France and Lebanon

These days have been finding the United States and France in rare agreement about the Middle East: Both are supporters of Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, a bid to throw out the Syrian occupiers and reclaim their sovereignty. James Dunnigan notes that the French have had a relationship with the Levant for the past 800 or so years (which I suppose makes it understandable why Beirut is called the "Paris of the Middle East"), rooted in the Crusades.

The more famous of some of the Crusader States was, of course, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, founded by Godfrey of Bouillon; but there was also one County of Tripoli (not the one in Libya), founded by Raymond IV of Toulouse.

On a side note, the most famous Frenchman of the Crusades to the English-speaking world was none other than Richard the Lionheart. Born Richard Plantagenet (but grouped as an Angevin), to be called Coeur de Leon for his bravery, Richard was a Norman, a descendant of William the Conqueror: He is the son of Henry II, son of Geoffrey IV Count of Anjou and Maine, who had married Matilda, daughter of another Matilda who had married Henry I, son of William the Conqueror.

There's much to read there, but the point is that, ever since the Crusades, the French have been heavily invested in the Holy Land. (So have the Germans, but they seem positively timid with regard to almost anything beyond Europe these days -- although they did provide some logistical support for operations in Afghanistan.) Now that France is considered a liberal democracy, I'm happy to see it join with the Anglosphere in urging the best for a part of the world that for too long had been mired in its own Dark Ages. The Arab world has already had a taste of material modernization, as well as some more traditional methods of coping with that, which hadn't worked. Now that they are ready to try a different way of coping with modernity, it is up to those of us who've been relatively successful with that way to do what we can to help out.

Update: (2005.03.07.18:05 PST) I'm looking forward to the upcoming movie Kingdom of Heaven. Ridley Scott has done very well with interpretations of historical epics (think Gladiator). Based on the credits it seems to be about the Germans in the Crusades; but I'm looking to seeing Scott and his cast interpret that important epoch in history, which in so many ways set the stage for modern relations between Islam and the West.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them