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JimSmithson

President Wilson and the Turks

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JimSmithson

I thought I would post these questions, taken from the Firstworldwarstudies forum as I know that there are some extemely well informed folk here who may not be on the other site.

They are asked by Professor William Gervase Clarence-Smith, Professor of the Economic History of Asia and Africa, SOAS, University of London

1) Does anybody know of sources that give any insight into why President Woodrow Wilson resisted pressures on him to declare war on the Ottoman Empire, following the US declarations of war against Germany, and later Austria-Hungary, in 1917?

2) Does anybody have information on an Ottoman emissary to President Woodrow Wilson, August 1915 to April 1916, who went by the name of Shaykh Wajih al-Gilani (in multiple spellings). He may have brought a request for the USA to act as 'honest broker' in making peace between the belligerents.

If anyone can help I will endeavour to forward your ideas to the professor; I am sure he will be happy to receive any ideas you may have.

Jim

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michaeldr

Jim,

two quick thoughts on this

August 1915 – April 1916 seems very early to be making such an approach (Gallipoli has gone well & it is pre-Somme etc)

I would also suggest that it is unlikely that the Ottomans would have used a none-Turk as an emissary on such an important mission

regards

Michael

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tn.drummond

I thought I would post these questions, taken from the Firstworldwarstudies forum as I know that there are some extemely well informed folk here who may not be on the other site.

They are asked by Professor William Gervase Clarence-Smith, Professor of the Economic History of Asia and Africa, SOAS, University of London

1) Does anybody know of sources that give any insight into why President Woodrow Wilson resisted pressures on him to declare war on the Ottoman Empire, following the US declarations of war against Germany, and later Austria-Hungary, in 1917?

2) Does anybody have information on an Ottoman emissary to President Woodrow Wilson, August 1915 to April 1916, who went by the name of Shaykh Wajih al-Gilani (in multiple spellings). He may have brought a request for the USA to act as 'honest broker' in making peace between the belligerents.

If anyone can help I will endeavour to forward your ideas to the professor; I am sure he will be happy to receive any ideas you may have.

Jim

Jim -

Interesting stuff.

(1) Would suggest any papers of the then US Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, as a possible source of information if you can track them down.

(2) Not sure peace making with the entente was on the Ottoman mind this early but they were schemers par excellence as evidenced by the fact they were still making advances to Russia on the 19th of August 1914 despite having already signed a secret alliance with Germany on 2nd August. Nothing of them would surprise me. I'm not sure if Max von Oppenheim and his 'dirty tricks' brigade had anything to do with the visit (German hand in an Ottoman glove) but he certainly would have had no qualms about using an Arab as an emissary. Unfortunately the sheik's name does not as yet ring a bell.

Suddery

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Gibbo

Wilson asked for a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary during his address to Congress on 4 December 1917. His justification for declaring war on Austria-Hungary but not the Ottoman Empire or Bulgaria was:

One very embarrassing obstacle that stands in our way is that we are at

war with Germany but not with her allies. I therefore very earnestly recommend

that the Congress immediately declare the United States in a state of war

with Austria-Hungary. Does it seem strange to you that this should be the

conclusion of the argument I have just addressed to you? It is not. It is

in fact the inevitable logic of what I have said. Austria-Hungary is for

the time being not her own mistress but simply the vassal of the German Government.

We must face the facts as they are and act upon them without sentiment in

this stern business. The government of Austria-Hungary is not acting upon

its own initiative or in response to the wishes and feelings of its own peoples

but as the instrument of another nation. We must meet its force with our

own and regard the Central Powers as but one. The war can be successfuily

conducted in no other way. The same logic would lead also to a declaration

of war against Turkey and Bulgaria. They also are the tools of Germany. But

they are mere tools and do not yet stand in the direct path of our necessary

action. We shall go wherever the necessities of this war carry us, but it

seems to me that we should go only where immediate and practical considerations

lead us and not heed any others.

The speech is included in Foreign Relations of the United States in the volume Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States with the address of the president to Congress December 4, 1917 It is available online on Wisconsin University's website The full speech is on pp. ix-xvi and the quote above is on p. xiv.

David Stevenson argues on p. 381 of 1914-1918: The History of the First World War that Wilson declared war on Austria-Hungary in order to support the Italians. He does not discuss the absence of a declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire.

Edited because initially posted whilst incomplete.

