tv World War I in the Middle East CSPAN July 14, 2018 5:00pm-6:01pm EDT
recently traveled to lubbock, texas to learn about its rich history. learn more at c-span.org/citiestour. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. announcer: next on american history tv, u.s. army command and 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.
lora: >> now it is my pleasure lora: 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 "bees 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] lt. 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 actually present here. about theme i talked great war in the middle east in 1915 and 1916. so tonight, i will address the great war the middle east in 1917 and 1918 and the ramifications of that war on our present environment.
so when i teach students at the command and general staff college, i regularly describe world war i as the most important war in human history. and i am going to give just two of the reasons that 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. so many years ago as an undergraduate history student, i became enamored by the events i will recount tonight. world war i then seemed to me to be such a boring and dirty war. ok, it is just trenches and mud. yuck. and even the movie "wonder
woman" showed it pretty much as such. [laughter] lt. col. steed: right? so why would anybody be excited about that? and we don't usually as americans talk about the events i am going to discuss tonight. and those events include the greatest cavalry charge ever recorded in 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." so the fastest advance included one of the shocking events of a bengal lancer regiment -- if you are familiar with what they were, they were regimens 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 many at the time, and still does so today. so, much of what you watch on the news concerning the problems of 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 and critically relevant developments. we have a lot to cover and i hope we do it all justice. the collision of empires in the reshaping of the middle east was not a foreordained set of events. what i will discuss tonight as ripples and repercussions of the operational, strategic, regional, and global levels. to the operational repercussions come in four areas. they also overlap with the strategic, regional, and global as well. the first is the capture of
jerusalem in 1917, sent shockwaves through the arab and muslim world. they occupied the city in recognition of the city's position of respect in the world's three great monotheistic religions. this was still the first time that a christian commander led an army into the holy city since 1099. second, the conduct of operations in the battle of -- was the single fastest mounted advance by any army in history in till the actions of the 18th airborne corps during 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 for the forcesship between such
not then considered by western armies. so the strategic level, what we discuss tonight, is where the objectives of the war changed from a narrow definition of fighting the ottoman empire to the need for the destruction of that empire. as we will discuss, 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 order. europe tried to make a european-style states in a non-european region of the globe. this regional impact caused still crashing on the shores of the world today, as we will show at the end. an globally, the violent, non-state 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.
however, in reflection, many people know about the loss of the singular government structure and vision. so 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 lessons learned from the british imperial experience in the middle east from 1914 to 1947, are very instructive for today's u.s. military personnel and for 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 a 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 control. so 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. so just as a point of interest about why this matters. the cold war was in many ways an extension and 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 britain and their historic actions. we simply took the seat of that player in the game, and , if we are using a poker analogy, we took over all of their iou's. this is something that took me a long time to understand. as i lived in the middle east for a while, i would regularly get lectured about u.s. foreign policy, and as a part of that, particularly by cabdrivers and accountants, and part of they would do is lecture us. 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 blamed 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. that followed. so, each empire had its own particular interests. 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. protection of india. thus, all elements of the great game extended from delhi and its perspective of the world. london tended 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 had a perspective of the world that was unique to that capital. the quote from mark sykes showed
shows the historic importance of the ottoman empire to great britain. and yet, this is the same mark sykes that will give his name to the agreement to which i will refer later. russia wanted a warm water ports and access to resources. movement through the bosporus and the dardanelles was an one option, and another was access to the persian gulf, the arabian sea, and the indian ocean. the great game often included event solely to create difficulties for the opponent, as was evidenced 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 extend their reach and influence into the balkans in europe. the ottoman empire was first and foremost a european empire in the minds of the ottomans and european powers. their middle eastern possessions
were something of an afterthought, both to the ottoman leadership and to the competing great powers. the ottoman empire was in severe economic distress in the decade s 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 increase the pace of reform while maintaining the empire. the ottoman empire was dubbed -- the sick man of europe. what this title meant was the other european great power saw in the ottomans a feeble and declining empire, not 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 note that the ottoman empire callista civic the ottoman military, was not
