THE FOREIGN OFFICE did not take Marmaduke Pickthall seriously as a British emissary to dissident Turks, and eventually it ceased to take J. R. Pilling seriously either. At first it approved the mission of American ambassador Henry Morgenthau, but when it decided his mission would not bear fruit, it dispatched Chaim Weizmann to cut him off. But the Foreign Office took Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert very seriously indeed. When Herbert made his trip to Switzerland in July 1917 to meet with Turks, he carried with him the good wishes of some of the War Cabinet, of the foreign secretary, Balfour, and of other important Foreign Office figures. Like Pickthall, Pilling, and Morgenthau before him, however, Herbert ran into fierce opposition. In the end it proved too much even for him.
We have previously caught glimpses of Herbert: as a young honorary attaché in Constantinople along with the two men who became his friends, George Lloyd and Mark Sykes; as a Conservative Turcophile MP who joined the Anglo-Ottoman Soceity; as an army intelligence officer in Cairo in 1915; and as a supporter of Marmaduke Pickthall one year later. Now he moves to the center of our narrative.
He came from an august family. His father, the fourth Earl of Carnarvon, served Lord Derby as secretary of state for the colonies, and Disraeli as lord lieutenant of Ireland. His half brother discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. Tall and slim, with thick, wiry, untamable hair that turned gray during the war, an aquiline nose, and gray, heavy-lidded eyes, he explored the Middle East and the Balkans as a young man, gaining a reputation for bravery, kindness, eccentricity, and dash even among the Albanian bandits who befriended him—and yet he was nearly blind. In 1913 came a startling inquiry from Tirana, the Albanian capital: Would he accept the Albanian throne? He wanted to, but the British government would not let him. He knew and admired Young Turk leaders and remained in touch with them right up until the moment Enver arranged the fateful alliance with Germany. “He loved to dare;1 he loved adventure; he loved to let people off and to give,” Desmond MacCarthy wrote of him, shortly after his friend’s untimely death at forty-four in 1924. John Buchan, who modeled his eponymous hero, Sandy Arbuthnot, after Herbert in the thriller Greenmantle, adds: “He was the most2 extraordinary combination of tenderness and gentleness, with the most insane gallantry that I have ever known—a sort of survivor from crusading times.”
Herbert joined the House of Commons as Conservative member for South Somerset in 1911, but he was no party man. He sent a telegram of support to the foundation meeting of Dusé Mohamed Ali’s League of Justice. During the war he gave money to an impecunious member of the league, one Charles Rosher, who happened to be the subject of British government surveillance (which is how we know of Herbert’s generosity). The Conservative Party hierarchy did not know what to make of him; he had no desire to climb or to ingratiate himself; he seemed to them almost indifferent. Desmond MacCarthy judged that he was “the kind of man3 whom professional politicians do not fear because the hearts of such are clearly not ‘in the game’; or rather because they only fight for what they immensely care for and while the impulse is hot within them.”
When the war began, Herbert contrived, despite his near blindness, to join the Irish Guards “by the simple4 method of buying himself a second lieutenant’s uniform and falling in as the regiment boarded ship for France.” This sounds more like family legend than truth, but however he obtained the uniform, he took part in Britain’s first engagement with the Germans, at Mons, and fell wounded. The Germans took him prisoner. In a characteristic passage, Herbert wrote of his experience: “It is only fair5 to say that both on the battlefield and subsequently we were all shown courtesy and great kindness by the Germans, from all ranks to all ranks; and from Prussians and Bavarians alike.” When the French counterattacked, they freed him. Soon he was back in London, in hospital, recuperating. He appears to have been the first British MP to take part in combat during World War I; almost certainly he was the first to take a bullet.
Once he recovered, the government sent him to a part of the world he knew well, Cairo, to work for army intelligence. Serendipitously he traveled out to Egypt with another intelligence officer, his friend George Lloyd, aboard the ship India. “Oh Mark,”6 he wrote to Sykes upon arrival, “here is a beginning. I left England in an historic gale. The Ship rolled 37 degrees. She could only roll 44. We went down to the sea that was near as a lion behind his bars.” In Cairo he settled in with the others at Shepherd’s Hotel. He recorded his impressions of fellow intelligence officers in his diary. Of T. E. Lawrence, who arrived the day after he did, he observed shrewdly: “an odd gnome,7 half cad, with a touch of genius.” The two men became fast friends.
