The U.S. Helps Reconstruct the Ottoman Empire


American historian explores a disturbing pattern of Western intervention

One of the mysteries of our time is why the German government keeps insisting on a speciel relationship for Turkey in the EU if not outright membership and why American administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, have consistently tried to pressure the European Union to follow a more benevolent policy towards the country.

Perhaps there is a deeper explanation for Western rapproachment with Turkey beyond mere political correctness and perceived economic advantages.

The noted American historian and Europe specialist Robert E. Kaplan, who holds a doctorate from the elite Cornell University, thinks so. On May 29 he published an article at the website of the American think tank Gatestone Institute . Here he contends that America and Germany endeavor to resurrect the old Ottoman Empire that ruled vast areas of the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa until its final demise during World War I

An outrageous ide? Then hear his arguments:

Each of these United States military interventions occurred in an area that had been part of the Ottoman Empire, and where a secular regime was replaced by an Islamist one. So far, the German policy of keeping hidden its leadership role in its attempt to reconstitute the Ottoman Empire has succeeded.

Robert Kaplan notes that since the mid-1990s the United States has intervened militarily in several internal armed conflicts in Europe and the Middle East. And remarkably, all these interventions have taken place in areas that used to belong to the Ottoman Empire: The U.S. has bombed Serbs and Serbia in support of the Bosniak leader Alija Izetbegovics Moslem Regime in Bosnia in 1995. It has bombed Serbs and Serbia in support of Muslim Kosovo Liberation Army in the former Serbian province of Kosovo in 1999. And it has rained bombs over over Libyas Gaddafi regime in support of rebels in 2010.

Each intervention, notes Robert Kaplan, was justified to Americans as motivated by humanitarian concerns: to protect Bosnian Moslems from genocidal Serbs, to protect Kosovo Moslems from genocidal Serbs, and to protect Libyans from their murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Other reasons for these interventions were also offered: to gain for the United States a strategic foothold in the Balkans, to defeat communism in Yugoslavia, to demonstrate to the worlds Moslems that the United States is not anti-Moslem, to redefine the role of NATO in the post-Cold War era, among others.

In each instance, a secular regime was ultimately replaced by an Islamist one favoring sharia law and the creation of a world-wide Caliphate.

Even the countries that experienced the Arab Spring without American military intervention but with expressed American sympathy Tunesia and Egypt, used to belong to the Ottoman Empire, and also ended up with Islamist regimes.

The fact that the new Islamist countries were once part of an empire and a caliphate centered in Istanbul has hardly been mentioned when recent military conflicts have been discussed. The fact remains, however, that this empire used to encompass present-day Turkey, the Moslem-populated areas around the Mediterranean, Iraq, the coastal regions of the Arabian Peninsula and most of the Balkans including Greece.

It is noteworthy that wherever the Arab Spring has advanced, Turkey has been quick to recognize the rebels as the legitimate government.

Equally significant, as noted by Robert Kaplan, Turkish leaders have not refrained from making the connection between the conflicts in Bosnia, the Arab Spring and the Ottoman Empire. He quotes Harold Rhode, an American expert on Turkey:

[Prime minister of Turkey] Erdoans recent [2011] electoral victory speech puts his true intentions regarding Turkeys foreign policy goals in perspective. He said that this victory is as important in Ankara as it is in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo, under Ottoman times, an important Ottoman city; that his partys victory was as important in a large Turkish city Izmir, on the Western Anatolian coast, as it is in Damascus, and as important in Istanbul as it is in Jerusalem.

In saying that this victory is as important in former Ottoman cities, Erdoan apparantly sees himself as trying to reclaim Turkeys full Ottoman past.

Kaplan makes the point that besides being a political empire ruling a territory and its population, the Ottoman Empire claimed to be a Caliphate [defunct in 1924, ed.] with spiritual suzerainty over all Moslems those within its borders and those beyond. Though it might seem strange at first, the idea of advancing the renewal of the Ottoman Empire on two tracks breaking down the post-Ottoman political structure and promoting a Caliphate which Islamists say they long for is really quite reasonable.

Is it also resonable that Western powers should be aiding and abetting the resurrection of this empire?

In the case of Americas important European ally, Germany, there is ample historical precedent for an alliance with Turkey. From its creation in 1870, writes Robert Kaplan, Germany viewed Turkey with its empire as a most valuable client and ally. In the view of the leaders of Germany, Turkey was controllable through a combination of economic intercourse, gifts of educational opportunities, provision of technical expertise and administrative aid, as well as bribes to Turkish officials. Germany saw influence over Turkey as a means of influencing Moslems worldwide for its own interests.

During World War I Germany employed the Turkish Caliphate to promote jihad in areas where Moslem populations were ruled by its enemies Russia, France, Britain and Serbia.

Germany has consistently promoted the Arab Spring although this is rarely discussed. The same goes for Germanys covert support of anti-Assad forces in Syria. Thus Germany has been instrumental in presenting the May 25, 2012 massacre of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla as perpetrated by President Assad, when it was in fact committed by rebel forces.

Robert Kaplan describes American policy is more translucent as it follows an overt pattern:

First there is an armed conflict within the country where the intervention will take place. American news media heavily report this conflict. The good guys in the story are the rebels. The bad guys, to be attacked by American military force, are brutally anti-democratic, and committers of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Prestigious public figures, NGOs, judicial and quasi-judicial bodies and international organizations call for supporting the rebels and attacking the regime. Next, the American president orders American logistical support and arms supplies for the rebels. Finally the American president orders military attack under the auspices of NATO in support of the rebels. The attack usually consists of aerial bombing, todays equivalent of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gunboat which could attack coastal cities of militarily weak countries without fear of retaliation. The ultimate outcome of each American intervention is the replacement of a secular government with an Islamist regime in an area that had been part of the Ottoman Empire.

Robert Kaplan is at a loss to explain what advantage the U.S. hopes to gain from such policies and why is should actively promote German aims. It is a question that needs to be answered, he notes.



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