By Patricia Lee Sharpe
Imagine waking up tomorrow and discovering that Matteo Renzi’s Rome—I mean Italy—had sent several legions—I mean an army—to recapture Brittania—I mean, England—and some triremes—I mean freighters—are heading to Carthage—I mean, Tunis—to confiscate the year’s wheat harvest.
That would seem pretty weird, wouldn’t it?
But isn’t it equally bizarre to find that Turkey is justifying its participation in the effort to drive ISIS out of Mosul not only on the pretext of protecting itself from potential PKK safe havens in the Kurdish Autonomous region of Iraq but on historic grounds. Once upon a time the Ottoman Turks controlled all the Middle East, including Egypt—Watch out, President Sisi!—and much of southeastern Europe. Meanwhile, says Nensur Akgun, director of the Global Political Trends Center in Turkey: “A century ago [Mosul]was Turkey.” But alas! Turkey chose the wrong allies during World War I, leaving France and The U.K to squabble over the territorial spoils that seem to be up for grabs once again.
Meanwhile, China is belligerently devoted to claiming every islet or outcropping of rock in the South China Sea, plus every cove from which a Chinese fishing boat may have brought up a catch over the past several millenia. So watch out, Indonesia! Some Javan rulers once paid tribute to a Chinese emperor. Of course, Beijing is still trying to digest Tibet and Xinjiang, both of which had the misfortune of coming under Chinese control for various discontinuous periods in the past. But maybe Comrade Xi should be a little more circumspect. Some extraordinarily well-preserved, 4000-year-old Caucasian mummies dressed in European textiles have been disinterred from the Taklamatan desert. Surely the European Union can claim rights to this portion of the old Silk Road.
And need I mention Vladimir Putin’s appetite for reclaiming truant SSRs? Perhaps he forgets that Sweden has an earlier claim to the Baltic nations. Finland, too, was Swedish, once, with plenty of Swedes left to testify. Fortunately Sweden prefers cooperation to annexation these days. Russia, meanwhile, has been nibbling away at Georgia and Ukraine with some success, so when Putin dropped in on Tashkent after the Group of 20 meeting in China, he clearly expected Uzbekistan to behave like a Russian fief again. The feedback I got from the locals: no way! They’ve been corrupted by 25 years of independence, as Moscow no doubt perceives it.
There are some other possibilities that haven’t surfaced yet. Brexit may actually happen, but isn’t it time for the sun never to set on the British empire again? Surely India sees the glory in that. But wait! There’s a prior claim on India. The Timurid descendants of Mongol conquerer Genghis Khan (b.1163) ruled in Delhi for centuries. In fact, the octopus-like Mongol empire encompassed Russia, took in Persia, threatened medieval Europe and controlled China as well. Has Mr. Xi forgotten this?
And maybe we shouldn’t wait for ISIS to invade Spain. Since Muslims were ruling much of the Iberian peninsula before Ferdinand and Isabella kicked out the Jews, why not get the re-reconquista over without bloodshed? But wait on that, too. The Romans were in Spain before the Moors.
And this is where we began. Don’t throw away your old maps and globes.