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February 29, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6330

Egyptian Writer: There's No Point In Comparing Current Arab Wars With Wars That Brought About Renaissance In Europe

February 29, 2016
Special Dispatch No. 6330

In an article in the London daily Al-Hayat, Egyptian intellectual Walid Mahmoud 'Abd Al-Nasser sought to disprove a common theory in the Arab world, according to which only a war like Europe's Hundred Years' War, that brought the continent out of the Middle Ages and into the scientific and technological age,  will rescue the Arabs from their current tragic situation.

Enumerating four points to support his argument, 'Abd Al-Nasser wrote that first, there is no guarantee that what happened in Europe so long ago will happen in the Arab world today, in light of today's different environments and circumstances, such as modern information technology. Second, while the Hundred Years' War took place only in Europe and involved only European elements, the wars in the Arab region involve both regional and international elements. Third, judging from past experience, even when the Arab world predicted positive results, the actual results were negative. Fourth, the proponents of this theory are in effect aiming to implement the 'Creative Chaos' theory, "which certainly does not bode well for the Arabs."

'Abd Al-Nasser then called on the Arabs to ignore this theory and to extricate themselves from their current state through deep thought and serious action, based on "realistic principles stemming from the Arab dream, which has not yet vanished."

 
Walid Mahmoud 'Abd Al-Nasser (Source: Youm7.com)

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]

"Some people in the Arab world, both enthusiastic young people and intellectuals and analysts, are now arguing... that perhaps the only way for the Arabs to emerge from their current catastrophic situation is to first undergo an experience similar to that of the Hundred Years' War, that took place in Europe between 1337 and 1453. Some might justify this argument by calling it the outcome of a pessimistic atmosphere and an expectation of worse to come...

"I understand the logic behind this theory: Its essence is that Europe's Hundred Years' War gave rise to several positive phenomena that prepared the ground for the qualitative turn in Europe's history, from the age of darkness to the age of the great discoveries of the New World and the emergence of the first signs of the science and technology era, and to the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, which led [the continent out of] the age of feudalism to the age of capitalism. Europe also went through a transitional period between the end of the Hundred Years' War and the start of the new period, that brought it superior status in the world. During this [transitional] period, there was unprecedented qualitative development in weaponry, and a consolidation of nationalist sentiments, which laid a solid foundation for the establishment of European nation states...

"This war played a part in laying the cornerstone for what we can call 'the components of the new European political culture'... which later developed and grew stronger. This war [also] birthed the realization that wars have devastating effects, not just for the vanquished, but also for the victor... which catalyzed new social trends in Europe in favor of peace and against war...

"Conversely, there are elements that disprove this theory, some of which I will outline below:

"1. If this vicious cycle of struggles and wars [in the Arab world]... continues or worsens, there is no guarantee that what happened in Europe following the Hundred Years' War will automatically also happen in the Arab homeland. We should be wary about the adage that 'history repeats itself,' for two reasons: First, because serious theories in interpreting history that argue that history repeats itself do not mean that it does so in the exact same way, but that events recur on a far more complex and advanced level. Second, when comparing two different geographic regions and two different time periods... we must take into account the differences in environment and influential variables, for example... the accelerated and unprecedented revolution in information technology in our modern world compared to medieval Europe...

"2. The Hundred Years' War was fought within the European mainland and between European forces, mostly Britain and France, without intervention by or participation of non-European forces. In our reality, the wars and conflicts currently raging in the Arab world... are not solely between Arab sides; many regional  players intervene in them, whether directly or indirectlyÔǪ and so do many international elementsÔǪ not out of love for the Arabs, but in order to realize their own national interests. [In fact,] Arab elements often receive help from non-Arab regional or international players in order to confront other Arab elements in wars and conflicts that are currently raging on Arab soil.

"3. As for trusting that the current sequence of events in the Arab region will 'necessarily' give rise to something better for Arabs, as happened in Europe following the Hundred Years' War... according to our extensive experience with the Arab ummah regarding [situations that should have] 'necessarily' yielded positive results over the past several decades... most of these experiences [eventually] led to negative, and often catastrophic, results for the Arabs, either domestically or internationally...

"4. Those who think that the Arabs must go through an experience similar to that of the Hundred Years' War in order to arrive at a better situation... are not preparing the ground for improving the situation of the Arabs, but rather for the implementation of the 'Creative Chaos' theory... This certainly does not bode well for the Arabs, [especially not] today, when all we want is for our nation states to continue to exist, and when we avoid even expressing the dream of Arab unity that has excited the imagination of millions of Arabs across the ages...

"Perhaps these four elements do not fully explain all the reasons why we should oppose comparing the current turmoil in the Arab ummah with the Hundred Years' War in Europe... but they constitute a substantial and important indication disproving the main points of that theory. What is required is deep thought and serious action to emerge from the current tragic Arab situation [and to advance] towards a better one, based on realistic foundations stemming from the Arab dream, which has not yet vanished."

 

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Hayat (London), January 15, 2016.

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