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King George himself was a ruler of large experience, of great practical wisdom, and of fine diplomatic skill. He had shortly before selected as prime minister the former Cretan insurgent, Mr. Eleutherios Venizelos. It is significant that the new premier had also taken the War portfolio. He foresaw the impending conflict--as every wise statesman in Europe had foreseen it--and began to make preparations for it. For the reorganization of the army and navy he secured French and English experts, the former headed by General Eydoux, the latter by Admiral Tufnel. By 1914 it was estimated that the military and naval forces of the country would be thoroughly trained and equipped, and war was not expected before that date. But now in 1912 the hand of the Greek government was forced. And a decision one way or the other was inevitable.
Mr. Venizelos had already proved himself an agitator, an orator, and a politician. He was now to reveal himself not only to Greece but to Europe as a wise statesman and an effective leader of his people. The first test came in his answer to the invitation to join Bulgaria and Servia within three days in a war against Turkey. Of all possibilities open to him Mr. Venizelos rejected the programme of continued isolation for Greece. There were those who glorified it as splendid and majestic: to him under the existing circumstances it seemed stupid in itself and certain to prove disastrous in its results. Greece alone would never have been able to wage a war against Turkey. And if Greece declined to participate in the inevitable conflict, which the action of the two Slav states had only hastened, then whether they won or Turkey won, Greece was bound to lose. It was improbable that the Ottoman power should come out of the contest victorious; but, if the unexpected happened, what would be the position, not only of the millions of Greeks in the Turkish Empire, but of the little kingdom of Greece itself on whose northern boundary the insolent Moslem oppressor, flushed with his triumph over Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro, would be immovably entrenched? On the other hand if these Christian states themselves should succeed, as seemed likely, in destroying the Ottoman Empire in Europe, the Kingdom of Greece, if she now remained a passive spectator of their struggles, would find in the end that Macedonia had come into the possession of the victorious Slavs, and the Great Idea of the Greeks--the idea of expansion into Hellenic lands eastward toward Constantinople--exploded as an empty bubble. It was Mr. Venizelos's conclusion that Greece could not avoid participating in the struggle. Neutrality would have entailed the complete bankruptcy of Hellenism in the Orient. There remained only the alternative of co-operation--co-operation with Turkey or co-operation with the Christian states of the Balkans.
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