From Publishers Weekly
In this wide-ranging historical text, Fuller, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, suggests that many of the current tensions that exist between the East and the West have geopolitical rather than religious origins and that these tensions would have arisen in a "world without Islam." The author opens the book with a theological analysis that emphasizes the continuities among the three Abrahamic faiths. He then pivots to an extended history of the Christian world that focuses on the conflict between Latin and Byzantine Europe, pointing out that the schism between them largely motivated the Crusades. The book then covers the relationship of Islam to Russia, India, and China before turning to the Muslim world specifically, surveying its centuries-long decline from a position of cultural, political, and economic dominance. Fuller covers an extraordinary number of subjects lucidly, and whether readers are persuaded by his valorization of geopolitics above religion, he cogently lays out the complex causes of contemporary conflicts and makes bold policy recommendations that move conversations about East-West relations beyond religious and ideological divides.
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*Starred Review* Challenging commentators who regard Islam as the seedbed of anti-Western terrorism, Fuller argues that the perilous tensions between the West and the Middle East spring from nonreligious sources, not Islamic theology. Fuller defends his provocative thesis by showing that long before Muhammad, the peoples of the Middle East viewed the Western powers as interlopers. Readers explore, in particular, the ways the eleventh- and twelfth-century Christian crusaders against Islam were replaying scripts written by Roman Catholic authorities, who suppressed heresies in the Levant and then waged doctrinal war against the patriarchs of Eastern Orthodoxy. The persistence of pre-Islamic resentments surfaces most tellingly in the willingness of Catholic crusaders to ignore the Muslims long enough to sack the Christian (but Eastern Orthodox) city of Constantinople for political and economic reasons. These reasons for regional conflict continued, as Fuller illustrates, after the Protestants’ revolt and Russia’s emergence as a new Byzantium. Fuller thus dares to suggest that overcoming the twenty-first-century anti-Western animosities of Middle Eastern Muslims requires an honest and historically informed assessment of economic and political inequities that moves us beyond a fixation on religious issues. This exceptional inquiry finally sustains a quite specific—and controversial—set of recommendations for reframing American foreign policy. --Bryce Christensen