the corruption riddled and incompetent organization of a century earlier. in 1914, they were battle tested and had numerous company and field grade officers with combat experience and a hunger to prove themselves on the battlefield. the compelling point here is that no one entered world war i with the intent or desire to of destroying the ottoman empire. it was a competitor for the russians and a necessary tool for the british. however, once the ideal carving up the ottoman empire started in the minds of the other european powers, it rapidly grew in tell 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 initially of all catholics living in the ottoman empire, and later for all christians living in the ottoman empire. so these interests extended to where the french enjoyed special commercial and legal considerations in addition to these religious associations. these economic capitulations to the french and other european countries were a drain on the ottoman tax system and caused 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 for a moment which of all the empires we have just discuss have the largest muslim population going into world war i? i will let you think for a moment. it was the british empire. because the british empire and british imperial india of that day included the modern-day
countries of pakistan and bangladesh and india. and for those for future quiz show benefit, the largest muslim country by population in the world is 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 to 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. ok, so, 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 impart to provide advisors to the ottoman army. part of the relationship with germany was economic. this included the famous hit jab 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 led to a chain of events that caused to be ottoman empire to be brought properly into the war. after all the efforts to balance power, the empires were brought into direct collision. once it was decided to destroy and dismantle the ottoman empire, then the dreaming began. russia wanted constantinople and the bosporus and dardanelles straits. england wanted control of territories that protected the
suez canal and routes to india mesopotamia and the -- france wanted syria. before major combat operations, they were carving up the sick man in their minds. as mark sykes predicted, 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 and 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 when lord kitchener was made secretary of state, then cairo was elevated. he came to london from cairo, and believed the people there, many of whom work for him, and sa 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 languages from the
region. this was true even in cairo. many posted to cairo rarely spoke with an egyptian other than in 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 recommendations from mark sykes, who was interestingly one of the few individuals who traveled throughout the region and spoke arabic and read the koran -- he . of theleted a tour british seeds of authority and 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 was created and existed, it also included people of specialization, language skills, and regional experience in the middle east, but they were
buried within the intelligence department in cairo. so throughout the war, the british perceived the war and their opponents in the middle east through a three-lens kaleidoscope that gave a fractured vision at best. decisions thaty appear naïve and foolish to us today. the starkest example is the idea to elevate an arab leader to be a caliph to be replacement of the ottoman sultan. the idea of a european leader leader of islam seems ludicrous, but there was tremendous effort invested to this end. 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, the army, and the navy. so, just as a reminder of where we are as we begin discussions in 1917, fighting has stalled on the western front and the trench alps toxtended from the the sea. the russians started to suffer serious losses in personnel and land. they needed resources 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 in the western theater for months. the british empire used colonial forces in the fight in the middle east with some augmentation from 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, as i have already mentioned, 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 in mesopotamia were controlled from delhi. the operations in gallipoli were , at least in part, were controlled from london in part. and the operations in levant were controlled from cairo. the ottoman attack of the suez canal generated some impetus for the attack on the ottoman empire. initially, as i mentioned, this attack was made in gallipoli, but then, once gallipoli fell, it was decided to move to the levant along the mediterranean coast. initially, these attacks were
stopped at the line 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 and the 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 in constantinople. who better than the custodian of the two holy cities, mecca and medina? it seemed like the perfect match. the sharif wanted british an arab state and british promises and assistance to that end. as you read the text of the short segment of correspondence between the two, one 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 that a commitment was made by the british to create an arab state and protect it. so 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 ottoman dissolution 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 by its name, from the british and french participants' names, but there was a russian participant in these agreements, and the russians were to get constantinople and the straits. it is the russian participation that created the diplomatic explosion. once the bolsheviks gained control of the russian foreign ministry, they released the text of the agreement and 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 arabs and the french to offer the same lands 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 i appreciate that 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 actually about. when the french move to damascus in 1920 and 1921, they used aircraft to strike the main arab -- strafe 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 governor this new arab state. to govern this new arab
