Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, February 03, 2006

National character is destiny

You know the story: a lone, mostly Western country is surrounded by hostile Islamic nations. One of those nations, known for its aggression, announces that it intends to take over that lonely Western country, and that it has the arms and the technology to do so. The Western country looks to Europe for aid. The European nations, however, because of their essential hostility to the Western nation, and their need for the Islamic nation's product, stumble over themselves to say little and do nothing. Israel and Iran, right? Wrong. I'm talking about the Ottoman state and Constantinople, circa 1453. That, of course, was the year Constantinople, the Byzantine capital of Eastern Christianity for a thousand years fell to the Ottomans. It marked the creation of Istanbul, and the beginning of the incredibly powerful Ottoman empire. The battle for Constantinople didn't come out of the blue, though. Mehmet II, the Ottoman Sultan, let everyone know his intentions in advance ("I've got nukes and I'm not afraid to use them"). Facing this threat, the Greeks in Constantinople sought aid from Europe. The relationship was somewhat fraught, though, because of religious differences between Eastern and Western Christianity. Here, I'll let Roger Crowley tell it, as he does on pp. 62-63 of his wonderful book 1453 : The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West (see sidebar):

Practical help was hardly forthcoming, but the powers of Christian Europe were reluctantly becoming aware that an ominous shadow was falling over Constantinople. A flurry of diplomatic notes was exchanged. Pope Nicholas had persuaded the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III, to send a stern but empty ultimatum to the sultan in March. Alfonso of Naples dispatched a flotilla of ten ships to the Aegean then withdrew them again. The Genoese were troubled by the threat to their colonies at Galata and on the Black Sea but were unable to provide practical help; instead they ordered the podesta (mayor) of Galata to make the best arrangements he could with Mehmet should the city fall. The Venetian Sentate gave similarly equivocal instructions to its commanders in the eastern Mediterranean; they must protect Christians while not giving offense to the Turks. They knew that Mehmet threatened their Black Sea trade almost before the Throat Cutter [a fort at the Northern mouth of the Bosphorus] was finished; soon their spies would be sending back detailed sketch maps of the threatening fortress and its guns. The issue was coming closer to home: a vote in the Senate in August to abandon Constantinople to its fate was easily defeated but resulted in no more decisive counteraction.
So the next time you get frustrated at Europe's spineless approach to Iran, you can find some slender thread of consolation in the fact that Europe can't help itself. Unfortunately, this time its character is shaping Israel's (and possibly the whole Western world's) destiny. UPDATE: Making my point, see this about the IAEA's latest ballyhooed inaction re Iran. Talking to Technorati: , , , ,