If there was a moment when
Shiite militants, including
A Shiite religious student in Najaf,
Sunnis around the world, meanwhile, are being called on to join the conflict, with the material support of
The hugely influential Sheik
It's tempting to compare what is going on in
The Assad regime, essentially a puppet of Shiite Iran, is a devil we know well. However much the rebellion began as a nonsectarian protest against Assad's corruption, it is now rapidly becoming dominated by al-Qaeda and other radical and terrorist forces. One such rebel group has reportedly been involved in the slaughter of Christians -- not the kind of crowd many Americans have an interest in supporting.
But beyond the bad guys versus bad guys aspect, the Spanish Civil War analogy has its limits. A better comparison may be to the bloody upheavals that tore apart
Christianity benefits from dogmas and doctrines more conducive to the separation of church and state than those found in Islam, starting with Jesus' injunction to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. When the Roman Empire fell, the seat of political authority transferred to Constantinople, but the religious authority remained in
It wasn't until the bloody religious wars between Catholics and Protestants -- as well as different denominations of Protestantism -- had exhausted much of the continent that Europeans came to recognize "the essential futility of putting the beliefs of the mind to the judgment of the sword," in the words of historian C.V. Wedgwood.
In short, the tradition of religious tolerance we take for granted today was paid for with generations of bloodshed.
Several centuries of war and religious persecution may not seem all that heartening a precedent. But things move much, much faster now. For instance, it took the West several millenniums to learn how to lift its people out of poverty. The rest of the world leapfrogged countless intermediate steps by learning the West's lessons.
Between 1981 and 2001, for example,
There may yet be a role for America to minimize the horror. But a lasting solution can only be found when the people on the ground are ready and willing to take it to heart.
- United States Shouldn't Have Gone to Bat for Egypt's Morsi
- Then What in Syria?
- The Monotonous Middle East
- Public Opinion in Arab World Turns Against Iran
- Turkey Finds That Trouble Knows No Bounds
- Iraq: Mission Failure
- Iraq Can't Avoid Syria Contagion
- Sectarian Pressures Tearing Up the Sykes-Picot Map
- Saudi Arabia takes tentative steps to end child marriage
- Who are Turkey's Agents Provocateurs?
- US and Russia must work to stop snowballing Syrian crisis
- Syria: Russia's Big Test
- Syria's Religious War
- Back to the Future for Syria
- Hoping for Change in Syria
- A Grass-Roots View of the Syrian Uprising
- Is America About to Checkmate Russia in Syria?
- US Weighs Syrian Intervention, Despite Consequences
- Date with History... Cairo's First Revolution
- Obama Got Ahead of Himself with 'Red Line' Talk on Syria
- Palestine After Fayyad: The Choice Between Cooperation and Conflict
- Turkey: PKK Fighters Begin Their Withdrawal to North Iraq
- The Path to Follow after Syria Crosses the Red Line
- Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria
- Leadership, Not Locusts, is Egypt's Greatest Plague
- Iran's North Korean Nuclear Future
- Iran: Birth Control Flip Flops
- Saudi Arabia: Cyber-savvy Youth on the Rise
- Syria: Chess Match Turned Free-for-All
- Iran's Regional Quagmire
- The Saudi-Iranian Rivalry and the Future of Middle East Security
- Iran's Internal Politics
- Iran's Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons in a Regional Context
- Israeli Apology to Turkey Big First Step But Not Sea Change
- Israel's Insightful Cynicism
- Settlements Still Blocking Middle East Peace Agreement
- With Bus Segregation Israeli Apartheid Becomes More Blatant
- Is Egypt Being Primed for a Coup?
- The Somaliazation of Syria
(C) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc., "Syria's Religious War"