The Goeben

I was remiss in my blog about the terrible “Ifs”.  I should have explained where the quote came from because it is extremely important.  It came from Winston Churchill’s diary and his views of an event that took place at the very beginning of the first World War.  Historical events are notorious for “ifs” after the fact.  We live with the results of history always after the fact, and to recreate the chain of events and come to a different conclusion is the stuff of science fiction and that is why it is so entertaining.

The accumulations of the terrible Ifs took place because of the escape of a powerful German battleship in the Mediterranean and her arrival in Constantinople that brought Turkey into the War on the side of Germany.  Turkey was a part of the Ottoman Empire which was a symbol of Islamic expansionism but by the 1900’s was considered “the sick man” of Europe.  About the time of the beginning of WWI Turkey was on the rise thanks to the leadership of what were called the “young Turks”.  No amount of rising would help them shed the titles and sobriquets given them by the British.  Churchill called it “scandalous, crumbling, decrepit, penniless Turkey” and according to British Lord Gladstone they were the “one great anti-human specimen of humanity”.  The mess that would become the Balkans and the fuse that lit the war at Sarajevo was laid at the door of the “Turk”.  Because of the mutual dislike between Britain and Russia and Turkey the first thing the Germans did was to make sure the Turks were on their side.  So they sent a battleship called the Goeben.  She was chased around the Mediterranean and Adriatic by the British Navy but escaped by a series of miscommunications, misunderstandings, and sheer bureaucratic stupidity and so Turkey entered the War and Russia was cut off from any ability to get out of a warm water port.

Barbra Tuchman in her great book “The Guns of August” wrote, “The cutting off of Russia with all its consequences, the vain and sanguinary tragedy of Gallipoli, the diversion of Allied strength in the campaigns of Mesopotamia, Suez, and Palestine, the ultimate breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent history of the Middle East, followed from the voyage of the Goeben”.  She understand the accumulation of the Ifs.  Churchill goes through his list in his memoirs.  One if leads to another.  Following the Ifs leads to interesting conclusions that can’t be refuted because we will never know.  I can say that if the Goeben had  been stopped in 1914 in the Mediterranean we would not be seeing our Navy harassed in the straights of Hormuz in 2017.  The entire structure of the Mideast would be different.

Now we think of our lives and the accumulation of the dreadful Ifs when our conscience accuses us.  “If” is the great enemy.  “If I would have said goodbye instead of slamming the door in anger they would have known I loved them before they died in a car crash”, was one I heard.  If I had brought my children to church and Sunday School is one I hear a lot.  If I had only …… you fill in the blanks.  Think of the “ifs” Jesus faced…. “If you are the Son of God”…

You can’t avoid the accumulation of Ifs in your life because of sin.  We can avoid their condemnation by the forgiveness we receive in the Gospel.