Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Black Hole we call the Middle East

The modern Sherlock Holmes, with an iPhone and a laptop. His friend Dr. Watson was
wounded in Afghanistan, where the British are fighting today, and the same place the orig-
nal Dr. Watson was fighting when he was wounded, about a hundred and thirty years ago.
In the first episode of the show Sherlock, the modern rendition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes, which portrays Sherlock in the 21st century with an iPhone and a laptop, and written by the same writer as Dr. Who, the first words Sherlock Holmes utters to Dr. Watson when he enters the room upon their meeting are “Afghanistan, or Iraq?” Dr. Watson was an army medic, and with the British army in Afghanistan, where he was wounded.

The original story was of course set in 1881, and although Moffat did change the story a great deal, he did not have to change this. The original Dr. Watson was also wounded In Afghanistan, also with the British army, also fighting armed, angry, radial insurgents.
It illustrates the trouble, in a roundabout Sherlock Holmes sort of way. The never ending war. To pinpoint where it began would require deductive skills beyond mine. We could say the war between Western Armies and Eastern Nutcases began about two hundred years ago, give or take, when Britain decided, along with a few other European Nations, to colonize the world. (Yes the West was not always right, and the East not always wrong.)
But then we would be forced to remember the Crusades, which began about a thousand years ago, and lasted for hundreds of years, with men who considered themselves Christians bringing their version of justice and knightly pastimes to the skulls of any Arab who happen to get in their way on their march to the Holy Land.

Battle of Tours, 732. The guy who drew this probably wasn't there, though.
But of course, the long war of West v. East did not begin then. There was the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, when hordes of turbaned warriors tried to invade France, and were stopped by squares of Frenchmen wielding axes in what must have been an exciting day. That one, by the way, happened on Western Soil, a rare phenomenon in this long fight.
Of course, in the news, now, is not only the fat that we are fighting in the Middle East, one again, but also the stories of ISIS brutality. But the brutality is also not new. When the Arab hordes first began their sweep, the stories were sometimes so terrible as to not bear repeating.
So when quick fixes are offered to this problem, this “Eastern Question” we must remember that there are no easy answers to men who don’t ask questions, but kill indiscriminately because their brains are more twisted than the Mississippi River. ISIS won’t be defeated by a jobs problem or by enrolling them all on healthcare. (Imagine the premiums for a suicide bomber.)

The weapons have changed, the fighting, and where we do it, still has not.
And it should also be remembered that the Middle East is a bit like the old troll motto from those weird children’s books we used to read when the troll would camp out in someone else’s house. “Once in never out.”
We, the West, and been pouring money and arms and lives into the black hole for centuries, and we have nothing but debt, and tears, and tombstones to show for it. At some point, we will pull out of this one too. In four, eight, twelve or twenty years, we will leave.

And when we do, let’s try to follow the last part of that troll motto. “Once in never out” but “once out, never back.”

Andrew C. Abbott

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