Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: Leadership, Strategy, Conflict, by Edward J. Erickson
An online stranger asked me what I thought about the founder of the Turkish republic, and my response to the immediate query was that I did not know enough about the person to make a reasoned response about my thoughts, but that I would do some reading and get back to him on the matter. This book is at least in partial fulfillment of that promise, and it marks a short and accessible book that covers the high points of Kemal Pasha’s career as it would likely be viewed by someone who was most interested by his military career. There is certainly more to the man than this, but this book is published by a military publisher (Osprey) that focuses on short and easy-to-understood books on military matters and so this book is precisely what would be expected by their target audience. And though the book is far more limited than I would want, it does make for a good introduction to the man in case one wants to figure out whether his life and career are worth knowing better, since there are at least a few cases where Kemal’s career had some intriguing twists and turns.
The book is a short one at just over 50 pages in length. It begins with a short introduction, and then moves on to the early years of Kemal’s life and a discussion of his family background as well as his military education and his enjoyment of the military life as a Late Ottoman officer. After spending some time looking at his early and amateur efforts at clandestine reformist politics, there is a discussion of several hours of destiny that shaped Kemal’s success, including his command of division and corps at Gallipoli, his army command in the Middle East that included a tough fighting retreat against superior forces, and his efforts in preserving the infant Turkish republic after World War I in the face of Allied occupation and various opportunistic invasions on multiple fronts. After that the author discusses the mind of Kemal as well as what he did when the war was over in ruling over the infant Turkish Republic as a dictator until his death. The book then ends with a discussion of his life in words as well as a bibliography and index.
In reading this book, it is clear that the authors view military success as a praiseworthy trait on its own, and it is in this vein that they praise him. The subtitle of the book, which focuses on (military) leadership, (military) strategy, and (military) conflict, gives the reader the understanding about this book’s perspective that is needed to know how to fairly judge its contents. For the most part, this book does a good job at what it sets out to do in talking about a small section of Kemal’s life with a focus on his behavior as a military leader during the period from 1911 to 1923 or so. During this twelve-year period of time Kemal went from being one reformist Turkish officer among many coping with the breakdown of Ottoman power in Libya and the Balkans to a corps and army commander at Gallipoli and the 1918 campaign in Syria-Palestine, as well as his work in preserving the Turkish Republic in the face of the postwar Greek invasion of Anatolia, which was successfully and decisively defeated. Kemal was a successful enough general in his campaigns to be worthy of a work like this, and one can gain at least a few insights from the author’s discussion of these matters.