The Crusades, Reconsidered

From an excerpt of Jonah Goldberg’s new book, Tyranny of Cliches’:

…Until fairly recently, historically speaking, Muslims used to brag about being the winners of the Crusades, not the victims of it. That is if they talked about them at all. “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineff ectual re­sponse to the jihad—a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living historian of Islam in the English language (and perhaps any language).  Historian Thomas Madden puts it more directly, “Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The cru­sades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West’s belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world.”…

You can, of course, bring up some bad things which happened during the Crusades – most notably the massacre of the both the Muslim and Jewish population of Jerusalem when the Christians took the city in 1099 as well as Richard the Lionheart’s massacre of 2,700 Muslims at Acre during the Third Crusade.  Bad things.  Should not have been done.  No decent person in 2012 would ever contemplate doing any such thing.  But, by the standards of 11th and 12th century warfare, not at all remarkable.  And any Muslim who wants to whine about it is directed to what Muslims did when they took Constantinople in 1453…many centuries later, when we were all supposed to be much more civilized.

So, I leave aside such complaints – war is always nasty and the hard men of the 11th and 12th centuries, on both sides, did many a cruel act.  But the main facts cannot be disputed:  the Crusades were a counter-attack.  The Muslim attack upon Christianity began, entirely unprovoked, in 634 when some rapacious Muslim barbarians from the Arabian peninsula launched what was at first no more than a large scale plunder raid in to Christian Syria.  Quickly noticing how weak the Christian forces were (the Christian government of the area – the Byzantine Empire – was greatly weakened by a recently concluded, 20 year long war with Persia), the Muslims just poured in to a military vacuum.  For centuries thereafter, Muslim armies conquered Christian lands, massacred and enslaved Christians, treated Christians like dirt when they didn’t murder or enslave them and generally acted like pirates.  Europe was weak from the 7th to the 10th century as the new, Christian civilization developed upon the debris of the old Greco-Roman civilization…and that build up was hampered by the “barbarian wars” which absorbed the energy of Europe often over a period of centuries.  Because of this, the Christians could do no more than hold on…once Europe recovered a bit, there was a chance to push back…and it wasn’t just a push in to the middle east (though that was by far the more famous part), but also a push against the Muslims in Spain.

The only thing bad about the Crusades was that they ultimately failed – they did not extirpate the Mohammedan heresy.  And it is high time that people started to learn the truth about the Crusades.