The Hollow Order
Rebuilding an International System That Works
IN THE past decade Turkey has passed through three periods of swift transformation. So bewildering have been the changes brought about by them that the atmosphere of the country is still that of the fairy tale. Look at the modern Turkish Republic, purged of Sultan and Khalif and foreign domination--where are the traces of the old Ottoman Empire? Or of the beaten Turk who was to be driven from Europe? Or of the Defender of Islam to whom the Moslem world, from Morocco to India, was supposed to rally four years ago? Gone, vanished, dissolved in the whirl of a fantasy as unreal as is the Turkish conception of it all. This decade is a kaleidoscopic picture of changing forms in front of which has been suspended one screen after another of camouflage. And back of all the shifting scenes the phlegmatic old Turk has remained, one of the most unchanged and unchangeable types in Europe.
The war period stripped the Empire of its non-Turkish possessions, disrupted the country by massacres and deportations and brought about the most abject surrender of any of the Central Powers. But the Turkish armies did not happen to be defeated in lands racially Turkish. Palestine and Syria meant little to the Turkish people: Allenby's campaign still less. And in the end Turkey, alone among the Central Powers, avoided the consequences of her defeat and the punishment she deserved. So when the Turk looks back on the war the camouflage screen falls, the realities disappear and he sees only his great victories of Gallipoli and Kut-el-Amara.
In the period following the war, the period between the armistices of Mudros and Mudania (1918-1922), the puppets moved with accelerated tempo. The Allies had meant to deal with Turkey as they liked. Above all they had meant to internationalize the Straits and to sweep the Turkish power from Europe--little matters of good housekeeping long overdue. They began by bringing upon the scene the most fantastic of their puppets, the Greek, with his Ionian and Byzantine traditions and his modern incompetency. A Turkish soldier appeared in the deserts of Anatolia and gathered about him a hardy lot of that one type which his race can always produce, the fighting man. In his palace at Constantinople the sanctity of the Sultan, the Khalif of Islam, rose like a ghost to haunt the Allied statesmen. And between the very tangible military power of Mustapha Kemal and the imponderable Mohammedan appeal of the Khalif the distraught Allies broke and blundered. Where unity alone was needed, self-seeking intrigues and fear proved to be poor substitutes.
Such was that extraordinary period which ended in the débâcle of the Greek army. What could have been more fantastic than the Allied declarations of neutrality in the war then being waged between their puppets, the Greeks, and their enemies, the Nationalist Turks? What could have been more of a sham than the relations then existing between the Sultan Khalif at Constantinople and the Nationalists at Angora--the Sultan denouncing the Nationalists as impious rebels while the Nationalists proclaimed to the Mohammedan world that they fought to liberate their Khalif? The height of Gilbertian absurdity was reached in the summer of 1922 when the Allies prevented the Greeks from entering Constantinople by threat of war, only to have the Turks themselves enter a year later.
Of course all this period of blunders is lost on the Turks. They see it as the glorious "War of Independence"; to them the issue was the rejuvenation of the Turkish nation, the rebirth of Turkish patriotism, the heroic struggle with Europe which they won by virtue of their own strength and sacrifice. The battles of In-Eunu and the Sakaria are very real and very glorious victories in their eyes. They did it all--it was not that the Allies held back from further fighting after four long years of war, not that the Allies quailed before the intangible power of the Khalif and blundered into turning their hands against each other, but that Turkey faced the West and won.
Recently a distinguished foreign general visited Constantinople. He was interviewed by the newspapers, and among other absurdities he was made to say in print that he considered "the battle of the Sakaria more glorious and of more consequence to the world than that of the Marne." Now this was not merely a case of Oriental lying. It would be fairer to call it the expression of an opinion which the ordinary Turk thinks a distinguished soldier should hold. A general who had never heard of the Sakaria would be inconceivable.
