext that the London Cabinet had during the war promised Hussein to create a union of the Arab lands under his rule. Enthroned as King of the Hedjaz, Hussein was in London's pay. Another of his sons, Abdullah, was installed, likewise with the title of King, in another region which was split off from Syria and baptized Transjordania. The Paris Cabinet permitted Feisal to govern Damascus under the direction of a French agent, but it would not tolerate this princeling's stretching out his hand over the rest of Syria. At the instigation and with the active aid of such British agents as Colonel Lawrence, Feisal obstinately persisted in his design of creating an Arab Empire. Even when the treaties had entrusted us with the Syrian mandate and when French troops, at length freed from other cares, had occupied Syria, Feisal did not cease to stir up trouble from his palace at Damascus. He even egged on bands to attack General Gouraud during the course of a tour of inspection, and employed the supplies with which we provided him to combat us. The French Government, annoyed at this, concluded an agreement with London and got rid of Feisal, whom the British sent to reign over Irak at Bagdad. But these numerous and highly disagreeable incidents had aroused and irritated the old latent antagonism between the two great occidental powers. Friction between the two Cabinets was increased with each of a series of conferences.

Many French officers, for their part, embittered the situation by an unfriendly attitude toward England and Greece. They harbored grudges against these two countries because of the persistent unwillingness of the British staff to cooperate with us in the Balkans and because of the treachery of Constantine's army. Having served under the bitter and prejudiced General Sarrail, they shared his prejudices and his passions. Some of them thought of snatching the benefits of victory from a Greece which had once more become Venizelist. In conversation with the Serbs and Bulgars they counselled them to descend, the first on Saloniki and the second on Kavalla. In correspondence with friends and relatives in France they blackened the name of our allies to the advantage of the "good old Turks," whose chivalrous conduct at the Dardanelles they lauded. Meantime the "good old Turks" of Anatolia were massacring in Cilicia all our soldiers who fell into their hands, as well as our missionaries and protégés. At the Trappist monastery of Cheiklé they crucified Père Philippe in front of his burning convent. Near Urfa, in April, 1920, they wiped out a column of French troops who were withdrawing in the belief that they were protected by a pledge of honor. At Marache they renewed the worst horrors of Enver's time. But these facts were kept strictly secret by the French Government and were not known in France. When divulged by a few independent journalists they were denied or else branded as exaggerations. The Cabinet, of which M. Millerand had become the chief after M. Clemenceau's resignation, let itself be won over gradually to Kemalism. Individuals who had been engaged in financial ventures in the Near East before the war, or who sought to obtain profitable concessions, spread the opinion in political circles that the future belonged to Kemalism, and that if we lent it our favor we should profit marvelously.

This state of mind was aggravated by events in the spring of 1920. At dawn on March 16th the English General Milne, local commander at Constantinople, occupied the most important points in the capital and arrested a number of politicians suspected of hostility to the occupying authorities. At the same time Lieutenant-General Wilson proclaimed a state of siege. Although the French High Commissioner had joined his two colleagues in authorizing these steps most of the persons arrested were known to be friends of France. On April 5th the Grand-Vizir Salih Pasha, who had succeeded Marshal Ali Riza, was replaced by Damad Ferid. April 13th the Sheik-ul-Islam declared Mustapha Kemal and his Nationalists to be rebels and formally cast them out of the religious community. In reply Mustapha Kemal decreed elections for a National Assembly at Angora, and had the English officers of the Control Commission arrested. April 28th the Grand National Assembly began its work by setting up a government over which Mustapha Kemal presided, and by declaring war on England. Thereafter the outbreak of xenophobia was unrestrained.

At Paris the Temps took its stand openly for the Kemalists, supporting "the loyal endeavor of the Nationalist régime." Negotiations for peace in the Near East being in progress, it campaigned against the internationalization of Constantinople and the Straits, asserting that internationalization simply amounted to English domination. It averred, however, that Mustapha Kemal, the former leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress (who had taken refuge in Germany) and the opponents of Damad Ferid were having dealings with German agents, who could provide munitions, and with emissaries of Lenine. It was also known that the Nationalists were demanding all of Cilicia, which M. Briand congratulated himself on having gained for France in 1916 through the agreements relative to Asia Minor. On March 27th and June 25th, 1922, in the Chamber of Deputies, M. Briand asserted that France would commit an irreparable blunder in leaving Cilicia, that it was a question of honor and honesty for her to remain there.

