The Ottoman Empire and Libertarianism; Ebola

A week ago in the allied blog Notes on Liberty, economist Fred Folvary asked in a speculative mode whether the re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire would not be a formula for peace in the troubled Middle East. The question is interesting on several counts one of which is that the regions affected by the Islamic State today, Arab and Kurdish alike, plus all of southern Iraq, plus Kuwait, plus Jordan and Palestine (including the current Israel), plus, more loosely, all of the Arabian Peninsula, were more or less under Ottoman/ Turkish control until the end of World War One.

Dr Folvary alludes to the “millet” system under which many different ethnic or national groups co-habitated peacefully for several centuries. Those are pretty much the same groups that have been eviscerating one another for several years and pretty much every time a strong and dictatorial leader does not clamp down on them. I pointed out a large fault in Folvary’s happy vision, namely the attempted genocide of the Armenians begun under full Ottoman power in 1895 and nearly completed as the empire was falling apart during World War One.

At that point, I got distracted by a discussion with the editor of Notes on Liberty on the issue of his adventurous relationship to facts . (If you are interested, follow the “Restore the Turkish Empire!” thread of comments on Notes on Liberty.)

The millet system of governance should be of interest to libertarians who generally wish for less government, less expensive government , more responsive government and, especially, less intrusive government. Under the millet system, at least when it was fully functional, the Ottoman governor of say, the province of the empire that now encompasses Lebanon and Western Syria would summon yearly the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. He would address him as follows:

“Your Eminence is well I trust, and his family, and I hope that his sons are brave a wise. I am happy to hear that Almighty God has blessed Your Eminence with many grandchildren. And I am told your community is thriving. Now, based on the figures your office gave me and based on my own information, I think that the Greek Orthodox community must deliver to our master the Sultan, one hundred pounds of gold and three hundred fit young men of military age this year. Agreed? Thank you for your visit and may you and your community, Your Eminence, continue to prosper under the benign, enlightened and fair rule of our great sultan.”

Then, the governor would ask over the main Ayatollah of the Shiite Muslims and deliver himself of a similar oration. And so on.

But I must pause for a confession. The quote marks around the above monologue are metaphorical. I am not reproducing a real monologue. Something like the monologue above must have been delivered thousands of times but I must admit I was not present to hear any of them. (On the other hand, I spent time in Turkey on vacation ten years ago and I regularly drink coffee with Turks. And, I like Turks in general.)

Again, the millet system is a good historical example of extreme decentralization and of minimally intrusive government. It was also very inexpensive to administer. It had little permanent bureaucracy to speak of that could grow upon itself and reproduce itself endlessly thus forever shrinking the area of individual autonomy. At the same time as the comparable Hapsburg Empire was developing a large bureaucracy, at the time when territorially much smaller France was perfecting the art of centralized bureaucracy, at the time when the small Kingdom of Prussia was developing the very model of modern bureaucracy that was to become a model for the whole world, the millet system endured in the Ottoman Empire. In general, the Ottoman government was small and it seemed to treading lightly on the land, you might say. It sounded a little like a sort of libertarian dream.

But, wait a minute, I need to complete significantly the imaginary monologue of the Ottoman governor above. On parting, the governor would have probably added: ” Enjoy life and enrich yourselves. Everything will be fine unless I hear too much about you. If I do, bad things will happen to your community.” Or, he did not even need to utter the words. Everyone knew about the bad things that would happen if disorder arose. Some of these bad things were community leaders’ heads on a spike in village centers.

The Ottoman Empire that relied on the light, non-invasive, decentralized millet system was also famous for the fierceness of its repression. And this haven of diversity disintegrated swiftly throughout the 19th century with a speed that must give pause.

The unraveling of the Ottoman Empire began around 1805 when the large and important Egyptian subdivision gained all but nominal independence through an armed revolt and even waged successful war on the Empire. During the rest of the 19th century, the areas of the Empire now comprising Greece, Bulgaria and Romania decisively seceded. In the meantime, much of the rest of the officially defined Empire drifted away, such as Libya, Tunisia . Later, (as John Love, a commenter on the original piece in Notes already remarked), during World War One, the British (Lawrence) and the French did not have much trouble talking the remaining Arab areas of the empire into open rebellion. And yes, there was a an attempted massive genocide of Armenians, in two phases. The first phase was under full Ottoman power in the 1890s, the second, much larger step occurred during the waning days of Ottoman rule starting in 1915. (References on the Armenian genocide are at the end of this posting.)

