THERE is something seemingly quite anomalous about the situation which has been reached in the Cretan difficulty. The “Christian” powers of Europe have taken the side of Mohammedan Turkey against “Christian” Greece; and this, not because the latter nation have been horrifying the civilized world by slaughtering defenseless and innocent men, women, and children in Crete or in any country; no charge can be brought against Greece of having violated the etiquette of “civilized” warfare. The Cretans, furthermore, are said to be mostly Greek Christians, who long to exchange Turkish misrule for the dominion of their own race, and who therefore welcome the attitude which Greece has taken.
When the Turks were slaughtering the Armenians, sparing neither sex nor age, and perpetrating upon their victims every cruelty in which a fiendish nature could take delight, while a cry of horror and indignation went up from other lands the world over, these “Christian” powers could not be prevailed upon to do more than threaten the Sultan and demand his acceptance of certain schemes of reform, which afforded at best only a promise of relief for the situation. But now, when Greece persists in her course, not of massacre and rapine, but of establishing the independence of Crete against the Turk, these same “Christian” powers quickly arrive at a plan of concerted actions and force Greece at the muzzle of their guns to desist.
Why is this? Why do the great powers of Christendom act as though the Turk were a being sacred from interference even in the name of justice or humanity, while at the same time they promptly block the way against a “Christian” power engaged in a seemingly laudable undertaking?
The only possible explanation is that for some reason it is believed that interference with the Turk means war, in which the powers themselves would become involved; and the powers are not yet ready for the outbreak. We say, not yet ready; for it is certain that the powers are not averse to war in itself. If they were, there would not be any war. When two nations are both anxious to keep the peace, there is no more danger of war between them than there would be between two peace-loving individuals. Even if one or even two of the “Christian” powers were anxious to fight, if the rest were averse to war, they could by their combined power easily coerce the two belligerents into maintaining the peace. Hence, so far as war in itself is concerned, there is no reason for the persistent and extraordinary friendship of the powers for the Turk.
But with a general war, there will come an alteration of the map of Europe; and this is the overshadowing consideration with the powers. Some nations will gain by the change and some will not. It is generally agreed that the European domain of the “sick man” will be “thrown open to settlement” by the powers, and possibly some valuable territory in other quarters; and the supreme question is, which of the powers will be most successful in the “grab” for these new possessions. They are in no danger of losing territory that they now own; they do not fear any invasion of that, save as a possible result of quarreling over a division of the spoils. No one of the powers cares to go to war with any of the others, save as a last resort. But they do want new territory and new sources of revenue, and these are to be obtained out of districts which none of the powers now rule. Each one is determined to get its “share” of the spoils, and each is determined that the others shall have only what it considers their “share.” Each one wants to define its own share and also the shares of the others. Each one covets the same prize. Each one is determined that above all things, it must not be behind in the race for territorial arrandizement. This is a misfortune to be avoided at any cost.
As the situation now stands, the powers are afraid, individually, that they are not prepared to get what they want should the redistribution of territory now take place. They want no war just now, but a little longer time to prepare, by diplomacy and an increase of armament, to reap the fullest advantage when the fateful hour arrives.
In a word, it is covetousness that constitutes the secret spring of action in the strange friendship of the “Christian” powers for the “unspeakable Turk.” Covetousness is the dominating principle in “Christendom” to-day.