Carly Fiorina claims that her B.A. in medieval history she received nearly 40 years ago gives her qualifications to fight ISIS. Yeah, no. Medieval historian David Perry with the smackdown:
As a medievalist, I believe that we need to study the past in order to respond to the present, but we must learn the right things. Isis is, undoubtedly, inspired by medieval and pre-medieval Islamic ideas about power, purity and what they believe to be the “true nature of Islam.” Medieval Islam, like all religions, contained many different types of ideas and practices. Some were comparatively tolerant and open to innovation and differences; others were more restrictive. I argue, as the president did in February, that you can look into the history of any religion and find examples of both the best and worst of humanity within it, then draw inspiration as you see fit.
It’s vital to recognize, though, as John Terry writes in Slate, that the viciousness of Isis emerges from its modernity, not its artificial links to the past. Terry writes: “Isis is not re-enacting the seventh-century Arab conquests, even though some among its ranks may think they are. They’re nostalgic for a make-believe past, and those among them who know plenty about Islam’s first decades have conveniently revised medieval history to fit modern ideological needs.”
Isis depends on modernity. Their growth was made possible by modern wars – from the division of the Middle East post-World War I to the most recent wars in Iraq and Syria. It’s only in this ultra-modern context that a group like Isis could grow and flourish. They expertly deploy modern technology to recruit and communicate. Some of their recruits even purchased Islam for Dummies before trying to head to the war zone. Now there’s an ultra-modern “fake it until you make it” mentality.
If Carly Fiorina really wants to draw on the Middle Ages for inspiration, I do have some suggestions. Lesson one: support universities, scholars, writers and artists, as their contributions outlive us all. Lesson two: peasants, oppressed for too long, always rebel. Lesson three: don’t go to war in the Middle East without a good exit plan.
In other words, “medieval” is just an incorrect word to describe policies we find distasteful, not only is no one qualified to lead the United States because they have a particular degree but Fiorina is especially unqualified because she misunderstands ISIS and what period of history created them, and third, Fiorina, like the Bush administration and all the other Republican presidential candidates not only doesn’t understand Islam but doesn’t want to understand it because said understanding would create complexity and get in the way of bombing the savages and making Americans feel awesome about themselves through war against unworthies. Meanwhile, actual medieval Islam was saving the knowledge of the Greeks from the illiterate, warlike, and brutal European tribes marauding through Rome.