Herbert took part in the Cairo discussions about how to deal with then-sharif9 Hussein. He read the McMahon-Hussein letters. He wanted Britain to support the Arab Revolt. He knew, too, about the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which he opposed, even though his friend was its joint author. He wrote to Sykes, not specifically about the treaty with France but about British war aims: “We have not gone8 out for loot but to protect small people.” Britain, he was clear, should not annex new territory in Syria, and he regretted that the French intended to annex it for themselves. Already he was thinking that Britain should negotiate a separate peace with the Ottomans and was wondering whether the authorities in Egypt, should they make contact, had authority to carry on discussions with Turkish representatives. On June 22, 1915, he wrote from Cairo to another friend, Robert Cecil, newly installed in the Foreign Office: “Suppose we are able to advance, and by, say, 1st August, find ourselves in the position that the Turkish Government … believes to be formidable, and a Turk comes in from my friend Talaat (or it may be from the Liberals), and says ‘We will let you through [the Dardanelles] on such-and-such terms,’ does G.H.Q. here know what terms we are prepared to accept and has it got the power of negotiating?” At this stage, the answer to his percipient query was negative: “If … at any time any proposal for surrender by the Turks were to reach us, we should have to submit it to the Russians before accepting it, and it is therefore impossible to give to anyone out there a free hand, as you desire.”
At the end of 1915 Herbert returned to London, in part to push for reorganization of the Cairo intelligence bureau into the Arab Bureau, as Mark Sykes, Gilbert Clayton, and others on the spot wanted. But he did not forget the possibility of a separate peace with Turkey. In February 1916 he lunched with Maurice Hankey, secretary of the War Council, who told him “2 things were in10 the air: a separate peace with Turkey on the one hand, [and] on the other a speeding up of our attack on Turkey to help the Russians at Erzerum.” British pursuit of the second option led to the ill-fated campaign at Gallipoli. Britain declined to pursue the first, Herbert records Hankey as saying, “on the ground that … the attempt would only cause friction with Russia.” Herbert argued the point, keeping Robert Cecil’s strictures in mind. He wanted a British soldier (himself?) to tell the Russians: “We all want to finish the war, and the quickest way is to get rid of unnecessary enemies. Begin with the Turks … Make your own terms with the Turks, or let us make terms but only such as are completely satisfactory to you.” He would “put the case very friendly but bluffly.” Hankey did not bite.
During the next year Herbert served his country in various capacities: on a secret mission to Albania; as a liaison officer at Gallipoli; and in Mesopotamia, where he and Lawrence were sent to bribe the Turkish troops besieging Kut to let the British go (they would not). On one of his trips, passing through Paris, he met with Rechid Bey, the man who approached Grant Duff in Berne in January 1915. At the Hotel du Louvre, after having “passed down corridors11 that smelt like the parrot house at the Zoo,” the two men found a quiet spot to talk. Regretfully Herbert “told him that I thought there was nothing to be done at the present moment. That the sound of battle drowned everything else … those who loved his countrymen best were thinking of their own country now, and mourning their own relations, and … no one would dream of taking any risk of alienating an ally [Russia] on the chance of getting Turkey out at this moment.”
Eighteen months later things had changed. Millions had perished. Russia, now led by Kerensky, no longer claimed Constantinople or any other territory. Britain no longer thought it could force a passage through the Dardanelles. Herbert judged that the time to push for a separate peace with Turkey was finally ripe. And when he broached the possibility this time, the authorities did not turn their backs; quite the opposite.
