history and what it teaches about the role of man

By freshouttatime
So at least 3 of my classes have come into full swing, arabic, middle east and world affairs and turkish.
Thus far, the ME class is the most interesting. The procedure for texts is as follows: the professor makes copies of the textbook, and submits it to the copyroom of the department, students then pay anywhere between 10-20 Lira for a whole semester's worth of text for that class. So I've been reading up about the state of the Ottoman Empire/Muslim Ummah in the 19th century, by W.L. Cleveland. I dont have the title of the book on me.

It dawned on the Sultans in the 1800's to actively pursue a modernization agenda in order to preserve the survival of their state. Firstly, Europe (France, England and Russia mainly) were making strides in taking control over Ottoman provinces/finances through war and trade capitulations/relationships with the Sultan and merchants.
Egypt was invaded by Napoleon early but eventually replaced by British occupation, Russia interfered as much as possible on behalf of the Orthodox Christians within the Empire and the rise of nationalism within the Balkan states.

Cleveland attributes the general decline to basically two reasons; break down of the Military and the insertion of European capital. Europeans started trading with the Ottomans actually reaching out to them. Capitulations were trade immunities granted by Istanbul to European countries in order to promote trade with Europeans. (ie French traders weren't subject to Islamic law for violations, rather they fell under their country's jurisdiction AND EXEMPTION FROM TAXES) This was the weakest part of the reading, because Cleveland doesn't explain why the sultan used capitulations to stir up commercial exchange, instead of going straight in and trading, the given explanation of just "granting special privileges to build up relationships" just doesn't make sense. The capitulations started in 1536 with France, and at the time there were minimal/no abuses by French traders within the empire. Regardless as Europeans gained more clout in Istanbul, Ottoman lands became a source for raw goods exports, and Europeans in turn would export finished products with those raw goods. This led to deficit/inflation within the empire, and this in turn resulted in not being able to maintain the janissaries (the elite army) and the general army. Without a strong military couple with the succession of inept Sultans, decentralization occurred, provincial governors became more autonomous diverting taxes and power from Istanbul.
I am learning that without a military a country is NOTHING, its funny but the world does operate on hard politics and realism.
And so in the 1800's this Tanzimat or reform movement started, first by modernizing the Military, training them with French hirelings and technology, creating a new bureaucracy based on Europe by sending Ottomans to Europe, and reforms and creation of different ministries within the bureaucracy. But by this time Ottomans were not on a level playing field with Europe, Europe it seemed was so far ahead technologically and economically that it would not be in their best interests to have the Ottoman Empire on par with them. Again the big players England, France and Russia played the "Eastern Question" game, what to do with the sick man of Europe the Ottoman Empire?

They resolved not to dismantle the empire, because they wanted to avoid disputes and potential war with each other over territory, thus they played the diplomatic game of spheres of influence, with Russia casting its shadow in the Balkans, eastern Anatolia, and Iran. England playing its game in Egypt, and the Middle East area.

Europe really got them by landing them in debt, which lead to loans, which led to interest, which led to some provinces like Egypt having 60% of their revenue dedicated to loan payments. Any movements towards economic sophistication (nationalization, industrialization) were generally shut down. Muhammad Ali the Egyptian governor, had a brutal yet effective reformation program for the province by reforming the army, nationalizing trade sectors, disregarding capitulations and harshly putting the peasant class to manual labor was seen as a threat to British interests in Syria/Jordan. The Brits preferred an Ottoman administration to Muhammad Ali because of their influence in the economy.
So Lord Cromer the eventual British Governor of Egypt intervened to organize Egypt's revenue crisis, they had defaulted on their loans towards England and this was the justification for direct British control. Cromer stopped all the economic and educational reforms instituted by Ali and his successors, but did get the country out of debt if that means anything. Actually it doesn't. White Man's burden indeed. Its a microcosm of the whole attitude that the West brought to the third world, "serve our own interests, and if in the process it is something good for you, we'll endorse it, if not, lets never make it a conscience part of the issue"

This is my problem with the current situation in the world, the powers that be don't really behave with good intentions. There is such thing as being Good, and committing to principles that are right, be it in your personal actions towards yourself, and towards others. From what i know about Plato theres an ideal of "good" that exists that we have to strive for, and from what I have learned from God is that He tests us to see who would behave the best and have a commitment to good. So its not impossible, don't be a downer, and fatalistic. We were taught better. There so many things that come into play, my mind falls into illusions; why commit myself to striving for Good, what is good? Its difficult for me to remain steadfast on principles I have once so strongly believed in.

My son, be steadfast in prayer, enjoin justice, and forbid evil. Endure with fortitude whatever befalls you. That is a duty incumbent on all. Do not treat men with scorn, nor walk proudly on earth: God does not love the arrogant and the vainglorious. Rather let your stride be modest and your voice low: the most hideous of voices is the braying of the ass. 31:17-19