I have emphasized the fantastic side of the foundations of the present Turkish state, not in order to make light of the great suffering and sacrifice of the Turks during the war and the armistice, but because the unrealities of the present republican régime cannot be grasped unless one realizes the artificial atmosphere of the preceding periods. When the editor of Constantinople's leading newspaper--a journal of European reputation--solemnly asks "all who are interested in politics if Turkey has ever been a menace to her neighbors," what is one to make of it? Is one to say, simply, "This man is a fool"? Not at all--in point of fact he is a highly cultivated and intelligent person. But he is understandable only in the light of the fantastic fairy tale in which he has lived.
When the armistice was signed at Mudania between the Turks and the "neutral" powers of Western Europe, Constantinople and the Straits were held by Allied troops, including a brigade of British Guards, backed by the most powerful battleships of Europe and a considerable air force. Yet within six weeks Allied power had become a camouflage. The great ships still lay in the harbor; British guardsmen and French poilus still walked the streets of Constantinople. But control had in reality passed to a little Turkish general, astute, unscrupulous and amazingly active. He was on his way to Thrace to command some eight thousand "gendarmes" allowed that province by the agreement of Mudania. But for one reason or another he tarried in Constantinople, and as he tarried he drew power into his hands. Before Mudania was two months past he had seen the Sultan-Khalif spirited out of Yildiz in a cold dawn and sent to Malta on a British battleship (this Khalif of Islam who had been the spiritual banner of the Turkish Nationalists and the bugaboo of the Allies), and he had driven to Top Capou and the Mosque of the Conqueror with a new Khalif (one carefully selected by Mustapha Kemal and his Angora Assembly) and had had him invested with the Mantle of the Prophet. A clever little Pasha, this; one who did his master's bidding most expeditiously and who realized, as did Kemal, that for a time at least the Khalifal camouflage would be most useful.
To be sure, "The Commander of the Faithful," in theory at least, should have temporal as well as spiritual powers. And, whatever may be said of the vagaries of Khalifal succession in the past, the election of such a dignitary by a laic and self-appointed Assembly was an innovation somewhat difficult to justify. But one must not examine too closely the props behind stage scenery. The eye should focus on the new Khalif; and it must be said that, for his part, he was ably chosen. He was a mild old gentleman who loved a quiet country life and who dabbled in art. Every Friday after he became Khalif he went to Mosque in state--such state as Angora allowed--and at other times he occupied himself in growing the beard which tradition prescribes. For he had no other duties whatsoever. The Sword of Othman which had girded the Sultans had not been produced at his investiture. Mustapha Kemal had his own idea about swords.
Meanwhile the Conference assembled at Lausanne. The powers of Europe faced Turkey across the peace table. At Turkey's side sat Soviet Russia. The Bolsheviks had been the avowed friends of the Nationalist Turks, a treaty of alliance had been signed between them, and the Turks had profited by Russian aid in gold and munitions. To a lesser extent and through a more secret treaty they had profited by French sympathy. But at times it may be well to strip off the old camouflage and set up the new. Those nebulous friendships with the Bolsheviks and the French, for instance: were they not rather out of date at Lausanne? The Turks seemed to think so, at any rate. They preferred to come out boldly as the citizens of a great power lately revived by victorious battle, wholly independent, the masters of their own fate. And since no one was inclined to gainsay then at the risk of war, that pose proved to be as good as, if not better than, any. By dint of saying "no" most generally and "yes" but rarely, Ismet Pasha at last prevailed. It was diplomacy which called for some patience, but patience was born in Asia.
So at last the Capitulations were surrendered, the question of the payment of the interest on the Turkish pre-war debt was postponed to a more auspicious occasion, and the Treaty was signed. The old policies of internationalized Straits and a Turkless Europe were admitted to be as unreal as had been Allied unity in the Near East. Considering that the Turk at Lausanne held practically all the cards in his hands, it is to his credit that the Treaty left the Straits open to commerce and contained sufficient give-and-take to make it a possible basis for international relations. The demilitarized zones of the Straits and the Thracian frontier, proposed by the Allies, look very well on the map. The little matter of seeing that they remain demilitarized, however, has been overlooked.
