In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.Ed Morrissey agrees this is unusual for the Vatican, at least in recent times:
“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
Tomasi said that any anti-ISIS coalition has to include the Muslim states of the Middle East, and can’t simply be a “Western approach.” He also said it should unfold under the aegis of the United Nations.
The call for force is striking, given that the Vatican traditionally has opposed military interventions in the Middle East, including the two US-led Gulf Wars. It builds, however, on comments from Pope Francis that the use of force is “legitimate … to stop an unjust aggressor.”
In other words, we seem to have moved from what Allen described as a “yellow light” last summer to a very bright, flashing green light. Needless to say, this is not just “unusually blunt,” it’s unusually hawkish for the Vatican, which almost always endorses conciliation and diplomacy over conflict. It’s a measure of just how radically dangerous this situation has become with ISIS, and how much death and destruction has resulted from its rapid expansion.Think this is a little over-the-top? Think again. This is indeed a clash of civilizations, to the extent that anything Islamist can be considered a "civilization." In a piece titled "ISIS’s Sledgehammer Against Civilization," Charles Hill dissects the meaning and danger of Islamists' destruction of priceless history:
Scenes of Islamic State mauls smashing ancient statues—one a winged bull from ninth century, B.C. Assyria—in the museum of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and in the ancient city of Nimrud, reveal a new and profound dimension in radical Islam’s twenty-first century war on world civilization. When the slaughter, enslavement, and genocidal designs on other religious groups are joined by culturally catastrophic destruction of non-Islamic arts and artifacts, then the world faces a fully totalitarian enemy whose rationale is directly declared: “Oh, Muslims, these artifacts that are behind me were idols and gods who lived centuries ago [and were] worshipped instead of Allah,” the smasher said to the camera. “Our Prophet,” he continued, “ordered us to remove all these statues as his followers did when they conquered nations.”Ah, the Iranian mullahs. Those people to whom Obama wants to surrender in what is probably his most vile foreign policy initiative to date, which is obviously saying something.
Such cultural devastation has been evident all across this new twenty-first century, from the Taliban’s mortaring and dynamiting the giant sculpted Buddhas carved into the rock face at Bamiyan on the ancient Silk Road through Afghanistan to the Islamist devastation of the mausoleum, shrines, and library of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Muslim center of learning at Timbuktu, a registered world cultural heritage site. The devastation is also apparent in Saudi Arabia’s systematic destruction of the traditional surroundings of the Ka’aba and the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The government has obliterated significant Ottoman-era structures to put up high-rise glass and steel hotels of indistinguishable modern facelessness, a demonstration that such cultural ravages can be carried out by legitimate, internationally-recognized Muslim state regimes as well as by the radical jihadis who aim to overthrow those same state regimes as abominations in the eyes of Islamism.
If these depredations of Islamism are an atavistic reawakening of the seventh-century Islamic rise in order to command the future, it is necessary to review the devastations generated by the modern age itself all through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the Enlightenment, as Kant and Hegel made clear, history replaced theology and religion as the arena in which the greatest challenges of the human condition would have to be played out.
With religion relegated to the sidelines, ideology was invented as its substitute. Ideology became a totalistic, answer-all-questions compulsory atheistic faith. Like most religions, once inaugurated, the ideology begins the world anew: the French Revolution as the year zero or Mao’s Tiananmen architecturally declaring that nothing good happened before 1949. Thus history itself was destroyed or transformed with a scientific certainty, a railroad along which the ideology would inevitably ride.
The zenith of ideology’s catastrophic destruction of culture came in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, launched to totally eradicate traditional Chinese culture by burning books, outlawing the Peking Opera and all theatrical productions, suppressing academic and intellectual life, and tearing down pagodas and temples. Any structure or creative arts manifestation had to be destroyed. All this was produced in accordance with Mao’s perception that Marxism had to be turned upside down. Materialism, the economic base that, when communized, was supposed to change the culture, had not worked. Mao saw culture—and he was correct—as the determinative human factor, so China’s great cultural past had to go. Confucius was reviled; Mao reveled in being compared to China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, who burned the books and buried scholars alive.
What we are witnessing today in Islamism’s war on the world’s cultures is not unconnected to this modern revolutionary upheaval. The “history” that replaced religion in the Enlightenment and which was in turn commandeered by ideology, has with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s revolutionary seizure of state power in 1979 and the Islamic State’s taking extensive territorial power in 2014-15, amalgamated religion and ideology as a new stage in the war against history. No wonder, therefore, that the radical jihadists revel in their conviction that the ultimate apocalyptic moment has been placed in their hands.
However grotesque and despicable is Islamist vandalism in the service of imagined divine instructions, there is more at stake in this phenomenon. Something of world-historical consequence is going on, because this jihadi assault threatens a global development which may stand comparison with the “Axial Age,” a transformation in human consciousness discerned by the philosopher Karl Jaspers (1885-1969): that in the middle centuries of the first millennium B.C. a trans-civilizational shift in mentalities took place across a great swath of the globe from the Eastern Mediterranean to Persia to South Asia to China. Sharply contested, the axial theory nonetheless does provide coherence to the emergence of cultural expressions that contain both individualist and universalist characteristics at the same time. A “New Axial Age,” which can at least hypothetically be tracked from the early Modern age to the present, is still in an emerging phase of development, one that centers on cultural art and artifacts.Even if Obama is too stupid, feckless, and/or compromised to defend Western civilization, many Westerners are not and are acting in his stead. After the Taliban attacked two churches in Pakistan, a Christian mob rioted and killed two suspected Taliban supporters. Law Prof. Glenn Reynolds responds: "I think that the nonviolent side of Christianity is heading into at least partial eclipse."
Good. About time.