Religion and ideology have less to do with the historical dynamics, even if what looks like “Holy Wars” to the average modern reader seem involved. Understand this, all civilizations jockey for power, and influence, to the benefit of their citizens or subjects and dominant stakeholders. When the civilizations – as every single normal one pre-modernity did – had a religious identity, then we in the West assume religious prejudice and Holy War.
This is naive to the extreme, and I contend that none of this has much to do with religion in the way the West typically understands the term.
What we are looking at is typical power politics in the world’s most civilized regions, areas where Civilization was 6000 years old, even a millennium ago. Buddhist powers habitually allied themselves with Muslim ones, against Confucian. Confucian and Buddhist allied, against Muslim. Muslim and Buddhists allied, against other Buddhists – and at times other Muslims. Hindus and Muslims allied, against other Hindus. Hindus and Buddhists allied, against Confucian, etc., etc., imagine the permutations.
The typical modern Western understanding of ‘religion’ ‘religious identity’ and ‘religious warfare’ barely comprehends the nuances involved, and is pretty unique, singular, in world history. Because we assume others mean pretty much the same thing when they seem to use the same words we do (and they do not) this leads to all manners of confusion. When words are used, we understand them in ways conditioned by our cultural history – molded by the unique history of Christian Europe, whereas words can have quite different meanings in different contexts.
Asia had complex trans and multitribal, and indeed multicultural, Civilization -and with it literate urbanity and political complexity – about 4000 years before the West or the Americas.
This includes a political tradition of surprising complexity.
Indeed one studied by Western statesmen and thinkers in the 17th 189h centuries to expand their own knowledge (it’s known to specialists the influence of both Ibn Khaldun, the Moroccan, and the Chinese Sun Tzu’s Art of War, on European political-economic thought, I also suspect some Indian works as well but have found no more than ellipses and passing allusions. But there is something there, however much the narrowly occidental-phile may want to deny it. A bit of digging around in Jstor will yield a few suggestive articles)
These are civilizations of the true Old World, Nomad nations and cultures like the Scythian (progenitors of Northern European Nordics) Turk or Mongol (themselves less races than cultural and linguistic groupings, for example there were red headed and white “Turks” and much of the Khazar and Kipchak aristocracy were blond) in spite of being Barbarians, to their settled neighbors, themselves had remarkable political acuity across the board and while “savage” in their habits had remarkably advanced statesmanship and strategic senses.
Such nomadic and settled “barbarians’ alike were, in a sense, civilized in ways exceeding Victorian era Europeans, in ways hard for us to understand in the contemporary West. In the 1890s most Westerners still did not bathe on a daily basis, they bathed in Japan, and Persia for that matter. Draw your own conclusions.
The student of strategy and tactics, politics, conspiracy, statesmanship, and governance would be a fool to ignore the dynamics of p[re-modern Asia, in these past histories are examples of maneuver, brinkmanship, deception, alliance formation, and other useful dynamics that will broaden the mind.
So the one who wants to better understand modern Global power politics, and the psychologies at play, should read about Asia’s historical dynamics and find, in translation, not only works of Asian statesmen; Indian, Persian, Arab, Japanese, what-have you, but also look deep into actual history, a wide range of modern Western academic books have opened up archives and translated dynastic histories – what is too expensive to buy from academic presses or hard to find in Universities you can find in pdf on the net if you look hard enough. No more will be said on that point.
A surprising amount of Indian Persian and Chinese political and Imperial history was translated by orientalists over a century ago, Google Books as a wide array of sources unavailable in modern print but conveniently scanned for you, to aid you. Why read the classics and histories of other civilizations?
Because the best thinkers of the West did, in addition to their own classics. 1000 years ago there were Chinese, Tibetan, Arab, Persian, Korean, Japanese, and Indian statesmen who could out-maneuver even Kissinger. Delving deep into Asian power politics and history yields an understanding of real political strategy that can make clear and transparent, and blatantly obvious, political strategy and tactics in our present day modern context here in our West.
So that pointed out, what of “Free Tibet” – China and Tibet? It’s obvious that there are two sides to that story, and ignoring one side to the preference of the other gives a lop sided and inaccurate view of things, looking at both sides paints some very, very, interesting historical lessons about strategy in-depth.