The Middle East – A Trash Bin of History

After a few comment exchanges with one of my readers below this post and a few ongoing posts, we took our discourse offline and continued via emails. I kept arguing that we need to keep our hands and guns out of the Middle East and let it stew until it burned itself out (even though they have proven that they won’t since the death of Muhammad), and he kept countering that I had my head up my ass ignoring the endless, never-ending threat.

He didn’t offer workable solutions, I didn’t offer any either, but my overall approach was way cheaper, because it doesn’t involved “boots on the ground” and $1.1 million Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Then he wrote me an email list night with this paragraph in the middle of it:

The truth, in my opinion, is that the “Middle East” is one of those trash bins that will not go away on its own. Replete with bad history and bad ideas. Unfortunately, one of its worst ideas, Islamic imperialism, is pushing beyond its tribal borders. And again, the nightmare of our global history demonstrates that wishing away such bad ideas comes with yet another horde of barbarians at the door.

And while the statement is just an extension of his argument all along, there was one word embedded that got my attention: Horde.

The horde of barbarians at the door is a powerful image that elicited the emotions that I am sure he intended me to have.

I have written about the Mongol empire before, here and in my book review of The Journeyer.  Between 1200 and 1300, founded and established largely by Genghis Khan, it covered 33 million square kilometers (about 13 million square miles) which is about a quarter of the world’s land area today and the majority of the known world then. That makes it the largest continuous empire in history. Even the Soviet Union was not that large.

Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan’s hordes completely overran all civilizations they encountered. They effectively employed horses as military technology, their warriors were fierce and fearless fighting machines, and their brutality and complete horde behavior was unseen until then. This combination of traits, along with Genghis Khan’s military instinct, quickly made them the world’s first and only super power.

As they advanced against civilization after civilization, they brutally killed all the men and raped and then enslaved the girls and young women. The Mongols killed approximately 11% of mankind or about 40 million people.

A Carnegie Institution research project claims that the Mongols may have caused the world’s first anthropogenic climate change, that time cooling the earth. By killing so many people, vast tracts of agricultural land could no longer be cultivated for generations, and natural reforestation took over the fallow fields, removing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cause noticeable global cooling.

Genghis Khan himself raped so many women and fathered so many children, it is estimated that some 10% of the male population of Asia are his direct descendants. The harem that he kept was of enormous size. In Mongolia alone as many as 200,000 of the country’s current two million people could be Genghis Khan descendants. Did Khan contribute to mankind in any tangible way other than spreading his seed? For the most part, he was a barbarian.

What does all this have to do with today’s militant Islamic Imperialism?

People and “governments” that condone stoning of its own citizens, killing of apostates, raping of females belonging to different tribes of their own religion, and ritual beheadings of innocent people are certainly barbarians.

When hordes of barbarians take over neighboring countries, or grow within countries, they need to be stopped at the root, at the beginning. Not doing so can cause the deaths of millions. Khan could have been stopped before he got big enough. Britain and France could have squashed Hitler when he took over the Rheinland in 1936, and in the process averted WW II. Stalin could have been stopped before he killed 10 million of his own people.

To repeat my reader’s comment:

…the nightmare of our global history demonstrates that wishing away such bad ideas comes with yet another horde of barbarians at the door.

This got my attention. Now, what do we do?


Book Review: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

The Diary of Anne Frank is a book that everyone is supposed to have read. It’s in the league of Catcher in the Rye, Moby Dick and The Grapes of Wrath.

I have read Catcher in the Rye at least twice, but I never even picked up Anne Frank.

After working through Rise and Fall, Five Chimneys and Nyiszli’s Auschwitz, it was time I came of age and read two years of diary entries of a fourteen year old girl, Anne Frank.

Anne was a young girl of a Jewish family in Amsterdam. In the summer of 1942, when the occupying Germans started to haul away Jewish people, sending them off to concentration camps, those that could either fled abroad before it was too late, or went into hiding. Anne, her sister, her parents, along with another family of three and a single elderly dentist, eight people in all, went into hiding in an industrial area of Amsterdam, in a hidden annex to the office building where her father used to be one of  the manager of the company. Eight people lived in very crowded conditions, constantly in fear of being discovered or betrayed, as supplies and resources dwindled. They were cooped up for over two years before somebody turned them in. All but Anne’s father eventually died in horrible conditions in concentration camps. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen in March of 1945, just weeks before British troops liberated the camp on April 15, 1945. He father eventually recovered the diary that was left in the annex when they were taken away.

Books are telepathy and time travel devices, as this quote from the diary illustrates:

Mr. Bolkestein, the Cabinet Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. Of course, everyone pounced on my diary. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a novel about the Secret Annex. The title alone would make people think it was a detective story. Seriously, ten years after the war people would find it very amusing to read how we lived, what we ate and what we talked about as Jews in hiding.

It is now seventy years after a girl of fourteen wrote these words in a small room in a cramped apartment in Amsterdam that she had not left for a year and a half. In a diary she put her most secret thoughts, her troubles with her parents not understanding her, her coming of age, dealing with puberty, facing the changes in her body, wondering why the Jews were singled out to have no rights and no freedom. Not long after she wrote those words their secret lives unraveled and the world ended for Anne. Seventy years later I can sit safely in sunny Southern California in my living room, reading her secret words, I can feel her passions and her fears, time-traveling to her tiny world in Amsterdam in 1944.

We know about Anne Frank and her seven hapless companions because Anne wrote a meticulous diary, which was almost miraculously preserved. Then her father survived the concentration camp, and eventually found the diary and published it.

We do not know about all the other hundreds or thousands of families hiding in attics and basements in Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria and many other occupied countries. How many survived in hiding? How many were eventually hauled away to the killing camps?

If Anne Frank only knew the service she eventually provided to mankind when she sat down and made her regular diary entries, chronicling a terrible time in history! If she only knew that because of her writing, their secret annex is now a museum and tourist attraction in Amsterdam!

Rating: ****