Lincoln Steffens describes his interview with Lawrence of Arabia as „the queerest I ever had in all my interviewing life.“ Apparently the man who helped create the Kingdom of Irak remained as mysterious in intimate conversation as he did in the press reports of his political activities. „I offer the curiosity,“ writes Mr. Steffens, „as I wrote it at . . the time [in Paris during the Peace Conference in 1919] and I'll have to leave it to those who read it to guess what it's all about, if anything“
It was my interview. It was in his room, at his hotel, but I asked for it and my purpose was to learn from this Imperial pioneer something about the practical politics of Asia Minor and the Near East. And I thought I was directing the course of the conversation. It only occurred to me afterwards, with some shock, that he also had had a purpose, and that his purpose was to load me up with British propaganda for the American mandate over the Armenians. That was what I found I had. Other things, too, but I was amazed and not a little humiliated to discover that I had chiefly reasons—reasons which appealed io me, a self-determinist in theory—why we Americans should go halfway around the world to take charge of the Armenians and not only save them from the Turks, Greeks, French, Italians, British and themselves, but, somehow, to save ourselves from ourselves and them. He said, for example, that the Armenians were „the last word in human impossibility.” They correspond, as a „race, with „the last man“ in academic debate. To an under-dog fancier like me, the undermost dog among nations had, and it has, an irresistible fascination. And I said so.
English humor is not like ours. It's the opposite. American, humor consists, in part, at least, in what is said; the British in what a Britisher doesn't say. This Briton obviously liked heartily what I said. I thought he was going to laugh with joy—or something; he swelled up till he looked like the British Empire; as if about to burst. But he didn't burst; he didn't laugh; he didn’t say anything that showed the slightest sign of humor. All he said, after a long pause, was:
And then, after another pause, when he had recovered his self-determination, he spoke seriously, rather dully, in fact, our American idealism. He thought it fine, I thought he thought it a bit too fine. We Americans were; too idealistic. And he thought the Armenians too practical. We were correctives, the one on the other, therefore; we were cure for them, they for us; both desperate cases, especially the Armenians.
I gathered that he had some inexpressible sympathy or—let me rather say—some knowledge or experience of the Armenians that gave him a human understanding for the Turks (and all the other near neighbors of the Armenians), who are forever trying to kill off this orphan race. He seemed to think that was the only thing to do to the Armenians. He didn't say so. You may observe that I do not quote this authority very freely. The reason is that his method was, apparently, not to say anything himself, but to get me to say the things he wished to have printed in such a form that he could, if necessary, deny them. So he did not say that the Armenians should be killed off. He only gave me the impression, at the time, that that was the sole solution of the Armenian problem; and that that was his reason for desiring us Americans to take on the job. He felt, or he made me feel, that the Turks shouldn't do it; they were too rough and ready—and not Christians. Nor the Greeks; they enjoyed it too much and were inefficient; they never finish anything, and when their aesthetic pleasure in the killing of Armenians was sated they quit. And so with all the other old rival races. They stopped work before all the Armenians were dead. Even when they all went at the task together they invariably left a couple here and a couple there: Adams and Eves who, the moment one's back was turned, bred and bred and bred so that the next time one visited Armenia there were the Armenians as before, millions of them, all meek and lovely, but busy by day at business and at night secretly breeding and slyly spreading and spreading and—
He spread all over me his Malthusian despair and such a dread of the Armenians that I was about to swallow whole his whole scheme, for the American-Armenian mandate when my saving American humor gave me pause.
„But why should not the British do this job also? “ I asked, and, to warn his sense of humor that I was striving to be not altogether final but funny withal, I smiled. In vain. He had no sense of American humor—I think. He waited for my genial grin to go away and then, when he saw I was alone again and quite serious, he answered me seriously. .;
A perfect massacre of the Armenians, he reasoned, might make a scandal, if the British did it, and, he explained, though the Empire had withstood some such shocks and must, of course, withstand others, too many more just now might jar it. And the Empire should not be jarred, unnecessarily, just now. The British Empire is the beginning of world government. All our great troubles—wars, revolutions, strikes, plagues, etc. — all came from the fact that the earth as a whole was not governed as a whole. The British will end this anarchism some day. But the Empire is young as yet, comparatively small, weak and overburdened. Think of the islands, colonies, strategic points, seas and trade routes— all the new burdens and responsibilities thrown upon the British Empire by the defeat of German Imperialism! No, The Empire must be spared for the present. Later, when the freedom of the seas is put ashore, so to speak; when British rule is extended from the wave to the land, all lands, then Great Britain could, and it would, go forth gladly to meet a shock like the one I—he said I—was proposing in Armenia; but not yet, not now; .not in the infancy of the Empire.
Moreover, he conveyed, British Imperialism, at this stage, was interested rather in natural resources than in peoples as such. The English are a practical folk; not idealistic, you understand. They realize that a world government must be founded, not like „your“ League of Nations, upon ideas and ideals, principles and peoples, but upon solid things—oil, ore, air, the sea.
„But, “ I argued (and you can see how far he was carrying me on: I argued for his country against my own). „But,“ I said, „there are rich lands and fat deposits in Armenia.“
He was still. He was so still so long that I thought I had floored him; that he had not known about the wealth of Armenia. But I noticed again that tendency to swell and go to pieces. And how I did wish he would laugh! It would have relieved me and him, too, I think. But no, he didn't laugh; he didn't even smile. He just waited till he could and then he reminded me that I had heard, as he said he had, that Armenia was to be divided. The back country, where the natural wealth is, was to be cut off from the front, where there is nothing but Armenians. The American mandate was to be over the Armenians; some other ally —not the British, but another equally practical power—was to get Armenia.
