The new “Islamic State” and its troubles.

The Washington Post is worried that the “Islamic State is failing as a state.”

Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in towns and cities across the “caliphate” proclaimed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State, residents say, belying the group’s boasts that it is delivering a model form of governance for Muslims.

The Muslims have never been much at governing. In the early days after Muhammed and his nomadic warriors conquered much of the Middle East, the people pretty much governed themselves as the Arabs were better at fighting than governing.

The “Golden Age of Islam” was from the rule of Harun al Rashid to the Mongol conquest, in 1260 to 1300. The Sack of Baghdad, which ended the “Golden Age”, occurred in 1258.

Although the Abbasids had failed to prepare for the invasion, the Caliph believed that Baghdad could not fall to invading forces and refused to surrender. Hulagu subsequently besieged the city, which surrendered after 12 days. During the next week, the Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities and destroying the Abbasids’ vast libraries, including the House of Wisdom. The Mongols executed Al-Musta’sim and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated.

The Golden Age of Islam had been chiefly carried out by Christians and recent converts (mostly involuntary) who translated Greek classics into Arabic. It was mostly a fiction created in the 19th century.

The metaphor of a golden age begins to be applied in 19th-century literature about Islamic history, in the context of the western cultural fashion of Orientalism. The author of a Handbook for Travelers in Syria and Palestine in 1868 observed that the most beautiful mosques of Damascus were “like Mohammedanism itself, now rapidly decaying” and relics of “the golden age of Islam”

The government heavily patronized scholars. The money spent on the Translation Movement for some translations is estimated to be equivalent to about twice the annual research budget of the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council. The best scholars and notable translators, such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, had salaries that are estimated to be the equivalent of professional athletes today.

A good deal of this is nonsense contrived by later “Orientalists” who glorified the barbarian Arabs and their Muslim rulers.

The use of paper spread from China into Muslim regions in the eighth century, arriving in Al-Andalus on the Iberian peninsula, present-day Spain in the 10th century. It was easier to manufacture than parchment, less likely to crack than papyrus, and could absorb ink, making it difficult to erase and ideal for keeping records. Islamic paper makers devised assembly-line methods of hand-copying manuscripts to turn out editions far larger than any available in Europe for centuries. It was from these countries that the rest of the world learned to make paper from linen.

And yet the printing press did not appear for centuries in Arab lands. The Wikipedia article on the printing press does not mention a Muslim country.

Due to religious qualms, Sultan Bayezid II and successors prohibited printing in Arabic script in the Ottoman empire from 1483 on penalty of death, but printing in other scripts was done by Jews as well as the Greek and Armenian communities (1515 Saloniki, 1554 Bursa (Adrianople), 1552 Belgrade, 1658 Smyrna). In 1727, Sultan Achmed III gave his permission for the establishment of the first legal print house for printing secular works in Arabic script (religious publications still remained forbidden), but printing activities did not really take off until the 19th century.

It has become politically popular to exaggerate the Muslim world’s role.

“Nothing in Europe,” notes Jamil Ragep, a professor of the history of science at the University of Oklahoma, “could hold a candle to what was going on in the Islamic world until about 1600.” Algebra, algorithm, alchemy, alcohol, alkali, nadir, zenith, coffee, and lemon: these words all derive from Arabic, reflecting Islam’s contribution to the West.

Mosaic at entrance


When I visited Hagia Sophia, Constantine’s great Christian cathedral in Istanbul, the church, which had been a mosque since the fall of Constantinople, was being converted to a museum and the great panels of Quran calligraphy that covered the original mosaics of Christian scenes were being taken down.


The workmen taking down those panels found that the mosaics beneath had been carefully preserved by the workmen who had erected the panels after 1453 and protected from harm. It seems apparent that those workmen, no doubt reluctant converts to Islam, hoped for a restoration after reconquest.

The Greeks of the middle east came to be known as “Levantines,” which was a term of derision as they worked for the Muslim conquerers.

When the United Kingdom took over the southern portion of Ottoman Syria in the aftermath of the First World War, some of the new rulers adapted the term “Levantine” pejoratively to refer to inhabitants of mixed Arab and European descent and to Europeans (usually French, Italian or Greek) who had assimilated and adopted local dress and customs.

