tv World War I in the Middle East CSPAN July 8, 2018 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
i think ranger dave had just pulled the plug. dave: he'll be available for more questions. we do have copies of his book in our gift shop if anyone is interested. come and see us in the lobby. otherwise, thank you again for being here. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. announcer: next on american history tv, u.s. army command & general staff college professor brian steed talks about the impact of world war i on the middle east and how the outcome of the war continues to play a role in present-day conflicts. he explores the defeat and dissolution of the ottoman empire, which was the dominant power in the region and how their former territories were allocated.
the national world war i museum and memorial in kansas city, missouri hosted this one-hour event. >> now it is my pleasure to welcome lieutenant colonel brian l. steed, who after more than 28 years in the united states army, has retired, but has continued on in his role as an historian and specialist in the middle east. he served eight and a half consecutive years in the middle east and was a jordanian army officer and liaison to the israeli force, which helped shape his scholarly perspective. he has written widely on military theory and history and cultural awareness, and has recently published "voices of the iraq war: contemporary accounts of daily life, voices of an era."
and b's and spiders, applied cultural inference. colonel steed is also a phd student at the university of missouri, kansas city. ladies and gentlemen, we you please join me in welcoming lieutenant colonel brian steed? [applause] col. steed: ok, first, i want to thank everyone for coming out and i want to go back a slide. this is such an honor to be here tonight, a tremendous honor to be in this facility. this is a marvelous location. this is the second time i have spoken in this series. the first time was three years ago, and i did not get the opportunity to present here. that time i talked literally
about the great war in the middle east in 1915 and 1916. tonight, i will address the great war the middle east in 1917 and 1918 and the ramifications of that war on our present environment. when i teach students at the command and general staff college, i describe world war i as the most important war in human history. and i am going to give just two of the reasons i give for that statement tonight. the first is that war caused the downfall and destruction of four great empires. the russian empire, the german empire, the austrian empire, and the empire we will talk about most tonight, the ottoman empire. additionally, the actions during that war and at the end of that war created many of the problems currently present in the balkan peninsula and the middle east.
many years ago as an undergraduate history student i , became enamored by the events i will recount tonight. world war i seemed to me to be such a boring and dirty war. trenches and mud. yuck. even the movie "wonder woman" showed it pretty much as such. why would anybody be excited about that? we don't usually as americans talk about the events i will discuss tonight. those events include the greatest cavalry charge ever recorded on film and it included the fastest mounted advance up to that time in history, and really all the way up to 1991. and we also get from this area and this period of the war, i think, the greatest movie ever made about the middle east, "lawrence of arabia."
the fastest advance included one of the shocking events of a bengal lancer regiment -- if you know what they were, they were a regimen of indian soldiers on horses with lances, and during this charge, the bengal lancers actually impaled german machine gunners during the attack. that was an event that shocked and amazed me at the time and still does so today. so, much of what you watch on the news concerning the problems in the middle east can be traced back to the events in this region during this period. this was a period of unprecedented accomplishments and exciting developments. we have a lot to cover and i hope we do it all justice. the collision of empires in the wee shaping the middle east was not a foreordained set of events. so, the operational
repercussions come in four areas. to the operational repercussions come in four areas. they also overlap with the strategic, regional, and global repercussions as well. the first is the capture of jerusalem in 1917 sent shockwaves through the arab and muslim world. the city was occupied in recognition of the city's position of respect in the world's three great monotheistic religions. this was the first time a christian commander led an army into the holy city since 1099. next the operations in the , battle of mikita was the single fastest mounted advance by any army until operation desert storm in 1991. third, the coordination between conventional and unconventional
forces set a standard still referred to today. and forth, the capture of damascus by an irregular, or unconventional, force created the possibility of a partnership the between such forces, not then considered by western armies. so at the strategic level, what we discussed tonight is whether the objectives of the war changed from a narrow definition of fighting the ottoman empire to the need for the destruction of that empire. this is a radical shift in british imperial policy and grand strategy. regionally, the results of the dissolution of the ottoman empire redrew the map in the middle east and reconstructed the world border. europe tried to make a europe-style wave in a non-european region of the globe. this regional impact caused waves that are so crashing today, as we will show at the
end. and globally, violent nonstate actors that dominate the present news cycle are all trying to narratively connect back to the good old days when there was a single muslim polity. the muslim polity did not universally accept nor did it respect the ottoman caliph. reflection, many people know about the loss of the single government structure and vision. this is the general order i intend to follow. tonight i will focus on the , strategic level of war. i will address some of the tactical events, but i will not do so in detail. i will also talk more about the british empire than any other. i do this for the reason that must be in form from the british imperial experience in the middle east from 1914 to 1947, are very instructive for today's u.s. military personnel and american citizens. so i want to begin tonight with the great game.
