Posts Tagged ‘Ottoman Empire’

Turban Decay

Posted in General, On This Day on September 12th, 2014 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

September 12th, 1683:  The Ottoman Empire Begins Its Retreat to Oblivion

Turks in Vienna finishedFirst, the official version: Vienna is besieged by the Ottomans but an army led by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski routes the Moslem horde and saves Western Civilization.

Once you have dispensed with the grateful tears and a few bars of Chopin (how else do you thank Poland), I will give you the actual history.

Yes, the Ottomans did besiege Vienna in 1683.  However, this was not the Ottoman Empire of 1483 or 1583, but the bloated parody of its martial glory. Uma Thurman had become Shelley Winters. This Ottoman army was no longer led by warrior kings; the Sultans–now cretins by birth or choice–rarely could find their way out of their harem. The army was now led by whichever courtier had bribed or connived the command.

The commanding pasha at Vienna was Kara Mustafa. He had an army of 140,000 men, but only a third of them were actual soldiers and their weapons were outdated. The other 90,000 men were basically support staff–and the pasha was enjoying the best coffee and cushions. Setting off from Constantinople in April, the Ottoman army lumbered upon Vienna in mid-July. Since an Ottoman horde was hard to ignore, Vienna had ample time to evacuated the civilian population. There was only a garrison of 18,000 left behind the walls of Vienna.

Even with their geriatric armaments, by sheer force the Ottomans could have taken the city. However, that would have been unprofitable for the Pasha. If Vienna were taken by storm, the Turkish soldiers would be entitled to whatever they could loot. On the other hand, if the city were besieged and starved into submission, then the Pasha would receive Vienna’s treasures. Guess which strategy Kara Mustafa preferred?

There are worse places to siege than Vienna in the summer. The Ottoman army enjoyed a pleasant two months of pillaging the Austrian countryside. However, their vacation ended rather abruptly–on this day in 1683–with the arrival of an allied army led by Jan Sobieski. The Pasha evidently had overlooked that possibility. Worse, although Sobieski’s force was half the size of the Pasha’s, the Christian army was composed of soldiers rather than servants. It turned out that the Turkish army was much faster when retreating than advancing. And, indeed, the Ottoman Empire now would be retreating for the next 250 years.

(Yes, in their haste, the Turks left behind sacks of coffee beans.  The Poles were entitled to the pick of the loot but were not interested in a sober beverage; so they gave the Turks’ caffeine to the Viennese who made it into an art.)

For his role in the debacle, Kara Mustafa did not receive the Medal of Freedom. He was strangled and then beheaded. So the Sultan was not a complete cretin.

And was Christendom saved? Well, it never was in danger. The Ottoman Empire had no plans for mosques in Moscow or Turkish baths in Bath. This was simply a turf war between Turkey and Austria, and the winner would get Hungary. Furthermore, if this had been a clash between Islam and Christendom, then Turkey had a very strange ally: the leading power of Western Civilization. You see, the Hapsburgs were fighting on two fronts: in the East against the Turks, and in the West against France. Yes, France and Turkey were allies of long-standing, with over a century of coordinated attacks against the Hapsburgs.

Indeed, while Austria was marshalling and mortgaging its resources against Turkey, there was little left to defend the west bank of the Rhine from Louis XIV. Perhaps the French victories offered some solace to the Turkish Sultan. He may have lost Vienna and then Hungary, but his French buddy now owned Alsace and Lorraine.

States of Denial

Posted in General on March 5th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Turkey pulls envoy after U.S. vote on “genocide” label

Reuters
WASHINGTON — A congressional panel voted on Thursday to label as “genocide” the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to approve the nonbinding resolution, which calls on President Barack Obama to ensure U.S. policy formally refers to the killings as genocide.

The vote triggered an immediate condemnation from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who recalled Turkey’s ambassador to Washington for consultations. Erdogan said he worried the measure would harm Turkish-U.S. ties and efforts by Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia to end a century of hostility.