So far was Aubrey Herbert from being a conventional Tory that by spring 1917 he had begun to think not merely that Britain should sign a separate peace with Turkey but that she should negotiate an end to the war altogether. Otherwise, he predicted to George Lloyd, “we shall simply12 pass from a European war to European Revolution. You have two civilizations fighting each other, each exhausting their resources … I do not know that the last lap of victory will make very much difference.” Had he known Harry Sacher and Leon Simon, he would have agreed with them that the future lay with the opponents of war and imperialism. He sympathized to a degree with such figures; at any rate he thought it only realistic to accommodate them, and he did not hesitate to say so. When he bumped into a businessman he knew at the Travelers’ Club “going profiteering to Liverpool,” he said to him: “‘Time’s up for you13 rich men. If I were you I should be trembling in my shoes, and I should do something very spectacular in the way of charity to save my neck.’” The man turned pale and asked what kind of charity. “I said: ‘Something respectable, like orphans.’” A few months later he was equally indiscreet in Paris with the British ambassador, who called him a “dangerous pacifist14 Turcophile lunatic in khaki.”
Herbert thought that whatever its architects had planned, the war spelled the end of traditional imperialism and territorial carve-ups. Britain would now seriously consider a separate peace with Turkey, he judged, not merely because the Russians had repudiated annexations, and because Allied generals had given up hope of forcing the Dardanelles, and because people in general had wearied of the war, but also because British leaders were abandoning their imperialist ambitions, including those enunciated in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Interestingly, his friend Sykes’s mind was traveling down a similar path with regard to imperialism, although not with regard to the separate peace.
Meanwhile the mind of the government likewise was exploring these paths. With regard to the separate peace, neither Pickthall nor Pilling nor Morgenthau had been the person it required. Aubrey Herbert, however, was neither a dreamy novelist, nor a disreputable businessman, nor an indiscreet American former ambassador. He was a Conservative MP, the son of an earl, with extensive experience of the Ottoman Empire. “Yesterday, I had the last of a long series of conversations with R[obert] C[ecil] about getting the Turks out of the war,” he recorded in his diary on June 3, 1917. “I sketched a plan, which he agreed.” Three days later he wrote: “My departure practically agreed to by the Foreign Office,” and two days after that: “I saw Lord Hardinge …, and settled the details of my journey to Switzerland.” (Again, at almost exactly the same time as it was preparing to dispatch Herbert, the Foreign Office was reassuring Chaim Weizmann and James Malcolm that it would not consider a separate peace with Turkey.)
Herbert would not leave for weeks yet; he still had to convince the biggest guns. On July 415 he met with the foreign secretary himself. At Balfour’s request he prepared a memorandum explaining what Britain had to gain from a separate peace with Turkey: “We should free troops16 in Egypt, Salonika and Mesopotamia … We should avoid a position in Mesopotamia that may become dangerous in the autumn. We should be concentrating instead of dissipating our forces … the position of Bulgaria would become precarious and the desire for peace in Vienna would be increased.” Oddly, he did not touch upon what the government considered to be “the strongest point17 of all in favor of a separate peace with Turkey, namely that it means the complete defeat of Germany’s Near Eastern and Middle Eastern aspirations, and would undoubtedly cause the gravest unease and possible disturbance in Germany.”
For that reason in addition to the others, then, Balfour and most of his colleagues were inclined to smile upon Herbert’s offer to meet Turkish emissaries in Switzerland (regardless of what they might say simultaneously to Zionists and Armenians). They had another reason too. During May, June,18 and July 1917 they kept receiving reports that important Ottoman figures likewise were thinking about peace. These reports culminated in a cable from Rumbold in Switzerland, who had learned from Dr. Parodi that on June 27 prominent Turks in that country had formed an Ottoman League of Peace and Liberation, whose aim was to overthrow the CUP and to negotiate peace with Britain. They had chosen Rechid Bey as19 their president and Kemal Midhat Bey, a former Albanian minister of public works, to be their secretary. Soon thereafter important Turks began arriving in Zurich. “I am taking steps,”20 Rumbold assured London, “to try and find out if possible [the] results of any meeting these persons hold, as I am informed on good authority that their presence in this country indicates probable peace proposal from Turkey.”