this was the name given to the series of engagements, battles, and wars waged between the british and russian empires to gain dominance and control over central asia. the great game included fighting in afghanistan, around the caspian sea, and in and around modern-day iran. the great game was more about a way of thinking and behaving with respect to power politics and international relations than strictly military endeavor. the military was the tip of a spear that was wielded and used in its entirety. in this great game, the two main participants were great britain and russia, but the ottoman empire also played a critical role. both of the other two empires often used, or tried to use, the ottomans as a pawn in their game, to be sacrificed in order to gain positional advantage and maintain control. in this editorial cartoon, you see the british lion questioning the russian bear about his current abuse of persia, which was a common area of conflict in
this game. just as a point of interest about why this matters. this was in many ways an globalization of the great game, with the united states replacing great britain as one of the two primary players. for people in the middle east, this is one of the reasons why the united states is so closely linked with the britain and british errors and blamed for their historic actions. we simply took the seat of that player in the game, and diffusing a poker analogy, we took over all of their iou's. this is something that took me a long time to understand. i lived in the middle east for a while and i would regularly get lectured about u.s. foreign policy -- it usually by cabdrivers and accountants -- and part of they would do in that lecture is they would regularly blame me, once they
found out i was an american, for issues that i recognized were not america's doing, and i could not understand why we got the blame for britain's actions, until i really started to understand the great game and its transition from the great game into the cold war game. so, each empire had its own particular interest. so, great britain wanted a strong, or at least active, ottoman empire that would keep the russians occupied in the balkans, the caucuses, and the caspian sea basin. great britain's primary imperial interest was always the protection of india. thus, all elements of the great game extended from delhi. -- and its perspective of the world. london intended to acquiesce to that perspective in all things geographically close to the borders of india. as will be discussed in more detail later, the british empire
dealt with the middle east from three different locations -- london, delhi, and cairo. they each have a perspective of the world that was unique to that capital. the quote from mark sites showed the historic importance of the ottoman empire to great britain. these are the same sites that -- mark sites that will give his name to the agreement to which i will refer later. russia wanted a warm water port s and access to resources. movement through the bosporus and the dardanelles was an option, and another was access to the persian gulf, the arabian sea, and the indian ocean. the game often contained events that were solely to create difficulties for the opponent, as was seen with russian involvement in afghanistan, which did not seem to serve russian objectives as much as it created problems for great britain. the ottomans wanted to control access to the black sea,
dominate the caucuses, and the -- extend their influence into the balkans and europe and the , ottoman empire was first and foremost a european empire in the minds of the ottomans and european powers. the middle east position was something of an afterthought. the ottoman empire was in severe economic distress in the decade prior to world war i and was trying to reform its military and governmental structures. there had been a coup that brought a group of ethnic turk leaders into power. these young turks now tried to excel rate the pace of reform. the ottoman empire was dubbed -- was dubbed and what this title the other european great power saw in the ottomans a declining empire, no able to defend or protect itself. the ottomans saw some of this danger themselves. they reached out to the german
empire for land force military trainers, the british for naval trainers, and the french for air force trainers. it is important to know the ottoman military was not the corruption riddled and incompetent organization of a century earlier. in 1914, they were addled tested -- battle tested and had numerous company and field grade officers with experience that have proved themselves on the battlefield. the compelling point is no one entered world war i with the intent or desire to destroy the ottoman empire. it was a competitor for the russians and a necessary chill -- tool for the british. however, once the ideal carving up the ottoman empire started in the minds of the european powers, it grew with greedy and -- until everyone looked at the possibility with greedy and unrealistic eyes. i made no mention of the french to this point, as they played a very small role in the great game. however, they still had an