„But,” I objected, „what is the use of the natural wealth of a country without the people to work it? Mines, oil deposits, fat lands—natural resources,” I explained patiently to him, „are no good to Capital without Labor to dig and develop them. And the natives of a country are the natural labor thereof; the cheapest, the most obedient, the least organized, the best.“
He was bored, I could see, but he was polite; he listened, so I gave him examples one after the other, from the American as well as from the British colonies, to show him that it was a mistake to separate the people of a country from the resources of that country. They must be worked together, developed together, and—they were usually. There was no other way. I pictured to him the helplessness of the Turks or the French bankers, or any non-working people, trying to get out the riches of Armenia without the Armenians. And I would up with what struck me is a very good line.
„I am crying,“ I cried, „not idealistically, not 'Armenia for the Armenians' but practically 'the Armenians for Armenia.’”
He looked me up and down with interest, I though; as if he were getting some new view of us Americans. I had told him he didn't know us, and he had declared that he did.
„Any conscious Englishman,” I remember he said, „can understand any unconscious American.”
Just what he meant by that I don't quite see, but it was remarks like that which gave me the uneasy impression that he had got us all wrong and I had made up my mind to show him before he was through with me that we Americans are not all such sheer idealists as he and most Europeans seemed to have inferred from the one example of President Willson and the 14. But he was too long and too silent in his study of me. I began to feel that he was finding some fault in me or us. Perhaps I had leaned too far toward the practical side; I recalled how he disappointed of the Armenians for that. I hedged therefore. I spoke more idealistically again and, I trust, patriotically.
„If we Americans took over the Armenians,“ I declared, „we would do it for their good. We should govern them always with the idea of making them fit to govern themselves.”
„Yes, yes, we understand all, that,“ he said. But I felt that he didn’t, so I went right on with my syllogism.
„Well, then,“ I said tactfully, „you must see also that to that end: to make the-Armenians fit to govern themselves we should have to make them work. And since you cannot work a people without something to work them on, we should need the mines and the land of Armenia not to get the riches out of them, but as a training ground whereon to teach the people industry, thrift and —all the Christian virtues which go into the making of good men and good citizens.“
He looked puzzled, swollen. I didn’t know what was the matter with him till he decided at last to express himself.
„There's no lack of thrift in the Armenians.” he said dryly, „and, of course, you know, that they are Christians, arch Christians?”
Of course I knew that. I had merely, in my enthusiasm, forgotten it for the moment. He had me there, however, so I backed up on work and I stuck—and I stick—to work.
„But,“ I said, „the Armenians must work. That is the secret of success whether for an individual or a nation— work, hard work. And the Armenians must have Armenia to work on.”
„Armenians won't work,” he said „That is the trouble with your plan and that is the trouble with the Armenians. That is the trouble, really, with all these old races that have been civilized, learned the game and, having once dominated the world and worked it, have lost control, gone back, as you say; or, as I say, carried on. They have gone forward logically, psychologically, physiologically. They do not care for hard labor. It is that which distinguishes them from the childlike, truly backward nations you Americans have had to do with. Primitive peoples are merely lazy. They can be forced forward, worked, developed, exploited, if you please. There is some hope for them; some use. But these forward peoples, the ex-civilized nations— they are not lazy. They are too intelligent to work for others. They are exploiters themselves, instinctive, inbred, incorrigible, hopeless.
„All nations are breeding men. They talk about developing their countries, but it's the other way around: their countries are developing them. And the old nations show the kind of men the new nations are making. These old peoples are the result of evolution. You can see on the shores of the Mediterranean what you are selecting, breeding, evolving at home, now. The living among the old races here are the survivor of a civilization, commercial in character, like yours.”
„Ours,“ I corrected, to get the English into it. He drove right over me.
„You new nations have got to learn from the old peoples,” he repeated, „that the modern representatives of the ex-great and ex-famous nation are the inevitable, the natural products of the artificial selection of an order of society which imprisons the courageous, deports the original, depresses the mass, discourages any sort of variation; from the average of the species and preserves the meek mean, sly, shrewd and thrifty. For these are the commercially fit. The modern Greeks are the direct heirs and their unpleasant characteristics are the enduring traits descended from the ancient Greek culture—as the old Greeks actually practised it; not as the great, exceptional Greeks talked and sang; and carved it, but as the average Greeks practised it in business—the Greeks, I mean, who sentenced Socrates to death. The Egyptians as we British inherit them, are the great-great-great little grandchildren of Egyptian culture, the belated answer, to the riddle of Sphinx which their great-grandfathers raised up so beautifully out of their childlike labor. The Arab of today is .the dust-of the desert dried by the arts, the customs, the business, of ancient, glorious Arabia—''
He stopped another protest of mine, anticipating it: „The Greeks of old, and the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Turks and the rest, they had their geniuses too—their poets and artists, their generals who conquered backward peoples and captains of industry who gave them employment, and they had their own Labor also. But the picked breeds, the aristocracies, plutocracies did pot last. Their descendants did not descend, they didn't even survive. The children of the successful, of the rich, of the powerful, the privileged, went to the dogs, and they will with you. And the succeeding generations of Labor, overworked, underfed, dispirited and disciplined, reduced to dull slaves, died or were killed off. It was the middle class that proved and proves fit survive in that sort of organization of society, the lower middle class. So you have all the ancient world peopled now with practically nothing but business men, little business men—merchants, traders, shopkeepers, money-lenders, peddlers, non-producers. They will buy and sell, and, descended from buyers and sellers, selected through many generations of commercial competition, they do go anywhere in the world to trade; not to create, not to organize, build, plan, labor. Their brothers who did those things are the childless dead. Not only the merest, shrewdest traders live and them we find everywhere beating their way. I have meet Arabs in the Straits, Colonies, South America, — peddling, trading, getting rich. And a for the Syrians, Greeks, Armenians—
„And-Jews,“ I suggested. He ignored me.
