Streusand's latest book explores complexity & diversity of historic Islamic statecraft
Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Dr. Douglas Streusand's latest book, Islamic Gunpowder Empires: Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, represents more than twenty years of research. To celebrate its recent publication, an assembly of professional scholars of Islamic history and modern Central Asia joined IWP students at a reception hosted by IWP on October 7, 2010.
The Institute's founder and president, Dr. John Lenczowski, introduced Dr. Streusand as "an integrated strategic thinker," as evidenced by his teaching at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the University of Maryland; his numerous publications; and his participation in scholarly colloquies such as the Global Strategy Discussion Forum of the U.S. Global Strategy Council.
Dr. Streusand characterized his latest book as "history-minded history," saying that, in his experience, works of history that attempt to address current issues explicitly "become self-defeating" because the historian's contemporary agenda alters his perspective on history. "This book doesn't offer quick and easy explanations," he said, "and history doesn't do that anyway." Instead, Dr. Streusand explained, his work attempts to unfold "the complexity and diversity of a period that is commonly oversimplified."
Dr. Streusand offered several examples of such oversimplification, such as the tendency of some Western historians and observers to see Islamic law as the primary genesis of Islamic empires' political ideas. Instead, he stated, the statecraft of the Islamic empires covered in his work has many origins, not all of them characteristically Islamic in origin. He noted that the diversity of the origins of Islamic statecraft has very early origins in the history of these empires, and explained that those claiming Islamic law to be the only source of political norms have always been dissident minorities. Dr. Streusand also stressed that the history of Islamic empires reflects "the permanence of geopolitics," noting that the Ottoman Empire followed a strategy in the Indian Ocean involving control of sea lines of communication and choke points, similar to that of the Portuguese and subsequent empires.