interest that dated back centuries, so the french had connections that went all the way back to the crusading era, and over time during ottoman rule, they, the french gained special rights, economic and religious, for the protection of all catholics. then later for all christians living in the ottoman empire. so the interest extended to where the french enjoyed -- legalcial commercial and considerations in addition to these religious associations. these economic capitulations to the french and other european thetries were a drain on economic capitulations and created a sense of humiliation with respect to european powers. so a final note on the importance of islam in these perspectives. the ottoman sultan was also the islamic caliph. i want you to think a moment
which of all the empires we have just discussed have the largest muslim population going into world war i? i will let you think for a moment. it was the british empire. as the british empire and british imperial india of that day included the modern-day countries of pakistan and bangladesh and india. and for future quiz show benefit, the largest muslim country by population in the world was indonesia, and depending on which source you go to, the second or the third is either india or pakistan. and bangladesh is very high as well in terms of the muslim population. so, the british -- everything they did with respect to the ottoman empire and the caliph was done with an eye toward their own muslim population because what they did not want to do was anger the muslim
population such that they would have internal revolts. now, this will lead to some interesting decisions later, as we will discuss. i want to highlight a couple of issues leading up to world war i. in 1882, the ottoman empire established a formal relationship with the german empire. this was to provide advisors to the ottoman army. part of the relationship with germany was economic. this included the railway that traveled from damascus to medina. it was completed in 1908. this was the railroad targeted by the northern arab army in "lawrence of arabia." the ottoman navy began war hostilities by attacking russian ports in the black sea. this caused to be ottoman empire to be properly into the war. after all the efforts to balance power, the empires were brought
into direct collision. once it was decided to destroy the ottoman empire, the treatment began. russia wanted constantinople and the bosporus and dardanelles straits. england wanted control of territory for protected the suez canal and routes to india -- so mesopotamia. france wanted syria. before major combat operations they were carving up the sick , man in their minds. with the plan to carve up the ottoman empire the british , empire was setting the course for its own demise. so, as i previously stated, there was a conflict in the division in the leadership and governance of the british empire. the three capitals typically saw the world differently. initially, only the opinion of london and delhi had weight, but lord kitchener was made cairoary of state, then
was elevated. he came to cairo and believed people who worked for him saw the middle east more clearly. the challenge was very few people in any of the capitals actually understood the region, had traveled to the region, or spoke the language is from the -- languages from the region. this was true even in cairo. many posted to cairo rarely spoke with an egyptian other than a master-servant relationship and even fewer spoke with the turks. the arab bureau, which was not established until early 1916, as a result of a recommendation s from one of the few individuals who spoke arabic and read the koran -- he identified the ottoman empire was much more effective in dealing with narrative than the british governments, and it led to an
ineffective british narrative. so even though the arab bureau created and existed, it included people of specialization, language skills, and experience in the middle east, but they were buried within the intelligence department in cairo. throughout the world, the british perceived the war and their opponents in the middle east through a three-lens aleidoscope and gained fractured vision at best. they wanted to elevate an arab leader to be a callous -- col aliph to replace the ottoman sultan. the idea of a european leader elevating them -- the british believed that because the arabs were unhappy with the turks,
they would be happy with anyone, meaning british, who replaced the turks as overlords. even within the governments in london, there were various differences of opinion between the foreign office, the colonial office, and the navy. just as a reminder of where we are as we begin discussions in 1917 -- fighting has stalled on the western front and the trench lines extended family out to the sea. the russians started to suffer serious losses in personnel and land. they needed resources to -- and assistance to access shipping lanes. no assistance came. in 1917 there was a revolution in russia that lasted nearly six years, destroying that empire in bringing about the soviet union. the americans entered the war in 1917, but significant forces did not arrive for months. the british empire used colonial forces in the fight in the