I imagine that the Press Secretary of Turkey could offer this explanation:For some reason, the Armenians decided en masse to march into the Anatolian wastelands but in their impetuous whimsy forgot to bring any food. Now this occurred during World War I, so perhaps there was a shortage of updated Michelin guides. (The French army would have been using them to rate the trenches at Verdun.) Those silly Armenians kept missing the Howard Johnsons and ended starving to death–except for the thousands who must have accidently shot or bayoneted themselves.”
 
For some reason, most people don’t believe the Turkish explanation. However, the Japanese do.
Japan, too, has suffered from an unkind skepticism regarding “accidents” that may have happened in the topsy-turvy of the ’30s and ’40s. Apparently, millions of Chinese civilians died while the Japanese army was in the neighborhood. Given China’s large population, that may have been a statistical inevitability. There also could be a nutritional explanation. If, in 1937, 300,000 people in Nanking evidently chose to massacre and decapitate themselves, that might have been a reaction to all the monosodium glutamate in Chinese food. Yes, well, the Samurai Code evidently does not require credibility.
Fortunately, with my experience in the Chicago financial markets, I have a solution to Turkey’s and Japan’s bad reputations: Guilt Futures. Just pay, trade or coerce another country into taking the blame. It might not be historically valid, but we should let the marketplace determine who wants to be guilty. Sudan probably could use a little extra money to finance its ongoing genocide; an extra massacre or two on its resume would hardly be noticed. France might be willing to swap its Huguenot massacres or Nazi collaboration for more conveniently remote crimes. In the case of Nanking and the other atrocites, China and Japan could overcome history by finding a mutually agreeable scapegoat: Tibet.
 

Alas for Turkey, it is not a rich country. The guilt future for the Armenian genocide should offer more than a few tons of figs. Of course, if the Turks offered military bases and unlimited use of their airspace, then there might be a willing culprit. After all, what are allies for?….

 
Today President Obama apologized for America’s massacre of the Armenians. As a national expression of remorse, the President encouraged people to eat raisins and read William Saroyan.

 

 

Turkey in Distraught

Posted in General on February 9th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

February 9, 1830:  Birth Announcements from the Topkapi Harem

Remember when American business was trying to emulate the samurai code? Of course, our MBAs always seemed to translate hara-kiri as “golden parachute.” I would suggest a more accurate historical role model for our CEOs: the last decades of the Ottoman Empire. The parallels are uncanny. The employees are already being treated like Armenians.

The Sultans did realize that their Empire was decaying and disintegrating. So they made a number of attempts to reform the Empire. First and foremost, they built themselves modern European palaces. If your realm is going down the drain, you at least want up-to-date plumbing. The Sultans also undertook a number of bold initiatives at reform, never quite figuring out what they actually were doing but always succeeding in wasting money.

Today is the birthday of one of those dynamos of incompetence: Abdulaziz, who ruled from 1861-1876. The Ottoman Empire had been diagnosed as the Sick Man of Europe but it was just as feeble in the Middle East. Former Turkish provinces either had become independent or now were someone’s else colonies: Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Egypt, Crimea and Algeria. Abdulaziz hoped to stave off further decline by reforming the Turkish armed forces. He appreciated the strategic value of a modern navy; it might keep the Russians on their side of the Black Sea. So he bought the Empire a fleet of battleships; by the time that his buying spree was over, the Ottoman Empire had the third largest navy in Europe. Unfortunately, it really was more of an inventory than a fleet because there were not enough qualified sailors to operate it. The engine technology was a little beyond Turkey’s galley ship mentality.

