Vox's Max Fisher shamelessly invoked medieval history in a Monday post about Pope Francis. Fisher highlighted the pontiff's support for action against ISIS's "unjust aggression" in Iraq, and hyped that "there is good precedent for this...between 1096 and 1272 AD, popes also endorsed the use of Western military action to destroy Middle Eastern caliphates. Those were known as the crusades; there were nine, which means that this would be number 10."
The former Washington Post journalist immediately set the tone with the title of his post: "News from 1096 AD: Pope endorses military force to destroy Middle Eastern caliphate." Fisher continued in this vein in his lead paragraph:
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In a bit of news that might make you wonder what millenia you're in, Pope Francis, normally quite a peacenik, has endorsed the use of military force against Islamic State (ISIS), the terrorist group and self-declared caliphate that has seized large chunks of Syria and Iraq and is terrorizing civilians, especially Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities.
The Vox writer cited a Tweet from Ken Thomas of the Associated Press: "ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) _ Pope endorses use of force in Iraq to protect minorities; says UN should approve intervention." Fisher then dropped his "crusades" reference, and added that "the historical record suggests, though, that prior crusades were usually not endorsed from the comfort of jet-propelled airplanes, nor were they announced via Twitter."
"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," Francis said. "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated."
But, he said, in history, such "excuses" to stop an unjust aggression have been used by world powers to justify a "war of conquest" in which an entire people have been taken over.
"One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor," he said, apparently referring to the United States. "After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It's there that you must discuss 'Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?' Just this. Nothing more."
His comments were significant because the Vatican has vehemently opposed any military intervention in recent years, with St. John Paul II actively trying to head off the Iraq war and Francis himself staging a global prayer and fast for peace when the U.S. was threatening airstrikes on Syria last year.
But the Vatican has been increasingly showing support for military intervention in Iraq, given that Christians are being directly targeted because of their faith and that Christian communities which have existed for 2,000 years have been emptied as a result of the extremists' onslaught.