Control of the Highest:

Two articles from Arts & Letters Daily today, each in its way on a defense of the heavens.

The first holds against space-based weapons, in the wake of this week's satellite shootdown. They argue at length, but the argument is undone by the very quote from Sun Tzu they themselves provide:

In war, do not launch an ascending attack head-on against the enemy who holds the high ground. Do not engage the enemy when he makes a descending attack from high ground. Lure him to level ground to do battle.
—Sun Tzu, Chinese military strategist, The Art of War, circa 500 B.C.
It will done because it must be done; war will not end, yet the advantage to be had here is one that could stop a war. It could perhaps stop many, as the US Navy has stopped many by ensuring the freedom of the seas so that smaller nations need not fight each other for their commerce; as the US Army has sat through sixty years of peace in the lands around its bases in Germany. Si vis pacem, para bellum.

The other article is on the Crusades. I think often of the Crusades here, in the land of minarets and fortifications, sandstorms and military-issue Bibles. In the scant spare time I have, I am rereading Ivanhoe.

Apparently I'm not the only one to think of it. Unfortunately, not everyone sees clearly where the parallels stop. In the interest of seeing the lessons of history properly learned, I will reprint a section of this critique by Roger Sandall at length.
Hitchens however regards the opportunity as too good to pass up, and on page 35 drags the Iraq War into the argument. The gist being that there’s nothing to choose between Christians and jihadis, and that the modern atrocities of the latter could be seen as a delayed but appropriate response to “the bloodstained spectre of the Crusaders”.

This attitude is widespread. Moreover, as Paul Stenhouse points out in a valuable recent study, “The Crusades in Context”, Hitchens’ “bloodstained spectre” is absurdly seen as the result of unprovoked Christian aggression. It is claimed that “five centuries of peaceful co-existence” between Muslims and Christians were brought to an end by deranged sword-waving Soldiers of the Cross, terrorising, killing, burning and sacking decent, respectable, peace-loving Muslim communities.

More than this, the Crusaders are being presented in schools as the original terrorists. As a Year 8 textbook in the Australian state of Victoria has it: “Those who destroyed the World Trade Centre are regarded as terrorists … Might it be fair to say that the Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?”

No it wouldn’t be fair. Nor would it be true. In the story Paul Stenhouse tells, the 463 years between the death of Muhammed in 632 AD, and the First Crusade in 1095, were extremely dangerous for Christian Europe. Instead of peace there were unrelenting Islamic wars and incursions; Muslim invasions of Spain, Italy, Sicily and Sardinia; raids, seizures, looting of treasure, military occupations that lasted until Saracen forces were forcibly dislodged, sackings of Christian cities including Rome, and desecrations of Christian shrines. And be it noted: all this went on for 463 years before any Christian Crusade in response to these murderous provocations took place.

Sixteen years after the death of Muhammed, in 648 AD, Cyprus was overrun. Rhodes fell in 653, and by 698 AD the whole of North Africa was lost. In 711 Muslims from Tangier crossed into Spain, set their sights on France, and by 720 AD Narbonne had fallen. Bordeaux was stormed and its churches burnt in 732. As Gibbon emphasised, only the resistance at Poitiers of Charles Martel in 732 saved Europe from occupation, and arrested the Muslim tide.

From 800 on, incursions into Italy began. In 846 a Saracen force of 10,000 landed in Ostia, assaulted Rome, and sacked and desecrated the Basilicas of St Peter and St Paul. In 859 they seized the whole of Sicily. After capturing a fortress near Anzio, Muslim forces “plundered the surrounding countryside for forty years”. In southern France at the end of the ninth century they held a base near Toulon from which they ravaged both Provence and Northern Italy, and controlled the passes over the Alps, robbing and murdering pilgrims on their way to Rome. Genoa was attacked in 934 and taken in 935. In 1015 Sardinia was taken, occupied, and held my Muslim forces until 1050.

In 1076 the Seljuk Turkish capture of Jerusalem finally exhausted the patience of Islam’s victims in Christian Europe. Only then were concerted moves begun to drive back the infidel, launch the First Crusade, and retake Jerusalem.
In fact, even that was not enough. It was the envoys from Constantinople -- the second Rome, the capital of Constantine the Great. In 1095, the Turks had advanced into the lands controlled by Constantinople, and the city sent to its sister Rome for help.

Rome agreed, and asked for men to ride to her defense, and to begin to push back against these incursions. So they left their homes, knights and barons, and went instead to war in distant lands.

Were they right? The folk of their day, like our own, were divided. Even good hearted men of the cloth sometimes could not see the purpose.
"What took the honest knight from home? or what could he expect but to find his mistress agreeably engaged with a rival on his return, and his serenade, as they call it, as little regarded as the caterwauling of a cat in the gutter? Nevertheless, Sir Knight, I drink this cup to thee, to the success of all true lovers."
Others saw further; whether they saw clearly is a debate that could fill many books.

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