In due course of time the Allies withdrew their last troops from Constantinople. A small Turkish force marched in, very shabby and rather dispirited. It was difficult for the Constantinopolitans to see in them the "ever victorious army" which had won that startling victory over the Greeks and so greatly impressed Europe the preceding year. But appearances are deceptive; and in any event Turkish military power, real or unreal, had accomplished its purpose. The Second Conquest of Constantinople had passed into history.
The New Turkey then squared away on its course. It called itself the "Turkish State," and declared that it was governed solely by its "Grand National Assembly." But the President of that Assembly, Mustapha Kemal Pasha, had come to be called "Ghazi," the Victorious. He had lately toured the country and organized a political group which he called the "People's Party." He had also found time to marry a young lady endowed with wealth, modern ideas and ambition. Latefé Hanoum has somewhat shocked the old Turks. They are still not quite used to seeing her, in Europeanized clothes and veilless, accompanying her husband on his trips about the country. But the movement towards feminine emancipation among the upper classes in Turkey is a reality, limited to a small number of people, if you like, but nevertheless growing.
Mustapha Kemal, with his bride and his People's Party and his Lausanne Treaty all in his hand, prepared another shift of scene. At the end of October, 1923, the opportunity came. It was a minor political crisis, the fall of a cabinet on personal issues and a deadlock in the Assembly on the formation of a new one. But the occasion served. Mustapha Kemal stepped into the breech, stated the terms under which he would form a cabinet, and within two hours he found himself the duly elected President of the newly proclaimed Turkish Republic. Here indeed was a man of action. And in imposing his will on the amazed Assembly he also cut short the hesitations of a committee which had for a month been trying to draft a constitution. For the terms he had imposed on the Assembly were in fact the basic articles of such a constitution: the establishment of the Republic, the election of the President by the Assembly, the right of the President to preside at need over the Assembly and the Cabinet and to choose the Prime Minister. But the stroke of Kemal's sword had not been too apparent. The fiction was still carefully maintained that the Assembly, and not the President, ruled the country. The Assembly, however, was composed exclusively of members of the People's Party. Every other day that Party met its chiefs in closed caucus. Every alternate day it solemnly and openly functioned as the Grand National Assembly.
Mustapha Kemal chose as Premier the faithful Ismet, a man whose military career had shown him to be an excellent chief of staff, a matchless transmitter of orders received. The President was also happy in the fate which established the recompense for his labors. He found himself granted a salary somewhat higher than that of the President of the United States, while the Deputies of the Assembly contented themselves with the equivalent of about $2,000 a year.
The scene was then prepared for the dramatic exposure of a sham which it was no longer necessary to maintain. The Khalif of Islam, the spiritual link with the Mohammedans of all the world, the imponderable force which had so impressed Downing Street and the Quai d'Orsay, was to be revealed as a man of straw and summarily kicked out by his own people. Mustapha Kemal had found a more useful camouflage in the Assembly. He no longer needed the figure-head which he had set up at Dolma Bagtche. As a precautionary step a revolutionary court, called the "Tribunal of Independence," was instituted in Constantinople, where some journalists had printed an open letter from prominent Indian Moslems in which the Khalif set up by the Angora Government was urged not to resign his post. Even the Tribunal of Independence could not find much that was heinous in that, but it caught in its net a prominent lawyer and a hodja, charged with similar offenses, and sentenced them both to some years of imprisonment. Constantinople was duly impressed with the necessity of caution in dealing with the Khalifate.
Mustapha Kemal then went off for a rest at Smyrna. He invited the chastened journalists of Constantinople to visit him in his retreat. Also he arranged a "strategic war game" which would bring the army chiefs within conferring distance of Smyrna. To journalists and generals he had certain things to say, and from his contact with them he saw that all was well. Immediately he returned to Angora and made a famous speech to the Assembly (March 1, 1924). "The Moslem religion," he said, "must be freed from its role as a political instrument" which it has been made to play for centuries." Two days later the abolition of the Khalifate was proclaimed by the all-powerful Assembly, and on the night of March 4th-5th the ex-Kahlif, with his family and some scanty personal belongings, was hustled out of his palace by the police and driven by motor thirty miles outside Constantinople. There they were put in a train and sent across the frontier. No doubt Lloyd George and Poincaré wondered why they, in their day, had never thought of so simple a move.
