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November 21, 2010

Barack Obama, Meet Vasco da Gama [stuiec]

The "Diplomatic Editor" of the Daily Telegraph (UK) points out a useful bit of history, about one of the origins of the Clash of Civilizations.

The great Portuguese navigator’s journey to India brought about the first great collision between Imperial Europe and Islamic Asia. It sparked off a great jihad against the West, complete with suicide attacks, which dragged on for three centuries.

Religious chauvinists might see that war as the outcome of an irreducible hostility between Islam and Christianity. For political realists, however, they hold out an altogether different lesson.

Da Gama’s epic journey took place at the dawn of the period which gave birth to the international system which now holds our world together. His journey unleashed forces which disrupted existing systems of power; specifically, the Indian ocean trading routes controlled by Muslim seafarers and merchants. For the most part, this jihad – magnificently chronicled by the historian Stephen Dale – was in fact about wealth and power.

He points out that for five hundred years, Islamic supremacists have reacted to Western threats to their political and economic hegemony by encouraging jihadists, cajoling them with the promises of rewards in Paradise and glory in this world as martyrs. His answer to that challenge is that the West needs to force Muslim nations into what he calls "the complex systems of norms that bind the modern system of states."

Britain in India, the Dutch in Indonesia and, later, the US in the Philippines, used military force to deal with the Islamist uprisings which targeted them. But they also encouraged the growth of modern nationalist movements, set up bureaucratic and administrative institutions that brought about a dramatic expansion of government, and restructured the relationship between state, political structures and civil society.

Today this is called “nation-building”. In Afghanistan, it almost without doubt isn’t going to be anywhere near completion by 2014. But if it isn’t, the end of the war there is profoundly unlikely to mean the beginning of peace.

At the current NATO summit, our allies are agitating for a full NATO pullout from Afghanistan by 2014. Our Feckless Leader seems incapable of convincing them that leaving according to a calendar rather than a set of achieved objectives will be foolish. I hope our descendants don't look back from the 26th Century on 500 more years of the Clash of Civilizations -- especially not if they look back on it in celebration of the fall of the West and the forced submission to Islam of their ancestors (that is, our children and grandchildren).

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posted by Open Blogger at 04:33 PM

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