Sunday, August 09, 2009

Without World War I, Would We Have had 9/11?

Might the leaders of Western countries have known just how damaging World War I would be to Christianity, to Islam, to the West, and to the Middle East? Sadly, the Great War was fought for nothing but irrepressible pride. In retrospect, it is probable to imagine that, had WWI never been fought, a cataclysmic attack on American soil, such as the one that happened on September 11, 2001, would have never occurred. But even without retrospect, it would have been, nearly one hundred years ago, elementary to predict such an eventual backlash.

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From the perspective of malice toward Islam, it is easy in retrospect to see how Western encroachment into Muslim lands would have triggered a vicious backlash against Christians in Asia Minor and the Levant. A more

Who would have imagined a century ago, that the pride of dictators, oligarchs, and gun runners would effect a needless world war, which would in turn lead to the fall of the Twin Towers? The exact target would have been hard to foretell, but the backlash was easy to predict.

exhaustive research would lead one to conclude that such enmity would ultimately precipitate a backlash against the West. It did exactly those things, and Middle Eastern Christians are suffering for it to this day. But don’t blame the Muslims. They were only protecting themselves.

In the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire began to decline in power. Such decline seemed to Western powers as an opportunity for their own territorial advancement. Expansion of Western powers, seen by those in the Islamic world as champions of Christianity, presented a dire threat to the keepers of Islam. Philip Jenkins, in his masterpiece, The Lost History of Christianity, reminds us that
As so often in history, the persecutors saw their actions as fundamentally defensive in nature, and the sense that [they were] facing grave threats to [their] very existence drove them to acts of [vile] persecution and intolerance… (p. 156)
From the 1760’s through World War I, the Russian Czars sought to gain territory and influence in the Middle East, fashioning themselves as the protectors of Christians inside the Ottoman Empire. This caused Christian minorities in the Empire to become more 'confident' in their religion; the more they struggled against the Ottomans the more the Ottomans repressed them, associating the menace of these “domestic dissidents with the external danger from rival empires.” Philip Jenkins notes the resulting violent death spiral:
The more brutally the Turks treated their minorities, the greater the Western clamor for intervention to protect the victims. The closer the harmony of interests between domestic and foreign enemies, the greater [became] the Turkish hostility to Christian minorities.
Since the 1760’s, mostly due to their own designs toward empire, Britain and France had combined to restrain Russian advances into Ottoman territory. Suddenly, with the breakdown in diplomatic relations that led to the completely unnecessary First World War, Britain and France--as well as the United States--became the allies of Russia. This sudden alliance greatly enhanced the fears of the Ottoman Muslims.

Fearing the worst of uprisings among Christians as a result of the Great War, in 1915, the Ottomans began a systematic massacre of Christians, beginning with Armenia. Many Christians who did not flee the Middle East were killed. Two decades later, as French, British, German, and other European powers yet vied for territory in the Middle East, it became “the universal belief of the Arabs that the war was between the Crescent [Islam] and the Cross [Christianity].“

At its beginning in the 600’s Islam was much less warlike than their Christian competitors and other conquerors of the day. As in so many other instances, Muslims became more warlike largely only as they perceived threats to their existence—particularly from the Byzantine Empire and from the Mongols, both of which were tightly allied with the Christians (not to mention the Catholic Crusaders themselves). Muslim reaction to WWI was in keeping with logical Muslim reaction to prior threats.

World War I was a thoughtless war convened exclusively due to pride. It is a war that never need have been fought. Yet in the process, it corroborated the Muslim fear that Christianity was intent on the destruction of Islam. Overreaction on one side begat overreaction on the other, and the death spiral continued. Over the ensuing decades, as Western powers felt the political motivation to occupy Muslim lands, Muslims felt continually vindicated in their fear of the perceived Christian threat, which resulted, among other things, in the backlash that we now know as “9/11”.

Who would have imagined a century ago, that the pride of dictators, oligarchs, and gun runners would effect a needless world war, which would in turn lead to the fall of the Twin Towers? The exact target would have been hard to foretell, but the backlash was easy to predict.



3 comments:

  1. Pretty much hit the nail on the head. BTW, if you're interested in some good DVDs on WWI:

    The First World War: the complete series, a Wark Clements, Hamilton Films production, 2003

    Based on the book by Hew Strachan, this series looks at the war in terms of broad themes and broader contexts rather than a strictly chronological presentation. It includes a very insightful episode on the Middle East aspects of the war. I'd highly recommend it.

    Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I, 2006

    Focusing on the impact of WWI on the Middle East and its ramifications.

    Oh What a Lovely War, Richard Attenborough (1969)

    Not really too important from a historical aspect, but a brilliant examination of war in general through the surreal depiction of WWI.

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  2. Have you read Srđa Trifković's The Sword of the Prophet or Robert Spencer's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam?

    If you have, you should be at least suspicious that Islam really was more peaceful than Christianity. The very widespread myth that "the native Christians of the Middle East and North Africa welcomed the Muslims as liberators", which accounts for this belief, is especially targetted. Using the Qur'an Trifković especially shows just how violent a religion Islam is. I can testify to the violence in the Qur'an from reading it as a child - and then hearing in the aftermath of the Satanic Verses affair that Islam was really an extraordinarily tolerant, reasonable and peaceful faith despite what I had gathered.

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  3. aliberalmormon: Thanks for the suggestions. I found Blood and Oil, as well as Oh What a Lovely War on Netflix, and have added them to my queue.

    jbpenney,

    I have read a book by Robert Spencer, The Truth About Muhammad. I think Spencer has (a) an agenda, and (b) a very myopic view of history.

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