Now, one can argue – and historians routinely do – that the spectacular disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was due to external pressures from the rising, fast industrializing European powers. Yet, the fact that national (ethnic) entities took up every opportunity to leave the Empire does not speak well of the effectiveness of Ottoman administration. The fact that they sometimes did it a a cost of great bloodshed, the Greeks in particular, does not strengthen the idea of contentment of the administered. The fact is that the subject people of the Ottoman Empire including the many governed through the millet system described above seem to have left as soon as the opportunity arose.

The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire poses a conceptual problem: Did it fall apart in spite of the admirable millet system of government or because of it? Was internal peace maintained in the Empire for a long time because of the virtues of the millet system or because of the ever-present threat of a large and fierce army facing a divided and unarmed populace?

Was the Ottoman Empire taken apart from within, and also from without, because the administrative principles behind the millet system impeded the supply of the means of self-preservation?

Beyond this lies an even graver question for anyone with libertarian aspirations: Do systems of administration that share the main features of the millet system, decentralization, low cost, low-level invasiveness contain the seeds of their own destruction? Does administrative lightness actually nurture violent intervention from above and/or from outside?

I don’t know the answers to these serious questions. I think libertarians of all feathers don’t discuss these and related issues nearly enough. I suspect libertarian circles harbor their own form of political correctness that paralyzes such essential inquiries. I do what I can. I know it’s not much.

Ebola: Entirely too much noise in the media because none of them likes to announce: “Nothing Much Happened.” As I write, about 4,000 people are said to have died of this frightening illness in three very poor West African countries. The 2009 modest flu epidemic probably killed more than 10,000 people in the US alone. What is clear to me and to everyone with eyes to see is that the Obama Administration response to the overstated Ebola threat demonstrates yet again its gross incompetence and its moral corruption. The man in charge until 10/17/14 was the head of the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) whose former responsibilities were to make sure New Yorkers ate more healthily and did not ingest too much sugar.

The man sounded like a lightweight in all his televised news conferences because he is a lightweight. And, contrary to tenacious rumors, the CDC budget doubled in the past ten years. Some of it, I don’t know how much, was devoted to inspecting and improving children’s playgrounds. Yes, the CDC has a Jungle Gym Division, as required by the Constitution! (To my overseas readers: This is black humor. The US Constitution absolutely, squarely reserves such responsibilities for the states and for local governments.)


Sources on the Armenian genocide

A short overview excerpted from a fundamental document, a whole book by the US Ambassador to Turkey, Hans Morgenthau:
(The references to Ambassador Morgenthau’s actual book are at the end of the statement.)

The document below is supposed to discredit the Morgenthau testimony. It’s unwittingly damning for Turkish power.

See also:
A Turkish journalist of Armenian descent was assassinated in 2007 in full daylight in Istanbul for pursuing the issue publicly. That’s evidence of Turkish innocence, of course!

Hasan Ceymal, a Turkish investigative journalist with many laurels unrelated to the Armenian question recognizes the reality of the Armenian genocide. Mr Ceymal has no Armenian parentage; he is a Turkish Turk.


About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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13 Responses to The Ottoman Empire and Libertarianism; Ebola

  1. I am the accused, the editor of Notes On Liberty.

    I still don’t know what Dr J has accused me of being factually incorrect about. He has banned me from this blog before for pointing out his repeated failure to admit that he was mistaken about US troops being in Saudi Arabia on 9-11-01, so I am hesitant to enter another debate about facts with him for fear of losing all privileges on this site.

    Dr J could, for example, admit that he was wrong about stating that there were no US troops in Saudi Arabia at the time of 9/11, but doing so would force him to eschew his dogmatic belief that Islam is evil and the secular West is good. (The underlying implication of this rather shoddy reasoning is even more shoddy: Because there is a war going on between good and evil, having the government of the United States “do something” is better than forcing it to “do nothing.” Huh?) He’d rather ban people from his presence or change the subject (watch him prove me right).

