Yeşil, F., Bir Osmanlı gözüyle Avrupa siyasetinde güç oyunu: Avrupa’ya mensûb olan mîzân-ı umûr-ı hâriciyye beyânındadır, Istanbul 2012
Avrupa’ya mensûb olan mîzân-ı umûr-ı hâriciyye beyânındadır (“On the balance of foreign affairs relating to Europe”) begins with an interesting description of human statehood, characteristically treating the Ottoman Empire as just another state in an international community (Y5):
In order for the various nations to settle in their respective places expanding in a great part of the inhabited world, every group (gürûh) needs to set forth laws (kânûn), useful and suitable to itself. Just like the law provided by Sultan Suleyman to the Exalted State, so the other societies (gürûh) are also bound to arrangements (nizâm) peculiar and useful for themselves. And in order to treat their external affairs equally in respect to each other, there is need for a balance (mîzân). This balance has appeared for some centuries now and is called “balance of foreign affairs”; it presently rules the situation in Europe. Thus, whenever a king (sahib-ı saltanat) affects this balance by encroaching the properties and territories, or the freedom (âzâdelik) of a weaker state, the other states do not tolerate this and, in one way or another, they try to bring things back to their original equilibrium (i’tidâl).
The author illustrates this thesis by numerous examples from contemporary and past Europe, noting for instance that France helped at times the Ottomans in order to check Austria’s power, rather than out of pure friendship. Moreover, he notes that France had recently managed to obtain a favourable peace, although it had lost the war, due to its competent negotiators. He then describes at length and in grim colours the present military and international status of the Ottoman Empire, remarking that the change of Sultan (with the recent accession of Abdulhamid I to the throne, in January 1774), statesmen changed as well, with the result that now the crucial question is pending: what is to be done, and more specifically whether peace must be sought, and if yes, which infidel state must be trusted for help.
In order to argue for the necessity of peace, the author uses Ibn Khaldun’s authority on the nomadism and its decline (Y11):
According to Ibn Khaldun’s Prolegomena, we must obey to the necessities of time and situation: because of the long and uninterrupted continuation of settled life (temâdî-i hazar), we forgot the arts of war and consequently we have not had any single victory for five years now.
Furthermore, he notes, constant war has brought damage to the treasury, while the international situation is not favourable either. After carefully blaming the dead Mustafa III’s avarice (buhl) and his counselors’ simple-mindedness, he concludes that a peace would be well accepted and fit to the current needs of the state. But then, the Ottomans need also to find another ally as mediator, in order to benefit from the balance of power among the European states. The author examines three potential candidates: France, England and Netherlands. Now France, apart from being an old friend of the Ottoman Empire, needs good relations with it because of its trade. The increase of the French trade, however, is not self-evidently profitable for the Ottomans: no matter how inexperienced they are, the author explains, Ottoman merchants of the Black Sea leave their profits to the land (memleketimizde), apart from being useful to the navy. The French merchants, in contrast, will co-operate with them only to decrease their capacity and profits, like they already do in the Aegean Sea (Y13-14). Moreover, France has sent a “prince” (beğzâde: Baron de Tott) to train Ottoman soldiers. Here, the author remarks that Westerners always knew that the advantage of the Ottomans laid in their zeal for martyrdom, and this is why they chose to intensify training and drilling of their own armies in order to match this religious fervor. It is somehow odd that Ottomans have now to revert to European methods of training; and besides, the author finds that there is a tendency to consider every inexperienced and young European adventurer as an experienced officer, to which Ottoman veterans should bow (Y15-16).
Back to the issue of the balance of power and the potential allies, the author now examines the place of England. A strong state, possessing territories in India and in America, it has also the advantage of being commercially necessary to the northern countries, being thus able to manipulate them. The author argues that if the Ottomans open the Black Sea to Russia, the English merchants will lose (contrary to the French). Finally, Netherlands is not so strong a nation as the other two, but it is very active in the maritime trade; on the other hand, Netherlanders have supported financially Russia and so have to be considered a second-rate potential ally.
At any rate, concludes the author, the Ottomans need to draw the attention of one of these three states, in order to use it as negotiator; to this aim, constant ambassadors should be appointed in the European capitals. As if to refute himself and to comply with more traditional advice, the author ends his essay with stressing the need for the statesmen to be pious, well-meaning, honest and united.
Quotes Ibn Khaldun.
Aksan, V., “Ottoman Political Writing, 1768-1808”, International Journal of Middle East Studies 25 (1993), 59-60