“Taking steps” meant asking Dr. Parodi to look further into the matter. The British agent did so, and within the week Rumbold was reporting that the Turks had met in Zurich on July 9 or 10. One of their leaders, Fethy Bey, formerly the Ottoman minister in Sofia, wanted to meet Dr. Parodi in person, and moreover, “a member of the Committee21 of Union and Progress who is in opposition to … Enver Pasha is coming to Switzerland, and the friends of the person in question have sounded Dr. Parodi as to whether this Turkish delegate could meet some prominent Englishman in this country.”
The visible outlines of a crucial nexus now grew clear to the men in London. An important Ottoman wished to meet an important Briton in Switzerland to broach the separate peace; an important Briton, Aubrey Herbert, wished to meet an important Ottoman for the very same reason. On July 14 Herbert left for Switzerland. He spent twenty-four hours in the French capital and then entrained to Berne, where he consulted with Rumbold and Parodi among others, finally stopping at Geneva, where, on the evening of July 17, he took a room at the Hôtel de la Cloche. We turn now to Herbert’s diary:
Next morning [I] was22 woken up at 6.30 by a man who said: “Mr. Smith is waiting for you.” I said: “Tell Mr. Smith to go to the devil,” but then remembered and got up and went out and ran into a black man. I found out afterwards that he was the nephew of the ex-khedive [of Egypt], and also of the present Sultan [of Egypt]. He told me that a car should wait for me at three that afternoon … At 3, Mr. Smith walked through the room, and I followed him out through a couple of streets to a car, and we went off to his flat. Nobody lived there as far as I could make out, and it was unfurnished except for one oriental picture.
Into this safe house, Herbert records, walked “my friend.” He does not identify him in the diary. In the memorandum he prepared afterward he wrote only: “He comes from one23 of the best and most honourable families of his country; in looks he is like a typical Englishman of the public school class and he talks perfect English.”
This gentleman began their conversation: “How are you, Aubrey Herbert? I hope your wound is better. You must have had a filthy time with the Germans.” Herbert made his position clear: He was in Switzerland for his health, he had no authorization to discuss anything in particular, and the opinions he expressed would be his alone. His friend made like protestations. They got down to business.
For the last year [his friend] had devoted himself to organizing an Anglophil party to bring Turkey and England together after the war. This party was now very strong and with help they could effect a change of Government … He said that the autonomy of the outlying provinces, Armenia, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine, was acceptable to his friends and part of their programme … I asked him what was meant by autonomy … He said that it did mean certainly the Turkish flag and, he thought, garrisons. I answered that, if the occupation was effective, it would mean that there was no real autonomy—for which we were fighting, and that weak garrisons would be an irritation to the native population, and a source of anxiety and possibly of humiliation to the Turkish Government. He said that he was inclined to agree with [my] reservations, but that he would find it very difficult to put this to his own people … He suggested that the Egyptian status quo ante might be a satisfactory compromise.
The Egyptian status quo ante meant the fig leaf of Turkish control with Britain pulling the strings, as it had done in Egypt since Gladstone’s day. This would have satisfied Sacher and Simon, but it would have been anathema to Weizmann and his followers.
When the discussion ended, Herbert found his way back to the hotel by a circuitous route. He would have been pleased with what had taken place, but he was not yet finished. Next morning he consulted again with Parodi. They traveled together by train to Interlaken, “where we separated at the station. I went to the Kursaal [then a spa, today a casino] and in a short time P. came along and sat down with a couple of Turks, both Committee men, at a table near me. He introduced me, and we had an extremely curious conversation. They had come from a conversation at Zurich [the one reported on by Parodi to Rumbold and by Rumbold to the Foreign Office], and were anxious to have a revolution in Turkey.”
In a second memorandum Herbert gave further details. The Turks were Hakki Halid Bey, ex-director of the mint at Constantinople, now living in Geneva, and Dr. Noureddin Bey, an influential member of the CUP and director of a Constantinople hospital, who had arrived in Switzerland only two weeks before. He was the anti-Enver CUP member who had expressed the desire to meet an influential Englishman.