„My old peoples,“ he said, „will go anywhere where there are workers to work, venturing slyly, suffering meekly, saving money, working. Yes, they work. They work as a laborer won't work. They work as only a business man will work—long, hard, close upon a narrow margin of profit. But,” he distinguished, „they will not labor. They can't. They cannot see 'work for wages.’ It is an instinct with them, a trait, an intelligence developed as we develop pointing in a pointer dog and setting in a setter, by successful selection. They know in their blood that it is no use working for wages, even high wages if you want to get on and be rich. There is nothing, there can be nothing but a bare living in any possible wage-scale—no interest, no capital, no compound progress. They don't say this; it's too obvious to them; they live it. They are wise as only an old race can be wise—to the game. They see from the moment the open their puppy eyes, that it is absurd to labor to produce wealth. The thing to do is to I watch and wait till the wealth is produced and then somehow, to get it from the producers. And they know how to do this as an animal knows the animal business and a plant knows the vegetable business—by instinct. So they, will practise medicine, law—any profession which like a business, gets a variable share of the finished final, coined form of the commonwealth after the common people have made it. But to go out and by the sweat of the brow to dig up and manufacture the raw stuffs of the earth into marketable commodities—no. „The old peoples hate to do that and, as for your Armenians they simply won’t.”
He rested, watching me and, seeing that I wasn't watching him, he slipped me some more of his propaganda. „The Armenians,“ he said, „are the most intelligent, the most perfectly selected, the most highly developed race in the world— from the civilized point of view.”
„The Jews,” I echoed. „You spoke of them before, and I was gratified. It showed that you were getting inkling of what I was trying to say about old races. The Jews are the most familiar example to an untraveled person of an old, shrewd, intelligent people, and, yes, they are instinctive exploiters. They drive at second-hand wealth. But they will work. They hate to, but they can be made to work. And worse still, they are creative, inventive, sentimental. There are artists, philosophers, prophets among them still. They are imperfect. They are an unfinished product of civilization, about half-done. I understand why they are feared and hated; they have some of the mental superiority of race-age. But, to mention Jews in the same breath with the old peoples I am talking about is absurd. Why my old races drove or traded your Jews out of their own country. They can't live on the Arabs, Syrians, Egyptians. They do well in England, they get rich in France and Germany, and, of course, in the United States, they—yes, yes. But the Chinese, for example, the Chinese absorb Jews as a whale does little fishes; our own Scotch skin them alive; so do the Arabs, Turks, Greeks and, as for the Armenians—
„Jews,“ he said, taking breath, „the Jews themselves feel about Armenians the way the anti-Semitic Europeans feel about the Jews; and so do the Greeks, Turks—all the other races that have ever had them on them. They feel that the Armenians would put them all to work. And they would. The Armenians are all that the Jews are, plus all that all the other races are—and they are Christians besides!“
He halted not for words, I take it— an educated Englishman has plenty of English. It was more as if he were balking at the conclusion which he preferred to have me jump1at rather than to have it to quote from him. And when I didn't jump, he went on, dully, to give me another chance.
„The Armenians,“ he said, „must not have Armenia, not the back lands. They woul not work them themselves, not even for themselves. They would not even do the work of organizing the work or development. They would let them out as concessions to others to manage. They want to live on the coast, in cities, on rent, interest, dividends and the profits of trading in the shares and the actual money earned by capital and labor.”
„There are lots of people like that,“ I said. „The Armenians aren't the only ones.“
„I see you still do not grasp my point,“ he said. „There are indeed others who would like to do that. The French bourgeoisie is moving in that direction, and our own English are coming to it, especially our Little Englanders of the so-called upper-class. They have that as their ideal. They would like to do nothing, but they can't. They are harmless. They are willing to do nothing but spend. But they do spend, you see. Even your Jews are spenders, great spenders. But your Armenians will do nothing and they won’t spend. They get and they save; they sell but only to buy again and so get more and more. It takes evolution to develop such perfection of the true commercial spirit, and is a matter of degree. And the Armenians are the nth degree. I tell you that if ever the Armenians are given a fair start in the world, if they get a free hold of any corner of the earth, they will own the whole planet and work all the rest of mankind. That’s what the Turks know and dread and the Greeks and—all of us who know them. And so—“
He was drawing upon me for his conclusion again—I didn’t want to say it. And so I urged him on. „And so—“ I said.
„And so,“ he sidestepped, as we Americans say crudely, „and so we must divide them up, Armenia to one mandatory, the Armenians to another.“
„And so,“ I sparred, „you are for Armenia for some ally, some partner of the British capitalist and the Armenians for us Americans. All right. Two questions occur: What can your ally do in Armenia without labor? And what in the world can we Americans do with the Armenians without Armenia?“
„Oh,“ he said, „there are other peoples in the Balkans, Asia Minor, India and Africa—backward nations, really backward, nations that would labor. These can be brought to Armenia and put to work. There is no lack of labor.”
„So that solves the British, the practical problem,” I said. „Now for the idealistic, the American problem. What are we to do with the Armenians?”
He would not say. His British humor or his diplomatic caution, or—something wouldn’t let him. He shied off upon the danger to Asiatic labor and European capital of having the Armenians any where near where the mines and land were being worked.
„And so,“ I said, not without some (American) humor. „And so—“
A shadow crossed his eyes, but not his voice. He spoke sunnily again of „American idealism.“ I was tired of hearing it awfully bored, but he liked to talk about it. And this time he changed the key of the song a little. He called us young said we were inexperienced as yet in the management of other, older race and, therefore no doubt, prone to judge harshly the colonial conduct of th British and other practical rulers whose most conscientious agent sometime found it necessary to kill and otherwise put the fear of God into the minority of a subject people in the common interests of the majority and the security of invested capital.