But that was not all. The abolition of the Khalifate and the exile of the entire Osmanli Family was promptly followed by the suppression of the religious courts and schools and the assumption of governmental control over the very considerable properties of the Mohammedan Church. "To the victor belong the spoils." Laicism was decreed as the policy of the Government. Hereafter there was to be but one power in Turkey, the Grand National Assembly. The astute soldier in his modest presidential residence at Angora could not be bothered with other masks.
Furthermore, there was a constitution to be drawn up and adopted. Modern republics must have constitutions, and Kemal and his entourage are nothing if not modern. One day a week was set aside for the discussion of that important document. Some fifty of its articles were discussed and adopted in this way during March and the first half of April, 1924. But the program was running behind and certain snags had been encountered. The Assembly was at times inclined to forget its true role in the play. It actually objected to writing into the constitution presidential authority to dissolve the Assembly, or presidential command of the army and navy in time of war, or a longer presidential term of office than the life of an Assembly. Even with a full day a week devoted to it, the constitution did not seem to be getting itself done, at least not as it should be done. Accordingly, on the 20th of April, the Assembly was persuaded to consider for a few hours the remaining fifty odd articles, including all those on juridical powers and on the personal rights of citizens, and to adopt them. It then proceeded to put the whole constitution to a final vote by the raising of hands. A two-thirds majority was secured, and the matter was considered settled by acclamation.
The Assembly, having performed two such notable feats, took a rest for a half a year. In the early summer an Anglo-Turkish conference met to settle, if possible, the Mosul Question. The Turks claimed practically the whole province, and based their claim largely on the Kurdish population of Mosul. They pointed out that there are thousands of Kurds within the borders of Turkey, and that the Turk and the Kurd are really one: give Turkey, therefore, the whole of Kurdistan. It was not a happy plea, for nine months later the Kurds in Turkey rose in revolt, but for better or worse it broke up the conference on the Golden Horn.
It was not until the fall of 1924, after the Assembly had met again at Angora, that the smooth working of Mustapha Kemal's machine became slightly deranged. Trouble with the British on the Mosul frontier, due to a Turkish raid into disputed territory, postponed for a few weeks the rift in Turkish political unity. But in November an opposition party was at last formed. It adopted the name of "Progressive Republican" (whereupon the People's Party, regretting that they had not thought of that before, tacked "Republican" onto their own name). There naturally ensued a political flurry at Angora. The old system had been so simple. One party, one assembly, one government--what could be more en famille? And the worst of it was that the army, Kemal's stronghold, contributed to the Progressives two of its best generals and that clever little Pasha who had shared with the Allies the honor of occupying Constantinople.
The new party was, of course, a distinct minority. But it was not long in being before the Government trimmed its sails, and a much less intransigent cabinet, under Fethi Bey, came into power. The Progressives had justified their existence by making the radical government more conservative. For it is natural in a land of camouflage that the title of "Progressive" should mean just what it does not seem to mean--conservative. The Progressives were, and are, the group opposed to violent changes, to over-hurried Westernization and to the immediate destruction of the old traditions that cling to Islam. Their platform advocates free trade (with certain exceptions), national referendum as the sole means of modifying the constitution, the direct election of deputies, and the election instead of the appointment of city mayors. This sounds innocuous enough, but platforms amount to little in Turkey. They are but part of the scenery. The real issues always hinge on personalities.
