Not Colonial but Not Much Better: Backwardness and the Quest for Civilization

While colonial empires strove to emphasize the difference between the “ruler” and the “ruled”, modern mobilizational states sought to homogenize the entire population. Modern mobilizational states, such as that of the Soviet Union and to the Kemalist regime, dealt directly with their citizens through destroying traditions and “micro-managing” society. Both the Soviet regime and the Kemalist regime emerged in the disorganization following WWI and both pursued “shock modernization” programs which involved radical and intense intervention in society and culture, including the spread of literacy, secularization, and the integration of women into public life. In the Soviet Union, local nationalist groups were allowed, such as the Jadids, as long as they fit into the structure of the soviet regime. In regards to the “emancipation” of women, both the Jadids and the Bolsheviks attacked the paranji-chachvon (a long robe and veil that completely covered Muslim womens’ bodies) as a health hazard and a means of oppression, and encouraged women to abandon and burn the garments. This campaign against traditional Muslim garb is comparable to the Kemalist regime in that the veil was considered a sign of backwardness and similarly linked to health hazards. The Kemalist regime and the Soviet Union stood at odds to traditional ideas of colonialism in that both regimes attempted to wholly transform Muslim gender norms and the social order, as opposed to simply condemning the norms in order to legitimize their imperial order. In the Soviet Union in particular, there were considerable efforts to deploy state power in order to remake society, an effort towards transformation that was not synonymous with colonial powers. The victims of the cultural revolution were not one group of peoples or a specific ethnic group but the traditional ways of life in general. Although the the Soviet and Kemalist states professed a civilizing mission similar to that of colonial empires, their power was utilized not to exclude people but to force them to participate. Such a goal of integration conflicted with that of colonial empires. However, the seemingly less harmful and often well-intentioned effort to homogenize society did not make the Soviet or Kemalist states any less brutal, aggressive, or invasive than colonial empires. For example, the Kemalist regime brought all education under state supervision and into a secular agenda, banning religious teachings in attempt to coincide the individual’s thinking with national ideals. Such actions, even though the focus is on integration as opposed to segregation, forced people to abruptly abandon cherished traditions and ideals, inevitably encouraging resistance and outrage. While colonial empires employed intermediaries to transform their colonies, modern mobilizational states cut away intermediaries to directly focus state power on transforming the whole of their society, forcing change upon all individuals, not just the “colonized”, and therefore surpassing the ruthlessness of a colonial empire.

Truman’s Ulterior Motives

3 Observations

1. In his address to Congress to request aid for the reconstruction of Greece and Turkey due to the damages done during the Second World War, President Truman justified his request by saying that if the United States didn’t provide assistance to these countries, another power could potentially impose upon their respective sovereignty. He omitted what seemed to be his true intention: the inhibition of communist ideas. He seemed to believe that if the United States did not act promptly, the Soviet Union would instead try to impose communism upon these nations, even though he did not once mention the Soviet Union by name. His true intention was to instill democracy before the USSR could instill communism.

2. It is not uncommon for the President of the United States to request that Congress work with the Executive rather than against it. While most of the time this plea falls upon deaf ears, Truman managed to win the approval of the Legislature with his appeals to preserving the sovereignty of the two countries. He managed to do so with a variety of tactics, the most prominent of which was appealing to Congress’s sympathies with the Greek people, of whom he says “Greece is not a rich country. Lack of sufficient natural resources has always forced the Greek people to work hard to make both ends meet. Since 1940, this industrious and peace loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel enemy occupation, and bitter internal strife.”

3. I must provide credit for the following point to its source: ( This page brought up an interesting point which I felt compelled to include in this post: the Truman Doctrine changed the United States’ policy on foreign involvement. While normally the US tended to keep out of international affairs prior to World War II, Truman’s call for aiding Greece and Turkey caused the US to become more active in shaping the global economy and network.

2 Questions

1. In what way(s) might the Truman Doctrine be considered a factor of the initiation of hostilities between the Soviet Union and the United States?

2. Upon reading the Brezhnev Doctrine, do you think it is a response/reaction to the Truman Doctrine?

Interesting Idea

The Truman Doctrine was seemingly the United States’ first attempt to impose democracy in the Middle East. Not only does the United States provide aid to Turkey in order for the nation to rebuild, but one year after he issued this request to Congress, the United States became the first country to officially recognize the sovereignty of Israel. In quick succession, President Truman established relations with two sovereign nations in this region of the world, perhaps to further prevent the spread of communism.