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ISIS And The New Crusade

Politics / Middle East Jul 08, 2014 - 03:18 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


From Jakarta to Madrid
Shown on hundreds of blogs and used by newswires like Reuters for extracted images, video footage of speakers from ISIS shows them proclaiming the World Jihad as the forerunner to the Global Caliphate.  In related ISIS group videos posted to Web sites in June, British ISIS members appealed in English for Muslims across the world to join their cause.

“We have brothers from Bangladesh, from Iraq, from Cambodia, Australia and the UK,” says a militant calling himself Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni, of British birth and nationality. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has announced the creation of an Islamic Caliphate encompassing all the lands that ISIS has so far taken under its control. He called on Muslims throughout the world to join the cause and fight for ISIS, from Indonesia to Spain.

"Muslims everywhere, whoever is capable of performing hijrah (emigration) to the Islamic State, then let him do so, because hijrah to the land of Islam is obligatory," he said.

An Epic Boost To Flagging Economies?

Spain has been scrambling since 2009 for any conceivable way to paint a picture of recovery, most recently adding “black economy” output from prostitution and drug dealing to boost its GDP numbers, but unemployment remains perched at historic highs. Spain's bad bank crisis only gets worse. Fighting an invading Islamic horde from the south could at least deflect public opinion from the disaster!

The question of whether fighting off djihadists inside Europe would boost the economy is harder to call, but we can compare the proclaimed next stage of ISIS expansion – especially targeting Spain – with the economic impacts of Europe's Medieval Crusades.

Inside Europe, they were firstly deflationary but in the longer-term were expansionary, especially due to the social changes caused by the two-century-long Holy Wars. Conversely in the target region for European crusaders, stretching from today's Balkan states, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, and extending east to the hinterlands as far as today's Armenia, the impacts were inverted. The initial impact for this large region was if anything expansionary and inflationary.

The European Crusades, running in the other geographic direction to the ISIS war plan, spanned almost exactly 200 years from 1095-1299. Overall we can only be unsure and uncertain as to their direct economic impact – positive or negative. One historical reason was that close behind the European crusaders, almost “when the last one left”, Asian Mongol hordes invaded and occupied the target region. This itself had significant long-term effects on the European economy.

Inside Europe, the cost of joining a crusade was cripplingly high. Soldiers had to finance their journey from Europe to the so-called Holy Lands. Cavalry Knights needing to finance their personal fighter groups or squadrons were often forced to sell all their lands and personal possessions.

This was Holy War. The Islamic ISIS version of 2014 has limited this direct funding problem, at least on a short-term basis, by emptying all banks in occupied major towns and cities like Mosul! ISIS also now controls serious, if not large oil production capacities, oil transport assets and refineries, but will have to fight to hold on to them.

For Europe's Medieval crusaders organized welfare, low cost loans and grants or stipends from the Church, and aid from the ruling classes were continuing features of Crusade financing – almost automatically resulting in Europe's ruling classes increasing taxation of enterprises and persons under their control, and creating the Medieval equivalent of War Debt and War Loans. The coinage-only money systems of the time with no paper money and only rudimentary versions of commercial credit, notes and bills, and the absence of tradable insurance policies on goods, real estate and other assets hampered the potentials for “creative debt financing”. The net result in the shorter-term was therefore if anything deflationary.

Social Change and the New Crusade

Major social changes in Europe were triggered by the Crusades, which were waged on an almost cyclic basis in that period. In some cases like the First Crusade (1095-1099) they caused mass population movements – possibly 350 000 European marching and riding to the Middle East and staying there 4 years. Some Crusades were long, like the Wendish or Scandinavian Crusade and the Third Crusade which in total spanned the period of about 1147-1192, but with shorter peaks of active fighting. Others like the under-funded and politically shaky Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) were short and marked by major infighting between different Crusader cohorts – and by shifting “objective alliances” between some Crusader groups and local Muslim forces.

Here again, ISIS knows plenty about this subject. Djihadist group infighting is rampant – and with no possible doubt helps explain the present political call for Global Holy War.