middle east with some is -- withn when it british forces. the most significant decision of the empire in 1917 was the transfer of general edmund allenby from the western front to egypt and command of the expeditionary force. the war in the middle east, especially for the british, was all about protecting routes to india and, if possible, finding a soft underbelly for the fighting on the western front. for the ottomans, the emphasis was on protecting constantinople and the dynasty. the british conducted operations directed from all three of the capitals mentioned earlier. the operations at mesopotamia were controlled from delhi. the operations in gallipoli were controlled from london in part. levant operations in were controlled from -- initially, as i mentioned, this attack was made in gallipoli, but once gallipoli fell, it was decided to move to the levant
among the mediterranean coast. -- along the mediterranean coast. initially, these attacks were eventually stopped at the edge of the sinai desert, and this is where we will begin our operational perspective for tonight's discussion. but first, i want to discuss some of the diplomatic efforts that did so much to create our world today. during gallipoli, an increasing passion to defeat the ottoman empire, the british high commissioner for egypt entered a correspondence with sharif hussein of mecca. the sharif wanted to throw off the ottoman yoke, but he wanted british help. the british wanted a replacement for the caliph of constantinople. who better than the custodian of the two holy cities, mecca and medina? it seemed like the perfect match.
the sharif wanted british promises and assistance to that end. as you read the text of the short segment of correspondence between the 2, 1 should see the diplomatic doublespeak. nothing is really being promised, nor are binding agreements being made. however, for one not well versed in such doublespeak, there's the perception of a commitment, and to this day, almost every arab cab driver you encounter will tell you this commitment was made by the british to create an arab state and protect it. while this correspondence was going on between the sharif and high commissioner, mark sykes was meeting with a french diplomat. what came from this set of meetings was a non-binding agreement that is the most famous of all the disagreements. as we will discuss at the end of tonight's presentation, there were a series of treaties that
were legally binding. this agreement had none of that. this was an agreement between diplomats for conceptual division of the ottoman territories. as one notes the blue shaded area, it is clear that some of the lands being divided never came from the republic of turkey. the agreement included historic imperial interests and this agreement was referred to by the british and french, from the british and french participant'' names, but there was a russian participant, and the russians were to get constantinople and the straits. it was russian participation that created the diplomatic explosion. once the bolsheviks gained control of the russian foreign ministry, they broadcast the use of the war for furthering imperial interests. the people in the middle east were incensed by the two-faced approach of the british, in
particular, who negotiated with the british and the french to offer the same land to two different people. but the story gets even better in a moment. to finish this part of the story, i refer you to the map and then to the text. when one reads the text -- and it is kind of small -- this agreement does not look as bad as it often gets painted. this is a division of zones of interest and influence rather than complete control. however, the actions on the ground communicated what the agreement was really about. when the french move to damascus in 1920 and 1921, they used aircraft to strike the main arab market in the city of damascus to drive the remaining arab leaders from the city. the bullet holes are still observable in the main thoroughfare. the son of the sharif of mecca
or the sharif hussein, he was in damascus, where he planned to govern the new arab state. the french believe they have -- had authority to determine who could or would rule there, and that is what caused the conflict. so, now i have gotten a little head of myself, talking about the 1920's. i want to jump back to 1917. so the final of the three offers come in the form of the balfour declaration. this is the document where the british government formally acknowledged the return of the jews to a national home in palestine. a great many people point to this document as a watershed in the trajectory of establishing the state of israel, both in the negative and the positive.
