Reflections of War: The U.S. Consulate During World War I

By Jameel Haque
Submitted to Session P4972 (Transactions of Knowledge and Power: East-West and West-East, 2017 Annual Meeting
Iraq; Ottoman Empire;
19th-21st Centuries; Ethnic Groups; Foreign Relations; Globalization; Ottoman Studies; South Asian Studies; Trade/Investment;
LCD Projector without Audio;
During World War I, the US consulate was the only continuously operating Western diplomatic mission in Ottoman Baghdad. The U.S. consulate in Baghdad, besides their own duties, officially managed the affairs of countries that had withdrawn their diplomats, including France, Great Britain, Spain, Sweden and Austria-Hungary. This paper utilizes an historical approach, drawing on original archival research to examine the variety of roles that the U.S. consulate played in Baghdad during World War I, and analyzing the information recorded by the U.S. State Department concerning local economic conditions, espionage, and politics. The consulate assumed a multiplicity of roles including looking after stranded foreign nationals (particularly British Indians), protesting war-time property seizures, and advocating locally for American and other Western businesses. Consulate documents also provide insight into the conditions of the local economy during wartime, as well as the variety of alleged attempts at espionage undertaken by and against the Ottomans. Another dynamic that emerges from the sources is the economic and political tug of war between the U.S. and the British, after the latter occupy Basra and ultimately, Baghdad. The British use their control to limit all non-British trade for the duration of the war. This dynamic is particularly revealing because it presages the future struggles of the U.S. and Britain for influence and oil in the Middle East during the interwar period and the immediate post World War II period. This paper situates these roles, dynamics, and activities into a larger argument about the degree of American involvement and imperialism in the Middle East before WWI and how the evolution and professionalization of the U.S. State department contributed to this growth. Overall, the paper argues that the maturation of the functions performed by the U.S. consulate in Baghdad during WWI reflect the growth of American imperialism and the professionalization of the Foreign Service in the region