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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Friday, June 18, 2010

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Christopher Tyerman, "God's War: A New History of the Crusades" - Read it.

Another rejection of post-modern Marxist pyscho-babble.

by Ferdinand III

Yes those nasty Crusades. In the post-modern, Marx-droid universe of salivating moppets and eager to please relativists ['please daddy tell us again about how nice the Saracens were and evil the Christians?']; it is quite easy to lose sight of reality. Muslims and Arabs good, Christians bad. Arab, Muslim and Turkish imperialism good, European fascist. So it is refreshing to read a dense, intellectual and accurate piece of work which describes the Crusades as they were – a complex political, military, and very human response to pre-modern Arab and Turkish designs at world conquest. They might have in effect saved Europe.

Tyerman's overall conclusion is that, '..the internal, personal decision to follow the cross, to inflict harm on others at great personal risk, at the cost of enormous privations, at the service of a consuming cause, cannot be explained excused or dismissed either as a virtue or sin. Rather, its very contradictions spelt its humanity.' How true. The Crusades, erupting from Pope Urban II's call in 1095 to help the Eastern church against Turkish or Saracen depredation was full of cross purpose, material aims, personal vanity, spiritual earnestness, military valor, and political intrigue. That is what makes them such a great story.

The Crusades were in many ways, extraordinarily successful. Men, money, material, and complex logistics were stretched over a thousand miles from the European heartland to the Holy Land and the Eastern Mediterranean. The crusaders were usually quite outnumbered. Each of the 5 major Crusades, lasting roughly from 1095 to 1299 could only muster some 30.000 – 40.000 men, many of whom would melt away after a few months of soldiering, confident that any work combating the Turks would gain them access into heaven.

The Muslims, aided by their intimate knowledge of geography, millions of citizens from which to draw armies, proximate logistics, and supply, should easily have repulsed these infidels from any and all conquests. The fact that the crusaders were able to organise; embark; conquer; hold and build the incredible line of castle fortifications some of which, like the Krak de Chevaliers are still standing today, is one of the great achievements of pre-modern warfare.

Tyerman's book is valuable because it relates history as it most likely was. The Crusades were viewed in Western Europe as bellum justum – a just war – a war to reclaim once Christian lands from infidel Turks; a war to push the Muslims out of Europe; a war to help save the Eastern church and bring it under the control of the Western. The casus belli for the conflict was varied and justified by theologians and lay political leaders alike. Jerusalem, the home of Christ and the origins of the Church had a profound and special attraction for an extremely religious and devout population.

Tyerman rightly asserts that Muslim supremacism and war mongering made the Crusades a necessity. Large parts of Europe were under Muslim domination and, 'jihad was fundamental to the Faith, described by some as a sixth pillar of Islam. In theory fighting was incumbent on all Muslims until the whole world had been subdued, but it was a spiritual as well as military exercise from the start, and a corporate not individual obligation.'

You won't read such an honest assessment of jihadic Mohammedism in the New York Times. Without a response Western Europe might very well have suffered the fate of the Eastern Church. As Tyerman states, 'it is hard to argue that we are dealing with an age any more credulous or unthinkingly accepting of religious truth than our own.' Certainly so. Contrary to modern media and educational manipulation, the Europeans of the 11th century and of the Crusades were not simpleton mental midgets, scurrying around mud hovels, wearing hair shirts practicing witch craft or listening to papal sermons with rotted teeth falling out. Western Europe in the early medieval period was a bustling, thriving, urbanising scene of activity, invention, and dynamism – everything one would expect to find and see, in an era of change, which heralded the creation of the modern political-economy.

Tyerman's chapters are broken into outlining the 5 major crusades – all of them described in rather exhaustive fashion. Details on the military, political and church-oriented spiritual complexity are compelling and very human. The highly successful First Crusade, featuring many of France's and Germany's leading noblemen, families and Knights, is summarised by Tyerman as a dramatic episode, an event rarely told.

The First Crusade's conquests from the borders of the shrinking Greek state [some 100 odd miles outside of modern day Constantinople or Istanbul], through the rough terrain of Anatolia, down the Lebanese coast, and on through to the borders of modern Gaza and east to Jerusalem, north east to Edessa, were an astonishing feat, accomplished in just 2 short years of fighting. A force of roughly 40.000 men, from different states, under various leaders with political infighting and intrigue, and weakly supported by the Greeks of the Eastern empire, had landed, marched, fought and won numerous victories over far larger Turkish hosts.

From 1097 to 1099 when Jerusalem was taken, the Christian forces were always in demand and need of men, food, water, supplies, military weaponry, and the medieval tank or mounted Knight. Fully armed mounted knights were extremely expensive to maintain and only the rich could afford to pay their own way to the Holy Land, including horse, armor, servants and food. Of a force of 30.000 the crusaders might be lucky to count on 2.000 such men, their power often assuring a Christian victory over the lighter armed Turkish forces.