  2. Dear readers: Brandon is not “banned” from this blog, as you can see. (He was, for a short time, years ago.) Another exotic relationship to facts!

    The debate into which he is trying to drag me is yesterday’s uneaten meal and of little interest to me right now. Brandon is welcome to debate with himself, including on this blog.

    • Ah, you are still having trouble getting your facts straight. This is what happens when you sacrifice virtue for ideological zeal. Look here:

      I wrote “He has banned me from this blog before for …”

      I emphasized the important part of my sentence. Yet in reply to my statement of fact, you wrote: “Brandon is not “banned” from this blog, as you can see. (He was, for a short time, years ago.)”

      Another way of putting this would be to say your statement of fact served to reinforce my own. How, exactly, is this “another exotic relationship to facts”?

      Your zealous quest to turn Muslims into good, secular democrats with American arms has made a charlatan out of you. Not only do you insult people who point out your inability to connect the dots (whether inadvertently or otherwise), you cannot even fess up to your own mistakes.

      I think this stubborn refusal to fess up is also ideologically driven. I think that, without the mistakes, your argument for a more in-your-face American foreign policy falls apart. Hence the intransigence.

      For readers who are curious to know what I’m writing about, Jacques wrote, in 2011, the following:

      Although the regretted Bin Laden had threatened the US in connection with American military presence in Saudi Arabia, the 9/11 attack took place after the US forces had vacated that country, not as a means to make them move.

      The emphasis on “after” is in the original. That means Jacques is the one who emphasized the word “after.” The presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 is well-documented. Thus Dr J’s statement is factually wrong, but he has never admitted it. In fact, he has gone even further and told one of his readers that “I don’t argue numbers with Brandon because I don’t want to fall into the Islamist trap about allegedly sacred ‘Islamic’ soil.”

      Jacques refuses to kowtow to reality because of ideological zeal.

      By the way, his post where he originally stated, falsely, that there were no US troops in Saudi Arabia on 9-11-01 is titled “Libertarian Pacifism vs Liberal Pacifism: What I Learned by Arguing with Libertarians.” Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover…

  3. Briefly: I don’t know how many military personnel were in Saudi Arabia before 9/11 or whether there were any.

    At the heart of the question was Brandon’s contention that jihadist terrorism was motivated by American presence on Arab soil. Today, there is a strong American military presence in Bahrain and in Kuwait. Thee is a smaller French military presence in the United Arab Emirates. Those are exactly Arab areas not being victimized by jihadist terrorists. Would one have to believe that jihadists are committing mass atrocities against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiite Muslims because of a Western military presence far away from where the atrocities are committed? To ask the question is to answer it. The thesis, dear to orthodox libertarians’ hearts, that Muslim extremists would do nothing bad if we only stayed home is looking more and more stupid every day.

    On the underlying issue of who is truthful, in case anyone is interested, just read the thread of my argument with Brandon on the Turkish Empire on Notes on Liberty. Also follow Brandon’s recommendation to read on this blog my fairly good essay: “Libertarian Pacifism vs Liberal Pacifism…”Add to it in your mind the supposition that there were in fact 10,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia on the eve of 9/11 and see if it changes much to the tenor of the essay.

    Brandon is in the habit of declaring it’s high noon when it’s midnight. He counters my criticism by denouncing the fact that I may have once said that it was six to twelve when it was actually four to twelve. My truthfulness can be judged on the basis of thousands of postings on this blog. See also my readiness to acknowledge mistakes as in my recent posting: “Attorney General Goes Missing.”

    I know this is tedious. The problem is that unanswered calumny may take hold after much repetition.

    • Yikes.

      Your response is too incoherent to even entertain, and it’s full of name-calling and straw men fallacies. Hopefully, soon, some of your fans will come along and pat you on the back for the good work you are doing here.

  4. Brandon: Your bitterness is saddening.
    Dear readers: Brandon is the very capable founder and editor of Notes on Liberty irrespective of what he says on my blog.

