Q&A Friday #34: What If The Ottoman Empire Never Broke Up?

Question: “How do you think the present history of the Mid East would be different if the Ottoman Empire had not have gotten involved in World War 1?” — jcl

Answer: That’s an absolutely fascinating question, particularly if you assume that they made it through WW2 without being broken up as well.

Imagine the whole Middle-East united into one country. If that were the case, a Jewish homeland might still exist, but it would be in a different location. Perhaps East Africa.

Also, it seems likely that the “sick man of Europe” would have benefitted significantly from owning so much of the world’s oil supply — assuming that it didn’t lead to war with the West which would have been extremely nervous about having one country essentially having their thumb on the jugular of the world’s energy supplies.

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Then there’s the Democracy question. Unlike the rest of the Muslim states in the Middle-East (at least until our intervention there since 9/11), Turkey is a Democracy. Would the same cultural forces that led to a democratized Turkey have also eventually turned the Ottoman Empire into a real Ottoman Republic? Maybe. If so, the region certainly would have been better off. On the other hand, we could have been looking at an totalitarian Islamic super state in 2005: it’s just impossible to say.

There are so many different, “what if’s,” with this scenario that you really can’t know how it would have played out, but like I said: absolutely fascinating question.

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