At this epoch, too, in spite of the recriminations of army and navy officers, and in spite of the misunderstandings that Parisian journalists had created over the affair of March 13th, the French Government was upholding the cause of the West and of Christianity in the Near East. When negotiations were resumed in May with a new Ottoman delegation, installed first at Versailles and then at Sèvres, M. Millerand joined in the harsh conditions which were imposed on Turkey. He authorized the Greek troops to enter Thrace. August 10th he signed the Treaty of Sèvres, which gave Thrace to Greece, placed Smyrna under Greek control, promised autonomy to the Kurds and complete guarantees to the Assyro-Chaldeans, created a free and independent Armenia, and released all the Arabs lands from Turkish domination. Perhaps the French ministers were not convinced of the fairness and practicability of these various clauses, but they deferred none the less willingly to the wishes of England and of M. Venizelos. Similarly they yielded to Mr. Wilson's desires on the subject of Armenia. With the exception of the Anglo-French agreements of 1916, which gave France a mandate over certain Armenian territories, they left it to Mr. Wilson to fix the frontiers between Turkey and the new Armenian state. If Armenian affairs eventually turned out so ill, it is largely due to the long uncertainty surrounding the intentions of the United States. At the beginning of the negotiations, Mr. Morgenthau, Mr. Wilson's ambassador at Constantinople from 1913 to 1916, felt justified in giving assurances at Paris that the United States would assume the mandate not only for Armenia but for all of Turkey. Events showed that the American people were unwilling to trouble themselves even with Armenia. The Americans, however, followed the European example and threw themselves into the concession hunt at Angora.


The electoral defeat of M. Venizelos on November 14th, 1920, profoundly modified French policy in the Near East. The plebiscite in favor of King Constantine, who had been driven from Greece in June, 1917, by M. Jonnart, High Commissioner of the Allied Powers, and the monarch's triumphant return to Athens finally turned French opinion against the Greeks.

When M. Venizelos agreed to occupy Smyrna it was with the conviction that he would be supported by the Allied Powers. In order better to defend the occupied zone against Kemalist attack, he had considerably enlarged it and had established a solid front on a strategic line of advanced positions. Once Constantine was on the throne the support of the Western states vanished, and prudence would have dictated the withdrawal of the line of occupation to approximately the limit fixed by Article 66 of the Treaty of Sèvres. In this way Greece would have been able to protect with a very much smaller force the territory where sovereign rights had been officially conferred upon her. Unfortunately, Constantine dreamed of extending rather than restricting the occupied zone. Posing as a savior and a restorer of the Byzantine Empire, he let his people in their madness believe that he would soon lead them to Saint Sophia.

To head off the catastrophe the Allied Cabinets summoned the Greek and Turkish plenipotentiaries to London in February, 1921. M. Briand did his best to bring about a conciliation, urging Bekir Sami, the principal Turkish plenipotentiary, to accept a revision of the Treaty which would have been more honorable for the Turks than the Greeks. The Greek Cabinet was rescued from its embarrassment by the National Assembly, which disavowed Bekir Sami and rejected the London accords.

At about the same time, on March 16th, the Kemalist plenipotentiaries led by Yussuf Kemal Bey signed an agreement "of union and fraternity" with the Soviets, which gave Turkey the frontiers of the National Pact of January 28, 1920, together with Kars and Ardahan but without Batum, which was ceded to Georgia. In return for this advantage and several others of an administrative and financial order, Turkey engaged not to conclude peace with any of the Allies without the previous consent of Moscow. M. Briand, who had flattered himself he was getting ahead of the Soviets, was baffled. He fared little better on the Greek side.

