OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

MEETING # 1580

4:00 P.M.

JANUARY 16, 1997

Fault Lines

by The Rev. Henry G. Dittmar Ph.D.

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


Several years ago the Washington, D.C., alumni group of the University of Redlands invited me to celebrate my 80th birthday with them. In return they asked me to sing for my supper, and present an old fashioned History class, the kind which they remembered, with questions to follow. Since this was the time in which it was the vogue to discuss the thesis of a member of the State Department that we were at "the end of history." I tried to refute this by presenting a discussion of contemporary events in the light of continuing, yet ever changing history. In order to give this a touch of originality I avoided the traditional approach of compartmentalizing history by region, nation or ideology, but instead looked for places in the civilized world which had been areas of conflict time and again in the course of many centuries. Within the area of the classical world - that is North Africa, the Ferthe Crescent, and the southern and western parts of continental Europe - wars had rarely been fought to destroy entire countries, but mostly for accessible and desirable border areas, fault lines between the countries. These fault lines would not normally be discussed as in any way related to each other--they would be subordinate chapters in Asian, African, or European history. Nor would there be any distinct physical geographical factors to set them apart--in each case the politics of religion and geography have provided the weightier arguments .

In the "old world" of my definition there have been three distinct fault lines over which wars were fought time and again for at least one thousand years, if not many more .

The furthest west of these fault lines was first created by Julius Caesar in his effort to stop the migrations of the Celts and the Teutons, then re-created almost 900 years later by Louis the Pious, the son of Charlemagne, who divided his property according to Frankish inheritance customs. It was the cause and location of so many wars that the French and the Germans for centuries considered each other "hereditary enemies. That was still the case when I grew up.

The furthest east of these fault lines is the one which traditionally separated the Roman and the Persian empires. It was for a short period absorbed into the empire of Alexander the Great, then became the object of the rival ambitions of Ptolomy and the Seleucids who ruled Babylon until 63 BC. In spite of the fact that the Arabs conquered Persia in the middle of the seventh century the old border reasserted itself soon enough--the Arabs conquered in the west, but adopted the science of administration and statecraft from the Persians, who in turn revived their language and by the middle of tenth century produced their own great national epic. In the fifteenth century the Ottoman Empire entered into the full heritage of the Eastern Roman Empire, and not surprisingly continued the ancient rivalry with Persia over the possession of Mesopotamia, which we now call Iraq.

The third fault line, in the middle between the others, was created by the partition of the ancient Roman Empire into a Latin West and a Greek East, later to be identified as a Roman Catholic Western Croatia and a Greek Orthodox Serbia to The East. These lands had been occupied by the Huns during their invasion of Europe, and then by Slavs who filled the vacuum, but divided their loyalty according to the old borders between Rome and Constantinople. Croatia included Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of whose inhabitants converted to Islam in the fourteenth century, and have most recently been accepted as separate people somewhat in the same way as Jews turned Zionists are recognized as a people rather then as a religion. Serbia to the East created its own Patriarchate and fierce nationalist tradition.

This fault line has been battlefield for many peoples, for Poles, Hungarians, Venetians, Macedonians, Albanians and Montenegrins, and especially Serbs. Best remembered are the Turkish conquests of the fourteenth century which followed what is considered a most glorious period of Serbian history.

To quote P. R. Magocsi's Historical Atlas of East Central Europe, "Serbia's dominance over the western Balkans ended with the death of Dusan in 1355 ... . Military defeat and internal political divisiveness left Serbia open to Ottoman invasions, which culminated in 1389 with the defeat of Serbian (and Bosnian) forces and the death of the country's ruler Lazar I (c.1371-89) at Kossovo Polje--on the so-called field of the black birds. While Kossovo marked the end of Serbian independence, through epic folk poetry (the famous Kossovo Epic) it also became the symbol of Serbia's centuries-long struggle against foreign rule. "

A closer look at these fault lines may lead us to some interesting conclusions.

The first is that generally these border lines were drawn up by rulers or their representatives without regard for demographic or geographic conditions . Nineteenth century Africa and to some extent contemporary Yugoslavia are recent parallels .

The second is that just as it was the prerogative of the ruler in former times, it is now in the power of a democratically elected ruler to propose, reject or accept border 1ines in international negotiations . Contemporary Yugoslavia might be the example . What lead been done by men could also be undone by men.


Look at Alsace-Lorraine, fought over for more than a thousand years:

In 1871 it was Bismarck's reward to the German princes for permitting the King of Prussia to become German Emperor. France had to pay that price in 1871, but fought a world war to regain it in, 1914-1918. Hitler took the territories, French speaking Lorraine and German speaking Alsace , back in 1940, only to lose them to France again at the end of World War II. It was a seemingly endless bloody match.