There soon appeared a startling personality -- General Nurreddin Pasha, son-in-law of the most prominent Dervish in Turkey, a reactionary, a devout Moslem and an avowed personal enemy of Mustapha Kemal. His election to the Assembly from Brusa in the month of December, 1924, was a grievous blow to the Government, for up to that time all electorates had been notably amenable to governmental wishes. Nor was his election much more welcome to the Progressives than to the Kemalists. He is a reactionary of a decidedly unassimilable type. The Government promptly refused to allow him to take his seat in the Assembly on the ground that he had not fulfilled a certain condition required by the constitution of a candidate at a general election. As a matter of fact it was a by-election that had been held in Brusa, but Angora interpreted it otherwise. Two months later Brusa returned Nurreddin Pasha on a second election, and the Government, busy with the Kurdish revolt and alive to the danger of raising the religious issue, allowed him to take his seat.
For the Kurdish revolt thoroughly alarmed Angora. The disaffected region was small and the number of armed rebels relatively few, but the standard raised by the revolt was the Koran itself. Religious conviction may not be deep in Turkey, but there is a strong Moslem sentiment. The danger was that all the dissatisfied elements in the country would rally to the old traditions. So they might have done had there been at the helm of government a lesser man than Mustapha Kemal. His counter measures were both thorough and deliberate. Twelve provinces were put under martial law. A partial mobilization was decreed to increase by half the strength of the army. Elaborate military plans were put in operation by which--though contact with the rebels was delayed six weeks--in the end, overwhelming forces were brought to bear in encircling movements.
The political measures were even more far reaching. The arbitrary Tribunals of Independence were reëstablished. The relatively moderate cabinet of Fethi Bey, which called itself "a government of calm and stability," was replaced by one under the ever-useful Ismet. The Opposition was thoroughly subdued. wavering adherents (and they were many in the Assembly) hastened to reaffirm their devotion to the People's Party, spurred on by three laws which the Government hastily put through. These laws made treasonable any form of religious appeal which could be construed as of a political bias, gave the Government the arbitrary power of suppressing any newspaper it chose, and permitted generals commanding army corps to execute death sentences on any persons, military or civil, condemned by military courts in any territory that might be placed under martial law. These extraordinary measures were delicately called "tranquillity laws." One is reminded of that old English phrase about objectionable people being "quieted with swords."
These are the high lights of the short story of the New Turkey. But they are so obscured by the mists of unreality that one must look beneath them in any attempt to estimate the value of the Turkish State as a political entity.
Consider first with what manner of man we are dealing. The Turk has some estimable personal traits. It is neither by chance nor by intrigue that he has won the devotion of so many fine men and women of the West. As an individual his simplicity, honesty, loyalty and kindliness make a very strong appeal--the stronger because of the contrast with those about him. But he is singularly lacking in creative ability. Broadly speaking, he has created nothing in all the seven centuries of his distinct history. Races subject to him have worked in his name and have created some splendid things--the mosques of Stambul, for instance. He has borrowed copiouslv from the Persian, the Arab, the Byzantine, the Armenian, the Syrian, and the European. But neither art nor science nor philosophy owe him any appreciable debt.
Two occupations have absorbed him since he came into Europe nearly six hundred years ago--administration and war. Few peoples have had more varied experience in either. Yet every land he has administered, from the Persian Gulf to the Middle Danube, has known either stagnation or ruin under his hand. In war he has always fought with stolid courage and sometime with fanatical élan. But his best troops have usually come from subject races, and in all his wars he has not produced a single general or admiral of the first rank, nor a single tactic or military invention of value.
This extraordinary lack of creative ability, even in his own chosen fields, bears directly on his present problem. For, essentially, the task which he has set himself is the creation of a nation. So far as his present purpose is concerned, the Turkey that existed before the war cannot be used even for a foundation. The old Ottoman Empire was not a nation in the modern Western sense of the word, which is also the modern Turkish sense. It was rather an administrative machine for the collection of taxes. Those taxes went to a small oligarchy (save when the international receivers intervened after the state went bankrupt). And since church and state were one, the great mass of the people, who counted for nothing save as a source of revenue, uncomplainingly supported both.
Very different is this ultra-Western nation which the Turks are now trying to construct. Their Assembly may be a camouflage to cover autocratic power; their elections may generally be hollow forms. But the essence of the thing they are avowedly striving for is a nation in our sense of the word, and the spirit behind it is nationalism, though of the narrowest and most chauvinistic type. The result must necessarily hinge on Turkish ability to create, or at least to imitate.