“We then went24 walking in the garden which was completely deserted,” Herbert continued. “Dr. Parodi at first talked to Noureddin Bey while I walked with Hakki Halid. The following is a précis of our conversations.”
There are, they said, two parties in the Committee, one composed of Enver’s men, while the others were waiting for Talaat to lead them. Talaat was hanging back, waiting for his position to become more assured … The Anglophil party are afraid of two things … the guillotine and the partition of Turkey. They want moral and financial support from England and guarantees that there will be no complete partition amongst the powers of Turkey. Hakki Halid and Dr. Noureddin asked me if I had any idea as to the terms upon which Great Britain would be prepared to make a separate peace … I answered that I did not know what terms the British Government would desire and that I was not authorized to discuss this question. Hakki Halid said that they did not wish to negotiate with the Italians or the Russians and that they preferred to negotiate with us rather than with the French.
They proposed (and this proposal emanated from the Conference and possibly indirectly from Talaat) that Noureddin Bey should return to Turkey where he would see Talaat. Talaat would then appoint an authoritative person with credentials who would journey to Switzerland on the ground of ill-health accompanied by Dr. Noureddin as his physician … On arriving in Switzerland this envoy would enter into direct relations with the British Government.
The stroll in the garden ended. Talking it over a little later, Herbert and Parodi concluded that the suggestions had been made in good faith and that Noureddin probably had been sent to Switzerland by Talaat, because “directly he arrived here in Switzerland Hakki Halid Bey communicated to Dr. Parodi Noureddin’s desire to see him, and if possible, some influential Englishman.”
Herbert argued in his memorandum that Britain now had a golden opportunity to take the Ottoman Empire out of the war. “As long as the Turks believe that the outlying provinces such as Syria … are to be annexed by foreigners who will make these regions the instruments of further encroachment, there can be no prospect of peace. If, on the other hand, the Turks see a chance … that their country will be ringed round by a chain of semi-autonomous friendly Moslem States, half the reason that compelled them to continue fighting will have gone.” He wanted Britain to make its allies “surrender claims to territories which they cannot take themselves, and which it is doubtful they could hold even if we could take them for them.” An agreement with the Ottomans would follow.
Herbert thought his mission complete. He packed his bag and prepared to leave for Paris. Twenty minutes before his train arrived, perhaps even as he stood on the station platform, someone slipped a memorandum in French into his hands. It contained the dissident Turks’ proposals for a separate peace. “I do not think25 that it is acceptable,” Herbert wrote in his diary, “but I think that it would form a basis.”
He arrived in Paris on the morning of July 25, two days after Weizmann. Lloyd George and Balfour were in the city, as we know. The latter sent for him. Herbert records: “I told him what happened. He was interested and excited … In the evening I had an hour with L[loyd] G[eorge] and Hankey. He sipped his tea and listened while we sat on a balcony and the crowd cheered in the Place de la Concorde … I read him my memorandum.” What he did not know, but what would have cheered him had he known, was that the day before the prime minister and the foreign secretary had received confirmation of his general message from another Military Intelligence officer stationed in Berne. The latter had held a secret meeting with Dr. Noureddin too. He reported: “Talaat now convinced26 that Russian revival, failure of submarine warfare, and American intervention have destroyed all hope of satisfactory settlement for Turkey and … wishes to … make terms with England.” Such information would not have cheered Dr. Weizmann, but they withheld it from him too.
In London three days later Herbert had an hour at the Foreign Office with Balfour again, accompanied this time by Lord Hardinge and Robert Cecil. On August 3 MacDonagh told him that the War Cabinet “had seen my memorandum and agreed to it.” At this stage Herbert might have been excused for thinking that a compromise peace between Britain and the Ottoman Empire was within reach. But he would have been mistaken. The same forces that had defeated Pickthall and Pilling and Morgenthau had already mobilized against him. Whether Aubrey Herbert’s attempt to facilitate a separate peace with Turkey would meet finally with his government’s approval remained an open question.
