The Ottomans did attempt to reform themselves on multiple occasions. The entire Tanzimat period from 1839-1876 was marked by extensive efforts to modernize and westernize the Ottoman government. Even before then, though, there were serious attempts to change society. Around the time of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and Syria in 1798, Sultan Selim III sought to modernize the Ottoman Army after the model of the highly successful French army. The Nizam-i-Cedid would have been a modern military force capable of standing up to European armies, unlike the hopelessly antiquated and disorderly Janissaries. Despite his best efforts, though, the Janissaries overthrew him in 1807. His successor, Mahmud II did succeed in reviving the Nizam-i-Cedid after massacring the Janissaries in 1826 (Gelvin 80). At the same time, Mehmet Ali implemented similar, though more successful, reforms in Egypt, then under the at least *de jure* rule of the Sultan. Mehmet Ali's army was perhaps the strongest in the Middle East and his forces intervened on behalf of the Ottoman Empire to crush the revolt in Greece. Despite that strength, though, European militaries were more powerful and at the battle of Navarino, a joint Anglo-Franco-Russian navy defeat...
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...forces (then still under the Sultan) were nearly able to defeat the Greek rebels until the British, French, and Russians united to help the Greeks. Without the Treaty of Balta Liman and the concessions forced out of the Ottoman Empire, they may have been able to develop a modern economy, rather than being indebted to Europe. That would have allowed them to pay for a modern military that could resist European aggression. If not for Western powers short-circuting the defensive developmental plans of the Ottoman Empire. However, it is unrealistic to assume that Europe would have allowed the Ottomans to develop into a modern power--across the world, the major European powers acted to prevent all other countries from becoming their equals. If they had not intervened when they did, they almost certainly would have at some other point in order to assure their dominance.
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