What they propose to do, if we may accept the formula of their leading political philosopher, is to amalgamate Turkish culture, Moslem religion and Western civilization. Now Turkish culture, so far as it can be defined, is a resultant of certain ideas and traditions of other Eastern races impinging on the simplicity and virility of a tribe of Turkoman warriors. The Ottoman Turks have never absorbed into their body politic the various races they have ruled. But they have absorbed an immense amount of foreign blood, through their slave trade in women and their seizure of Christian boys for the corps of Janissaries. They have also assimilated much of the civilization and culture of the Eastern peoples, especially the Byzantines, with whom they have come into contact. Before they came under Western influence, for instance, they shaped their empire into the framework of Byzantine government so well that one could hardly be distinguished from the other. On their past performances in assimilating foreign culture the modern Turkish nationalists base their claim that Western civilization can also be absorbed.
But one wonders whether they take into account the essential difference between Western and Eastern civilization. Our Western life is built on experiences from which Eastern Europe and The Levant have been completely isolated--the revival of learning, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the discovery and conquest of the New World, the liberal-democratic movement, the industrial revolution and the growth of modern science. We Westerners have become realistic and individualistic to a degree beyond anything ever attained in the East. Quite aside from any handicaps that may arise through Turkish retention of the Moslem religion, the amalgamation of Turkish culture and Western civilization would appear to be, on the face of it, a considerable undertaking.
So far the Turks have to their credit little constructive work which would indicate future success along this line. The constitution is obviously not a stable foundation. The cavalier manner in which it was adopted is a true indication of the way in which the Turks regard it. It can, in practice, be amended by a simple vote of the Assembly, and interpreted by whatever government is in power. Before it was a year old the Assembly, at the instance of the Government, passed those "Tranquillity Laws" which have, potentially at least, restricted personal liberty to the vanishing point.
What is worse, from the point of view of nation-building, is the Turkish failure to consolidate the divergent elements within the state. The Kurdish problem is a case in point, and the Kurdish revolt is a measure of their failure. More serious still is the growing disaffection of Constantinople and the Marmara region. Basically this is a question of lowlands versus highlands, of the divergence of interests between a costal region, with its sea-borne trade, and a high and largely barren plateau. The highlands rule, and the erstwhile great city, the Seat of Empire for fifteen centuries, is consistently snubbed. Last summer, when Mustapha Kemal sailed up the Bosphorus on a warship, the Constantinopolitans enjoyed their nearest approach to a visit from their President. Presidential displeasure is hard to bear, no doubt, but the loss of trade is still worse. Anatolian administrators and Angoran legislation are pretty generally held responsible for the present serious slump in the commerce of Constantinople. The ships that once crowded her harbor now go (of all places!) to the Piraeus. Constantinople complains of the incompetence, if not the downright malevolence of Angora's rule, and Angora counters by charges of disloyalty and subversion. They are not a happy pair.
Nor have the Turks, in their task of nation-building, shown ability in solving their economic problems. Their country is essentially agricultural, but on several occasions they have been compelled to import wheat. This may have been due to bad seasons or poor seed, but the Government laid it to faulty transportation within the country--and then proceeded (spring of 1925) to put through a new transportation tax of 10 percent ad valorem on all agricultural produce which moves forty miles from its place of origin! The necessity for the construction of roads and railroads is very obvious; but many grand projects, including that of the Chesters, have resulted only in an insignificant amount of governmental rail-laying from Angora towards Sivas. The Turkish pound slowly depreciates, the cost of living rises, land taxes are increased, new "consumption" taxes are imposed to raise the tariff barriers, and still the yearly budgets fail to balance and the interest on the public debts remains unpaid. Foreign capital is not encouraged when it remembers the Turkish Government's bankruptcy in 1875 and its partial repudiation of 1903, or examines the Government's attitude towards its present indebtedness.