Released from diplomatic scruples by the refusal of Angora, Constantine gave free rein to his grandiose designs. March 23rd he had an attack on the Turkish lines in Ionia begun by General Papoulas. After taking Afium-Karahissar the Greek troops failed before Eski-Shehir and withdrew in good order. The better class of Greek partisans in France vigorously urged their Greek friends to oppose any new enterprise, representing that even if they were victorious an advance by the Greek armies must lead to eventual disaster because, once having reached Angora, they would be cut off from their base and menaced with slow destruction by an enemy whom they could not wipe out once for all. They pointed out that Greece lacked the necessary resources in men, money, and material to drive the Turks clear back into Anatolia and force them to make peace. These warnings found no response, nor did those of M. Venizelos and the three Allied Cabinets. Lord Curzon, who had come to Paris in June to settle various questions, agreed with M. Briand that they should join Italy in urging the Cabinet at Athens to accept the mediation of the three Powers and to put itself completely in their hands. From Aix-les-Bains, where he was taking the cure, M. Venizelos begged his friend and former collaborator, M. Repoulis, then in Paris, to warn the Cabinet at Athens through the Paris legation of its opportunity to accept Allied mediation. But Constantine and his ministers aspired to revenge. They rejected the offer of mediation, and Constantine, installed at Smyrna, pushed the preparations for a second offensive. On June 19th the three Allied Cabinets addressed to M. Baltazzi, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Gounaris Cabinet, a note which "left responsibility for the consequences of a resumption of hostilities exclusively to the Greeks themselves." Venizelos, for his part, wrote General Danglis, leader of the Liberal Party at Athens, a far-sighted and vigorous letter in which he showed that a military victory was out of the question so long as Greece was diplomatically isolated. But objurgation of every kind was useless. Followers of Constantine and former Venizelists alike seemed smitten with vertigo.

The second offensive, better prepared than the first, succeeded. During July the Greek army commanded by General Papoulas took possession of Eski-Shehir, Afium-Karahissar, and Kutahia, and established itself in the mountain region in strong positions served by good railways. This precarious victory turned the heads of the Greeks. Without waiting for the end of the operations, the Chamber of Deputies abandoned itself to grandiloquent manifestations. On July 14th the leaders of all parties declared one after another that the Greek army was no longer fighting to maintain the Treaty of Sèvres but for the complete realization of the national ideals. There was talk of marching on Byzantium. Constantine, Son of the Eagle, would speedily realize popular predictions and the Great Idea. The dizziness spread to a part of the British world. The Anglican Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch negotiated for a fusion of the two churches. A member of the House of Commons, Sir David Davis, proposed transferring the seat of the League of Nations from Geneva to Constantinople. At London as well as at Athens responsible ministers believed it possible to settle the score with the Turks once for all, and the Gounaris Cabinet decided to push on to Angora itself in quest of a definitive peace and the consecration of the Hellenic Empire. Despite fresh warnings from France and from M. Venizelos, a third offensive began. It was stopped on the banks of the Sakaria. Once more the Greek army had to yield for lack of munitions and rations. The Greek dream was dissipated. The drachma fell to a fourth of its 1920 value. The Kemalists sang of victory and became more and more arrogant.


Many Frenchmen rejoiced with them because they suspected that England had encouraged if not subsidized Constantine and was using the Greeks to dominate the Near East. If Constantine had listened to the advice of one branch of his family and abdicated in favor of the Diadoch, the Greek people, if not the new sovereign, would have benefited by a change in French public opinion; but Constantine was obstinate. When M. Gounaris came to Paris toward the end of October for credit and consolation M. Briand informed him that M. Franklin Bouillon had just signed a treaty of peace with Angora.

Faced by the stubbornness of the Greek Government, M. Briand had determined to end the French conflict with Turkey. His emissary, M. Franklin Bouillon, a hasty man unconcerned with religious or merely humanitarian considerations, completed his mission without discernment. Instructed to complete matters before M. Briand left for the Washington Conference, he accepted conditions which accorded with his well known Turkish leanings. He signed the Angora convention on October 20th with Yussuf Kemal, and returned as speedily as possible to Paris. The convention was examined without delay by the Conseil des Ministres, and ratified at the Elysée without troubling Parliament. Then M. Briand set out for Washington.

