28 August 2005

the Habsbush empire?

Chapter 2: A History of Spain and Portugal
There are certain intriguing parallels between the circumstances and historical patterns of tenth-century Al-Andalus and sixteenth-century Spain. Both empires were launched, as is customarily the case with expansionist systems, before their respective societies had reached their fullest cultural development. Both emphasized imperial expansion and foreign issues to the detriment of internal problems. Neither achieved a fully integrated civic entity: the Umayyad caliphate was not effectively integrated, and the Habsburg monarchy was pluralistic, revealing centrifugal tendencies. Both strongly emphasized religious issues in mobilizing for expansion; religious orthodoxy was later stressed by both in their periods of political decline. The renewed assertion of reorganized military power marked the last generation of strong government and the prelude to civic decline (compare al-Mansur and Olivares). The full flowering of Andalusi culture came after the collapse of the caliphate; that of Habsburg Spain, at least in esthetics, after the apogee of politico-military power under Felipe II. A major difference between the two was that the economic prosperity of Al-Andalus survived the passing of the caliphate. Seventeenth-century Spain exhausted its economy in war; the Muslim taifas never organized the military strength that their economies could have supported.

The precedent is not exact, but then it never is. Comparisons between George Bush and Felipe II are not unknown in the Spanish-speaking world. If anything the Habsbush project is even more hapless than Habsburg Spain. The Habsburgs never made it their business to occupy a country in order to hand it over to a Habsburg enemy.

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