i again direct you to the noncommittal language used. nothing is certain in this statement. in the second and third of the correspondence, agreement, and declaration, meaning in this case, the agreement and the balfour declaration, the region is seemingly being sold off to foreigners. this is a wound that is still raw today. i want to go back to the discussion on operations. we have one of the main figures and our story tonight. he was a cavalry officer who commanded the british expeditionary force cavalry division at the beginning of the war in 1914. he advanced during the war the cavalry corps, the infantry corps, and finally the army command. he was known for having a single emotion -- rage. there is a touching story about
him in that every night, before he went to bed, one of the staff officers who was appointed or had the responsibility to monitor the wounded, or the casualty list, that staff officer was to report to allenby every night on the status of his son, who was a field artillery officer at the front, and it was only after receiving a positive report that he would go to bed each night. unfortunately, this seemingly softer side of allenby has a tragic end. after being posted to egypt, allenby received a telegram from his wife, informing the general of his son's death, and he publicly wept, the only time his staff saw a display of emotion. when allenby took over command of the expeditionary force, it was 27th june, 1917. he immediately reorganized the
forces under his command into two infantry corps and one cavalry corps. he visited the front regularly, and he was a present leader. this is a picture of allenby entering the city of jerusalem. i will mention this again in a moment. i want to keep this picture a little bit in your mind. his forces captured the line through excellent deception and anasch.-- and p the charge of the light force brigade against the defenses is captured in the thumb "the light horsemen." the movie is a little cheesy, but the charge scene is probably one of the best in film. as a young former lieutenant at the armor officer basics course, i and my classmates were shown this film when we were introduced to cavalry operations, and i have been in love with it ever since.
so i direct your attention to the film clip playing in the background. this is only about a minute of a 10-minute segment of the film. the line had defended against british attacks twice before. the events of the film happen at the end of the third battle. the command decided to send a mounted force to flank the defenses. the risk was they traveled with limited water and would have to attack without resupply. it was a change for the austrian light force, who typically fought as mounted infantry. of course, one cannot charge of modern machine guns or artillery with horses -- or can you? in this case, they charged and rapidly overwhelm the defenders with only 45 or so killed and 45 or so wounded. if you watch the entire segment in the film, you will see about
every one of the casualties because they seem to show just about everybody was getting killed and wounded. but the scope and scale of the achievement cause the ottoman forces to pull back. so, a month later on 11th , december, 1917, allenby and his force walked to jerusalem on foot. in kaiser wilhelm ii rode in on jerusalem on horseback, and doing so, deeply offended the populace. allenby learned from that and adjusted his behavior. that was the picture i showed you two slides previous. i show you the entirety of this message to the entirety declaring martial law as a sense of his cultural sensitivity and understanding of the historic nature of his achievement. it's interesting to note how many british newspapers at the time linked this event to the crusades.
allenby's forces attacked what is now the capital of jordan in march and april of 1918. they were repulsed on both occasions. allenby wanted reinforcements to continue his attacks, and for those of you world war i historians, you know the spring offensives were happening at the same time, so allenby was not going to get many reinforcements from europe. he would have to wait to get reinforcements from somewhere else and those would come from the colonies. so, after receiving colonial reinforcements, he initiated the battle of mikita. because of its size and june everett connection with the biblical, some have labeled this the battle of armageddon. for some who do not know -- this is a hebrew lesson.
harmedgiddo means mountain and we anglicized it into armageddon. if you study history or just go on to wikipedia, you will find dozens upon dozens our battles have been fought there over time. the idea that the final and end battle will be fought in the valley, certainly anyone reading the book of revelation, would not have been surprised. because, hey, that is where all big battles happen. and it's so happened in world war i as well. so, the way this occurred -- the initial attacks of the infantry -- you see on the left side the yellow highlighted desert mountain core -- the infantry hole and the desert
mounted rush through. it fell to arab forces. part of this advance, the cavalry forces covered more terrain faster than any force previously and they continued the attack north, taking aleppo on october 25. facing a possible invasion, the ottoman empire capitulated on october 30, 1918. so, before discussing the various treaties and dissolution of the ottoman empire i want to , step back in time and move to the east and discuss the actions of the great arab revolt. this was an irregular action funded and resourced by the british empire. the forces were commanded by the son of the sharif of mecca.
