Thursday, July 13, 2006

Slow-Motion Suicide

It continues in the Levant.

I get the feeling that this can only end badly for the Israeli state, and this is where a familiarity with history comes in handy.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem existed for 88 years, from the conquest of that city by the knights and footmen of the First Crusade to its reconquest by the forces under Salah al-Din. The Franks took the city in June 1099. Saladin entered in October 1187.

During most of the 88 years when the Latin Christians held the kingdom, they faced many disunited foes--the Seljuk Turks, the Fatimids in Egypt, the Sultan of Baghdad, Kerbogha of Mosul, and a host of others. The internecine squabbles of the various emirs, maliks, shahs, and sultans prevented them from inflicting any decisive victory on the Crusader states.

Then came the Light of the Faith and his successor. Nur ed-Din managed to subdue most of the Muslim principalities surrounding Palestine. However, he died before he could march on al-Quds.

Enter Salah al-Din. Of all the Muslims that westerners faced throughout the long, long history of Crusading, Salah al-Din was the only one who was celebrated by the Franks--so much so that he was given a latinized name: Saladin. Saladin completely unified the territories surrounding the Crusader states, and finally reconquered the holy city. He was as merciful to most conquered cities as the Franks had been cruel.

The Horns of Hattin

The crucial day in the entire history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was not the day Salah al-Din entered the city. It was three months earlier--3 July 1187. The battle at the Horns of Hattin was fought on that day. On that day, Salah al-Din crushed the entire Frankish army. Jerusalem was his for the taking after that, even if it required a few more months.

The lesson to take away from this is as follows: The Crusaders lost their kingdom in one day. Just one. Despite all of the humiliating defeats inflicted on the Muslims in the previous 88 years, the Kingdom of Jerusalem could not withstand one major strategic defeat.

The state of Israel is in much the same position. Despite the victories of 1948, 1967, and 1973, they only need to lose one big battle, and the viability of that state will no longer be a question.

And they will lose a big battle some day. Hell, it was a near thing in 1973. It took 88 years for the Muslims to find a unified response to the franj. Time, though, was on their side. It is again.

There can be no military solution from the Israelis that will result in complete security. And bombing the shit out of neighborhoods, airports, and electricity generating plants does nothing to advance that state's long-term security. This conclusion is as obvious as it is ignored.

If you want to learn more about the Middle East, check out Juan Cole. That guy's wicked smart.

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