By Ralph H. Sidway, guest contributor
Perhaps there really is a “colonial mentality” afflicting the Western Powers after all. How else to explain the succession of disastrous foreign policy choices by Barack Obama, David Cameron, and the NATO alliance regarding the “Arab Spring,” which are not merely ill advised, but downright immoral.
It’s one thing to put forth a foreign policy which tries to spread democracy, but it is quite another when one puts one’s finger on the scale—as the Obama Administration has done in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria—in order to leverage into power repressive forces who historically have persecuted their neighbors, and have stated their intention to do so again today.
Democratic governance in Islamic nations should not, in fact, be the goal of United States foreign policy. As Raymond Ibrahim has written, “as with all forms of governance, democracy is a means to an end: based on whether that end is good (freedom) or bad (tyranny) should be the ultimate measure of its worth.”
Indeed, as we have seen in the bloody persecution of Christians under Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood Egypt and the other poisonous fruits of the “Arab Spring,” Islamists do not respect the principles nor the goals of democracy, but merely use it as a tool, a means to their end, even likening voting to a form of jihad, their ultimate goal being the institution of shariah law. And as nearly fourteen hundred years of Islamic history has proven, the shariah means tyranny for non-Muslims.
This extreme dissonance regarding the end goal is one component of the West’s blind spot towards the Levant. Mistaking the process of democracy as a goal in and of itself, the West has chosen some spectacularly unsavory bedfellows. And by allying itself to the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the cannibalistic Syrian rebel jihadis, the Obama Administration and its partners have launched out on a course which can only lead to another genocide against indigenous Christians, a classic case of history being repeated.
In the early-mid 19th century, although Great Britain, France and Russia together sought to protect the Christian minorities under the Ottoman yoke, Britain later, under Disraeli, actually aligned with the Ottomans, and effectively allowed severe repressions of the Serbs in 1875, and massacres of Bulgarians in 1876, in which as many as 100,000 Christians were slaughtered by Turkish forces.
It was only the Russians who actually came to the defense of the Armenians and the Balkan Christian populations in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Romania, Serbia and Montenegro gained full independence through the Russian victory, and Bulgaria autonomy. Britain became more alarmed, however, at Russia’s resurgence than at the Ottoman threat to Christian minorities, and forced Russia out of Ottoman territory through the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. This led to a soft-influence, “lead from behind” approach by the Great Powers, which ultimately enabled the irrefutably documented Turkish genocidal massacres of Armenian and Christian populations from 1894 through to 1915.
The similarities to our own age are startling.
Did Russia have territorial goals in the 19th century? Certainly, but modest ones, related to ports and sea access, and no threat to Great Britain. One ought not underestimate the motivating force of Russia’s self-perceived role as protector and liberator of the enslaved Orthodox and Armenian Christians. The British were blind to this dynamic, and millions were killed by the Turks as a result. One might even make the case that had Tsarist Russia been supported by Britain and France in her 1878 containment policy towards the tottering Ottoman Empire, that even World War I might have been averted. But that’s 20/20 hindsight for you.
In any case, one must admit of an inherent Western blind spot when it comes to understanding Russia’s foreign policy vis a vis vulnerable Christian populations. I would submit that what we are witnessing today in Russia’s clearly articulated role as protector of Christian minorities in the Islamic world is the contemporary application of a deeply felt holy duty, which the Russian Orthodox Church has enjoined upon the Putin government.
Appreciating this motivating dynamic behind Russian foreign policy, and schooling our president and elected representatives is now the essential task. It is certain that if Obama has his way and manages to install radical Islamist groups in Egypt, Syria and other Muslim nations, then indigenous Christians will suffer worst of all.
In the last decade we’ve already seen the collapse of the Christian population in Iraq, an explosion of genocidal atrocities against the Copts in Egypt, and massacres of whole Christian villages in Syria. Is it prudent for the United States to continue down this path, when the outcome already mirrors the treatment of the Armenian, Pontus and Greek Christians by the vengeful Turkish Muslims of a century ago?
And let us not forget the destruction of the ancient Christian port of Smyrna in September 1922, during which as many as 100,000 Armenian and Greek Christians were massacred, their homes and shops burned to the ground by Turkish troops, under the callous eyes of British and French warships anchored in the harbor, and American troops in the city, ordered to not intervene.
Let us not repeat such scandalous moral failures of yesteryear.
Rather, our times call for a radical re-alignment of American foreign policy with the morally undergirded realpolitik of Russia’s robust stance against radical Islam. It will require force, a willingness to face reality, and a moral commitment to defend the most vulnerable of the Islamic world’s population, in order to establish peace in the volatile Muslim world. And it will take clear vision.
But can the West overcome its stubborn blind spot regarding Russia?
Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.