the force conducted regular attacks on the lines of medications. of course, most of us know about -- communications. of course, most of us know about these events through the writings of movies associated with the british army officer known as "lawrence of arabia." and now to the clip. [gunfire] >> come on, men! [cheering]
col. steed: the success of this force in securing the railroad that connected the ottoman leadership to these places was significant. it was certain that the great arab revolt was neither a -- as successful as its most active promoters, lawrence among them, would have you believe, nor was it as unimportant as many detractors often state. lawrence was the ideal foreign officer. i know this is crazy small for some of you in the back, that these are great. these are ones still use today, and teaching army advisors, sort of the 27 lessons from lawrence.
so, he is the ideal foreign officer. he spoke the language, valued the culture, history, and religion of the locals. he respected them and the respect was returned as he demonstrated his capacity for supporting efforts. i would suggest the greatest lesson from lawrence is helping the locals accomplish the goals that were important to them. in so doing, one can ensure they will be more inclined to support one's own interests. the lesson to note from his 27 points is the criticality of unrelenting study, something that speaks to me as an officer and student of the region. the most important film to watch if you want to understand the middle east is "lawrence of arabia." the sweeping scenes and vistas help to communicate the nature
of bedouin patience and the beauty of the desert. i cannot express enough the importance of this film and helping one to understand the region. the rating of damascus is portrayed in "lawrence of arabia" as a competition between the british forces and their arab partners to the east. there's a lot to this characterization even if the details of the film are slightly inaccurate. the arab forces reach the city first and are unable to govern without british technical assistance. at this there was a tremendous point, lack of trust as the agreement had been released from the bolshevik government in moscow. the status of forces and the retrying of boundaries was not wholly a result of the picot agreement, although the borders of iraq, jordan, in syria tend to follow the outlines drawn by the functionaries. it will evolve through several treaties. first, i want to remind the audience it was only a few
months after entering the war that the ottomans' attack injured the caucuses area. there are committed to the caucuses and the fight with the russian empire. the ottoman forces were throughout the caucuses through the end of the war. the british also had multiple fronts with the advance in mesopotamia and azerbaijan. british captured baghdad in forces april 1917, and continue to attack north with eyes on capturing mosul. the concern with respect to mosul was the result of controlling christian refugees and eastern portions of anatolia in what is often termed the armenian genocide. it was thought if the british controlled mobile -- mosul, they
could keep the refugees in the north and prevent any expansion of attacks on the christian populace. a second reason for attacking north was to control the grain for people in baghdad and basra. many of the units advancing on mosul learned of the war's end from turkish soldiers under white flags. turkish forces were forced to abandon the mosul governorate. such successful action encouraged similar movements. it was held by mustafa kemal, and he wanted to fight. constantinople ordered him to withdraw. the capitulation of the capital in the face of advances gave additional support for those turks who believe the ottoman government to be corrupt. even before his open position in
turkey, he invited all turks to enter a national pact to only accept the lines drawn at the armistice of midros. it's fascinating that president erdogan reminded the turkish people about this in 1917. in 2017.campaigning while some of said the attacks were achieved this end. so, the first of these treaties we will mention is the treaty of -- severus, signed on august 10, 1920. this was a treaty where the ottoman empire seated all non-turkish possessions. this allowed for the designation
of a league of nations mandates for syria and palestine. one can see from this map the brutal carving the treaty required. following the treaty, there was a revolt of officers in a series of battles and tended to regain control of what we know as turkey today. it's fascinating that of all of the empires killed by world war i that one could argue the empire that did the best in preserving some semblance of its former self in terms of territory and cultural identity was the one dubbed "the sick man of europe." it was the treaty of lussane, signed on 1923, the end of the july 24, ottoman empire and establish the final borders of the modern republic of turkey, as seen here. one could argue that the modern middle east's tensions and problems is a result of the
