How did the Middle
East get to the point where Jews and Muslims are in a fight to the death that
might drag the USA
and its allies and foes into a nuclear conflagration someday?
How did the Middle East get to the point where Muslim fanatics have
dragged Muslim moderates back to medieval times?
And how did the Middle
East get to the point where the USA
has followed France, Britain, Germany
into one quagmire after another?
Among the many
possible answers, one key common answer is religion. It's an answer that many
Americans don't like to hear.
Another key answer is
the imperial folly of the West. That's
another answer that many Americans don't like to hear.
Let's begin with
religion. The inescapable fact is
that the three major religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism have been in
varying degrees of conflict at various times since their respective versions of
a supreme being sprang out of the human imagination (or, if you prefer, was
conveyed by God) in the same small geographic area, in the same narrow window
of human history.
Most Americans know
about today's radical Islam and its hatred of disbelievers and goal of
establishing a caliphate under Sharia law. Most also know about Muslim
conquests in history, especially the conquering of the Iberian
Peninsula. And most know about the Christian blowback known as the
Religion is dangerous.
But most do not know
that American Christians began meddling in the Middle East soon after the
founding of the USA.
Part of the Restoration movement, they were Christian Zionists who believed
that Jews should occupy the Holy Land and restore the Kingdom of Judea.
To prepare for this, they sent
missionaries to the Middle East to convert the
heathen Muslims. That didn't go
over very well with the Muslims?just as it would not have gone over very well
with Americans if Muslims had sent missionaries to New England to convert
heathen Christians. Quickly finding themselves in danger, the missionaries
asked the fledgling U.S.
government for help.
Religion can be
Most Americans also
are familiar with the history of Jews and their Diaspora. Because Jews were a
religious minority, they were persecuted for their religion and perceived
clannish ways in many of the countries where they lived, whether those
countries were Muslim, Catholic, Russian Orthodox, or Protestant. Ironically,
the Zionist movement was very strong in England, a country where Jews were
not persecuted. After the Holocaust, Zionists succeeded in establishing the
Jewish State of Israel, a nation that was put in the middle of Muslims, many of
whom were religious zealots who believed that they, not the Jews, were the
Religion can be
Whichever side you
think is right or wrong, moral or immoral, barbarian or civilized, it was inevitable
that it wasn't going to bode well for mainly European Jews to relocate to a
small piece of land in the middle of hostile Muslim Arabs. It would be akin to
me building an expensive home in the middle of a neighborhood controlled by
Crips or Bloods.
Religion can be
dangerous. Have I said that before?
Imperial folly added
to the danger of religion. This was
especially true in the years immediately preceding the First World War, during
the war, and immediately following the war?a period that set the stage for the
bloodshed that has continued into the 21st century and led to Osama
bin Laden and 9/11.
For example, the Great
Power of Germany, a Christian nation, encouraged Islamic extremists to declare
a jihad against the Entente powers, especially Great Britain.
wasn't very Christian of the Germans.
Instead of supporting the cause of the Arab nationalism of moderate Arabs, the
Christian nations of Britain
and France carved up the Middle East to serve their competing imperialist
interests, with no regard for Arab feelings and history, thus fueling tribal
and sectarian hatreds and Muslim extremism.
wasn't very Christian of them.
Instead of putting their full support behind the moderate reformist Arab leader
Emir Hussein, the British also supported Hussein's rival in Arabia,
Abdul Azis ibn-Saud, who embraced the fundamentalist form of Islam known as
Wahhabism. At the time, British Captain Thomas Edward Lawrence (aka
Lawrence of Arabia) warned his military superiors and the British government
that the Wahhabists were not representative of Islam and had the "narrow minded
bigotry of the puritan." As detailed in the wonderful new book, Lawrence in Arabia, Lawrence
said that the Wahhabist sect was composed of marginal medievalists, and "if it
prevailed, we would have in place of the tolerant, rather comfortable Islam of
Mecca and Damascus, the fanaticism of Nejd . . . intensified and swollen by success."
After the war, as Lawrence had predicted and warned, ibn-Saud would conquer
much of the Arabian Peninsula and establish Saudi
Arabia, which was named after the Saud clan and would
become a close ally of the United
book Lawrence in Arabia has this
to say about this colossal mistake of the British and, subsequently, the United
States: "For the next ninety years, the vast and profligate Saudi royal family
would survive by essentially buying off the doctrinaire Wahhabists who had
brought them to power, financially subsidizing their activities so long as
their disciples directed their jihadist efforts abroad. The
most famous product of this arrangement was to be a man named Osama bin Laden."
Last example: At the
Paris Peace Conference in 1919, moderate Arab leader Faisal ibn Hussein, the
son of Emir Hussein, joined forces with British Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann
to call for a combined Arab-Jewish state in Palestine, where Jews could buy land instead
of taking it by force. The British
and French sabotaged this effort, because it went against their imperial
wasn't very Christian of them.
Hamas is sending rockets into Israel,
is understandably retaliating. Today,
the fate of the U.S. is tied to the fate of Israel, a fate that doesn't look
promising given the demographics of Israel compared to the demographics of its
Muslim neighbors?and given that our shortsighted removal of the Sunni regime of
the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein has emboldened Shia Iran, which will
probably have a nuclear capability one day.
All of this because of
religion and imperialism.