Without the Levantine Greeks and Italians to run things, the Turks could not have maintained their empire. They even kidnapped Christian children, especially from the Serbs, and called them “Janissaries,” or “New Soldiers.” The Janissaries ran the empire for the Turkish Sultans.

Some historians such as Patrick Kinross date the formation of the Janissaries to around 1365, during the rule of Orhan’s son Murad I, the first sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The Janissaries became the first Ottoman standing army, replacing forces that mostly consisted of tribal warriors (ghazis) whose loyalty and morale were not always guaranteed.

Even then, the Muslims could not rule themselves without the conquered people. Why should anyone be surprised that the barbarians (The Greeks term for the residents of the middle east) are unable to govern ? They are excellent killers and do rape and pillage well.

More on “The Caliphate”: In the Iraqi city of Mosul, the water has become undrinkable because supplies of chlorine have dried up, said a journalist living there, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety. Hepatitis is spreading, and flour is becoming scarce, he said. “Life in the city is nearly dead, and it is as though we are living in a giant prison,” he said.

Aside from the plight of the residents, abandoned by Obama, I see little reason to intervene. Iran is the enemy. Syria and the ISIS crowd are terrorists and killers. Of course, they are getting some outside help.

Much of the assistance that is being provided comes from Western aid agencies, which discreetly continue to help areas of Syria under Islamic State control. The United States funds health-care clinics and provides blankets, plastic sheeting and other items to help the neediest citizens weather the winter, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The Gaza barbarians are not much better at governance and seem to survive on begging from European and US charity in the form of government grants. Islam seems to be surviving on the scraps iof civilization left by the west.

Much of this occurred when the Arab army of Lawrence of Arabia took Damascus. They were unable to operate the city infrastructure and soon left to resume their nomadic ways. The Saudis have operated in this manner since then. They are dependent on their servants and their foreign employees.

39 thoughts on “The new “Islamic State” and its troubles.”

  1. I saw a satellite image of Israel and the surrounding areas a while back. The outline and interior of the country was easily recognized by green areas within. The areas outside contained only very small areas that were similar. I either heard or read that wherever Islam goes deserts of one type or another appear. I don’t know that that is literally true, but I can certainly imagine how it might be. No Christmas mass on the Nineveh Plain in 1400 years? The news that you have to dig for grows more terrifying each day.

  2. The Washington Post is worried that the “Islamic State is failing as a state.”

    Their worries are based in the concern that an enemy of the United States may fail to continue to attack its interests. Just in passing, the Islamic State does not yet have all the attributes of statehood. When it achieves them, it will not all be Bastila and Qatayef. If you are a state, you can be held to account as a state. Which means that acts of war can be answered by war. Not, granted, by the United States under the Emperor Benito Hussein Obama. Nor by the European Union under anybody. But there are other nations with nuclear weapons who may not be so … whipped, and who may be more than passing irate might not be as forbearing.

  3. Islam is a warrior religion. Unfortunately warriors disparage bureaucrats. Christian slaves make the best Bureaucrats because Christianity is a bureaucratic religion. So Islamic states are poorly run because Christian slaves are purchased to run them. As usual, there is a Greek word for this.

  4. If we just give the Muslims a chance and keep shipping them weapons, they will kill each other, and not stop until the last one is dead.

  5. #1 goal of Islam is to make world 100% Muslim by killing or converting unbelievers. When this happens the world ends.

    Giving them weapons will produce dead unbelievers. They won’t kill each other. However Shia will kill Sunni and v.v., but mostly they prefer killing unprotected Christians, Jews, etc. They are taught to kill/convert unbelievers and not be punished for doing so.