decisions made during and immediately following the end of world war i by the various european powers. there is no israel and palestine without the declaration. the present borders cut across tribal, ethnic boundaries as they were drawn by distant european government functionaries without understanding their actions. the rise of nationalist turks and the establishment of artificial nationstates confused infusedfused -- nationalism into a region that had been previously governed by faith. the community of believers was replaced by a collection of nations and nationalist identities. so the images of isis destroying the borders between syria and iraq provides ample evidence for the challenges of what was created by world war i. israel is viewed as a crusader'' state, created by the same army that entered jerusalem in 1917. the actions of imperial powers
throughout the regions are fighting to maintain -- not what the region wants -- but lines drawn by distant powers. this is an interview they are doing. well, actually, let's see. >> islamic state leaders working to show us how they are literally dissolving borders. >> [speaking foreign language] >> nearly 100 years ago, britain
and france divided up the region that was once known as the ottoman empire. it seems strange to get a history lesson in the middle of the desert from a hard-line fighter. the agreement is key to the anger and rage. a few weeks earlier, this was a checkpoint manned by iraqi soldiers. then, i.s. overran it. as is common, they filmed the action and published the results. col. steed: for those of you who speak arabic, and i hope that is all of you, you will notice the translation is wrong. the speaker does not say "syria or iraq." he says ashan, or the land of the two rivers. he did this because syria and iraq, which are arabic words, are words derived from the world war i agreements. lands that did not exist in the days of the prophet mohammed. i will show this final video to
express how the events discussed tonight shaped the narratives of those we have been fighting over the last several years. for those of you who are concerned, this is a portion of an isis recruitment video. if you join later, it is not on me. [laughter] >> we are the soldiers who will demolish them and destroy the borders. there is no honor to be found in the remnants of nationalism, and the difference between an arab and non-arab and a black man and a white man. this is the glory of faith that unites us. col. steed: the inferences on piety rather the defining characteristic of a muslim also harkens back to world war i and the rise of nationalism.
world war i began in 1914, but it did not really end in 1918, as aftershocks and tremors have been felt by every decade since. so, i would argue it is true with the fight against isis, which one could argue began 100 years after the ending of world war i. i invite you to check out some of the materials i have in terms of -- most of my focus is on isis and understanding the middle east, so i have a lot of material that is available to access in terms of recommended articles and videos. so, i will conclude there and invite questions. >> [indiscernible]
>> how did the turks so successfully defeat the british in gallipoli and later just fall apart? col. steed: that is a great question. ok, so without going through the story of gallipoli, which i think is -- there are a couple of dynamics that are different. one is gallipoli is a very isolated environment geographically, and the british, by focusing on that isolated geography, it made it easier for the turks to defend, so that was just from a geographic military it was easier for the
turks in gallipoli that it was in palestine or elsewhere. the other part that was different was the leadership in gallipoli, the turkish leadership in gallipoli was particularly strong. so you have the lieutenant colonel of the division and in part one could blame the turkish narrative. you have the actions of one particular day where he committed his reserve decision which allowed them to hold gallipoli. that dynamic turkish leadership was not necessarily present in all of the other locations. once things started falling, as they did in late 1918, it was very difficult to hold things
together all the pieces in mesopotamia and elsewhere. they were also struggling in the caucuses. it is important to realize -- i find what is happening in the levant fascinating, so i focus on that. for the ottoman empire, the number one theater after dealing with gallipoli was russia and the caucuses mountains. that is where they tended to have the majority of their force, and the biggest struggle there was logistical, more so than purely leadership. all of those combined create additional problems for the turks across the other theaters. i hope that answers your question. >> so, like you, this is a subject i became enamored with some years ago. we have read a lot of the same books, and i envy you you getting to write a phd thesis on this. were i a little younger, i would do it, too.
