A bird’s eye view of intervention with emphasis on Britain, 1875–78
Alexis Heraclides and Ada Dialla
The great power involvement triggered by the Bulgarian atrocities of 1876 was part of a wider international reaction to uprisings in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary and Germany were supportive of mild measures intended to ameliorate the fate of the Bulgarians and other Christians of the Balkans, Russia supported more intrusive measures, while Britain under Disraeli was opposed to all initiatives. In Britain there was a strong wave of support even wider than in the Greek case of the 1820s and it was headed by Gladstone. Members of the Disraeli cabinet were also out of step with their prime minister. Following the abortive Constantinople Conference, the Russians resorted to war against the Ottomans with the benign neutrality of the other powers save Britain. Special emphasis is put in this chapter on Gladstone and British public opinion, which led to a major internal clash in Britain. A basic characteristic of this case was the unprecedented role played by public opinion, especially in the case of Russia and Britain. The 1877 war was at the time not regarded as humanitarian by European contemporary policy-makers but the mood has changed since then and it is included in most lists of humanitarian intervention.
In this chapter the focus is wider, including other aspects of humanitarian intervention and not only diplomatic exchanges and the views of major protagonists. The elements of a rising Russian and European sense of identification and empathy with the suffering is traced and the links and vehicles through which the suffering of ‘strangers’ in the unknown Balkans (the ‘Christian East’ of the Asian Department of the Russian foreign ministry) were brought to the attention of the wider Russian public and not only to elite circles. The chapter concludes with the contemporary critique of Russia’s policy and the questioning of its pure humanitarian motives. More specifically this chapter examines the Russian foreign policy and the Eastern Question; the so-called initial ‘peaceful intervention’ of Russia during the Balkan crisis and the plight of the Bulgarians; the Russo-Ottoman war seen in Russia as ‘a generous crusade’; the role of Russian Panslavism; public opinion in Russia and the Russian-British-American entanglements; the human sympathy of Russian society towards the Slavs; and rethinking the ‘noble cause’.
Among the handful of humanitarian interventions of the nineteenth century, the intervention in Cuba is the most controversial in view of the U.S. reluctance to leave Cuba and the huge advantages accrued, including acquiring even the faraway Philippines. This chapter presents the arguments for or against regarding the U.S. intervention as humanitarian, that are equally balanced and the views of the three sides in this troubled triangle: Cuban independence fighters, Spain and the U.S. (President McKinley, the Senate, key figures, press, public opinion). Then the events leading to the showdown are presented which indicate that the U.S. was until the eve of the war reluctant to intervene militarily if it could be avoided and Cuba pacified. Following the intervention, whose justification was officially mainly humanitarian, the gradual tendency to also ‘grab’ the Philippines is examined in detail and the arguments of the anti-imperialists for this not to happen. The chapter concludes by reassessing the situation, especially as regards the U.S. and concludes with the views of publicists and other commentators then and today which on the whole have failed to agree as to the humanitarian character or not of this case.