The Spectator

The Spectator at war: The Crescent and the Cross

The Spectator at war: The Crescent and the Cross
Text settings

From The Spectator, 31 October 1914:

THE most important event of the past week is the entrance of Turkey into the war, announced in the newspapers of Friday. For some time the Committee of Union and Progress, the gang of desperate and intriguing adventurers who control the Porte, have been doing their best by various unfriendly acts to provoke Russia and Britain into a declaration of war. Having failed in this, and probably also being warned that a peace party of considerable dimensions was growing up in Constantinople, they decided to force war by active hostilities, and on Thursday sent their ships to bombard peaceful Russian towns on the Black Sea coast. On Thursday morning the 'Breslau' appeared off Theodosia and the 'Hamidieh' off Novorossiisk, while the afternoon papers of Friday reported further acts of naval aggression.

It is too early to forecast the results of Turkey's action upon the situation in Europe. We shall, however, be greatly surprised if in the circumstances Italy finds it possible to maintain her neutrality much longer. Still more essential will it be for Roumania to take her part in the war. The only other of the Balkan Powers to be considered are Bulgaria and Greece. The action of Greece can hardly be doubtful. She cannot contemplate with anything but dread the idea of a victorious Turkey, or of a victorious alliance of which Turkey forms a part. She is not therefore likely to hesitate for long as to which side is hers. There remains Bulgaria. No doubt the Bulgarians are still very sore against both Roumania and Greece. It is, however, practically impossible to imagine her allying herself with Turkey, especially as she knows that if she chooses the right side she will have ample compensation for the loss of territory which she so bitterly resented as the result of the second Balkan War. The resources of diplomacy would be low indeed if they could not in existing circumstances manage to find a working agreement between Greece, Servia, Roumania, and Bulgaria which would be satisfactory to the Bulgarians.

Had we been fighting Turkey alone it is quite possible that the war might have been represented as a Holy War, and a successful attempt have been made to treat it as a struggle between the Crescent and the Cross. We do not think this is at all likely to happen now, or that there will be the slightest wave of pro-German Mohammedan feeling in India or any other of our possessions. The Government will, however, be wise to take every precaution against misrepresentations. The most effectual way to do that would be to let it be known throughout Islam that whatever happens we shall not only not take possession of the Holy Places in Arabia, but that, as the greatest of Mohammedan Powers, we bind ourselves to see that the Holy Places are not interfered with by any Christian Power and that they shall remain in Mohammedan bands and open to pilgrimage. A great portion of the inhabitants of Arabia have long desired freedom from Turkish control and exploitation, and they will now be able to achieve that freedom without any risk of being absorbed either by us or any other European Power.