  6. I wish to add something of a History Friday to supplement the above post.
    It is from the “Arsenal of Democracy” -The spring of Edsel Ford’s last season on Earth. He spent it under relentless duress. Chasing the bomber-an-hour goal, he summoned all his strength,hoping his last lungful could breath life into Willow Run.
    In March, 1943, he stood next to Colonel Thomas Drake on a stage in front of a crowd gathered outside if Rouge. At that moment, the R-2800 Double Wasp aircraft engines built at Rouge were throttling airmen into battle all over the globe, in the B-26, P-47, and F-6 Hellcat. Edsel had very little time to live, bur died knowing he gave democracy a chance to survive. “The Arsenal Of Democracy” ” FDR, Detroit,and an epic quest to arm an America at war.” (A.J. BAIME)

  7. As this Islamic ’empire’ is based on conquest, plunder, slavery and exploitation of any lands taken without regard to the supporting infrastructure, I can only hope that this one will collapse of its own weight faster than the previous iterations. Was it Bernard Lewis who speculated that the Caliphate began to collapse in slow-motion when it could no longer deal in wholesale plunder and slaves?

  8. Will observed that areas under Islamic domination are largely desert. I ran across an hour long video on MEMRI called “The 1400 Year Old Secret. The man who presents it goes into great detail about the devestation wrought on the former Roman empire by Islamic conquest. It is well worth watching and pretty much destroys any concept of any “golden age” under Islam; there were none.
    Among the diasters that befell them were the destruction of crop lands. The occupants of the ares conquered were largely, at the time, Cristian farmers. In fact they were mostly Roman or Greek, not Arabs. Upon conquest they slaugtered or enslaved and the Islamic Arabs turned loose vast numbers of goats in the farm fields. This land was rapidly denuded by the goats and what had been verdent fields was soon turned to desert.

  9. The middle east used to be called ‘the Fertile Crescent.’ Egypt and North Africa were the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, shipping boatloads of wheat, fruit, olive-oil and produce to Italy. There were dams and extensive, carefully engineered and managed waterworks all along the coast of the southern Mediterranean. Now, Egypt is starving the North Africa is largely desert – and it came about pretty much as David has described.

  10. “This land was rapidly denuded by the goats and what had been verdent fields was soon turned to desert.”

    Goats are widely blamed for desertification as they pull plants out by the roots instead of grazing. Of course they are necessary for Arab love life.

  11. “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

    The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

    — Sir Winston Churchill, The River War

    You can get jail time for reciting these words in *modern* Great Britain, by the by.

  12. David “Will observed that areas under Islamic domination are largely desert….”

    I believe that Bay Ye’or wrote about this in her books on the calamitous results of the Muslim conquest.

  13. The middle east used to be called ‘the Fertile Crescent.’

    Israel has returned the fertility to the areas of the “Fertile Crescent” it controls. The rest is still desert…..

  14. “Israel has returned the fertility to the areas of the “Fertile Crescent” it controls. ”

    Gaza has returned to standard Arab fertility. In spite of this, Europe is salting to boycott Israeli produce which, I guess, is good news for South Africa until the ANC finally wrecks it.

  15. The thing that is hard to see about autocracies, whether theocratic or ideological, is that, for all their grandiose claims about the “mandate of heaven”, or some form of special racial or spiritual or knowledge superiority, they are truly small in their conception and ensuing mentality.

    In their ferocity towards everyone they don’t control, and their repression of all they do, totalitarian entities seem powerful and fearless, unstoppable and irresistible.

    Like the “Borg”, it seems resistance is futile.

    But it is the looser, more open, and more flexible cultural and social entities of the west that have the strength and adaptability that the brittle autocracies can never generate, and are less fearful of differing ideas and innovations than the tightly controlled rigidities of the totalitarians can ever dare to be.

    Repeatedly over the last few centuries, and cancerously during the 20th, we have seen these various autocratic/totalitarian doctrines rise in a seemingly irresistible wave, only to have them crash against the rocks of an adaptive and innovative social construct which does not fear the idea that humans may have differing views, religions, or theories of life.

    The truth about any totalitarian structure, whether religious or ideological, is that it is brittle and unstable, fearful and small-minded, led by those for whom any new idea is a threat, and any independent mind is a crime.

    Why would it be a surprise, then, to find the societies under the control of these fanatics are poorly managed, poorly maintained, and failing in numerous areas in which actual managerial competence, not ideological purity, is required.

    Indeed, it would be a shock to find it was any other way

  16. The people of Palestine could live a very comfortable life. Their leadership wants a war and wants civilians dead live on TV. How is this problem resolved?