„You don't realize,“ he-concluded, „how difficult and delicate a task it is to govern a strange, a foreign people.“
„You're wrong,“ I said, exasperated and I repeated my charge that he didn’t know us. „You are as ill-informed about my people,“ I declared, „as you say we are about the Europeans, Turks, Armenians and the rest.“ I cited the Philippines, Cuba, the Sandwich Islands—all foreign countries which we were governing successfully. And I reminded him that we had all sort of foreigners in our very midst. The United States was not called the melting pot without reason. We had all sorts of foreigners there. We made even his Armenians labor. We did our hard job, I asserted, as well as any government on the face of the earth, no excepting the British, and to convince him that we were practical I related what I had seen done to foreign labor in New England, down South, out Wes and all over. But I happened to mention also our own natives, the American Indians.
He fairly leaped at that. „That’s it,” he cried. „That's what I have had in mind all along. Your policy with your Indians is the one for Armenians.”
I was taken aback, astonished. I asked him what he thought our Indian policy had been and he said he understood that we had killed them all off—all; had we not?”
I looked him over the way he ha me several times. I enjoyed doing it, too.
„And so,” I said after a long pause, „you think that that is what we ought come over here and to the Armenians— kill ’em all off.”
„No, no, no,” he corrected. „How you pressman do misunderstand and misquote.”
He didn’t mean at all to say that we should adopt massacre as a policy. He knew we would not, could not do that.
Well then, what did he mean? What should we do? He would not say. He wheeled round and round like a couple of whirling dervishes; it was wearisome. ??But I got it at least. I had to say it myself, but it was right—I think. He didn't correct me.
He definitely and distinctly did not mean that we should set out consciously and deliberately to wipe out the Armenians. Not at all. He merely trusted or believed that after trying everything else we would end by doing That; and doing it well, too; leaving no Adam and Eve to go on raising Cain—
„But wouldn't that be a scandal?“ I asked.
He thought not. He reminded me that we were so idealistic and enjoyed such repute for philanthropy that we seemed to be able to do anything within reason without losing either our idealism or our good name.
„There was no scandal, was there, over your Indian policy?“ he asked. ‘And you never ceased to think that what you did was right? You have conquered part of Mexico, you have occupied Hawaii, taken the Philippines and Puerto Rico by force of arms from Spain; ?reed Cuba and kept a mortgage on it; you have bought the Danish Islands; and you have put your Marines ashore, in central America and forgotten I them. You will soon be forced to restore order in the rest of Mexico. And yet,“ he said, with admiration, I thought, „you are still for self-determination for small nations. You are a small empire, and you have warned us in your Monroe Doctrine that you are going when you get ready to be a great empire. And yet you are anti-imperialists. You have just fought war against German Imperialism, and—“
„So did you,“ I shot in.
„Oh that is different,“ he fired back. „We are Imperialists. We frankly call ourselves an Empire and we fought honestly, for our Empire against the German's Empire. But you—you fought against empire for—self-determination.“
There was a point there, and he waited maliciously, I felt, for me to meet it. And when I didn’t—I couldn’t right off in second like that—when I didn’t answer, he went on
„I believe that you Americans can do whatever and not be doubted either by the world or by yourselves. There is something great, very great about that, something useful to the world. It suggests that you Americans could, and you surely would, do in Armenia proper that which has to be done there, with thoroughness; gradually, but completely, without missing a single or, rather, a married Armenian, and all without a scandal, without disturbing in the least your belief that you are—How shall I say?—well, not like us English or the French, Germans, Turks and I am afraid, not a bit like the Armenians.“
„And,“ he hastened to add, „somebody has to solve the Armenian problem. It seems to me to be poetic justice, good politics and sounds business to let the most idealistic people in die world take over the most practical people in the world.“
What was he giving me? Was this British humor? I looked at him, hard. He didn't blink. He had that puffed-up appearance I had noticed before—but, no—not a twitch. It's a strain to interview an Englishman, and a risk. I remembered that he would repudiate the interview if there were the slightest „come-back.“ I decided to put him to the test right away.
As I understand it,“ I said, „we Americans are a commercial culture, as the Armenians, as all these old nations were that ought to be killed off.” He nodded. „They thought they were developing business when they were really developing a certain variety of the human species—a race o£ business men dependent upon the productive labor of other people whom they do not now govern and who hate them because they can beat anybody at trade and live without working—liars, profiteers, parasites— the most practical brains with the most Christian ideals and manners.“
„You Americans talk well,“ he said. „No Englishman could be found to state anything like that as clearly as that.“
„If now we Americans could, in our present, the early state of the development of this sort of man—if we could, by governing the Armenians, see close up the practical workings of our culture; if we could understand that what we were looking at and dealing with in the Armenian of today is the American of the future—“
„Of tomorrow,“ he corrected.
„Then,” I went on, „we might, fail with the Armenians, we might in exasperation, kill them all—“
„We might kill all Armenians, but, we would go home—“
„Cable,” he suggested, „it’s quicker.”
„Cable home,” I accepted tentatively, „cable a warning to lookout: ‘Look out for the crossing practical business with Christian idealism.’ Too much business and too much idealism might injure both these good things and us also, as a people.“
„Hear, hear!“ he exclaimed.
„It might make of great, rich America an Armenia which the British and the Russians (of the future) would find it 'necessary' to take over as a mandatory divided into two parts: one, the United States proper for England; the other, the people themselves, for Russia.“
He was silent. I waited to see whether he had any sense of American humor. He waited, too, for a while and then, seeing; that I expected something, he spoke.
„Your idea—“ he began.
„My idea!“ I exploded.
„Yes,“ he said. „That's an idea. It's a good idea, good in theory, but— It's characteristically idealistic. I am considering it practically. Do you believe really that any American governors of the Armenians would be conscious enough to see their likeness to the Americans?”
„Yes English do,” I retorted cuttingly.
„True,“ he agreed thoughtfully. „We see the meaning of the Armenians to the Americans, we Imperial British do. But I doubt, I am wondering whether our Little Englanders could be brought to foresee their fate in the fate of the old nations they govern.”