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4thGordons

Regarding the emissary:

Something in the back of my mind says it was perhaps related to the Presbyterian College (Robert College or Roberts University?) in Istanbul (what is now Boğaziçi University IIRC)and that this (Presbyterianism) was the particular connection to Woodrow Wilson.

I will have a bit of a think/look about that but that was the first think that popped into my head.

Chris

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tn.drummond

All the more interesting this as I'm pretty sure a shot in anger was never shared between America and the Ottomans in WW1, nor was it likely to be given the distance between their respective theatres of deployment.

I am aware of Germans and Austian-Hungarians being interned in the US during 1917/18 but have found no evidence of the same happening to Turks. All maybe apropos of nothing but I wonder just how much enmity was shared between the Turkey and America. I found the following passage of Wilson's speech quite telling:

" They also are the tools of Germany. But they are mere tools and do not yet stand in the direct path of our necessary action. We shall go wherever the necessities of this war carry us, but it seems to me that we should go only where immediate and practical considerations lead us and not heed any others."

Thanks for such a thought provoking posting - If anyone has any recommendations for further reading on Turko-American relationships for the period I'd be fascinated to know.

Suddery

Edit: 4th Gordons posting popped up while I was responding to posting #4

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trajan

How might this be connected to - as I recall it - the USA not wishing to take responsibility post WWI of that bit of modern Turkey where Kurdish is the majority language?

Trajan

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michaeldr

How might this be connected to - as I recall it - the USA not wishing to take responsibility post WWI of that bit of modern Turkey where Kurdish is the majority language?

Trajan

Various parties, including DLG, were in favour of the US taking a 'Mandate' to govern Anatolia. Some of the Turks even saw a benefit in closer links to a benign US. Wilson sent at least two fact-finding missions; one was that under King & Crane, the other was headed by Harbord. Whatever the outcome of these missions, the matter fell through when the Senate failed to give its OK to US membership of the mandating authority, the League of Nations.

Michael

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4thGordons

I suspect this may be worth looking at:

"The United States response to Turkish nationalism and reform, 1914-1939" [by] Roger R. Trask. Published: Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press [1971]

Our library does not have it but I could get it on ILL.

Chris

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JimSmithson

Thank you Pals for the suggestions so far. Don't worry about getting hold of references, remember this is not lowly little me looking into this but a professor at London University. I will pass on what everyone has suggested so far and see what his response is.

Jim

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tn.drummond

I suspect this may be worth looking at:

"The United States response to Turkish nationalism and reform, 1914-1939" [by] Roger R. Trask. Published: Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press [1971]

Our library does not have it but I could get it on ILL.

Chris

This would be of great interest to me. Is ILL 'International Lending Library' ? not come across the acronym before but may save me a lot of expense and time if this is a facility accessible from my local library.

Regards

Suddery

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4thGordons

Sorry, ILL = Inter Library Loan

Most public libraries and all University and College libraries are part of networks that allow one to request copies of books held at other institutions - remarkably rapid usually in my experience. Sometimes not possible for particularly rare or valuable books and sometimes the loan periods are a bit shorter than normal but a very useful facility I find.

Chris

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tn.drummond

Sorry, ILL = Inter Library Loan

Most public libraries and all University and College libraries are part of networks that allow one to request copies of books held at other institutions - remarkably rapid usually in my experience. Sometimes not possible for particularly rare or valuable books and sometimes the loan periods are a bit shorter than normal but a very useful facility I find.

Chris

I'm indebted - as a serial purchaser of books these things sometimes elude me.

Thanks and regards

Suddery

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tn.drummond

I suspect this may be worth looking at:

"The United States response to Turkish nationalism and reform, 1914-1939" [by] Roger R. Trask. Published: Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press [1971]

Our library does not have it but I could get it on ILL.

Chris

Just searched it on amazon £147.00 for paperback £38.00 for hardback (shome mistake surely... ed) + whatever astronomic postage.

Will trundle to library tomorrow and see what happens...

Suddery

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tn.drummond

I suspect this may be worth looking at:

"The United States response to Turkish nationalism and reform, 1914-1939" [by] Roger R. Trask. Published: Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press [1971]

Our library does not have it but I could get it on ILL.

Chris

Just thought I'd take the time to thank you. Book arrived today via the ILL (Hounslow Library) and my nose is already embedded.

Suddery

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4thGordons

Just thought I'd take the time to thank you. Book arrived today via the ILL (Hounslow Library) and my nose is already embedded.

Suddery

Excellent - I hope it is helpful.

Chris

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