  17. I don’t know. Seems there exist parallels between the plight of “Palestine” and other communities, many much closer. People in Detroit and metro St. Louis and Bushwick etc. etc. could live very comfortable lives also. If nothing else in these past six years, I’ve seen that similarity clearer than ever.

  18. That’s a good point. The one thing that defines Palestinians is their institutionalized perpetual victimhood because of their refugee status, which is inherited and going on the fourth generation now.
    Syria is a good example of this senselessness. Thousands of Palestinians have died in the 60+ year old refugee camps in the Syrian civil war, mostly from disease and starvation. Rather than join the rest of civilized humanity, they’re encouraged to stay on these blighted, lawless reservations that become magnets for insurgents when war breaks out. Many had to leave and are now refugees from their refugee camps. They aren’t really victims of war, but they are victims of the UN programs. Most of all they’re victims of their own perceived victimhood which keeps them impoverished and in a self-imposed enslavement.

  19. Once you feel entited/aggrieved and once you think there was a golden age in which nature provided a paradise for its unconscious inhabitants – and the loss of rhat paradise came with the loss of that primitive state, all is going to be pretty much downhill. I can see it in my students; the good ones look at Douglass and love what he made himself – they love the idea of consciousness. Some want to dwell on the material privations of slavery – in his case quite real ad deserving of sympathy. But they don’t inspire. (This is not, by the way, a black/white split; the percentage of African Americas in our college is way below or even county percentage; we are less a community college than feeder one.) His sense that the ticket to consciousness, self-reliance and becoming the man he knew he could be was reading is sometimes lost – and maybe I don’t do enough with it. It just seems to obvious in the midst of a lit class. But when it is seen, it can be a a ha moment.

    On the other hand, I do have students who are so sure the system is stacked against them – or tht’s the way it’s done or that’s wjat education is – that they spend more time gaming my class than doing the work. And that has become more and more common as we privilege those who have a “dream” rather than a goal, a family that sees itself on the bottom rungs. Two girls that never did any work complained to me that they never heard the words we used in class in their homes. They also complained becasue they thought they should get straight into radiology – ecause that was their “dream ” – so why weren’t those classes open to them whatever their grade point. (My best students are often Hispanic, but if you use that English isn’t your first language as a reason not to do your term paper, well you aren’t going to get far.)

  20. “also complained becasue they thought they should get straight into radiology – ecause that was their “dream ”

    Are they premeds ? I get e-mails from a medical student group and they are coming face to face with reality in years I and II. Interesting.

    When I was a surgery resident we had some of these idiots, who were almost as common in the 60s as they are now. One medical student was given the assignment of doing the history and physical on a patient coming in for aortic valve replacement. After he had finished, he announced that he wanted to do the surgery. We told him that medical students did not do open heart surgery. He then went back to the patient and told her not to have the surgery done.

    Another medical student announced to the Chief of Surgery that he wanted to do an appendectomy. The Chief, who had a good sense of humor, said, “Of course ! Just bring in your mother or father or another member of your family and we will let you do it !”

    My black foreign born medical students do not understand American blacks and want nothing to do with them. They think they are deluded and they are.

  21. “My black foreign born medical students do not understand American blacks and want nothing to do with them. They think they are deluded and they are.”

    But if those students of yours settle in the US, how will they keep their children out of the embrace of the culture of American blacks?

  22. “how will they keep their children out of the embrace of the culture of American blacks?”

    A lot of the American black culture is actually an underclass culture. Educated blacks mostly get beyond it, especially if they have the experience of real tribulation. As in Africa, as several have. Others are seemingly immune, like one of my students who played college water polo. I can’t think of a more middle class sport. There are black families on my street which suggests to me (I haven’t met them yet except to say hello) that they had the good sense to move to a quiet suburb where the public schools are good and where crime is as close to zero as you can get.

    A black surgeon friend of mine once told me how he had been elected student body president at UCLA in the late 1950s. He said all he had to do was look and act like a normal middle class college student. Of course, today that would require very different behavior, but that was in another age. His father was a Navy doctor.