    • Hahah! I hope my “bitterness” is saddening enough to make you cry.

      Maybe, when enough tears are shed, you’ll once again come to the realization that people can’t argue with your imagination (and won’t argue with you once you stop ignoring the facts).

  5. Okay, I just can’t resist. I’m going to take Dr J’s argument apart piece-by-piece. My contention is that he is living in a fantasy and forces people to argue with his imagination.

    Briefly: I don’t know how many military personnel were in Saudi Arabia before 9/11 or whether there were any.

    Fox News says there were 5,000 leaving Saudi Arabia in 2003. The report cites neoconservatives worried about the continued presence of US troops on Saudi soil. I’ve linked to the report numerous times on this blog. You have denied the report numerous times on this blog by ignoring it. You once told David that – and I am repeating myself here – “I don’t argue numbers with Brandon because I don’t want to fall into the Islamist trap about allegedly sacred ‘Islamic’ soil.”

    Now that you know there were US troops in Saudi Arabia on 9-11-01, are you going to admit that you were wrong about claiming otherwise?

    At the heart of the question was Brandon’s contention that jihadist terrorism was motivated by American presence on Arab soil.

    No, you are knocking down a straw man again. The argument is that Islamist terrorism against Western countries is motivated by the presence of those Western countries’ militaries on Arab soil. I can’t argue with your imagination, and I’m tired of your blatant dishonesty.

    Why should Islamists and others care about the presence of Western militaries on Arab soil? Observe:

    Today, there is a strong American military presence in Bahrain and in Kuwait. Thee is a smaller French military presence in the United Arab Emirates.

    There is also a small military presence in Saudi Arabia and a larger one in Qatar. These states that host Western militaries are murderous and authoritarian. This is one reason – the main reason – why Islamism is so popular. The presence of Western troops in the region is largely unknown in the Western world. This is why Islamists have been targeting the West since the 60s and 70s (when Western-backed secular dictatorships like the Ba’athists began clamping down hard on Islamist organizations).

    Those are exactly Arab areas not being victimized by jihadist terrorists.

    See what happens when you build an argument off of a straw man fallacy? You end up making silly statements like this in the name of dogma. Were “jihadist terrorists” the ones that got mowed down by Bahraini and Qatari military forces a few summers back?

    Would one have to believe that jihadists are committing mass atrocities against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiite Muslims because of a Western military presence far away from where the atrocities are committed?

    I wasn’t aware that the West’s military presence was “far away from where the atrocities are committed.” The ethnic cleansing campaigns currently going on in the Levant are happening right underneath the West’s nose. It was a Western military presence that ignited these atrocities in the first place. No invading army, no ethnic cleansing. (This is why Arabs have been willing to put up with dictatorships like Hussein’s and Assad’s for so long; crackpots like Dr J attribute the dictatorships of the Middle East to “Islamic culture,” but any fool can see that the democracy/dictatorship choice is one based on costs and benefits.)

    The thesis, dear to orthodox libertarians’ hearts, that Muslim extremists would do nothing bad if we only stayed home is looking more and more stupid every day.

    Do you honestly believe this? Oops! I just asked a known stretcher of the truth to give me an honest answer.

  6. Brandon: Your argumentation may be interesting to many; I just don’t know. It’s not interesting to me, has not been for a long time. You call me a “crackpot.” Why would you bother to argue with a crackpot? Why would anyone be interested in listening to a crackpot’s arguments. This is at once very strange and too tedious for me.

    When you use statement such as: “crackpots Like….” you sound like the silly leftist pamphlets I remember from my youth by insinuating that there is a whole army of us( like him). Or is it a conspiracy?

    You are welcome to continue shredding your reputation on my blog but I wish you would not because it’s bad for Notes on Liberty, a blog I consider fairly important and a success. Myself, I will stop encouraging your behavior by responding. You are probably smart enough to give both the vicious questions and the inadequate answers anyway.

  7. Leta Rauch says:

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  8. Pingback: The Islamic Enlightenment: A Critical Review of De Bellaigue | FACTS MATTER

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