Ottoman-trained political leaders were rarely willing converts to armed insurgency. Given a glimmer of hope that mandate authorities were ready to deal equitably, they wrote petitions, formed delegations, and attempted, repeatedly, to offer reasoned arguments why their claims of self-representation and self-determination were just and fair. These efforts were notably unsuccessful through the two-and-a-half decades of the mandates. But civilian political leaders achieved a few victories in the mandates. King Faysal’s Iraqi kingdom was never as independent as its skeptics hoped, but at least for a time, it appeared more independent and more free than other former Ottoman regions like Syria and Palestine. Other civilian politicians, like Shakib Arslan, and the members of Damascus’ National Bloc, had moments of fleeting triumph. They had few options but to keep trying.
Ex-Ottoman army officers had experienced the British and French as deadly wartime enemies, and pre-war imperial rivals, and took different political lessons. The emergence of the Turkish Republic was a powerful example also. Some, like Fawzi al-Qawuqji, were talented officers but flawed politicians. Others, like Mustafa Kemal, Ibrahim Hananu, or Yasin al-Hashimi, were talented as both military officers and as politicians and were consequently far more threatening to the colonial state than their civilian fellows. Mandate authorities learned quickly who among their enemies and critics demanded to be taken seriously. During a time of violence and war, followed by military occupation and colonial rule, politics demanded a wide tactical repertoire, and arguably people like Hananu, al-Hashimi, and the leaders of the Turkish Republic were formidable because they straddled both worlds. The mandates combined a facade of international concord and legitimacy with a veiled structure of violence and coercion. The mandate’s most formidable challengers knew speeches, petitions, and reasoned calls for rights, justice, and equality would achieve little.