It's been reported in The Times today that the fomrer Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has defended the Pope for his “extraordinarily effective and lucid” speech. I can't say I disagree with him. What is of particular interest is Carey's taken up of the "clash of civilisations" argument and the idea that the problem is with the inherent political nature of Islam itself. He said:
"The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power."
The article in the Times also points out that the Pope has received contact from Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to murder John Paul II in 1981. From his Turkish prison he has apparently written tot he Pope urging him that he writes "as one who knows about these matters very well...Your life is in danger. Don’t come to Turkey — absolutely not!"
Now I realise that some find the "Clash of Civilisations" thesis difficult to stomach, but it occured to me on the train that if ever there was a physical clash rather than a battle of ideas that it would require a catalyst. If Agca's words were to become prescient in Turkey, could Benedict XVI become as historically significant as Archduke Ferdinand?
I don't wish to sound like Cassandra here, but I do wonder what the ramifications would be if Benedict XVI were to meet an untimely end at the hands of Islam?
One might rebut with Stalin's jibe asking 'How many legions does the Pope have?'.
More seriously, diplomatic relations with Turkey being what they are, I can't see that 'the West' would declare war on Turkey under those circumstances. After all, what would be attacked, and what would be the war aims?
I should clarify, I was referring more to a genuine "Clash of Civilsiations" between Islam and the West rather than a metaphorical one. That wouldn't necessarily mean a war on trukey as such. My bad for being too vague.
I still think that a war against Islam would be like trying to pick up mercury with a fork. At present Iran and Syria are the only states that are directly sponsoring terror, although our friends the Saudis have a lot to answer for. One Trident submarine could reduce much of the Islamic world to radioactive waste, and I don't really think that is a good idea. If there were to be a more conventional war, the armed forces of the Islamic world could be flattened by a carrier group fairly easily, but then there would be the issue of occupation, regime change, 'sword point' conversion.
Which seems to be Ann Coulter's desire: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war".
OK, point accepted. Perhaps I shouldn't have quite so categorically compared a potential assasination of the Pope to Ferdinand. I do thoughs till wonder what the ramifications of such an event would be, would it not galvanise much of europe that remains Catholic? ould we see a more robust attitude from some of those in Europe who, until now have not been at robust in their attitude.
Well, I can tell you that in the tragic event (which I hope never comes to pass) the BBC would be sympathetic to the argument that "it was all due to British foreign policy"
I think what might "restrain" European Catholic opinion in the event of a tragic event is the knowledge that the Pope himself has strong pacifist leanings - after the Iraq invasion, while still a Cardinal, he was even questioning whether you could have a "just war" in this day and age.
I am convinced Benedict would not want a war to start over his assassination.
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