People best remember their own experience and the recent past--a "framing effect" that behavioral scientists have successfully applied to the study of finance. These historians look beyond the recent Western "frame" at Middle East history, exposing the falsity of Arab claims that the region was illicitly colonized: in fact Arab and Ottoman rulers were the true architects of the modern Middle East.
Hardly isolated from Europe, the Ottoman empire often called great Western powers to its aide: Napoleon Bonaparte's 1789 conquest of Egypt prompted Sultan Selim III to declare Jihad against the French and join the infidel British and Russian empires to keep his own in tact. In 1804, the Russian and Austrian empires similarly guaranteed the Ottoman empire's integrity. A falling out with Russia produced an Ottoman treaty with the British in 1809. And so on.
Arab and Ottoman pleas brought Britain to Egypt too. The British, French and Ottoman empires originally opposed the Suez Canal, which they feared would violate Ottoman integrity, harming overland trade routes to Asia. But successive Egyptian khedives pushed the idea, concessions for which the Sultan ratified in 1866. Khedive Ismail's bribes to Abdul Hamid II brought Egypt to near-bankruptcy; he sold his Suez shares to Britain in 1875. In the following upheaval, the Sultan begged Britain to take control of Egypt. Prime Minister Gladstone refused. Only renewed Ottoman pleas convinced the reluctant British to send a naval squadron to quell an Egyptian rebellion in 1882--ironically making Britain the Canal's chief beneficiary, an entanglement from which she tried mightily to withdraw. The Sultan snubbed Britain's offer to give Egypt back.
Similarly, Ottoman escapades redrew Europe's map. In 1854, the Ottomans aligned with Britain and France against Russia in the Crimea--beginning a war that they theoretically could not win--only to harness the great powers and fight "as a full-fledged member" of the coalition. Russia left Serbia, Moldavia and southern Bessarabia (seized in 1812); the Black Sea was neutralized. Eventually, Romania emerged, triggering a Balkan eruption. In 1875, the Ottomans met new Balkan threats with harsh reprisals culminating in bloodbaths. Abdul Hamid II balked at proposed British and Russian solutions. The resulting war cost the Ottomans more territory. Ottoman Europe fell after the Balkan War in 1913.
Yet Europe's great powers remained loathe to devour the Ottoman carcass, by then controlled by the Young Turks. Russia even offered to go to war to prevent another power from taking Constantinople. In 1914, despite secret Ottoman-German and Ottoman-Bulgarian alignments, the triple Entente again guaranteed Ottoman territorial integrity--in exchange for Ottoman neutrality, which Enver Pasha violated, weighing into World War I on the losing side. The Arabs willingly followed.
In short, the Ottomans, with Arab support, brought ruin on themselves--by pursuing an imperialist World War I plan to again expand the empire, a catastrophe ironically exacerbated by their wins at Gallipolli and Mesopotamia, and territorial gains from Russia's 1917 withdrawal.
Europe cannot be blamed, either, for the Ottoman genocide of 1.4 million Armenian men, women and children; the slaughter of 150,000 Christians in Assyria; or the order to deport from Palestine all non-Ottoman subjects among 100,000 Jews there, which took 10,000 Jewish civilian lives before the Germans and U.S. intervened.
The Arabs emerged decided victors: Sharif Hussein of Mecca convinced the British (falsely) that he had full Arab backing for a Caliphate to replace the Ottoman empire--creating lasting friction among Arabs and between Arabs and the West. His rule would exclude Palestine (then running from the Mediterranean to all of current-day Jordan)--which Hussein, negotiator Muhammed Faruqi and the de Bunsen Committee all accepted in 1917, despite Hussein's later denials. Yet Hussein four sons would rule Arabia, Iraq, upper Mesopotamia and Syria. The Saudis took Arabia. Faisal lost Syria, but took Iraq. Abdullah got what Hussein had previously agreed was off limits --- 75% of Palestine.
You get here the big picture: Ottoman and Arab empire-building, war-mongering, calumny, double-dealing and perfidy probably had more effect on the modern Middle East than anything else.
--- Alyssa A. Lappen