I was beaten, helpless, flabbergasted. Fortunately he didn’t see that. His eves were down. He rose, but he was thinking deeply, as he led me to the door. There he looked up.
„Good-bye,“ he said, „I like your theory. I am afraid it won’t work out in practice, but write it. It's suggestive. Write it carefully; not too clearly, and, by the way, don't quote me. I have said nothing, nothing.“
* Lincoln Steffens’ birthplace was San Francisco. He received his education in California and at various continental universities. He is veteran newspaperman, magazine editor, and contributor. Mr. Steffens has achieved fame as an interviewer and an author. At present his “Autobiography” is being widely read.
Interview From 1919, "Outlook & Independent" Oct 14, 1931
If Lawrence of Arabia Were Viewing the War
by John E. Mack, M.D.
Originally published on February 17, 1991
New York Newsday, p.54
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) would, I think, have been appalled by the scale of destruction and loss of human life now taking place in the Mideast. In October, 1916, as a young English intelligence officer stationed in Cairo, he went to Arabia to explore the value of supporting the stalled Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks, then allied with the German forces. A brilliant student of Arab psychology, Lawrence, with minimal enemy and allied losses, guided the guerrilla campaign in the desert, which ended two years later after the fall of Damascus to British troops and Arab irregulars.
The Arab Revolt was but a sideshow to British Field Marshall Edmund Allenby's main Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which drove the Turkish armies out of Palestine and Syria. But its dramatic success and Lawrence's colorful personality guaranteed his lasting renown. Today Lawrence. it is true, is a symbol to some of the arrogance and meddlesomeness of the British Empire. But as British liaison officer to the Arab irregular forces, Lawrence was scrupulously attentive to Arab history, culture and religion as well as psychology. As early as 1920 he understood the central importance of Iraq for the future of the region--"for very sound reasons or economics and population." He would, I suspect, have loathed Saddam Hussein and feared, as we have, his bid for power in the region. But I doubt Lawrence would have recommended the heavyhanded methods that we have applied to the problem Hussein has presented--methods, I understand, adopted without the advice of Arab and Mideast experts within our government.
Lawrence was always careful to work through and behind the Arab leaders. He would support, influence, cajole the tribal leaders and, of course, provide them with arms and other supplies. But he scrupulously avoided offending Arab pride by appearing to dominate the campaign. By contrast, the current allied campaign, though including Arab countries, is clearly dominated by U.S. policy-makers.
More significant than the military achievements of the Arab Revolt was the powerful stimulus it gave to the passions of Arab nationalism and the bolstering of Arab claims during the peace conferences that followed the war developments we will anxiously confront at the end of the Persian Gulf war.
The captured Ottoman territories were divided into British and French spheres of influence, and by 1921 the modern borders of the Arab countries of the Mideast, including present-day
Iraq, were largely established. Lawrence worked feverishly during the years after the war to support Arab self-determination. His greatest success, perhaps, was his influence upon Winston Churchill, then head of the British Colonial Office, in installing Faisal as King of Iraq, where he remained until his death in 1933.
At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, where the victors of World War I convened to divide the spoils, Lawrence gave an interview to the American reformer Lincoln Steffens, who was a conference observer. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was for Lawrence to try to persuade the United States through Steffens to administer Armenia during the post-war period. There was no realistic chance of this, so Lawrence used the opportunity to take out on Steffens his frustration with the peace process and to tell him what he thought of the arrogance and hypocrisy of Wilsonian America.
Lawrence spoke of America's "Christian idealism," our ability to espouse the highest of moral principles, including official support for selfdetermination, while at the same time to massacre and sequester our native Indian population. Lawrence suggested sarcastically that we could probably abuse the Armenians in the same way--"with thoroughness, gradually, but completely"--without international scandal. "He reminded me," Steffens reported, "that we were so idealistic and enjoyed such repute for philanthropy that we seemed to be able to do anything within reason without losing either our idealism or our good name."
He went on to attack the United States' disavowed imperialism through Steffens, who never seemed to catch on to how he was being tweaked:
"There was no scandal, was there, over your Indian policy?" Lawrence asked. "And you never ceased to think that what you did was right? You have conquered part of Mexico, you have occupied Hawaii, taken the Philippines and Puerto Rico by force of arms from Spain; freed Cuba and kept a mortgage on it; and you have put your Marines ashore in Central America and forgotten them . . . And yet . . . you are still for self-determination for small nations. You are a small empire, and you have warned us in your Monroe Doctrine that you are going, when you get ready, to be a great empire. And yet you are anti-imperialists. You have just fought a war against German imperialism, and.
"So did you," I shot in.
"Oh, that is different," he fired back. "We frankly call ourselves an empire and we fought honestly for our empire against the Germans' empire. But you . . . you fought against empire for . . . self-determination."
I find it remarkable how much of this interview is relevant, more than 70 years later, to the United States' current actions in the Mideast. Our stated policy of stopping a brutal dictator from imposing his will upon the region, and free-ing a country he unjustly invaded, is certainly worthy if not philanthropic.
However, our war policy goes far beyond these aims and, as an increasing number of world leaders are saying, it may be exceeding the United Nations' authorization. With the sanctimoniousness that Lawrence identified as characteristically American, we repeatedly declare our intention to avoid targeting civilians and to minimize the loss of civilian life in Iraq. Yet the bombing has been so overwhelming that the loss of human life ("collateral damage") is verging on massacre, The people who survive are without water, heat or electricity, and children are dying in hospitals for lack of adequate medical supplies. The damage on the ground appears to be so vast that nothing less than the destruction of the country seems to be occurring.
In the sharp reduction of the Persian Gulf conflict to a matter of black and white, of good versus evil, we have brushed aside the great complexity of the issues. President George Bush has even gone so far as to invoke the just-war doctrine and to declare self-righteously that we are "on the side of God," despite the fact that the majority of Roman Catholic and Episcopal clergy state that the gulf war fails to meet the just-war requirements. In particular, they point out, the war was initiated before it was a last resort, the damage that has been done to noncombatants is disproportionate, and there is little likelihood of the war's resulting in a "just and secure peace."
