The Crusades as Belated Response

Austin Bay writes:
[For Islamic radicals hearing President Obama] "The Crusades" are a premier victim frame tale. Their cultural and religious victimization begins in 1096 (1st Crusade) as rapine European knights attack the Levant. In 1099 these thugs seize Jerusalem from peaceful Muslims. The 2nd through 9th Crusades are follow-on imperial atrocities. By the way, Israelis are just Jewish Crusaders.

Obama reinforced this crabbed and distorted but politically powerful claptrap. That's Very Stupid Diplomacy...

This victim tale starts with Yarmuk. The Yarmuk River flows east from Syria through Jordan to the Jordan River. In 636 A.D., somewhere near the river, Muslim Arabs defeated a Christian Byzantine army. Thirty years of conflict with the Persians had exhausted the boys from Constantinople. Their tattered formations were no match for horse-mounted zealots. One of Christendom's wealthiest regions, the Levant, fell to these Arab Muslim warriors. Then they turned on the exhausted Persians.

A counter-narrative: The Crusades and the Spanish Reconquista are belated European responses to Islamic imperialism. Yes, that's shaky. But if you know Muslim Saracens seized Sicily in the ninth century, and Rome was repeatedly attacked (and the Vatican sacked), you can start building a real multiculturalist case for embittered Western European grievance. Je suis Charlie? Naw, je suis Charles Martel (Battle of Tours, 732 A.D.).
It's not actually a shaky story at all, although I wouldn't call it a "victim tale." Pope Urban's call for the first Crusade was influenced by two things, both of them immediately contemporary to him:

1) A request from Constantinople for support against Islamic raids, which had not stopped in 636 but rather had continued for hundreds of years,

2) Successes by Western knights in reversing and recovering territory in Spain that had long been overrun by the Islamic Caliphate.

It is surely unsurprising to learn that it wasn't ancient grievances but immediate events that were motivating him. Don't take my word for it, though: take William of Tyre's. He wrote his history within a century of the liberation of Jerusalem, and had access to the primary sources written by the Crusaders themselves.


Eric Blair said...

Really, it starts early than Yarmuk, with the fights among the various Arab tribes over Muhammed. Fun fact for the day: Both the Romans and the Persians despised the Arabs, and often paid them subsidies, mostly to keep them from annoying raiding, sometimes to keep them from helping the other side. And several of the Arab tribes were actually Jewish before they converted.

It is a measure of the exhaustion of both Rome and Persia after the Roman-Persian Wars of the 6th century that the both the Byzantine-Roman army and the whole Persian kingdom were not able to see off what had been a bunch of sheep stealers that had never been any sort of real threat before.

The Byzantine Romans didn't help themselves much by overtaxing and oppressing most of their territories such that the local response right through to Spain seems to have been that There's no way that the Moslems could be any worse than the Romans.

There is a lesson there.

Anonymous said...

I think the President of the United States blundered horribly by even countenancing the notion that anything that happened between eight and five hundred years ago is even remotely relevant.

You have to let go of the past in order to have peace.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I believe it was in Bernard Lewis that I read that the Crusades were not an important event in Arab histories, not until the early 19th C when the sons of the wealthy came to England to go to school, and learned how important they were TO US. Condemning us as Crusaders is fairly recent.

This is because there were more than two sides, there were at least four, with alliances and enmities shifting. (Some) Muslims would ally with (some) Christians at times, playing them off for advantage against others. The Seljuqs vs the Abbasids were the big ticket, and the Western Christians a mere sideshow everywhere but Jerusalem.

For example:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Also, it is hard not to read some pretty stark prejudice into Obama's remarks. He is speaking about America's response, and those certainly weren't American Christians under Godfrey in 1099. Nor were there religious wars here - though admittedly our colonials were involved on both sides in the English wars of religion. We have had persecutions here, certainly, but nothing to the extent of Europe.

I don't think it is Obama's intent to kick Europe. Just a guess. He is therefore making the accusation against Christians in general, even those who disdained and fled such things and railed against them. Or he is accusing white people in general, regardless of their level of participation and distance of descent (or dissent. both work.) That's not necessarily racist - white liberals do that too.

Grim said...

True in the Spanish reconquest as well. El Cid fought alongside Muslims a great deal of the time. Charlton Heston made that look like an artifact of his nobility of character in treating prisoners, but it was really the factional reality of the time.

As it will be again in the coming war. We'll be fighting alongside tribes like the Dulaimi against ISIS/Daesh. Or we'll be backing Iranian Shia Islam against Sunni Islam.

Tom said...

I seem to remember a debate where Obama told Romney that the 1980s called and wanted their foreign policy back.

I think the middle ages just sent a carrier pigeon to the White House.

AVI: Just because white liberals do it doesn't mean it isn't racist. I think a lot of them are anti-white racists. Of course, believing that anti-white racism exists marks me as a racist.

Grim said...

The Middle Ages are the future, as I keep trying to tell you.