The Foreign Office received conflicting information on the readiness of the Turks to negotiate. While some, as we have seen, thought the Ottomans were prepared to talk, powerful forces in London argued with equal force that they were not. Among the most authoritative was Lord Nathaniel Curzon, the only member of the War Cabinet with personal experience of the Middle East. Early in May, as reports about Turkish readiness to negotiate were turning from a trickle to a stream, and as pressure to explore the option was building in the Foreign Office, he argued that the advocates of peace were pursuing a chimera. Turkey “now knows that she27 will retain Constantinople … Her Government is in the hands of a powerful triumvirate whose hold [on power] … has, on the whole, been strengthened by the War. The Entente has at present nothing in the way of inducement to offer.” British restoration to the Ottomans of Mesopotamia, including Baghdad, might open the door to negotiations, Curzon conceded, but such concessions “we are not prepared to consider.”
Other Middle East experts from within the Foreign Office reached similar conclusions. On the eve of Herbert’s journey to Switzerland, Balfour asked two of them to assess his chances of success. The first did not28 think much of those chances. The German army dominated the Turkish government, he argued, and a coup remained unlikely so long as they did so. Moreover no Turkish government, not even one formed by the conspirators who so unrealistically wished to overthrow the present CUP regime, would accept dismemberment of their empire, which England and France still intended. The second expert, Sir Lewis Mallet, former ambassador in Constantinople, made similar points. The CUP still believed it could win the war. It had lost Baghdad, but it had beaten the British at Kut and Gallipoli and Gaza. That the new Russian government had renounced Constantinople only added to their confidence. “It is not impossible,”29 Mallet darkly hinted, “that there may be some connection between the Jewish wire-pullers at Constantinople and the Jewish element at Petrograd.” At any rate, the Turks would not be ready to make peace until their self-belief had been knocked out of them.
Into this debate like an avenging angel swept Sir Mark Sykes, just returned from the Middle East on June 14. He judged the opponents of the separate peace bloodless; he thought the first Foreign Office memo opposing the separate peace tepid and the second based upon “insufficient material.” He despised Lord Curzon, whom he had nicknamed “Alabaster.” If the faction within the government and Foreign Office who favored the peace were to be defeated, he would have to intervene. He wrote to Gilbert Clayton back in Cairo: “On my arrival I found30 that the Foreign Office had been carefully destroying everything I had done in the past 2 years.” It had been “stimulating anti-Entente feeling and pushing separate negotiations with Turkey ideas. Indeed I just arrived in the nick of time.” He consulted with Weizmann, who already had protested the Morgenthau and Herbert missions. “Luckily Zionism held good,” Sykes wrote to Clayton. He gathered himself. Weizmann went off to Gibraltar and Herbert to Switzerland. Each returned at the end of July thinking he had succeeded. Sykes knew better: Weizmann’s would be a Pyrrhic victory unless Herbert’s triumph could be turned into a defeat.
So he let loose, composing two powerful blasts against pursuing negotiations with an emissary from Talaat in Switzerland. His friend Herbert’s mission had been misconceived from the start. “The visit of a31 (to the Turks) notorious Turcophil M.P. to Turkish Agents in Switzerland will certainly be interpreted by the C.U.P. as a proof … that … the English and their Western Allies believe they cannot win the war.” Rather than bring peace closer, Herbert had inadvertently delayed it. In any event, the men with whom Herbert proposed that Britain should parley did not carry sufficient weight. “Hakki Bey, the ex-master of the Turkish mint, is a well intentioned Liberal who had to flee Turkey for participation in an anti-C.U.P. combination. To negotiate with him or such members of the so-called ‘opposition’ is futile or worse. They are not of the caliber to cope with Talaat Pasha and his Jacobin clique.”