Further evidence of our oversimplifications is our refusal to consider Iraq's serious grievances against vastly richer Kuwait, which was stealing its oil and driving the price so low through overproduction that it threatened Iraq's economic survival.
In the background to all this is the history of Arab suffering in the past century at the hands of the Western powers--not least the British, as Lawrence well understood--of which the present war is only the most recent episode.
One example from the past is the British provocation and suppression of a tribal rebellion on the lower Euphrates in 1920, which soon spread through much of Iraq, then called Mesopotamia. The rebellion had been provoked by the harsh policies of the colonial administrator, Arnold Wilson. Lawrence wrote, "We have killed about 10,000 Arabs in this rising this summer. How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of a form of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?"
We, too, claim to be attacking Iraq to stop aggression and, ultimately, to bring peace and order to the region. Yet we, like the British in 1920, have overlooked the damage to our future relationship with the Arab world that the destruction of Iraq and the killing of Arabs will bring. Tufts professor Laila Fawaz has pointed out that the imbalance in American support for Israel in relation to its Arab neighbors over the past 44 years has "eroded Arab trust in American ability to act as an honest broker in solving the problems of the Middle East." We can expect Hussein to appeal, however cynically, to the divisions within the Arab world that have grown out of its colonial and post-colonial history, especially those relating to the great inequalities of wealth and opportunity in the region.
The United States aspires to play a constructive role in the peace process that will follow this frightful war. But our ability to do so will depend on achieving political maturity, which would enable us to empathize with the plight of troubled and needy people in cultures unlike our own. Were we to acknowledge our own imperialistic proclivities, as T.E. Lawrence did of Britain's, the higher values to which we hold ourselves would likely compel us to admit that international political confrontations do not yield to aggressive ultimata and purely military solutions. In the meantime, there is a real danger that the exuberant misapplication of our extraordinary technological capability and military power will cause further terrible suffering and bring the world to the edge of annihilation.
John E. Mack, M.D., is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Mack is the founder of the Center for Psychology & Social Change. He is the author or co-author of eleven books, including A Prince of Our Disorder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Most recently, he contributed a chapter to Chris E. Stout's anthology, The Psychology of Terrorism.
Armenia And The Turks In The Time Of Lawrence by Benny Morris | March 8, 2011
While Colonel T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") sympathized with Armenian aspirations for sovereignty and, indeed, in a map he drew up after the Great War of a desirable Middle Eastern share-out of the Ottoman Empire he provided for an independent Armenia (in Cilicia), he was also party to the prevalent anti-Armenian prejudices of his day.
Lawrence was a member of the British delegation to the 1919 postwar Paris peace conference. On November 3 he told Frank Polk, the American "Commissioner" in Paris, that the Armenians were prone to lend "money at exorbitant rates of interest" and took "the Turks' land or horses in security for payment," and this at least in part explained the Turkish atrocities against them during World War I.
But there was another factor. "Armenians," he told Polk, as related in Polk's report on their conversation, "have a passion for martyrdom, which they find they can best satisfy by quarrelling with their neighbors . . . They can be relied upon to provoke trouble for themselves in the near future."
In general, Lawrence felt, "it would be most undesirable to attempt to establish an Armenian state." Except in a specific territory, where they would be overwhelmingly preponderant. "The idea of an Armenian State infuriates all the other races, and it would require 5 divisions of troops (100,000 troops) to maintain it."
According to Lawrence, the Turks had been exhausted by the Great War and their "army is rotten with venereal disease and unnatural vice." Hence, their birth rate was falling. He thought that if the Turks were "confined to their own territories, in thirty years' time [Turkey] would once more be bounding with health and, incidentally, lusting for conquest." (Perhaps Lawrence's use of the words "vice" and "lust" were influenced by his personal experiences during the war years.)
About his friend the Emir Faisal, the military leader of the Arab Revolt and the de facto ruler at the time in Damascus, Lawrence said that he was "cautious, moderate, usually honest but capable of treachery if it suited him."
Surprisingly, Lawrence told Polk that "the Jews get on well with the Arabs " and added that, contrary to prevailing opinion at the time among British officials, "the Jew is a good cultivator both in Palestine and Mesopotamia [he was speaking here of Iraqi Jews]." The problem was that "the conditions [in the Middle East] preclude enterprise in the shape of improvements and [the Jew] requires five shillings a day to live on against the Arab's or Syrian's sixpence [i.e., half a shilling: there were twenty shillings to the pound sterling]."
Lawrence concluded by saying that "the Zionist movement has 'many prophets but no politicians' [had he lived into the 21st century he would have thought otherwise] . . . The movement has been mismanaged in the last nine months," he thought.
He offered Polk one general, final reflection about the Middle Eastern peoples: "No nation must expect gratitude from the East or anything but the 'Order of the Boot' as soon as they can manage it [meaning that the Arabs or the Turks would boot out foreign powers as soon as they could affect it, no matter how beneficial these powers had been to the locals in previous years]."
Comments from: http://aldanov.livejournal.com/535146.html
aldanov March 29, 2011, 07:38:22 UTC
There is something to think about. And in the text of several layers: the logic position (says the new "ruler of the world", the position of the listener (another "ruler of the world", which differs somewhat idealistic attitude - "we assume you happiness and democracy"). You can look, but how this logic correspond to the facts of history and practice. You can also try to apply this logic to other phenomena.
Such texts, of course, need to know. Classic.
texconten March 29, 2011, 08:40:25 UTC
Frankly, it is very difficult to believe that this is not a work of art. Usually nothing like people say - the more serious, as a rule such arguments produce fictional characters.
aldanov March 29, 2011, 09:49:32 UTC
You see, with this caliber of people in our times it is difficult to meet. Lawrence is not just a spy, he is a scientist, and philosopher.