state. the french believe they 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. so i want to jump back to 1917. so the final of the three offers of the same land to different people came 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. there is a tremendous amount of history and tragedy between this declaration and the statement of independence issued by what would become the government of israel in 1948, but a great many people point to this document as a watershed in establishing the state of israel in the negative and the positive. i then 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. he is 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 to cavalry corps, the infantry corps, and finally the army command. he was known for having a single emotion -- rage. now there is a touching story about him in that every night, before he went to bed, one of his staff officers who 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. now unfortunately, this seemingly softer side of allenby has a tragic end. that 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 ever saw this 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. so 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 a combination of excellent deception and and maneuver panache. 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 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 1898, kaiser wilhelm ii rode into 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 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, that is the desert mountain corps. the infantry opened a 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
>> come on, men! [cheering] lt. 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 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 unremitting 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 point, there was a tremendous 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 a result of the picot agreement, though the borders of iraq, jordan, in syria tend to follow the outlines drawn by the functionaries. the borders will evolve through several treaties. first, i want to remind the audience that it was only a few months after entering the war that the ottomans' attack
ed into the caucuses area. the plurality of units was committed to the caucuses and the fight with the russian empire. the ottoman forces were throughout the caucuses through at the end of the war. the british also had multiple fronts with the advance in advances in mesopotamia and attacks in syria and azerbaijan. british captured baghdad in april 1917, and continue to attack north with eyes on capturing mosul. the concern with respect to mosul was controlling the christian refugees flooding south in the eastern portions of anatolia in what is often termed the armenian genocide. it was thought if the british controlled mosul, they could keep the refugees in the north and prevent any further expansion of attacks on the christian populace. a second reason for attacking north was to control the grain
wheatfields for people in baghdad and basra. the british commander of mesopotamia continued north without informing his soldiers that the war was actually over. 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 post-armistice advances gave additional support for those turks who believe the ottoman government to be corrupt. even before ascending to his ultimate position as president of turkey, he invited all turks
to enter a national pact to only accept the lines drawn at the armistice, rather than the illegally seized lands. it's fascinating that president erdogan reminded the turkish people of the national pact when campaigning in 2017. some have suggested the present turkish actions in syria and iraq are designed to achieve this end. alexandra was gained by the turkish republic before the treaty was discussed. so, the first of these treaties we will mention is the treaty of sevres, signed on august 10, 1920. this was a treaty where the adedman empire ce 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 july 24, 1923, the end of the 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 if you government functionaries with little understanding of the long-term implications of their actions. the rise of nationalist turks and the establishment of artificial nationstates infused 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. created by the same army that 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. [video clip] >> islamic state leaders working were keen 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. strange as it seemed to be
getting a history lesson in the middle of the desert from a hard-line fighter, the agreement is key to the anger and rage. earlier, thisks was a checkpoint manned by iragi 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 was 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 for there is no honor. an araberence between and a non-arab or a black man and a white man accept. this is the glorious space that unites us. >> the reference is obvious. the emphasis on tidy, rather than rational -- rather than nationality or admission -- ethnicity. it harkens back to world war i and the rise of nationalism. world war i began in 1914. it did not really and until 1918. aftershocks and tremors had been felt during every decade sense. would argue that it is true
with the fight against isis, which one can say began 100 years after the anniversary of the beginning and ending of world war i. to check outou some of the material that i have focus is-- most of my on isis and understanding the middle east. i have a lot of material that is available to access in terms of recommended articles and videos. i will conclude there and invite questions. >> [indiscernible] [no audio] how did the turks so
successfully defeat the british in gallipoli and later fall apart? >> that is a great question. without going through the story of gallipoli, which i think there are a couple of dynamics that are different. gallipoli is a very isolated environment geographically. the british, by focusing on that, isolated geography data easier for the turks to defend. militaryographic problem it was easier for the turks in gallipoli than it was in mesopotamia or in alice stein or elsewhere. the other part that was different was the leadership, the turkish leadership in gallipoli was strong. as a lieutenant colonel, a
