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A passion of mine for many years has been well-produced historical films, especially those works that in some way support and elaborate cinematically more traditional perspectives on faith and history. Long ago the neo-Marxist Left understood fully well the importance of the visual arts, in particular cinema, in shaping a political mentality, of using film to inculcate certain cultural and religious “values” and beliefs into a captive audience. Here in the United States today the narrative presented in schools and colleges, and on the both big and small screen, about the history of Western civilization is not just warped, but also blatantly and viciously anti-Christian (a prime example being the recent ignorant and malicious tripe spouted by Obama regarding the Crusades).
Recently, some excellently produced—what I would call “traditionalist”—films have come out of both Russia and Poland. Unfortunately, mostt American movie viewers will never see those films because we use the NTSC format for DVD reproduction, while the PAL format is used in much of Europe and Asia. (Universal or PAL DVD format players can be had via Amazon.com inexpensively).
One recent Polish production is titled, fascinatingly, “September 11, 1683 – The Battle of Vienna”—the correspondence to another, more searing 9/11 date is chilling—and it chronicles the famous siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks that year, with an army of 300,000 fanatical Muslims against a Christian coalition army of about 60,000. The siege was lifted by the great Christian King John (Jan) Sobieski of Poland with his Winged Hussars at the battle of the Kahlenberg Heights, aided by military champion, Prinz Eugen of Savoy.
The film stars F. Murray Abraham as the holy monk who rallies the Austrians, Bavarians, and Poles in the name of Christ as they completely annihilate the Islamist horde. Towards the final climactic charge of the Polish Winged Hussars, Abraham rallies the troops, exclaiming: “If Vienna falls, then Rome falls, and if Rome falls, so does Holy Mother Church and Christendom! For your wives, your children and your families, go forth and defend our Holy Faith against the Infidels!”
Watching this stirring scene, my thoughts immediately turned to Syria and the imbroglio in which the United States has managed to insert itself.
As I recently asked a correspondent: other than Grenada, can you name one armed conflict (AKA “war”) that we have engaged in since Korea where we have actually been successful? Vietnam, Lebanon, Bosnia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, etc?? American attempts to make the world over into a secularized utopia and impose liberal democracy on people who either do not want it, or who are incapable of understanding it—or both—have been singularly unsuccessful.
The era of the Christian Crusades, of Don Juan of Austria, and John Sobieski has long since passed. Presently, we are, whether we like it or not, de facto allied with the Iranians in Iraq opposing ISIS—that is, allied with the very same country that the Neoconservative talking heads on Fox and “war zealots” like John McCain and Lindsey Graham in Congress urge us to bomb. Funny thing about that—and the same country with which we are negotiating over possible future nuclear weapons.
There are 500,000 well-trained and well-armed Turkish troops on the Syrian and Iraqi borders that could, if Turkey wished, take out ISIS. Not only that, the government of Bashar al-Assad (which has the strong support of Syria’s large Christian population) has over a quarter of a million battle-hardened troops now fighting and killing ISIS militants in an horrific war on the ground. Yet, in our schizophrenic approach, while we de facto fight side by side with our proclaimed “major enemy,” Iran, against ISIS, we refuse to even consider a rapprochement with Assad’s Syria—a denominated “lesser enemy”—which is the only major power (other than Jordan) fully engaged against ISIS and against the al-Nusra front (and their so-called “moderate” allies, the Free Syrian Army, which is about as “moderate” as the Black Panthers!).
So there you have it: a fine recipe for another major disastrous foreign policy debacle by the United States, with Congress probably going along, offering another “blank check” that will not really defeat ISIS, but, at best, only temporarily disperse it back into agile and mobile terrorist cells (generously paid for by our “other” ally in the area, Saudi Arabia), while at the same time increasing the American body count and adding billions to our deficit.
And for what? How many times have we heard in recent years the same refrain about “human rights” and “supporting (liberal) democracy”? And what have we seen? A debacle in Libya; a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship in Egypt finally overthrown by the military; abject failure in Iraq (with billions of dollars of taxpayer money totally wasted); the US run out of Somalia in shame; the establishment of a fanatical Muslim state, Kosovo, in the heart of Europe enforced by American arms; and an impending disaster in Afghanistan. How many dead American boys? How many maimed and disabled men and American families without fathers, brothers, sons? How many trillions of dollars spent for….making the world situation much, much worse? And what has been gained except to encourage more ISIS recruits?
No, it is time to re-examine our propositions; given the present situation and context, is it not time to reassert a smarter even-handedness in the Middle East, and, in fact, in the rest of the world, as well?
We could begin by seriously approaching the leader of the only major power now opposing ISIS on the ground in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and acknowledge his combat against them, and offer him at least tacit support in his campaign. Yes, he’s a dictator, but the Saudi monarchy and the Gulf emirates are absolutist states, as well, and we’re allied to them. Recall what FDR supposedly said about Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic: “He may be a sonofabitch, but he’s OUR sonofabitch!” Arguments about “human rights” and “liberal democracy” pale in comparison when confronted by evangelically extremist Islamist groups like ISIS.
We could also engage Turkey in a much more effective and forceful manner and try to persuade it to become more active militarily. After all, ISIS is a serious potential threat to it, as well.
These two very practical actions, in the present context, might stave off disaster—for a while.
But the one thing we should not do in the present template is commit more American boys in an open-ended adventure, where our track record has been abysmal and when we fail to understand the deeply religious nature of the conflict we are in.
In all the talk today about Islamic extremism and what to do about it, think back about how Christian Europe responded centuries ago—in 1529 (first siege of Vienna), at Lepanto in 1570, and then at the gates of Vienna in 1683, as illustrated by that amazing film, “September 11, 1683 –The Battle of Vienna.” If the vibrantly crusading spirit of King John Sobieski existed today, perhaps we would really know how to deal with ISIS. But, as it is, in our era dominated by pervasive and decadent secularism, grasping and rootless Wall Street internationalists, and the egalitarian desire of the Neoconservatives to impose global liberal democracy, the fatally ill West talks of sending troops in the name of….what? Consumerism, same sex marriage, bought-and-paid-for elections, women’s liberation, and the right to all the porno they want?
This present secular “crusade” in Syria we’re going to engage in will, sadly and tragically, probably fail….because its sights are not focused on truth and the religious nature of the conflict. We are perishing today for the lack of a John Sobieski and the spirit of Lepanto. What giants our ancestors were, and how far we’ve fallen!