Though not, as M. Briand would have us believe, a mere reproduction of the agreement accepted by Bekir Sami at London, the Angora Convention constitutes a true treaty of peace between France and Turkey. Not only was it contrary to the engagement made by the Allies not to make a separate peace, but it also violated Articles 8 and 9 of the tripartite agreement made between England, France, and Italy on August 10, 1920, when they signed the Treaty of Sèvres. It did away with the guarantees promised to the Christian minorities and handed over to the Kemalists the richest Anatolian territories and strategic positions of the first order. It permitted the Turks to strip their Syrian frontier and concentrate all their forces against the Greeks. Besides which it was accompanied by annexes which long remained secret and which contained more or less formal engagements involving France. A letter from Yussuf Kemal to M. Bouillon indicated that Turkey relied upon French aid in "solving in a spirit of cordial understanding all questions relating to the independence and sovereignty of Turkey." One may discern in these words a kind of alliance, and the language used by M. Bouillon at Angora, Constantinople and Paris supports that idea.

The London Cabinet naturally demanded explanations. It had already registered objections to the agreement of March 9th. If it refrained on that occasion from insisting, it was because Bekir Sami had been disavowed by Angora; but after the agreement of October 20th it was more pressing. Upon his return from Washington M. Briand supplied Parliament with a defense of his course which neither was altogether clear nor seemed entirely based on fact. Ill-informed and deaf to the advice of independent observers, Parliament held its peace. As for Mr. Lloyd George, he needed M. Briand to ensure the success of the Genoa Conference. He tried to gain ground by drawing his French colleague into general engagements of great scope, but at the beginning of January, 1922, M. Briand, caught in his own net, found himself obliged to resign.

The year 1922 was one of expectancy, for though M. Poincaré, the new Premier, had in 1920 criticized M. Briand's policy, he felt obliged to support him so far as the Near East was concerned. On March 22nd, MM. Poincaré, Schanzer, and Lord Curzon addressed an urgent recommendation for suspension of hostilities to Angora, Constantinople, and Athens, together with a detailed armistice plan. On the 26th they invited all three Governments to examine the proposals of the Western Powers for a general adjustment of Near Eastern affairs and an extensive revision of the Treaty of Sèvres, returning to Turkey the part of Thrace east of a line running from the Stroudja mountains to the west of Rodosto, and the whole Smyrna zone, after providing for the rights of non-Mussulman minorities. M. Venizelos recommended adoption of this solution which, though not entirely satisfactory, was honorable; but Constantine and his ministers refused, not daring to admit failure. Subordinating the general interests of Greece and Hellenism to their own, and relying on Mr. Lloyd George (all of whose opinions on the Near East Lord Curzon did not share) they trusted to luck. During the Genoa Conference they even hoped that a break between France and England would improve their chances, thus letting slip--in spite of the repeated advice of pro-Greek Frenchmen--the season favorable for a retreat without much risk from the Eski-Shehir and Afium-Karahissar front, which was too long and costly to defend, back to the zone laid down in the treaty, which could easily be defended with three or four divisions. The army, ill-nourished, badly led and with its morale going from bad to worse, asked--each day with more discouragement--why it was being kept indefinitely in territory which Greece was doomed to lose.

With supreme rashness the Gounaris Cabinet chose this moment to attempt a bold stroke. At the end of July they withdrew fifty thousand men from the Asiatic front to Thrace and asked the Western Governments for authority to occupy Constantinople. By all accounts this was a deplorable blunder. The Anatolian front, stripped of its best troops, was exposed to attack by a confident enemy. On the other hand, the threat to occupy Constantinople raised irreducible objections in other countries, especially in France. Shattering the modus vivendi in force for more than three years, it brought the Eastern question into most ticklish territory. All Frenchmen in Constantinople were convinced that Lloyd George had promised Byzantium to Constantine, and these suspicions, reënforced by the fanatical exhortations of the Ecumenical Patriarch, were not lessened by Mr. Lloyd George's speech of August 4th in the House of Commons. Declaring that the Allied troops would protect Constantinople, the Prime Minister uttered threats against Turkey which were the more sensational because followed by praise of the Greeks. His criticisms of Turkish massacres, were, to be sure, perfectly justified; but at the moment when Constantine's supporters were announcing that their King was going to be crowned Emperor of Byzantium at Saint Sophia this public praise of the Greeks coupled with threats against the Turks looked very much like approval of the Gounaris Cabinet's policy. As this language coincided with a refusal to receive Angora's agents who had come to London to discuss peace, Mr. Lloyd George gave an impression of sympathizing with the Greek expedition. The British High Commissioner at Constantinople joined, none the less, with his French and Italian colleagues in forbidding the Greek army access to the Tchataldja line. During the month the London and Paris Cabinets studied a project for a new Near Eastern conference and proposed Venice as the meeting-place.