Abdulaziz also attempted to reform the Turkish army along European lines; however, his idea of a a model army was France’s. The results of the Franco-Prussian War proved disillusioning. So, acknowledging these failed reforms, Abdulaziz turned his energies to diplomacy. He sought to ally Turkey with Russia. It certainly was a visionary idea. He merely had to dissuade Russia from its dream of conquering the Balkans from an enfeebled Turkey and ruling a restored Byzantine Empire from the liberated capital of Constantinople. Could a chicken–or a turkey–persuade a fox to become vegetarian? During the last year of his reign, rebellions were occurring throughout the Balkans, covertly incited and then overtly supported by a certain Slavic Empire.

At least, the Turkish armed forces were capable of coup d’etats. Abdulaziz was ousted, and he apparently committed suicide a few days later. The succeeding Sultan, his nephew Murad, spent his reign having a nervous breakdown. He lasted three months, at least as Sultan. (He lived another 28 years in pampered convalescence.) Murad’s brother then ascended the throne. He is remembered as Abdul the Damned, so you can guess how glorious his reign was. Somehow, though, he survived 33 years and the loss of Bulgaria, Bosnia and Cyprus before the army retired him as well. He lived in decadent confinement another nine years, watching his brother Mehmed lose the rest of the Empire. And poor Mehmed couldn’t even be blamed. He was just a puppet of the army and its self-styled reformists the Young Turks. The Young Turks preserved the Ottoman tradition of losing wars, including an especially big one in 1918. They left the Turkish Empire confined to Turkey.

So, you can see the parallels and inspirations for American business. It did take the Ottoman Empire two centuries to stagnate, decay and collapse. With modern technology, we can do everything so much faster.

Turban Decay

Posted in General, On This Day on September 12th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

September 12th, 1683:  The Ottoman Empire Begins Its Retreat to Oblivion

First, the official version: Vienna is besieged by the Ottomans but an army led by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski routes the Moslem horde and saves Western Civilization.

Once you have dispensed with the grateful tears and a few bars of Chopin (how else do you thank Poland), I will give you the actual history.

Yes, the Ottomans did besiege Vienna in 1683.  However, this was not the Ottoman Empire of 1483 or 1583, but the bloated parody of its martial glory. Uma Thurman had become Shelley Winters. This Ottoman army was no longer led by warrior kings; the Sultans–now cretins by birth or choice–rarely could find their way out of their harem. The army was now led by whichever courtier had bribed or connived the command.

The commanding pasha at Vienna was Kara Mustafa. He had an army of 140,000 men, but only a third of them were actual soldiers and their weapons were outdated. The other 90,000 men were basically support staff–and the pasha was enjoying the best coffee and cushions. Setting off from Constantinople in April, the Ottoman army lumbered upon Vienna in mid-July. Since an Ottoman horde was hard to ignore, Vienna had ample time to evacuated the civilian population. There was only a garrison of 18,000 left behind the walls of Vienna.

Even with their geriatric armaments, by sheer force the Ottomans could have taken the city. However, that would have been unprofitable for the Pasha. If Vienna were taken by storm, the Turkish soldiers would be entitled to whatever they could loot. On the other hand, if the city were besieged and starved into submission, then the Pasha would receive Vienna’s treasures. Guess which strategy Kara Mustafa preferred?

There are worse places to siege than Vienna in the summer. The Ottoman army enjoyed a pleasant two months of pillaging the Austrian countryside. However, their vacation ended rather abruptly–on this day in 1683–with the arrival of an allied army led by Jan Sobieski. The Pasha evidently had overlooked that possibility. Worse, although Sobieski’s force was half the size of the Pasha’s, the Christian army was composed of soldiers rather than servants. It turned out that the Turkish army was much faster when retreating than advancing. And, indeed, the Ottoman Empire now would be retreating for the next 250 years.

(Yes, in their haste, the Turks left behind sacks of coffee beans.  The Poles were entitled to the pick of the loot but were not interested in a sober beverage; so they gave the Turks’ caffeine to the Viennese who made it into an art.)

For his role in the debacle, Kara Mustafa did not receive the Medal of Freedom. He was strangled and then beheaded. So the Sultan was not a complete cretin.

