Middle East Discuss the Difficulties Term Paper

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By the middle of the nineteenth century, the balance of economic strength had shifted entirely to western Europe and especially to Britain and France, which were then passing into the second stage of the industrial revolution that Turkey had hardly begun. The European powers would use their political and economic power to force the empire to allow its economy to be incorporated into the nineteenth-century liberal capitalist system. Free trade was encouraged, which was not entirely harmful to the empire. European manufactures flooded into the empire, and this caused the traditional handicrafts and textile industries to suffer. At the same time, there was a huge growth in demand for raw materials such as Syrian silk, Egyptian cotton, and Anatolian wool, and production of cereals and fruit also increased to meet the needs of growing urban regions.

The leaders also faced certain problems. Much of the newly created wealth went to foreigners rather than Ottoman subjects. Also, the ending of the traditional system of government monopolies eliminated the principal source of state revenues. In the economic sphere, guilds conducted much of the administrative effort, but as there was a gradual decline in Ottoman trade and industry, their ability to do so decreased. Political and economic disintegration came at a time of increasing isolation in terms of markets, leaving the Ottoman Empire vulnerable on a variety of fronts.

The Sultan was the ruler and demanded loyalty from members of the ruling class, who were always vulnerable and unprotected with reference to the Sultan whereas the people were relatively secure in their positions. In time, there was a shift in the thinking of the Sultans away from military and political activity and toward the promotion of peace in the palace.

The size of the empire as another problem, for it was so widespread that "it was difficult for the power of the central government to radiate out through the provinces, even with the use of nineteenth-century technologies such as telegraphs and railroads" (Gelvin, 2005, p. 81). Another issue was the diversity of the land and its peoples. Egypt fared better because the land and the people were more unified so that Cairo could dictate economic policy with greater effectiveness.

This entire system was threatened as European economic power increased and as the empire turned away from its long-standing policies toward Europe and toward the East where it could still have standing. The financial problems continued for the empire until Turkey declared bankruptcy in 1875. The same thing happened to Egypt, and both countries were subject to British power at the time and to British bondholders. Turkey was more or less ignored at the time of its bankruptcy, while Egypt was not because it lay across the route to India. Mehmet Ali instituted new economic policies by abolishing trax farming in a brutal manner. He also chagned the system of cotton production and further integrated Egypt into the world economic system (Gelvin, 2005, pp. 77-78). The Young Turks who took over the Ottoman Empire in 1908 started by using more modern rhetoric (Gelvin, 2005, p. 125).

The Ottoman Empire was more and more seen as a threat to be ejected from different regions. The confrontation between Europe and the Ottoman Empire led to the dissolution of the empire, finally broken up completely with World War I and with the British division of Saudi Arabia and neighboring territories into different states. The Ottoman Empire of 1918 was the last Muslim great power in global terms. The dismemberment of the empire in that same year put Islam on the defensive. In the latter part of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries, the Arab world came undo some form of Western colonial domination. The Muslims of central Asia were absorbed into the Russian Empire. The Muslim former rulers of India became part of the British Raj. The Persian/Iranian Empire was divided between Russia and Britain. Only Turkey was able to maintain a strong enough nation-state to remain independent of the European colonial powers. The different regions of the former empire reacted differently to European domination. The cause in turkey was secular nationalism and not Islam. Arabia and Iran both showed a combination of secular nationalism and Islamic counter-offensive. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire left a number of nation-states facing a dominant Europe and in various ways resisting that reality to the degree possible. Such resistance would continue in some cases throughout this century, with shifts according to the political realities of the time. Europe was becoming dominant in most of what had been the Ottoman Empire. The colonial policies of the countries of Europe would create more and more resistance in these territories until revolution or agitation would bring about the end of the colonial period in time. The tensions created in the Arab world would cause the British to attempt in a number of ways to divide the region so as to reduce tensions and would lead in time to the formation of the state of Israel and the solidifying of boundaries for the various Arab states. After World War I, Turkey would remain a viable nation-state but also a marginal one in terms of world affairs. The center of Islam would shift to the Arab world and there would become an important force in world affairs, especially after the discovery of oil and the changes that were brought in Arab economic affairs about as a result. Saudi Arabia would be formed from lands previously controlled by the Ottomans and for a time under the control of the British.

Did the people of the Middle East attempt to copy any western influences throughout the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries? If so, which ones, why, and what impact, if any, did they have?

The people of the Middle East adopted a number of Western ideas in an attempt to compete. Some of these changes were on a broad scale, altering the way the empire conducted its affairs, and others ere more specific to certain key areas, notably business and the military.

In military affairs, a new military corps was established "that adopted Western forms of drill and armament" (Gelvin, 2005, p. 80). This corps was turned against some of the local leaders in order to centralize control. In economic terms, a group of Ottoman Westernizers tried to influence the course of change, and in the first period of developmentalism they sought to "mimic the institutions and ideas of Europe that were then fashionable" and to do so on the basis of "the economic and political ideas associated with British Liberalism -- individual rights (for society's elites), free market economies, and respect for private property" (Gelvin, 2005, p. 79). Many others found these ideas distasteful. The Ottoman political elites shifted to a new model by the late 1870s, "the model provided by German and Italian unification movements" and that "emphasized governmental activism and change imposed from the top" (Gelvin, 2005, p. 79).

Whatever was taken from Westerners became part of the process of developmentalism, which over all was deemed a failure. However, elements of the process remained and had a beneficial effect in the long-term. As Gelvin (2005) writes,

Defensive developmentalists engaged their populations in common activities, organized and disciplined those populations, and spread new conceptions about the role of the state in society and the responsibilities of the state and the populations it governed toward each other (pp. 86-87).

This would help in the process of modernization into the twentieth century and would prepare the people of the Middle East for those reforms that they would adopt. Some of the impetus for reform would be thwarted or distorted by the increasing imperialism of certain Western powers and by later actions causing many to seek to turn back the clock as much…[continue]

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