July 21, 2006

Adventures in idiocy

Rick Santorum:

These messianic Shi’ites see this as an opportunity to accomplish this long desired mission for radical Islam. Remember, Islamic extremists fought the West over the course of a thousand years to their high-water mark outside the gates of Vienna.

The siege of Vienna lasted until September 1683 – September 11, 1683 – the next day the united West triumphed.

Well, that's definitely in the running for the worst historical allusion ever.

For those who don't get how stupid a statement the above is, a re-read of the history of the Persian Safavid dynasty might be in order. The brief recap: the Shi'ite Safavids were in many ways the greatest foe of the Ottoman empire, engaging them in a century-and-a-half long conflict (c. 1501-1639) over, ironically Iraq, all through the period where the Sunni Ottomans were trying to extend their rule into Southeast Europe. It was a true holy war, too, with both sides convinced the other's version of Islam was heretical. It's fair to say that if the Ottoman Sultans hadn't faced near-continual warfare on their Eastern borders in this period, they'd have done a lot better against the Christian European forces that were just as desperate to hold them in check in the West.

To make a hopefully not quite as strained a historical comparison of my own, talking about Iran and the Siege of Vienna in the same breath this way would be kind of like saying a couple decades back:

"Those Socialists in the Soviet Union could overrun Europe at any time. They never give up. Remember how the Western Allies between Dunkirk and VE-Day had to fight on alone to prevent German Socialists -- National Socialists -- from doing the same thing fifty years ago. Same exact thing."

Side note: the Safavids' glory days only came after they re-equipped their medieval style army in the early 1600s with muskets and cannon, thanks to a couple mercenary English military advisors; their empire would ultimately collapse in 1722 thanks to an invading horde of... wait for it... Afghans. Middle East history's kinda complex that way: too complex for anyone as dense as this Santorum fellow.

Posted by BruceR at 04:57 PM