Monday, 3 March 2014

Missed Opportunities

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyages of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

So wrote William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3, lines 218-224.
This is as true of nations as of individuals. Here are four examples.

In 1775, the Continental Congress of America offered the British Government the Olive Branch Petition. It proposed loyalty in exchange for trade and tax reform. King George III, however, refused to even read it and instead issued his Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition. This missed opportunity resulted in the permanent partition of the Anglo-Saxon nation.

Likewise, in March 1915, another missed opportunity resulted in the eventual partition of Cyprus. Britain was desperate for Greece to enter the First World War as an ally, thereby providing a base from which to attack the Dardenelles. The British colony of Cyprus was offered in return for a Greek declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire. King Constantine I of Greece rejected the offer, which would have resulted in peaceful and permanent Enosis. Eventually, Greece did declare war, in 1917 (after the deposition of Constantine), but it was in exchange for the promise of different territory (Edirne, Izmir and western Thrace).

Another missed opportunity followed in 1921. It resulted similarly in partition, this time of Ireland. Michael Collins negotiated an end to the Irish War of Independence so ineptly that it resulted in an Irish sell-out. Britain would have accepted dominion status for Ireland (instead of the Irish Republic desired by the Nationalists) without partition, but he conceded crassly that as well allegiance to the Crown. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London on December 6, 1921, Lloyd George, the British Prime Minster drank celebratory champagne with his staff, and Cabinet Secretary Tom Jones, declared “We gave almost nothing!”

In July 1946, a further missed opportunity caused the partition of India. The Muslim League accepted Britain’s Cabinet Mission plan for an independent all India Union of autonomous provinces. Nehru, Leader of the Congress Party, however, fatefully rejected it. Communal violence and partition ensued rapidly with India and Pakistan developing into hostile nuclear powers. The centuries old unity of the Indian sub-continent was destroyed.

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