The Impact of War: (ii) 1914–18
THE adherence of the Ottoman Empire to the Central Powers in October 1914 made it essential for Great Britain to find and fashion, under extreme pressure and at high speed, a new policy for the Levant. Salisbury’s ‘wrong horse’ had finally entered the wrong race, and we, its backers, were left looking for another animal to put in its place. In two Turkish properties where we were already bailiffs prompt action was taken to regulate the situation. Cyprus was annexed. In Egypt martial law was declared. There were many who urged that we should take this fine chance to put an end to the ‘veiled protectorate’ now thirty-two years old, and annex the country to the British Empire as a prize of war. This would have been a legal action, and the introduction of legality into the control of Egypt at this point could hardly have damaged our prospects there. The Liberal Cabinet indeed toyed with the idea, but decided that it was not one that could be adopted by a Government which had, since Cromer’s retirement in 1907, heavily publicised its project for training the Egyptians to fit them for the eventual enjoyment of self-government.1 So Egypt was, unilaterally, declared to be a Protectorate; and throughout the war it served the Allied Powers as an armed camp, a planning headquarters, and a leave-centre, taking on so exclusively imperial a colour in the process that by August 1919 Balfour as Foreign Secretary was able to note in a despatch, as a matter of course, that Egypt ‘was English, as Tunis was French’.2
KeywordsForeign Policy Middle East Middle Eastern Round Table Suez Canal
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