The West and the Middle East – in Conflict since 192 BC

The Roman-Seleucid War began the ongoing conflagration between the West and the Middle East during 192-188 BC. Since, there almost always has been conflict between nations that are the root of western civilization and nations, or caliphates of the Middle East. Since earliest times, when the Middle East was the crossroad of commerce and travel, the region became a melting pot of civilizations as impressive as American dependence on immigrants. It seems as if every nation-state in the Middle East took turns dominating an area reaching from the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas to the border of India, and from the Steppes of Eastern Asia to the southern border of Egypt and the Kush Desert on the African continent. Consequently, the heritage of the region’s population contains bloodlines of Indo Europeans, Armenians, Persians, Arabs (as mixed as any American bloodline), Greeks, Turks, Jews, Egyptians, and to keep the matter short, all previous nationalities in the Mesopotamian, Assyrian, Roman, and Seleucid Empires. Without exception, Islam was the dominate religion.

Often included are North African Mediterranean countries that comprised the ancient Egyptian Empire: Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Sudan.

There was a time when the Western world was in an introspective stage, fighting among itself as European nations redefined themselves creating new borders, more organized governments, and more sophisticated cultural capabilities – especially in terms of Christian influence¹. Eventually, Europe turned its focus back to the Middle East as the Christian West came to believe that Jerusalem should be in Christian hands.

The first Crusade started in 1096 ending with the capture of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In the third Crusade (1187-1192), Richard the Lionhearted led the Knights Templar into the Holy Land to recover Jerusalem from a conquest by Saladin, a powerful and popular Sultan ruling both Syrian and Mesopotamian regions. Saladin was a “gentleman” warrior to the point that he was respected in the West. The Crusade ended with a truce that recovered much of the Holy Land but left Jerusalem under the control of Saladin.

It should be noted that Saladin was a devout Sunni and was known for eliminating Shiite caliphates – a conflict that still complicates Middle Eastern religious and political relationships.

From 1830 until the end of the Second World War, the Middle East was overrun by colonialism from Japan, United States, Great Britain and France. Colonialism was so blatant that at the Berlin Conference of 1884, fifteen nations from the West and Russia met to negotiate which nations would own a piece of Africa. Africa was divided into fifty territories – no Africans were present at the meeting. While colonialism appears to be an orderly way of developing economic success, its price is the destruction of tradition, self government, and independence for the subject territories. Observe the political state of the Middle East and Africa today.

It is a fact that the Christian-Islamic differences fostered conflict in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; it is a fact that colonialism prevented the national maturation of an entire region of the planet for 150 years. To throw salt into the wounds in the Middle East, after the First World War in 1918, France and Britain divided the Middle East into a large region for each to dominate. The line was called the Sykes-Picot line. Subsequently, the Ottoman Empire, the international presence of Islam, collapsed, leaving unnatural boundaries for surviving Middle Eastern nations. Turks ended up living in Iraq and Syria, Sunni and Shiite regions were placed under one regime and finally, to end the history lesson, the Balfour Declaration in 1948 encouraged the international Zionist movement to push for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. How foolish was the West even to suggest such a thing. All of us, Israel and the West, are now paying for this conclusion.

Does everyone know why Middle Eastern Islamic nations hate the West and the United States in particular? The damaged international relations now suffered in 2015, caused by splintered Islamic sects, unnatural combinations of Shiite-Sunni governance, suppressed governmental self-reliance, and current abuse of oil profits primarily by western countries, leave a bitter taste. Further, it is a shame that the West’s Christian rejection of Islam over many centuries is that Islam – a palatable faith and religion – has become the rallying force for violence and terrorism.

Wise politicians, especially those aware of the years of history since 192 BC, know that war will not resolve the West’s relationship with the Middle East. The US, albeit heartlessly, created American Indian territories; the US paid retribution to the Japanese interred during the Second World War; what olive branch will heal the blatant anger of the Middle East?

[1] Also known as the Dark Ages; for sake of focus we ignore the Visigoths, Justinian, Moroccans, Bubonic Plague, and the Vikings.

Ancient Mariner

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