Sunday, September 03, 2006

Today in History - the Eye of Goliath

Some may question the politics of a blogger who profiles two Muslim victories in two weeks, but the Battle of Ayn Jalud is one of those rare events that can be called a pivot of history. What the Chinese failed to do with gunpowder, flamethrowers and repeating crossbows, the slave-soldiers of Islam achieved: halting the greatest conquerors the world has seen. Historians still argue over the merits of the Mamluk victory - Wellington would have called it a 'damned close-run thing' - but they did it again a year later at Homs, ensuring that the Mongol frontier stayed in Syria rather than ending up in Egypt or France.

These days, it's hard to imagine an age in which Muslim warriors routed a foe who cut western armies to pieces. Small wonder that the memory of Ayn Jalud had Saddam Hussein proclaiming, even as Desert Storm II was gathering over his head, that the Americans would find a conquest of Baghdad the sort of Pyrhhic victory that Hulagu Khan did eight centuries before. The battle freed the Mamluks to mop up the remants of the Crusader states, but it also put them between Christendom and the yellow peril, ensuring that the Pope would avoid the fate of the last Caliph (rolled in a carpet and run over with a few hundred horses). One wonders if young men in Baghdad today, taking on the might of the US military with RPGs and homemade bombs, ever pause to consider that Western Civilisation may have been saved by Muslims.

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