Steffens, of course, the text is written not with the voice recorder, which was not there, and on the notes after the conversation, so that it is a literary account of his hefty contribution.
But in fact what has been said there is no doubt.
aldanov March 29, 2011, 09:46:19 UTC
Well, yeah, is not translated into very high quality, is seen on top of the article.
The English text can be found in multiple copies: here, for example - http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com/2008/05/2471-armenians-are-impossible-interview.html
shakko_kitsune March 29, 2011, 17:02:36 UTC
wondering how he thinks ...
and yet he did the Armenians of this?
aldanov March 29, 2011, 18:34:40 UTC
Do not reciprocated, and Lawrence was offended?
Saroyan, as if he had answered in the 1935th, without mentioning by name in the story "The Armenian and Armenian." There Saroyan in Rostov saw that the waiter in a pub - an Armenian, and went to talk to him: - "Wai, he says. Wai (long and manifesting great joy). Wai. And you're talking in their native language. It's great that you're not forget it.
He brings two cups of crappy beer.
And the Armenian gestures that express so much. That hit his knees. That erupted into laughter. Here are cursed. That aptly quipped, obshutil this world and its big ideas. Armenian word, glance, gesture, smile, and through it all - instant revival of the breed, age-old and newly powerful, though many years have passed, though, and were destroyed towns and villages, murdered fathers, brothers and sons, their homes are forgotten, trampled dreams the hearts of living charred hatred.
I looked up to, what force on earth is a small tribe izvedet people, this small handful of people whose history is ended, whose wars have all provoevany and lost, whose structures were scattered in the dust, whose literature is not read, whose music is heard, whose prayers were silent .
Well, come on, let's destroy this nation. Suppose that over nineteen hundred fifteenth. In a world at war. Destroy Armenia. Let's see if you get it done. Throw the Armenians from their homes into the desert. Leave them without food and without water. Burn their houses and churches. And look, Will not, again, they do exist. Look, Will not that they laugh again. Look, do not live there again, the people, when two out of it, twenty years later, accidentally met each other in the pub, laughing and talking in their language. Let's see what you are able to do. Look, if you are able to prevent them from obshuchivat big ideas of the world, two Armenians talking in the world, let us, as you and that way, try to destroy them. "
shakko_kitsune March 29, 2011, 19:11:15 UTC
I think enough is still a biased reporter ... maybe because some of the accents?
In "Revolt in the Desert", I remember, he had interesting pieces, like the Armenians, who served in the Turkish army, worked for him as a fifth column. And it is so encouraging for them. The way he presented Circassian, as I recall.
aldanov March 29, 2011, 19:41:30 UTC
He published the text in the life of Lawrence. To me, this is a strong argument in favor of the reality of such an interview. The more that come up with an opinion, suck it out of your finger, is not easy.
jack_kipling January December 2012, 07:37:14 UTC
Not a fact. Lawrence quickly became a non-public person, put it on everyone and then aircraft mayalsya, then the tanks, then our attempts to shit in Turkestan. I do not care that he was write about it.
aldanov January December 2012, 11:03:24 UTC
And the American author is taken into account and came up with an interview?
jack_kipling January December 2012, 11:12:36 UTC
And the American author is taken into account and came up with an interview? / /
I do not think that all of the interview fake, just as mentioned above, there was no tape recorders, interviews, written on the basis of rapid pencil notes taken during the conversation. Yes, and then immediately see two things: 1) anti-British position of the reporter (all of these "inflated", "imperialism"), 2) permanent podeby from Lawrence about American politics, which they confused with missionary work. The Armenians are not in this case, since, with a side full sun, because the reporter kept trying to turn the conversation to the Jews, in the hope of anti-Semitism counterparts.
aldanov January December 2012, 11:31:42 UTC
Yes, interesting ideas. But it is precisely these details, a confrontation between two positions, and do the interview live.
In addition, Lawrence, I think, in a comparative evaluation of rights: the Armenians are very sophisticated people, the Jews, compared with a rustic. It is hard to imagine what the other person being disagreed with the position of Lawrence as a whole, came up with such subtleties.
jack_kipling January December 2012, 11:41:55 UTC
It is hard to imagine what the other person being disagreed with the position of Lawrence as a whole, came up with such subtleties. / /
Well, I do not know, I always come to mind first interview with Martin Eden, after which lowered the stairs zhurnalyugi dashed off a believable story in which he allegedly admits to anarchism.
In addition, Lawrence, I think, in a comparative evaluation of rights: the Armenians are very sophisticated people, the Jews, compared with a rustic. / /
As there is a Russian proverb: "The one Jew - two Greeks, the Greeks - two Armenians, the Armenian one - two noble Poltava"
aldanov January December 2012, 11:51:10 UTC
Well, then, even more interesting. Lawrence, they say, is not it meant, and did not say this and that. And all invented - creative writing of his companion, who developed, so in his own idea of British imperialism. And not just as a philosophy, but in the form of play.
But in this kind of "Lawrence of ideas" such as quick and easy find many confirmations. Though not directly in relation to the Armenians. I remember reading how the British in World War II destroyed the whole of East Pakistan's river fleet, fearing a Japanese invasion. The supply is there the river was carried out. And a lot of people just died out of starvation.
By the way, about the form of notes. If you sit down immediately after the talk and write, then we get a good reproduction of the conversation.
jack_kipling January December 2012, 12:11:21 UTC
Well, then, even more interesting. Lawrence, they say, is not it meant, and did not say this and that / /
Yes, there is nothing clear except for a mention of the word Genocide. What to do with them, with what they are, what they do to the Jews to the American Indians into the bargain - Kurginian with his "goat" in comparison with the straight model of clarity.)))
