Posts Tagged ‘Abdulaziz’

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.