To the credit of their economics it must be said that the Turks are trying to give some assistance to their farmers through the establishment of agricultural banks, that they have not so far resorted to the printing press to obtain money, and that they have recently done away with the pernicious "tithe" system under which 12 percent of farm produce was taken by the state. They are also blessed with a few money-making crops, such as tobacco, raisins and figs, which support Smyrna and Samsun and bring in some much-needed cash. But their deficit for the past fiscal year was large. How large it was no one knows, for they have not published their actual expenditures since 1921. We do know, however, that considerable deficits have been accumulating year by year, and the military expenses incident to the suppression of the Kurdish revolt will swell the total. Foreign financiers who know Turkey well cannot see how the country can continue to finance itself, much less meet its debts.
In jurisprudence there is not much sign of constructive effort. The Consular Courts on the one hand and the Sheriat (religious) Courts on the other, have been abolished. But the Turkish civil courts, which were supposed to expand and cover the whole field, are much the same as they always were. Paper reorganization will not do. What is needed is a well paid judiciary and reasonably sound methods of judicial procedure. And these are not forthcoming.
The fiction of a modern state exists, but little else. Nothing gets done. There are interminable discussions and negotiations, but little result. Interpellations are made in the Assembly, but the questions die. A few doctrinaires strive to ram Western ideas, including laicism, down the throats of a people essentially anti-Western and intensely reactionary. And there is little result from it all. The truth is that among Turkey's eight million people the number of intelligent, progressive and capable men are very few indeed. They are attempting to make the country pull itself up by its own boot-straps, and incompetence, inertia and a certain childish form of chauvinistic xenophobia meet them at every turn.
What is there, then, in this fantastic play of unrealities? Are all the shapes one sees on the stage just phantoms? No. There is in Turkey what there has often been in the past--a strong man. He at least is no sham. He knows exactly what he wants, and he gets it. That he is called Ghazi and President, that he rules behind the mask of an Assembly, does not make him essentially different from that Abdul Hamid II who was called Sultan and Khalif and who ruled by absolutism sanctified through ancient tradition. Radical Westernization and laicism are Kemal's tools, just as secrecy and intrigue were those of Abdul Hamid. The real issue is personal power, as it was in the days of the Sultans.
In the face of the reality of this struggle and of Turkish inefficiency in constructive directions, the few men who are unselfishly trying to build up a nation can do little or nothing. Turkey under the present régime must of necessity deteriorate. There is simply not enough untrammelled administrative ability in the country to keep it up. But that it will go to pieces, that it will break up under the weight of its own incompetency or fall the prey of some foreign power, does not at all follow. The Turk has stored up an immense resistance to misgovernment. His needs are extraordinarily simple. He can get along somehow under almost any conditions. He asks only to be left alone. The country, to Western eyes, may be going to the dogs --but does the Turk know it?
Furthermore, Turkey is today what she has been for a hundred years and more, a most useful weight in the European balance of power. Internationally she is supported by the jealousies and suspicions of rival powers, just as a keystone is held in place by the arches on either side. Great Britain finds her most useful in blocking the Russians from the Mediterranean and the route to India. Russia is content to see her hold the Straits until such time as the old Russian dream may come true. She enters as a factor in the Franco-Italian rivalry for supremacy in the Mediterranean. No European power would willingly see her replaced by a rival. The great Straits and the inter-continental land passage centering at Constantinople are too vital.
These, then, are the realities of the "New" Turkey--the old personal struggle for autocracy, the old mass inertia and incompetence, the old balance between the rival powers of Europe. Laicism, Westernism, democracy; these are but the passing fads of the present ruler, like the pan-Islamism of Abdul Hamid or the pan-Turanianism of Enver Pasha. Nationalism runs deeper, for the Turk has been severely shaken up in the past ten years. But nationalism leads nowhere unless it builds up a nation. The Turk's labors to construct a nation on ultra-Western lines are wholly foreign to his blood and to his traditions. Our Western foundations become in his hands mere camouflage for the things which are to him racially inborn--the personal struggle of the few, the political indifference of the many.