The Modern Middle East and the 30 Years War

Imagine it is some time in the 1620s and you are a member of a council of top advisors to the Ottoman sultan discussing if intervention in the European war could be beneficial to the empire. An expert in European affairs is brought in to provide information about the main combatants, the causes of the conflict, etc. Imagine such a person attempting to explain such bewildering realities as the nature of the sovereignty of the Holy Roman Empire, the religious authority of the Pope, and the various flavors of Christianity that had arisen over the past century. The sultan, grand vizier, and other top officials would be hard pressed to understand the basic outline of the information provided by the expert while being unable and/or unwilling to understand the complexities and subtleties involved.

Such a situation is analogous to the current intervention by the US, France, and Russia in the Middle East. The problems besetting this region are every bit as complex and subtle as those facing Europe during the disastrous 30 Years War. Recall that it took about two centuries for Europe to work out its religious controversies to the point that they were no longer catalysts for wars. In the Middle East it has only been a century since the demise of the Ottoman Empire and unlike in Europe of five centuries ago, outsiders have been intervening continuously.

No outside powers will ever be able to impose a stable settlement on the Middle East. Just as Europe had to endure 200 years of warfare to reach a settlement of its religious problems, the Middle East will have to endure some period of warfare to do the same. Only the people of the Middle East can solve their problems. Unfortunately, there is no easy, quick, or peaceful solution.

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