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07/21/2004

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Aikibrewer

Perhaps that's why this administration has been so keen to build a missile defense system - not to shoot down enemy missiles, but so that, in a reenatcment of the Mytilenian revolt, they can "recall" one of our own hastily launched weapons before it reaches its target...

Unfortunately, the analogy to the late Roman Empire seems all too apt - surrounded by enemies (some of its own creation), Rome's military needs ultimately outstripped resources. Rome was forced to severely curtail the economic and political rights of its citizens, and increasingly rely on mercenaries to do its fighting, acceding to whatever they demanded as payment, which ultimately became the people and land of the Empire itself.

Ali

I'd not be looking at classical Greece or Rome but medieval Europe and the Crusades.

The Crusaders established an outpost of Christendom in Palestine. It was a safer and much more civilised place to live than France for a century. It left no lasting impact but bitterness on the Muslim world.

Iraq looks more like the Fourth Crusade, when the Crusaders sacked Byzantium and never got to Jerusalem.

History, of course, never repeats itself. We aren't the cruel lumpen mass of the Crusaders, the Jihadis are their equivalent.

Kingdaddy

Hmmm, maybe to extend the historical parallel with the Crusades a bit further:

There was, needless to say, a lot of genuine piety in the hearts of many Crusaders. For many, taking on the cross was as profound and happy an occasion as marriage, knighting, or other life events.

There was also a great deal of justified fear of "the Saracen." Muslim pirates attacked Christian ships and took slaves. Muslim armies skirmished with the Byzantine Empire. And the Moors had hung on tenaciously in Spain, after one of the most startling invasions of European territory since the Huns or the Magyars.

There was also, of course, plenty of baser impulses at play. Like many of the "continental crusades" (for example, against the Albigensians or the Baltic pagans), the crusaders in the Holy Land were often looking for land, titles, and honors they couldn't win at home.

The parallel to today? Of course, there are people genuinely concerned about threats from the Middle East, and many of them have the best intentions. However, we also have our far share of opportunists. Sorting through this motley crowd is difficult, but necessary. You don't want to give too much credit to some, and not enough to others. Nor do you want to lose track of whose hand is on the tiller (or in the coffers).

Oscar

The historical parallels are interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive. Rome at its height could not sow salt like we can. Recall that history is written by the victors, and it is not yet clear that a single Muslim will be alive on Earth in the year 2020.
"Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!"

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