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What if Islam lost a great war? (*I don't think so, but…)



  • Aftermath of War: A Lesson from History
    –------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Nick Robertson

    PORTLAND, Oregon, 3 March 2003

    Suppose Islam lost a great war. What would the consequences be? Some believe it will cause terrorism to erupt, disrupt the globe’s largest reserves of oil — the life-blood of the modern age — and plunge the Arab world into an age of fanaticism and darkness. But as we verge on a controversial war with Iraq, there is a fascinating — and surprising — lesson to be learned from another great battle in history.

    On May 28, 1453, two of the greatest armies in the world ended an epic 52-day battle on the border of Europe and Asia. On one side the 100,000-man army of Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire and the forces of Islam were attempting to capture one of the world’s greatest cities — Constantinople (now Istanbul). On the other side, behind the supposedly impenetrable walls of the city, were the defensive forces of the west — the 10,000 man force led by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI.

    Dragases. The battle for Constantinople is considered one of the greatest and most important confrontations in history.

    Constantinople was one of the most vital possessions of the Christian world. The city was the capital of the East Roman — or Byzantine — Empire ever since the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great selected it as his new capital in 324 AD. Constantinople was the gateway between Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam.

    The city rested by the Bosporus, a watery straight which was the most important artery of international trade. Trade ships from Venice, Genoa, England, France, and much of Europe traveled past Constantinople to the eastern Black Sea ports which connected the European continent to the major trade centers of India and China. The wealth that traveled on this route built the economic power of the Western world — a 15th century version of today’s globalization of trade.

    As the battle for Constantinople began, the Ottomans unleashed man’s newest weapon, artillery, to breach the city’s massive walls. Shortly after the shocking breakthrough, the Ottomans accomplished what had been deemed impossible for over a millennium — the fall of Constantinople. There was horror and disbelief as the forces of Islam routed the Western army. Panic swept across Europe. The vital trade routes to the East were now under enemy control, and an alien army with strange beliefs threatened to march through Europe.

    Was this the end of the Western world? Quite the opposite. What seemed at the moment a knockout punch to Europe ended up causing great change. It literally forced the discovery of a new world.

    Constantinople had been Europe’s center for intellectual studies for centuries. Its leaders promoted and encouraged classical studies and art. Many who lived inside the city’s walls devoted their lives to studying and preserving history’s classical past. When the Ottomans conquered the city, many of these intellectuals fled to Italy. This flight from war was directly responsible for the acceleration of one of the most important periods in Europe’s history, the Renaissance.

    Classic ideas, locked inside the walls of Constantinople for centuries, broke free and spread out across Europe. Isolated city-states began to gradually dissolve. For the first time in history, nation states — like Spain and Portugal — emerged. The Renaissance brought Europe into an age of light after an age of darkness.

    It also changed the shape of the world.

    Since Constantinople’s fall blocked overland trade routes to the spice markets of South and East Asia, the emerging nation states needed new routes to the riches of the East. The Great Age of Exploration began. Brave men such as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Magellan circumnavigated the globe to find new routes across vast, unknown oceans. In the process they discovered the world — and many of its secrets, treasures and mysteries.

    Now we face another important battle. Hopefully it can be avoided. But in the long run the result of a victory for the US and its allies may not cause havoc and a new dark age in the Arab world as many fear. As with the battle for Constantinople, it may in fact cause the opposite.

    If liberated from their intellectual and physical imprisonment, the Iraqi people may well take full advantage of their new-found freedom. Iraq has the potential to become the center of a Renaissance for the Middle East. With a new regime focused on human rights and freedom, and with the financial security of 100 billion barrels of oil beneath their desert, a new Iraq can lead the Islamic world into an age of cultural and intellectual renewal. From repression can emerge an age of ingenuity and invention worthy of a country that was once the cradle of civilization.

    Repression creates anger. Anger with little hope of change creates radicalism. Radicalism can destroy civilizations. The liberation of Iraq could break this dangerous cycle. Like the movement of Constantinople’s intellectuals coming into Italy in 1453, a liberated Iraq’s influence on the people throughout the region could be tremendous.

    As with Europe in the 15th century Renaissance, Iraq’s people could begin to focus on the freedom, dignity and worth of the individual, man or woman. These ideals would spread through the Arab world.

    The fall of Constantinople triggered some of the greatest changes in human history. Though both sides suffered great human loses, defeat at the hands of the Ottomans ushered in Europe’s great age of reason and the exploration of the world. The same might well occur in the Middle East as a post-Saddam Iraq leads the exploration of a brave new world of human freedom.

    Nick Robertson is a 17-year-old junior at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon, US. He can be contacted at: Narobertson@aol.com. This article was reprinted with permission.



  • As this has been posted with the authors permission, i guess that he will have a look at the forum to see how we react.