However, wonder of wonders, there emerged after the war statesmen on both sides of the border, who were determined to bring that game to an end. The crisis of post World War II Europe became, in Jean Monnet’s words, "the great federator", Robert Schuman of France, a native of Luxemburg, Konrad Adenauer, the great Rhinelander--at one time accused of wanting to create an independent buffer state out of his native province--Alcide de Gaspetri of Italy, a native of Trent and former member of the Imperial Austrian parliament, and Paul-Henri Spaak, native of the former and future capital of Europe, agreed on a fusion of the coal and steel industries of France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux making future wars among them impossible. It in Robert Schuman’s words, was to be, "a contribution to the raising of living standards and to world peace," And Jean Monnet told Konrad Adenauer: "We want to put Franco-German relations on an entirely new footing. We want to turn what divided France from Germany--that is the industries of war- into a common asset, which will also be European."

Thus was born the experiment first in economic, then in political unity--at its very core the recognition of the essential need for Franco-German cooperation to replace the hereditary enmity between these countries. This was one fault line about to disappear. Adenauer's reply to Monnet was: "Monsieur Monnet, I regard the implementation of the French proposal as my most imortant task. If I succeed, I believe that my life will not have been wasted." (Monnet)


What about the second line in the East? In modern times, that is since the 15th century, when the Ottoman Empire began to enter into the full heritage of the Eastern Roman Empire, there have been almost constant wars over the possession of Mesopotamia, which now is called Iraq. And just as religion played its part in tlte wars of Europe, where catholic France supported the German Protestants in fighting the catholic Empire of the Habsburgs, it also was decisive in the wars of the Ottoman Empire against Persia.

To quote Lord Kinross, Sultan Selim, I was dedicated above all to the extermination from his empire of the heresy of Shi'ism. His main enemy was its exponent, the Persian shah Ismail.

Before embarking on a holy war against him, Selim saw to the elimination of some 40,000 of Ismail's religious followers in Anatolia, an action comparable in Islamic terms to the contemporary massacre of St. Bartholomew in Christian Europe." The current term for such action is "ethnic cleansing".. The wars between the Turks and the Persian were brought to a halt by the end of the Ottoman su1tanate. In its opposition to Iran Iraq has become the logical successor to the Turkish Empire. It is mainly a British creation, part of what David Fromkin calls Ha peace to end all peace." Lloyd George diddled Clemenceau out of Mosul which has both Kurds and oil, to which he added the Shi-ite Arabs of Baghdad and the Shi-ite Persians to thee South to make a nation. This prevented the formation of an independent Kurdistan in the North, and impeded Persian occupation in the South A desert king was imported in the 1930s. A revoltion in the 1950s changed the rather tolerant monarchy to various forms of autocratic dictatorship, from communist to extreme nationalist, leaving much of the western world with the question of whether it is better to deal with Saddam Hussein in Iraq or the successors of the Ayatolla Khomeni in Iran. The Khomeni revolution tilted the balance for a while very much in favor of Iran. The concept that Iraq. whatever its government, should be maintained as a counter force gained many adherents. There was a growing current of opinion in favour of Iraq. At the end of eight years of war against Iran Saddam could claim victory and even plan further expansion. After the outbreak of the Gulf War the English weekly "Spectator" quoted General Michael Dugan, for a time U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff as saying: Operation Desert Storm was designed to give Saddam a way of surviving ... He might be a bit brutal, but at least he is hot a mad Mullah."

The renowned philosopher and sufi al Ghazzali who died in 1111, that is twelve years after the massacre of the Muslim and Jewish populations of Jerusalem by the Christian Crusaders, wrote: "An evil doing and barbarous sultan, so long as he is supported by military force, so that only with difficulty can he be deposed, and that attempt to depose him would cause unendurable strife, must of necessity be left in possession, and obedience must be rendered to him. n (p. Mansfield, The Arabs) And a Christian chronicler wrote from Damascus that it was understood that power must be asserted by a certain measure of harshness and violence. If a ruler was mild, just, and peace loving this emboldened the people against him.