Others in the Foreign Office either did not think, or did not care, about how the colonized peoples of the Ottoman Empire would react to Britain making a compromise peace with their colonial masters. The new, anti-imperialist Sykes cared very much. “Before entering on pourparlers,” he warned in the same scorching memorandum, “it would seem imperative to consult not only France, Italy, America &c, but also the King of Hejaz, representative Armenians and nationalist (i.e.) Zionist Jews, to whom we and the other Entente Powers have obligations and whose fate is bound up with the principle of nationality, the antidote to Prussian military domination.” This intriguing man’s political evolution was nearly complete. In early 1916 he had put his name to one of the most infamous imperialist deals of the twentieth century; by mid-1917 he had become the advocate of subject peoples whom he wanted his country to champion, albeit with profit for itself.
In a second equally coruscating composition, Sykes shifted ground, arguing that the anti-CUP Liberals with whom Aubrey Herbert had met were actually CUP cats’ paws. Perhaps the Ottoman government did desire a separate peace: How else explain why its puppets in Britain, “pacifists … financiers … Indian and Egyptian Moslem seditionists and their sympathizers such as Pickthall … [as well as] Semitic anti-Zionists who are undisguised pro-Turco-Germans,” were pushing for one? The government that pulled their strings believed the peoples of Europe were exhausted by the war, that a peace conference would soon end it, and that “it will be useful to get Turkey’s situation fixed and settled as advantageously as possible before the conference begins.”
How did the CUP want to fix things? It desired “to come out of this war with an assured political and strategic position from which it can henceforth pursue its world policy,” the main lines of which were:
1. Pan-Turanianism, reinforced by
2. Political control over the Muslim world.
3. A firm grip on the control levers of international finance.
4. Close cooperation with the various revolutionary movements in Europe and the United States, such as syndicalism, Leninism, and cognate forces.
If Britain must negotiate with the Ottomans, she should do so only with the knowledge of her wartime allies and without employing any trickery. More important, she “should stand out for Arab independence [and] … a real guarantee of Armenian liberation,” his new diplomatic raison d’être. Oddly, he did not refer to Palestine in this paper. Perhaps he assumed that “Arab independence” meant Palestinian independence too, and that the Zionists would benefit from that.
After reading Sykes’s second memorandum, two more Foreign Office mandarins weighed in. One wrote: “I find myself in32 close agreement with what Sir Mark Sykes says.” The other, Sir Ronald Graham, Herbert’s cousin, backtracked on his support for the separate peace: “If the present Turkish overtures are genuine—as to which I have grave doubts—we must encourage them to the extent (but no further) of hearing what the Turks have to offer … It must throughout be borne in mind that any terms under which Turkey would emerge with a semblance of having proved victorious—in Moslem eyes—must lay up endless trouble for us in the future.” With Sykes at full throttle, the tide at the Foreign Office seemed to be turning. A few days later, when Herbert had an audience with General Jan Smuts, this most recent addition to the War Cabinet told him that his memoranda “were not sufficient,33 that an entire restatement of the case was required.” Herbert demurred. He could read the tea leaves.
The British government divided at the highest level over whether to send representatives to Switzerland to meet emissaries from Talaat Pasha to discuss a separate peace. How it might have resolved that internal argument must remain a matter of speculation, however, for developments beyond Britain’s control now intruded. In Petrograd Alexander Kerensky still hoped to win the war, but by ordering, contrary to all logic and evidence, that his troops take the offensive once again, he precipitated the final collapse of the Russian army and his own downfall. General Brusilov’s weary, famished, disillusioned soldiers gave it up near Lemberg in Galicia, just as Sykes and the other officials were composing their memoranda. This defeat had the effect of instilling new confidence among Turks. While London divided over Aubrey Herbert’s proposals, Constantinople began to plot an autumn campaign to recapture Arabia, without worrying that the Russians would attack from behind. Parodi, his ear to the ground as always, reported to Rumbold, who wired to London: “Talaat has no intention34 of seriously considering separate peace with the Entente … he will await result of Mesopotamian campaign in early autumn.”
Near the end of August, Herbert called on Lord Hardinge at the Foreign Office, hoping against hope for news from his Turkish contacts. “I told him,”35 Hardinge records, “that as far as I knew nothing had occurred.” “The man who was Greenmantle,” as his biographer called him, had not been able to jump-start negotiations about a separate peace with Turkey after all.