Empire and resistance: Lessons from history

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What do these all have in common: The Ottoman Empire, the Nazi Empire, the Soviet Empire and the New Islamic Caliphate?

If you are a student of history, you will recognize that the first three of these expansionist empires have all been the underlying or overt cause of millions of deaths, and that they were central players in three world conflicts. The fourth empire, which is the only one still extant, cannot yet be measured in terms of the damage it will eventually do, but it is the largest in both geography and population and it is still growing.

But before we return to the New Islamic Caliphate, let us examine the first three to see what we can learn from them about the dangers of expansionism.

Letís start with the Ottoman Empire. The number of wars that this Muslim empire was involved in range well into the dozens and stretch over hundreds of years. The expansion of the empire into Europe was bloody, but perhaps not as bloody as the wars that resulted from the empire weakening in the 19th and early 20th centuries when various other nations fought to reclaim their own land or add to their own much smaller empires. In World War I alone, the various component elements of the Ottoman empire suffered 5 million deaths out of the total of 16.5 million deaths throughout the conflict zone.

The causes of all these wars are too complicated to be cataloged in a column of this nature, but suffice it to say if the Turks and their allies had not been intent on spreading their power and religion throughout the Old World, most of those wars would not have existed. And if Europe had not fought back, in particular at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, it is very likely that European civilization as we know it would never even have existed. No Age of Enlightenment, no Scientific Revolution, and no incubation of the ideas that led to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Suffice it to say, fighting back against the Ottoman Empire mattered.

The Nazi Empire, on the other hand, demonstrates the danger and high cost of appeasement and surrender. Unlike the Ottomans, who expanded their control over Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe over hundreds of years, the Nazis were able to consolidate their power over a vast swath of land in just 10 short years ó†in large measure because England, France, Russia and the United States preferred to look the other way while Hitler amassed a huge military machine and gobbled up large parts of Europe in the name of peace and friendship.

In case you donít remember, there were more than 60 million people killed as a result of World War II. Failing to stop the Third Reich in its infancy meant that the only way to stop it was a massive commitment of manpower and military power that would be almost unimaginable today.

The Soviet Empire refers to the post-World War II expansion of the Soviet Unionís ideological grip over Eastern Europe and satellites in three continents (such as Cuba in the New World, North Korea and North Vietnam in Asia, and Ethiopia and Angola in Africa). If we include the hot wars in Korea and Vietnam under the general umbrella of the Cold War, we are looking at a minimum of 6 million deaths. If you include all the casualties in wars that were fought to contain communism, and not just Soviet communism, you are looking at well over 10 million deaths. And if you include the deaths of those people who were killed by their own governments to secure communist states against liberty-loving patriots, you are at well over 50 million victims.

This communist empire is what American presidents from Harry S. Truman to Ronald Reagan fought to contain and ultimately to crush for 40 long years. If the United States and its allies had not committed to stop the expansion of communism in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and even the United States, then we very likely would all be saluting a hammer and sickle these days instead of the stars and stripes.

In each of these first three empires, we see that the only reasonable response by nations outside the empire was containment. The alternative was surrender or submission, and in each case, surrender would have meant a loss of liberty, a diminishment of diversity, and a capitulation to oppression.

Unfortunately, the lessons of empire seem to have been lost on our world leaders today. The modern Islamic Empire ó which stretches across virtually the entire northern half of Africa, a quarter of Europe, all of the Mideast with the exception of Israel, and a huge swath of Asia ó ought to make anyone who loves freedom tremble.

According to historical standards, you may hesitate to call these multiple Islamic states an empire, but possibly this is an even more dangerous evolutionary advance on the traditional empire. Remember that empires such as the Roman empire traditionally crumble from stretching beyond the ability of the central government to maintain order. It would be much more efficient to have an empire that comprises individual states with one common goal.

That common goal is to be found in the very bedrock of Islam and is being carried out by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which includes 57 member states. The goal is no less than the creation of a worldwide universal religious belief system based upon the Koran and exercising civil power through the sharia, or Islamic law. This universal community, known as the Ummah, already includes 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, approximately one-fifth of the worldís population. It is also the most rapidly growing force on the planet, and eventually will be unstoppable.

These facts are not unknown to world leaders, but they are rarely discussed publicly. One leader who has dared to broach the subject is Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. In February 2011, as the Arab Spring was naively being welcomed by Western governments, he warned that Iran and other countries want to re-establish the caliphate, the historical entity which officially governed the Islamic empires of the past.

Netanyahu also addressed the skepticism which greets such an idea:

ďThey say they canít possibly mean this, it cannot be that in the 21st century people speak of caliphates, of new-found empires, of an ideology that is suited not for the 21st century but for the 9th century. I urge you not to underestimate this threat to our common civilization. Itís hard for people to understand, especially for Westerners. Itís hard for them to understand fanaticism ó especially if sometimes it wears a suit and a tie, or a suit without a tie. Itís very hard to understand that. But itís there.Ē

In light of all this, it is worth standing back and taking notice of events of the past few years and months as part of a forward march of Islam back toward empire. Let us first of all acknowledge that the Arab Spring was not an embrace of democracy in the Western sense, but an embrace of majority rule by Islam over any and all minorities. As one nation after another in the Islamic world falls under the sway of religious rule, there will be less and less room for minority viewpoints and more and more likelihood of a united front against our Western ideals.

Some of the fruit of the Arab spring has been evident in the past week. While other nations stand idly by, we have seen France offer isolated resistance to Islamic jihadists who have taken over the northern half of Mali in Africa. In return the jihadists have threatened to bring their war to France. And in Algeria, meanwhile, Islamic militants took dozens of foreign energy workers, including Americans, hostage at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert. The virtual silence of Washington, D.C., to both of these events is symbolic of the general obsequiousness of the world community to the advancing empire of the new caliphate.

The lessons of history are clear. Resistance to imperial expansion must be immediate and forceful. There will be a cost, yes, but the cost of waiting is exponentially higher ó and eventually, resistance is futile.

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