Saturday, November 13, 2004

Horns of Hattin

I'm reading a book on the history of the Knights Templar and the account of the battle of the Horns of Hattin seems to me to be relevant to the current situation of this country and its two main political parties. While the events were part of the Crusades and the Christian versus Muslim wars that followed, the relevance has to do with how the battle was fought and the personal and social dynamics that led to the defeat.

The battle at the Horns of Hattin was a decisive and crushing defeat for the Crusader states in the Holy Land although it need not have been. In 1187 a truce between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Saladin was breaking down and war broke out. The two leading military figures were Gerard de Ridfort, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and Raymond of Tripoli. In July the Christian forces gathered near Sephoria, some 20 miles west of Tiberias where Saladin's army was camped. Given that the land between the two armies was an utterly barren desert devoid of water and that the Christians controlled the Holy Land (Saladin was trying to take it back) Raymond sensibly argued that the wise course of action was to wait for Saladin to come to them so that the Christians could attack an exhausted and dehydrated enemy. Gerard argued instead that this was cowardice and the proper course of action was an aggressive assault on the enemy. Gerard won the argument, the Christians advanced across the desert, arrived exhausted and dehydrated and were slaughtered.

The point is that it has long been the case that accusations of cowardice have been used to promote aggressive action, when more defensive action would be far better and wiser. I believe that is going on now and is part of the reason we Democrats are losing the foreign policy and national defense debate. I strongly believe that the Democrats proposals for foreign policy and defense are far more sensible than those of the Republicans, but the Republicans are, like de Ridfort at the Horns of Hattin, more effective at accusing all who propose such policies as being cowards. We need to think of ways to combat this perception.

More on that in a future post.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home