The Syrian War

Fredy Winkler

A recent article appeared in an Israeli newspaper with the title, “What if no one wants to win the Syrian War?”

So far, everyone who gets mixed up in the Syrian War, such as Turkey recently, only wants to defend their own interests. No one has yet ventured far enough into the Syrian “swamp” to induce any change. In fact, the predominant opinion seems to be that none of the primary participants should be allowed to win the war; certainly not Assad and his supporters. At the same time, no one wants to let the Islamic rebels take over and build a jihadist state; and, of course, the existence of ISIS shouldn’t even be recognized.

The author compared the Syrian War with the Thirty-Years’ War in Germany, which took place as a consequence of the Reformation, and asked, “Where is the Westphalian peace, which finally ended that senseless war that no one could win?”

If no one can truly win the Syrian War, and if no one should even be allowed to win it, then the only option that’s left is to end it. Unfortunately, it appears that the senseless bloodbath will continue for now, but the question remains, “How is it all going to end?”

On one hand, the war in Syria is similar to the Thirty-Years’ War, in that it is motivated by religion. On the other hand, it is similar because now, like then, it is being abused as a political and military power struggle among the superpowers.

Just as all historical comparisons can grow a little wearisome, this comparison with the Thirty-Years’ War is getting old. But even as history doesn’t truly repeat itself, there’s no reason not to learn from it.

Looking back and longing for glorious, historic events without being realistic can be disastrous. In many ways, that appears to be the case with many leaders and followers of the so-called Islamic State.

When the Abbasids rebelled against the Umayyad-Caliphate dynasty in 747 AD and then became a caliphate themselves, black clothes and black flags—similar to the modern ISIS fighters—were the symbol and standard of the rebellion. By some accounts, the Abbasid rebellion was a novel concept at the time. The Abbasids promised their followers that there would be equality for all Muslims, regardless of the origin of their people. Prior to that time, Arabs enjoyed a certain supremacy that guaranteed them greater privileges. This new equality for all Muslims led the Abbasids to a rapid and decisive victory.

The Abbasids saw the hand of God in their magnificent victory. They saw themselves as agents of God on earth and imputed end-time meaning to the events of their time. On the occasion of the triumphant victory speeches, an uncle of the new caliph declared interestingly, “Know that our sovereignty will not be taken away from us until we give it to Jesus, the son of Mary.”

This declaration is evidence that the teachings of Islam had not yet taken hold at that time and were instead more like tales. Looking at the Abbasid Revolution can give some perspective as to where the ISIS leaders got some of their ideas. In a way, they are trying to finish what the Abbasids started.

There’s one distinctive thing that ISIS leaders apparently didn’t learn from the Abbasids and their ideals, which helped propel them to victory back then. A historian at that time wrote admiringly about the Abbasid armies, “There’s never been anything like this in Islam. They are known as a people with supreme discipline. They don’t molest human life, and they refrain from raping and pillaging.” That’s something that really can’t be said of the ISIS fighters. Those who live by the sword often die by the sword.

One thing that’s certain is that with the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, all wars will be brought to an end and peace will reign.

News From Israel - 10/2016

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