division commander. in part, one could write the turkish narrative of that battle was that the actions on one particular day when he committed his reserve division into the fight with absentee orders from above. it was what actually 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 the late 1918, it was difficult to hold together all of the pieces because of happened -- because it was happening in mesopotamia and also happening elsewhere. once again, it is important to realize, what is happening in fascinating it was to focus on that. for the ottoman empire, their
number one theater after dealing with gallipoli was russia. caucuses mountain. that is where they had the majority of their force. the biggest struggle was logistical, more so than purely leadership. all of this combined to create additional problems for the turks across the other theaters. i hope that answers that question. like you, this is a subject i became you with some years ago. we have read a lot of the same books, i am viewed getting to write phd pieces on this. -- i and the you getting to write phd pieces on this. modifiedreement gets and the russians are supposed to take a bunch of territory. i think people would be interested in knowing that after the russian revolution, when wilson shows up at the peace
conference in paris. the pits expected us to take the parts that had been assigned to russia, the united states in 1919 was supposed to take over armenia and wilson turned down. could you talk a little bit about that? >> i don't think it was to give handoff in that case. one of the things that is fascinating is that we are never co-belligerent in world war i. we are not allies with the british and the french. co-belligerence with them. it creates some interesting differences. result, we never declare war against the ottoman empire. as a part of wilson's 14 points, one of them is self-determination. of population, particularly looking at the one case, the ottoman empire and also the german empire. was, we send out one delegation -- sent out one
delegation in particular. one of the things that everybody realizes is that most of the people locally want america to administer territory. which is why armenia is one of the things. the suggestions are why don't you guys take armenia at? the reason everybody wants us to take it is because they don't know it. we have dealt with the british, the french, the russians, we don't like any of them, you must be better. the idea was we will give it to the americans. from the british perspective, they said you can have that headache. wilson won the 1916 election by saying i kept you out of the war. america -- giving getting america in. list the clear involved with armenia was never going to solve politically. we backed out of that relatively quickly. americantion to
present. one of the things that is fascinating when i talked to students in him -- about america in the middle east. a lot of people today tend to think we have always been in the middle east. upy don't understand that until 1979, we had very little involvement in the middle east. we tried to keep it that way. wilson, following what is going on in verse side, wilson is trying to keep the middle east at arms length. understand the commission is what gets named. he is trying to figure out what should be done. the reality is, everybody basically wants to rule themselves. that is not surprising right. >> i can't do the quote hundred wilson, it was was to his response was i don't think the american people have the stomach for that.
>> with that wrong right? we can't get enough. >> given the russia's historic and giveno get a port the current conditions in the middle east, is it logical to conclude that vladimir putin's maneuvers in syria and persia are a continuation of that effort to move south? that is a great question. i absolutely do. vladimir putin is a historical russian guy. he is very much kind of in that model of a czar, he wants to do what russian leaders have always done. that is to have that control. i think that was always a driving russian motivation. actions,ladimir than's
in part, are given that. it is never that simple though. part of his relations with iran are linked with islamic extremism. there is some evidence to suggest that there has been a deal between russia and iran to that effect. old-time -- syria is an old timer russian ally. he believes it is important. it does not hurt to upset nato, most people forget that turkey is a nato ally. anything he does by king nato in the eye is happy for him. how does the curtis issue fit in the current dynamic? that is a great last
question. so much of it goes back to this. . thatare one of the people really cling to wilson's point for self-determination. they believe that is their chance to have the independence that they want. that this is going to work out. as you can all imagine, there is a sort of a curtis country. part that is because wilson does not have the stomach to really invest american imperial capital in the middle east. that is what it would have taken in 1918. stuck, they are divided up in the various countries. one thing i just found fascinating over the last few
been doing have research, is this story about the national tax and the emphasis on that. -- theng into multiple fact that the british commander is moving up. he is being told to do it, but he has no real authority. in fact, the british in their imperial records, give him him was no credit for the fact that iraq is governed under british mandate for some time. they give no credit to this general for the fact that he expanded i rocked by capturing him after the armistice. is -- it hasit divided them more than it had already been. turkey would've had an even greater percentage. that would have probably made it more complicated for turkey. >> on behalf of the national
world war i museum and memorial, thank you so much for joining us here this evening, let's give him a round of applause. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] this weekend, on american history tv, tonight at 8:00 p.m., on lectures in history. connecticutty of professor on the reconstruction era after the civil war. , the 1918 silent french
dedicated to america's efforts in world war i. sunday at 2:00 p.m., the national world war ii museum the symposium, marking the 20th anniversary of the film "saving private ryan." at american idol -- on "american rtifacts, coke the annual -- watchan artifacts, american history tv on c-span three. war, we on the civil hear from the editor of the war the civil wardow, diary. he was a 12-year-old boy from a wealthy slaveholding family in georgia when he began keeping a diary as the succession began to unfold and the civil war got under way. he continued to keep a diary and capture a c