As Tyerman notes about the complexity and astonishing prowess of the First Crusade, 'Yet the political, material, and military pillars of victory fail adequately to describe the structure of the First Crusade or alone explain its success. Although it is misleading to assume that all recruits and followers shared a similar intensity of religious motivation and zeal, without the element of ideology and spiritual exhilaration, there would have been no march to Jerusalem, let alone a successful conquest.'

Military superiority, good organisation, personal genius, luck, good planning and a rough hewn solidarity were the reasons why the First Crusade succeeded. These crusaders had faith, believed in their cause and went through amazing deprivations before finally, in 1099 attacking, sacking and controlling their objective – Jerusalem.

In spite of this success the Crusades were doomed to failure if and once the Muslims could unify their command and take advantage of Christian manpower weakness, internal political dissension and lack of Western European support. Importantly for the Muslims, the varied Christian states and sundry crusaders always had a hard time creating political and military unity. Without a unified chain of military and political command, Christian conquests became difficult to defend.

Another issue was resource scarcity. During the 200 years of the Crusading wars only a small fraction of European power was involved in trying to wrest and protect the Holy Land from Muslim occupation. If the average Crusade had about 40.000 fighting men involved it represented a small fraction of European manpower and also value-added GDP. Logistically such a force would entail a further 400.000 people to support the Crusade including those involved in shipping, transport, supply manufacture, arms provisioning, food supply, various support work and aiding the army directly in engineering, food and siege work. At most about 500.000-700.000 people would have been occupied in some way with the Crusades. Europe's population at that time was about 30 million in 1100 doubling by 1300 to more than 60 million. This signals that Europe was a fast changing, very productive and extremely wealthy society. So in effect we can say that less than 2 % of Europeans were involved with the Crusades – a rather paltry amount.

The problem for the Christian East was getting money out of their fast growing home economies, and using such wealth to secure and deepen their hold on the Holy Land. Medieval Europe was still in the nascent phases of nation state creation. Its richest territory was Germany which was made up of many different and competing sub kingdoms. The German Emperor whilst powerful, did not have anything approaching the machinery of a modern state, nor the ability to extract monies to the level the later states would deem justifiable. France was not yet unified [and wouldn't be until after the Albigensian or Cathar crusades in southern France in the early 13th century]; Spain was bifurcated by Muslim conquest; Italy was split into many kingdoms; and the other parts of Europe were fragmented, small and preoccupied with internal matters. In short in about 1100, the European modern state and its ability to create wealth, tax it, and use it to fund centralised armies was not yet in existence.

Therein lies the major factor for the eventual collapse of the Crusading ideal. Without a strong nation state structure where GDP can be centrally taxed and armies centrally managed, the Crusades were left with wealthy Kings and Lords paying the costs, supported by European wide Church taxation or tithes so make up the short fall. Even this was not enough. Many crusaders paid their own way, supporting themselves as they went with plunder. In fact many states such as France went into financial ruin due to the Crusades with some states and their noblemen spending an entire year or more of revenue just to reach the Holy Land.

The Crusades were a very costly business indeed.

Along the routes between Europe and the Holy Land, pillage and theft was common, and much of it directed against fellow Christians and where possible, the Jews. Attacks against Jews by crusaders along the path of their march, were legion. Tyerman relates that, 'Nothing in official Christian doctrine justified slaying Jews. Pope Alexander II had explicitly prohibited it when drawing a careful distinction between them and Muslims in 1063.' Without plunder or the promise of it, the Crusades never would have happened. This says nothing about the sack of Constantinople itself in 1204 and the looting of its wealth.

Along with plunder comes carnage and the Crusades if savage, were no more savage than any other pre-modern war. The myth that the Muslims were tolerant multi-cultists devoted to easing the pain of conquered Jews and Christians and never engaging in mass slaughter and savagery is junk and bunk. As Tyerman elucidates, 'The recent Turkish conquests in the Near East had been accompanied by carnage and enslavement on a grand scale.......Massacres as well as atrocity stories were – and are – an inescapable part of war. In the face of a Muslim counter-attack, letting the locals live may not have seemed a prudent option to the Christian victors, however obscene the alternative.'

How real that statement is. The Turks, and the Arabs before them, warred, raped, murdered and annihilated their way through Christian and Jewish territory. Submissive and cowed populations make convenient and easy to rule apartheid empires. So it was with the Muslim states of the Holy Land.

Tyerman's book is a great one volume piece on why the Crusades happened, how they occurred and just how complicated a story it all is. But a couple of things stand out when reading it. The faith and confidence of 11-14th century Europe is one. Their logistical and sometimes military brilliance in campaigning far from home is a second. The engineering achievements in fortifying and bringing to economic life an uncompromisingly harsh land is a third.

And perhaps most importantly of all, is their clear headed appreciation of what Islam was all about – a cult of Mohammed, which desired to wipe out civilisation. It is a lesson that one thousand years later still resonates.



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