Though not directly in relation to the Armenians. I remember reading how the British in World War II destroyed the whole of East Pakistan's river fleet, fearing a Japanese invasion. The supply is there the river was carried out. And a lot of people just died out of starvation / /
There could be if the Pakistani navy for lack of a river at the time of Pakistan. Thus, the British defeated the colonial its its own river fleet. The event emnis became known as the Bengal famine of 1942, when for example the huge stocks of food may be ugrohat malnutrition population inaccessible areas. And then the British have never hesitated to such cases - remember the destruction of a neutral Danish fleet and the bombardment of Copenhagen, Nelson, under the guise of a potential alliance with Napoleon, or the attack on vishistky fleet in Toulon in 1942. Imperial policy, which is already there.
pingback_bot April 23, 2011, 21:56:32 UTC
User vologodski referenced to your post from English - practical people saying: [...] - American journalist Lincoln Steffens, an interview with a British spy Lawrence of Arabia [...]
vologodski April 23, 2011, 21:59:24 UTC
The British, conducted (in this case the anti-Turkish), Arabic revolution - direct link time!
athanatoi August 29, 2011, 10:36:10 UTC
Today of course a lot of Armenians in Africa engaged in plantations, mineral resources, weapons and drugs, but that with the fact that the British like more? Let's destroy them better :)))))))), the more so in the English a lot of blood all the different races of mankind (I'm serious here)
aldanov January December 2012, 11:04:39 UTC
Of course, this conclusion is also logical.
athanatoi August 29, 2011, 10:38:33 UTC
By the way, he is not so much the ruler of the world
http://www.ahmadtea.ua/userfiles/images/Personality/lawrence/map.jpg so this card was broken almost everywhere :)
pingback_bot January December 2012, 07:06:53 UTC
Lawrence of Arabia on the ancient peoples: Armenians, Greeks, s
User bulgurkhan referenced to your post from Lawrence of Arabia on the ancient peoples: Armenians, Greeks, Jews and others. saying: [...] Original taken from Lawrence of Arabia in the ancient nations, Armenians, Greeks, Jews and others. [...]
"Poppies Tsovasar." Russian-speaking Armenians of the Diaspora Forum (RAD)
"These are impossible Armenians"
Friends, perhaps many are familiar with this document .... If not, we strongly recommend to read and express your opinions!
Read the course! It is interesting to know your opinion ... you're certainly not suffering from a blind, unaccountable, all-embracing love of the Armenians to ourselves! so it'll be totally objective ... but the other our comrades in the forum, representatives of the ancient Aryan nation, I think, will speak at the interruption - he's lying, that your Lawrence, nonsense, we are not, we are the best! By the way, he does not deny ....
I read, Romijn, and something did not realize that there is a particularly bad to say? : Unsure: I would be proud if my nation paid so much attention and compliments, and representatives of the powerful shared: cd: it among themselves: ag: .. And by the way, he noted correctly that the Armenians are very businesslike. I would love to read in the original, I'm sure a lot of errors in translation.
I told you - in general, his view is very flattering .... but there are moments that are contrary to today's image of the Armenians ... There is a saying that no Armenian is not ready to accept frankly, agree with them .... of land, about the unwillingness to work ...
Yes, it says it right ... No need to beat his heels into his chest - the majority are forced to work, but does not like it ...
We are strong in the division, and strong when we were little. We were strong in Kirovabad, not allowing the cut off hordes to inflict punishment on us, we were strong in Karabakh, being cut off by the enemy at a ratio of 1 to 60, we were strong in Abkhazia, where combat-ready unit EDISTVENNOY so-called "Abkhazian army" was namely "Baghramyan" (by the way, the most combat-ready army units of the State Council at the time were detachments of sostoschie gruzinsih Armenians). But we were weak in Baku, where "churek" were a minority, were weak in ourselves weak in Akhalkalaki, Tbilisi, where, though not so openly, but in the process of "squeezing out" of the Armenian majority. As it turns out weak 100 years ago, when areas with vastly superior numbers of the Armenian population would be wiped out in a more organized Codlea until many, many Armenians with the Turks tried to keep their own accounts with a neighbor, or even decades konkrentom relative ... We - as a cornered rat, which, when in danger and there is no way of salvation - rush the last bit of strength to the enemy, and gnaw his throat, but at the same time when a lot of them - are beginning to bite each other. Karabakh is liberated, so what? Straight all the world rushed to colonize? Yeah ... Sch-right now ... U.S., Britain, Moscow, Rostov ... Who's to argue the topic ...?
What Karabakh fought to colonize it? : Z_5: In the same kind, was freed from the yoke of Azerbayzhanskogo and its population is already there, it was ... : Unsure:
Paron Grozny, and you simpotyaga! or it is not you?
You know, I do not consider myself a great connoisseur of Armenian contemporary history, so I can not comment on the historical facts presented ... but you are judged true!
Alyosha, during the war greatly thinned out the population ... many went out .... and not particularly eager to return ... many went to Armenia, even more - around the world ... poobzhilis scattered, overgrown farm ... in a word, healed a normal life ... to go back? all start at zero?
Mercy for kompleman))))) Well, when uploaded the photo - I was ... : Cd: (Bagirka not let lie)))))
And given me - the only part of a very unpleasant .... or rather, not so pleasant topic of internal samopozhiraniya Armenians ... Written - it is so to say, some abstracts of my next (while in the table) book, tentatively titled "Armenia - 2037" ... The date in the title is symbolic, I think, will understand what I mean ....
Of course, the territory of Nagorno Karabakh self-sufficient for the entire population without the use of the liberated territories. But it is not so much about, that someone forced to relocate there, as in the reluctance (as correctly noted by Romina), even the Karabakh Armenians to come back ...
do not know the date - it is 50 years after the 1987go? the beginning of the Karabakh war??
No, 100 years after 1937 - the beginning of the year total "cleansing" by Stalin in the Soviet Union .