Social change caused by the Crusades - some economic historians argue - laid the basis for later sustained economic expansion in Europe. Most important, the role of the Organized Church declined and the power of the manual working class and emerging middle class increased. Labour shortages became chronic. The major Crusades caused repeated exoduses due to them needing around two to five “ancillary” or supporting civilian personnel, and their dependents including wives and children, for each Crusader fighter. As a direct result European food output became variable and in many cases declined on a multi-year basis, causing food shortage. Food prices rose, and with them farm labour wages rose for the previously ultra-poor peasant class.

The transport sector also suffered seriously increased demand, both land and sea transport, raising prices and therefore wages.  Trickle down impacts of higher wages in favoured sectors led to workers in them moving up to being able to purchase real estate and land – for which overall demand had fallen, which reduced prices – speeding the process of upward social mobility. The Church, already on the defensive due to the Crusades featuring non-Church lay preachers and charismatic rabble rousers, was forced to continue its policy of interest-free (no usury) loans – exactly of the type ISIS would supposedly apply with “Wafd and Islamic banking”!

The process of social change in Europe continued. Due to the Crusades, the Medieval Church had been outbid for land and real estate, by the new upwardly mobile classes, and the depopulation of rural areas accelerated the urbanization of larger towns and cities. The political, social and economic process of the Church losing its massive grip on society was also accelerated by this.

An Historic Interval

For sure and certain ISIS predicators and rabble rousers would not care to look at what happened the last time the Islamic Arab world ran a crusade – more exactly an anti-Crusade. One direct result was the loss of Spain made more sure and certain by defeated Crusaders returning to Europe – after losing the last Holy Crusade sealed by the fall of Jerusalem in 1299. For historians the so-called Reconquista starting in Spain, about 720 AD and lasting 700 years, is often seen as the precursor for the later Crusades. This was a Holy War of Christians against occupying Arabs and Muslims in Spain. Returning Iberian Crusaders, following the fall of Jerusalem intensified the long struggle by Europeans to rid the continent of Arab invaders.

The Islamic Arab victory in the Holy Lands, symbolized by the fall of Jerusalem in 1299 was very short-lived. At least 40 years before, the first invading Mongol troops from Asia had sacked Aleppo and Damascus near the Mediterranean coast, while Mongol forces picked off the fortified cities in the eastern part of the Arabian peninsula, one by one. Aided by Christian vassal states like the future Georgia and part-Christian future Azerbaijan, Mongol leaders increasingly operated divide-and-rule alliances with local Arabian Muslim powers, sometimes using setpiece conversions by Mongol warlords to Islam to further their ability to win local allies. 

The major political-military problem for the Mongols was centered on its long but fragile and changing relations with Egypt's Mameluks, who themselves operated what can be called an “ultra moderate” form of Islam. By 1322, Mongol ruler Ghazan had made a peace treaty with the Mameluks and essentially set a strategic retreat north and east for Mongol hegemony, resulting in what later became the Mongol-origin Ottoman power elite being located in today's Turkey.

These were all cases of Imperial overreach. Arabian military leaders like the legendary Kurd general, Salah el-Din el-Youssuf (Saladin) won outright military victories against the European Crusaders – but had no peacetime plan and in his case said so. The Crusaders also had no plan or programme for economic development and the exploitation of local resources. The Mongol invaders, like the Crusaders, essentially operated by pillage – gaining only a one-crop “peace dividend”. The highly divided and divisive nature of Arab regional politics was already a permanent feature. Only when facing external aggression and military invasion were Arab power elites able to unite.

For Islamic fudamentalists, their claim is the Mongols were converted to Islam and the Christian Crusaders were driven out, but this is as drastically untrue as Zionist claims of Eretz Israel stretching to the Black Sea (if not further!). All of the three would-be imperialist movements or processes – Crusader, Arabian Muslim, Mongol – beat a strategic retreat after overreach. During the historic interval – which as noted can stretch for centuries – the appearances seemed different but the chances, today, of an “Islamic reconquista” of Spain can be judged as less than 0.001% possible.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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