  23. The notion of black “cultural-separateness” (sometimes translated into a feeling of “specialness” fostered by media and govt. agencies: see Mike K’s risible anecdotes above) is what is most harmful. There’s a dark skinned POTUS who encourages this even while, ironically, holding the highest office in the land. I suppose that something less than half of the folks that cultural-separatists imagine are unfairly advantaged descend from persons who were non-English speaking and culturally diverse and who arrived in the U. S. fifty years after the Civil War and have managed to adopt to the Anglo-derived American culture. It’s been fifty+ years gone since Jim Crow died. People of color from other cultures have arrived sine then and (as far as I can tell) have adapted. In the meantime my lying eyes tell me it’s still unsafe to walk down streets on the south side day or night. It must be that young black males are unfairly discriminated against…they aren’t disproportionally violent, no, it must be that they are being specially, unfairly, treated.

    It’s the people; it’s the culture of dependance, it’s the leaders who discourage assimilation and derive benefit from unduly emphasizing the idea that folks are being judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character.

  24. This is all recent. I have previously described how my best friend and I hung out in a back bar on the south side of Chicago in 1955-56. We were 18 and drank beer and played bumper pool and were the only white faces in the place. I never felt unsafe. I would not dream of doing anything like that now.

  25. I blame LBJ and the Great Society for some. Also, improving conditions can lead those whose conditions have improved, like the Bourgeoisie in France in 1789, to have increased dissatisfaction with their situation which has not kept up with raised expectations. The black middle class seems to be unimpressed with their progress, as seen in Reverend Wright’s prosperous congregation, which accepted his race baiting and hateful message like the Gospel.

    The “micro aggression” nonsense is an example.

  26. David Said:
    Will observed that areas under Islamic domination are largely desert. I ran across an hour long video on MEMRI
    David Said:
    will observed that areas under Islamic domination are largely desert. I ran across an hour long video on MEMRI
    Well, what you said may be close to the reality if so then David did you count for us how many times same land had have war battles in the recent history & been conquered?

    Then why if as you said “are largely desert”

    From most comments here looks the most are fall with some smear of self-thinking driven by personal believes, the reality is human are human whether whites, balk, or yellow, the war it part of human lives from the day “Allah” put them on this earth, go reads your Holy Books if you are believers in them, read the horror of wars that they token about.

    Whatever excuses used with the denial of Islamic addition to the humanity even if you thinking it were a marginal, or by those converted to Islam, but that not giving you the deniable case whatsoever, let’s not forgot Babylonian were they are not nor Muslims neither Jews or Christians even other faith or believes, the Babylonian got you to read and write but they were from same land no other land.?

  27. *reads over jhoover’s comment*

    *reads it again, hoping it will make sense*

    *reads it once more. Nope*

    *considers deeply sarcastic comment. Reminds self that it’s not nice to pick on those who ride the short bus*

  28. The middle east used to be called ‘the Fertile Crescent.’

    There is a warm period / ‘mini ice age’ cycle that is roughly 550 years long.

    ‘mini ice ages’ were 1500ad-1750ad, 950ad-1200ad, 400ad to 750ad, 100bc-150ad, etc.

    During the mini ice ages the cedars of Lebanon grow, north Africa, Sicily, Spain are bread baskets – they become desserts in the warm periods.

    The Caliphate rose during a mini-ice age. So did the Crusades. On the other hand Genghis Kahn crossed Siberia during a warm period, bringing the Black Death to Europe.

    Luckily, we are at the beginning of another mini-ice age.

    Based on tree ring data collected before 1960.

  29. The “Fertile Crescent” was green and fertile during the Roman warm period from before 400AD. The Arabs and their sloppy and damaging land use practices were not the predominate ethnic group in the area until the Islamic eruption of the 7th and 8th centuries.

  30. During “mini ice ages” temperatures in the alps and Himalayas drop enough to cause glaciers to grow and thicken; in warm periods to glaciers get smaller. In Northern Europe people wears furs to court in the summer during mini ice ages; in warm periods they don’t.

    Crops are easier to grow in the Holy Lands, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Spain during mini ice ages; deserts grow during warm periods.

    Northern barbarians move south during mini ice ages because crops fail. They tend to stay home in warm periods.

  31. I suspect that commenter jhoover is not an inhabitant of the short bus, but someone for whom English is a second language.

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