In the meantime The "Mad Mullah" of Iran has been replaced by President Hashami Rafsanjani, equally fundamentalist, but pleading for understanding rather then advocating hostility. Mr Moorhead Kennedy, a former Foreign Service officer and hostage in Iran, quotes Rasfanjani as "calling on the West to grow up, to stop being afraid of what we are unwilling to understand, to accord to others rights that we claim for ourselves and our allies, and to have the courage to make common cause even with those whose means appear unfamiliar, bizarre, or even dangerous. (l.,A,Times, March 15, 1993)

Whatever talks of peace there are, there clearly has been no resolution, there have been no great statesmen along that ancient faultline between Rome and Persia, no recognition if shared mutual interests. History clearly has not come to end in Mesopotamia.


What about the third faultline, the man-determined border between the Western and the Eastern parts of the ancient Roman Empire, which also became the dividing line between Latin and Orthodox Christendoms and for over 500 more recent years between Christian Europe and the Muslim Ottoman Empire?

When, in the course of the seventh century Slave settled in these ancient lands, filling a vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Huns, they divided their religions loyalties: The Slovenes and the Croats in the West were converted to Latin Christendom, Serbs to the East accepted The Orthodox rite. To be more specific, "By the end of the 10th century (that is exactly 1000 years ago) the inhabitants of present-day Serbia and eastern Bosnia had for the most part accepted eastern Christianity, while western Bosnia and Croatia leaned towards Roman Catholicism." (William l,anger) The old fault line was re-established and re-affirmed. Whenever the empires of east or west were weak, the buffer borderlands grew strong--as did The Serbian state under Stephen Dushan in the 14th century and the Venetian Republic in the fifteenth century and after. The Serbian armies were annihilated in the never forgotten battle of Rossove in 1388, and the Venetian Republic brought to an inglorious end by Napoleon in 1797.

The Vienna Congress of 1815 made Austria-Hungary heir to the lands of the former Venetian Republic, including Croatia with Dalmatia, leaving Bosnia and Serbia within the borders of a much weakened Ottoman Empire. It was a period of settlements and nationalistic dreams deferred. Any Serb who dreamed of a rebirth of the Serbian nation would have to contend with both the Turkish Empire in the East and the Austrian Empire in the West. Serbia gained a degree of autonomy from the Sultan, sufficient for bitter rivalries and even civil wars among competing factions and their leaders: an insurrection in Bosnia and Herzgovina in 1876 led to a declaration of qar by Serbia and Montenegro against Turkey. The Russian general Chernaiev defeated the rebels, and thus put Russia into the unacceptable position of peacemaker in the Balkans. THe Concert of Europe met in congress in Berlin in 1878 under the presidency of the chancellor of recently created Germany, Otto van Bismarck, who called himself the "honest brokers. There Serbian independence was recognized, but the coveted provinces of Bosnia and Herzagov na wiyj their capital Sarajevo put under Austrian occupation and administration. The old fault line was now a new frontier line.

Predictably it now became the major goal of Serbian policy to gain Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in addition The much coveted access to the Adriatic. Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of the Austrian heir to the throne and his consort, was both a Bosnian revolutionary and a member of the Black Hand, an organization dedicated to the fulfillment of Serbian aspirations. The triple alliance of Russia, Britain and France promised Serbia both Bosnia and Herzegovina and a wide area of access to the Adriatic in 1915. This was accomlish at least on paper wath the formation of the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in December 1918, a union endured rather than accepted by the Croats in The West. The assassin of Ring Alexander in 1934 was an agent of Croat revolutionaries headquartered in Hungary.

During World War II Croatia was put first under Italian, later under German control. The Ustachi, militant Croat nationalists, were given free rein to massacre thousands of Serbs' In opposition, the Croat communist leader, Josip Bros Tito, succeeded in uniting the antifascist forces of the country, and ultimately of all of Yugoslavia to create a "federation of autonomous republics. This union now no longer exists - and the old fault line has been the line of battle for many recent years. The BBC described it as "one of the most active and disruptive historical fault lines in Europe. Apart from forming the border between the empires of Islam and Christendom for tiered centuries, it is also the line of fissure between Rome and Constantinople, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox faiths.

It is no coincidence that the war between Tito's partisans and the Croat fascists, the Ustachas, one of the bestial struggles within a myriad of conflicts of the Second World War, erupted largely along this strip of southeastern Europe." (Misha Glanny, BBC)

As we know all too well, the bestial struggle is not over yet. Executions, religious persecution, "ethnic cleansing" and nastiness of any kind have been the news of the day for all too long. The murderous fanaticism of the first Crusade, nine-hundred years ago, with its pogroms and massacres is alive and well. We may well ask:

Is there no statesman, no person of genius and vision, as there were in Western Europe after 1945, who can reconcile the opposing parties?

Is there no way to identify common interests and common values rather then old prejudices and hatreds.

And is there no way to make respect for human rights the basic law of the entire human family?

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