you sort of referred to -- the picot agreement is modified and the russians are supposed to take a lot of territory. at a lot of people here would be interested in knowing after the russian revolution, when wilson showed up at the peace conference in paris, the british expected us to take the parts that had been assigned to russia. that literally the united states in 1919 was opposed to take over armenia and can you talk a little bit about that? col. steed: i don't think it is the handoff in that case. it's fascinating that we are never -- we are co-belligerent in world war i, so we are not allied with the british and the french. we are co-belligerence with them, which creates interesting legal differences, and as a result, we never declare war against the ottoman empire. so, as part of wilson's 14
points, one of which is self-determination of populations, particularly the ottoman empire and also the german empire, the challenge was, we send out one delegation in particular and one of the things that everybody realized is most of the people locally want america to actually administer the territory, which which is why armenia is one of the things that gets suggested is, " why don't you guys take armenia? " the reason why everybody wants us to take it is they do not know us. you dealt with the british, you dealt with the french. we don't like any of them. you must be better. the idea was just give it to the americans and from the british perspective, they were like, hey, you guys can have a headache. wilson won the 1916 election by saying "i kept you out of the
war." the idea of getting america imperialistic lee evolved with something like armenia was never going to sell politically. we back out of that relatively quickly in opposition to the american presence. one of the things when i talk to students about america's role in the middle east, a lot of people today tend to think we have always been in the middle east and they fail to understand that really, up until 1979, we had very little involvement in the middle east and we tried to keep it that way. so wilson following what is going on in versailles, wilson is basically trying to keep the middle east at arms length. he is trying to avoid it. he just sent off the delegation to try to understand the king trade commission, is what gets named, and he is trying to figure out what should be done. the reality is everybody wants
to rule themselves. that's not surprising. >> i can't do the quote 100%. proposes,ge when he his response is, i don't think " the american people have the stomach for that." col. steed: we proved that wrong, right? we can get enough. >> given russia's historic ambitions to get a warm water port, is a logical to conclude that putin's maneuvers in syria and persia are continuation of that effort, to move south to get a warm water port? col. steed: that's a good question. yes, i absolutely do. putin is a historical russian
guy, right? very much in that model of a tsar. and he wants to do a russian leaders have always done is -- and that is to have control. i think that is the driving russian motivation and i think putin's actions in part are given that. i would to just it is never that simple though. his relations with iran are linked with curbing islamic extremism, and there is some evidence to suggest there is a deal between russia and iran to that effect, and the other parts, syria is an old-time russian ally, so they are trying to reestablish credibility in the region and it does not hurt to upset nato, and most people forget that turkey is a nato ally.
anything he does by poking them in the eye is happy for him. >> we have time for one more question. >> how does the kurdish issue fit in the current dynamic? col. steed: wow, that is a great last question. so much of this goes back to this period, because the kurds are one of the people who really cling to wilson's points about self-determination. they really believe that is their hope and now is their chance that they will have the independence that they want, that this is going to work out, as you can all imagine, because this is sort of a kurdish country, but the kurdish country comes out of it. -- there isn't a kurdish country comes out of it. part of that is that wilson does not have the stomach to invest american capital in the middle east, that is what it would have
1918 and also 1919. so, the kurds get stuck and they are divided into various countries. one thing i found fascinating over the last few months when doing research is this story about the national pack and the emphasis on that and the fact that the british commander is moving up. he is being told to do it, but he has no real authority and the , british give him almost no credit for the fact that iraqi is under british mandate for some time they give no credit to , this general for the fact that he expanded what was a rock by capturing the government of mosul after the armistice. by doing so, it did so by
dividing the kurds more than they had already been. in that case, turkey would have had an even greater percentage of kurds. i do not know how that would have late out over the last 100 years. that probably would have made it more complicated for turkey. >> folks, on behalf of the national world war i museum and memorial, thank you for joining us this evening. let's give lieutenant colonel brian steed warm round of applause. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> interested in american
history tv? visit our website, c-span.org /history. you can view our tv schedule, see upcoming programs, and view college lectures, archival films, and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. next on lectures in history, texas a&m university professor lorien foote teaches a class about popular culture during the 1840's. she talks about the importance of theater to all classes of society during this period, including shakespearean performances and minstrel shows. she also describes the high literacy rate in the united states and the rise of serialized novels and ladies' journals. her class is about 45 minutes. prof. foote: so our topic for today is popular culture. we have been talking about the social changes that go on in the 1830's and 1840's in the united states.
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