It was under these conditions that on the 26th of August Mustapha Kemal launched against the Greek front an offensive which almost nowhere met with any serious resistance. The Greek retreat speedily became a panic. The terrified Christian populations joined the fugitives. Within a few weeks the troops of Kemal were at Smyrna--which was burned--and on the banks of the Marmora. The situation became embarrassing for the Western Powers. In France neither the Government nor public opinion entirely appreciated the importance of what had happened. Prejudice against British policy and in favor of the Turks prevailed over the spirit of solidarity of Christendom. Hence, when Mr. Lloyd George appealed to the British Dominions and to the Balkan states to fight against the Turks and directed the Inter-Allied contingents occupying the neutralized area of the Straits to oppose the Kemalists' passage by force, M. Poincaré withdrew to the European side the French troops which had hitherto cooperated with the British troops on the Asiatic side. This abrupt end to a military collaboration which had gone on since the armistice in 1918 just missed causing a diplomatic rupture. Vigorously criticized though it was by a minority which was better informed than the man in the street, it was nevertheless approved by most Frenchmen, who were inclined to believe in their Government and to follow it. On both sides, however, a willingness for conciliation manifested itself. Neither the Dominions nor the Balkan states supported Mr. Lloyd George, and M. Poincaré felt obliged to satisfy both the advocates of the Entente Cordiale and the defenders of Christian civilization in the Near East. Lord Curzon came to Paris to arrange matters. An agreement made on September 23rd, with the participation of Italy, laid down the general lines of a new treaty of peace with Turkey. Military representatives met at Mudania on the Sea of Marmora, and signed an armistice which was presently to be followed by peace negotiations.

Every one recalls what kind of peace it turned out to be. Painfully elaborated at Lausanne from November 21, 1922, to July, 1923, it ended in the ruin of all the ancient institutions of the West and of Christianity in Turkey, especially those traditionally under French protection. England suffered less than we because she showed more firmness. First of all the parliamentary coalition which had governed since 1915 got rid of Mr. Lloyd George, who was regarded as too dangerous, and set up a wholly Conservative Cabinet over which Mr. Bonar Law presided. Lord Curzon, the chief plenipotentiary at Lausanne, was able to safeguard British interests. Where Turkey was concerned, he understood the system of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, the "Great Elchi," five times Ambassador at Constantinople: "A force from without to keep up a steady animating pressure on the Government." Certainly, it was no longer possible to apply to the Republic of Angora the system of coercion that used to make the Sultans tremble, but it would have been both clever and fair for the French to join the English in certain proceedings. M. Bompard and his collaborators, however, displayed a candid faith in the good-will of Ismet Pasha and of Angora. They were alone in a confidence that nothing could discourage. One by one they abandoned all our old positions, contenting themselves with deceptive formulae that concealed surrender. Even the Greeks took better care of their interests. After a revolutionary Government headed by the gallant Colonel Plastiras had driven out Constantine and shot his principal ministers, the Greeks reorganized their army, and when in May Ismet demanded an indemnity they put ten divisions in line on the Maritza. In spite of untimely French representations they held firm, and the Angora Government gave up its demand for indemnity.


Since then France has suffered in Turkey the consequences of the aberrations of her ministers and the blindness of her public opinion. Her schools are empty, her former concessions are compromised, her credits dissipated, her commerce reduced to almost nothing, her prestige destroyed. Certain of her rivals are congratulating themselves. They hope to profit from her failure. But they are mistaken. In the Moslem East all Christian interests are inseparable. The misfortune of one does not make for the good fortune of the rest, as concession-hunters--even those from America--have already had reason to learn, and as the turn taken by affairs in Mesopotamia equally demonstrates. The simple recital of facts in the preceding pages is, we believe, more instructive than a philosophic dissertation. To form a sound judgment it is essential to know all the facts in their chronological order. Too frequently the statesman's art consists in confusing dates and events so that there is no fixing his own responsibility. If incredible calamities have overtaken the Christians of the Near East because of the blunders of national leaders, let us at least profit by so cruel an experience to draw closer the bonds between civilized nations.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now