    @El:

    Aftermath of War: A Lesson from History
    –------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Nick Robertson

    On May 28, 1453, two of the greatest armies in the world ended an epic 52-day battle on the border of Europe and Asia. On one side the 100,000-man army of Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire and the forces of Islam were attempting to capture one of the world’s greatest cities — Constantinople (now Istanbul). On the other side, behind the supposedly impenetrable walls of the city, were the defensive forces of the west — the 10,000 man force led by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI.

    Well, i think the description here is over-exaggerated. Byzantine was kind of a “vassal” of the Ottomans for about 200 years at that stage. Its empire was the city. The city was historically and culturally great, but the number of citizens has been declining, from plague sweeping over it (AFAIR twice), from being raided by Venetians (who then imposed the “Latin Empire” and looted it thoroughly), and other internal struggles.
    The forces of the “west” never were forces of west, they were forces of the east: non-catholic, greek instead of latin etc.

    Dragases. The battle for Constantinople is considered one of the greatest and most important confrontations in history.

    Constantinople was one of the most vital possessions of the Christian world. The city was the capital of the East Roman — or Byzantine — Empire ever since the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great selected it as his new capital in 324 AD. Constantinople was the gateway between Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam.

    It was vital as a symbol, and still had some meaning for trade, though Genoa and Venice were more important, using the Mediterranean Sea for trade (while Constntinople was important for land trade).

    Though, Constantinople was a “buffer” between teh Latin Christianity and Islam. As long as it stood, the westerners cared not too much (except in the Reconquista (sp?)). After it fell, Islam found its way to the borders with the west.

    The city rested by the Bosporus, a watery straight which was the most important artery of international trade. Trade ships from Venice, Genoa, England, France, and much of Europe traveled past Constantinople to the eastern Black Sea ports which connected the European continent to the major trade centers of India and China. The wealth that traveled on this route built the economic power of the Western world — a 15th century version of today’s globalization of trade.

    The main shipping trade routes did not go through Constantinople anymore. It once was important for the city, true, but in 1450 it already had changed. It still had importance in the trade with the Black Sea (and thus, with part of the Rus), but it did not control the trade routes, as it did a few hundred years ago. The black eastern sea ports were not important for the trade with India/China after the Varangians had been defeated there, that trade went through Arabia.

    As the battle for Constantinople began, the Ottomans unleashed man’s newest weapon, artillery, to breach the city’s massive walls. Shortly after the shocking breakthrough, the Ottomans accomplished what had been deemed impossible for over a millennium — the fall of Constantinople. There was horror and disbelief as the forces of Islam routed the Western army. Panic swept across Europe. The vital trade routes to the East were now under enemy control, and an alien army with strange beliefs threatened to march through Europe.

    The “shocking breakthtough” was a small unguarded unclosed door called “Kerkaporta” or “Kerkoporta”. “alien army with strange beliefs”, well this is after the Crusades and Reconquista, the Europeans probably though they knew what would come.
    A very emotional writing style all the way up to now, something that i feel inappropiate here.

    Was this the end of the Western world? Quite the opposite. What seemed at the moment a knockout punch to Europe ended up causing great change. It literally forced the discovery of a new world.

    the conclusion “forced” is discussable: “helped” would be better IMHO.

    Constantinople had been Europe’s center for intellectual studies for centuries.

    For centuries long past, when it finally fell. It was non-catholic, looted by catholics. Even then, it still had amassed a lot of historic valuable scripts and other things. Most that we know of the Ancient Greek had been saved by them. So, it was not hte center for studies, but a main archive, which the west didn’t care about to visit or use for its own good.

    …Many who lived inside the city’s walls devoted their lives to studying and preserving history’s classical past. When the Ottomans conquered the city, many of these intellectuals fled to Italy. This flight from war was directly responsible for the acceleration of one of the most important periods in Europe’s history, the Renaissance.

    Correct.

    Classic ideas, locked inside the walls of Constantinople for centuries, broke free and spread out across Europe. Isolated city-states began to gradually dissolve. For the first time in history, nation states — like Spain and Portugal — emerged. The Renaissance brought Europe into an age of light after an age of darkness.

    Not fully correct: Portugal and Spain (that is Catille and Aragon) existed for about 100 years by then. The Renaissance did not happen in nation states, but in the Italian city states.
    I would not support this way of concluding that tghe fall of Byzantine lead to the rise of nation states. Not without further explanation that is.

    Since Constantinople’s fall blocked overland trade routes to the spice markets of South and East Asia, the emerging nation states needed new routes to the riches of the East. The Great Age of Exploration began. Brave men such as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Magellan circumnavigated the globe to find new routes across vast, unknown oceans. In the process they discovered the world — and many of its secrets, treasures and mysteries.

    Notice that above it’s “trade ships”, why Constantinople is important, here it is overland trade routes. Again, memerging nation states are mentioned, which is discussable. The rest is correct to my knowledge.

    i skipped the rest of that discussion, my only comment: far stretched 🙂
    The only thing in common is the loss of a war. The important (for the west) fled of intellectuals and access to old sources and the change to the commerce system are not present in Iraq.


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