And was Christendom saved? Well, it never was in danger. The Ottoman Empire had no plans for mosques in Moscow or Turkish baths in Bath. This was simply a turf war between Turkey and Austria, and the winner would get Hungary. Furthermore, if this had been a clash between Islam and Christendom, then Turkey had a very strange ally: the leading power of Western Civilization. You see, the Hapsburgs were fighting on two fronts: in the East against the Turks, and in the West against France. Yes, France and Turkey were allies of long-standing, with over a century of coordinated attacks against the Hapsburgs.

Indeed, while Austria was marshalling and mortgaging its resources against Turkey, there was little left to defend the west bank of the Rhine from Louis XIV. Perhaps the French victories offered some solace to the Turkish Sultan. He may have lost Vienna and then Hungary, but his French buddy now owned Alsace and Lorraine.

On This Day in 1683….

Posted in General on September 12th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

First, the official version: Vienna is besieged by the Ottomans but an army led by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski routes the Moslem horde and saves Western Civilization.

Once you have dispensed with the grateful tears and a few bars of Chopin (how else do you thank Poland), I will give you the actual history.

There really was a Vienna and an Ottoman Empire, and the latter really was besieging the former in 1683. However, this was not the Ottoman Empire of 1483 or 1583, but the bloated parody of its martial glory. Uma Thurman had become Shelley Winters. This Ottoman army was no longer led by warrior kings; the Sultans–now cretins by birth or choice–rarely could find their way out of their harem. The army was now led by whichever courtier had bribed or connived the command.

The commanding pasha at Vienna was Kara Mustafa. He had an army of 140,000 men, but only a third of them were actual soldiers and their weapons were outdated. The other 90,000 men were basically support staff–and the pasha was enjoying the best coffee and cushions. Setting off from Constantinople in April, the Ottoman army lumbered upon Vienna in mid-July. Since an Ottoman horde was hard to ignore, Vienna had ample time to evacuated the civilian population. There was only a garrison of 18,000 left behind the walls of Vienna.

Even with their geriatric armaments, by sheer force the Ottomans could have taken the city. However, that would have been unprofitable for the Pasha. If Vienna were taken by storm, the Turkish soldiers would be entitled to whatever they could loot. On the other hand, if the city were besieged and starved into submission, then the Pasha would receive Vienna’s treasures. Guess which strategy Kara Mustafa preferred?

There are worse places to siege than Vienna in the summer. The Ottoman army enjoyed a pleasant two months of pillaging the Austrian countryside. However, their vacation ended rather abruptly–on this day in 1683–with the arrival of an allied army led by Jan Sobieski. The Pasha evidently had overlooked that possibility. Worse, although Sobieski’s force was half the size of the Pasha’s, the Christian army was composed of soldiers rather than servants. It turned out that the Turkish army was much faster when retreating than advancing. And, indeed, the Ottoman Empire now would be retreating for the next 250 years.

For his role in the debacle, Kara Mustafa did not receive the Medal of Freedom. He was strangled and then beheaded. (The Sultan was not a complete cretin.)

And was Christendom saved? Well, it never was in danger. The Ottoman Empire had no plans for mosques in Moscow or Turkish baths in Bath. This was simply a turf war between Turkey and Austria, and the winner would get Hungary. Furthermore, if this had been a clash between Islam and Christendom, then Turkey had a very strange ally: the leading power of Western Civilization. You see, the Hapsburgs were fighting on two fronts: in the East against the Turks, and in the West against France. Yes, France and Turkey were allies of long-standing, with over a century of coordinated attacks against the Hapsburgs.

Indeed, while Austria was marshalling and mortgaging its resources against Turkey, there was little left to defend the west bank of the Rhine from Louis XIV. Perhaps the French victories offered some solace to the Turkish Sultan. He may have lost Vienna and then Hungary, but his French buddy now owned Alsace and Lorraine.