Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 21st, 2008

Iskandar’s young and fresh army on the move


Cyrus was bewildered when two thousands of new Macedonian recruits arrived from Greece to join his army.  What happened?  H-2 Alexander had sent messengers to Greece before he was selected to lead the “adventure” and then his death was kept secret for some time before news of his untimely death reached Greece.  In between these two events Greece was in limbo; a few knew of Alexander death but were never believed; in fact they were treated as traitors sent by Persia to spread calumnies and weaken the morale of the Greeks.  

Those truth speakers were quickly put to death by the sword and the women stoned to death.  As a national reaction, all these youths who longed to join Alexander during his first incursion into the Old World were recruited and shipped by Persian connections, the real spies.  The Persian Empire needed these fresh Macedonian recruits because the Persians were satisfied with their conditions and didn’t seek loots at such a high risk into the unknown.  Within two years, as new Macedonians arrived regularly and in groups every three months, Cyrus “Alexander” enjoyed a large and young and efficient army of over 75,000 soldiers.  This is the kind of number that encourages qualitative reflections into gaining self-autonomy from central government.

The young fresh army was mostly constituted with Macedonians and Afghanistanis who had the looting spirit as chief motivator. The Unicorn Cyrus “Alexander” was replaced by the more common name of Al Iskandar, or Iskandar for short.  That new name was agreeable to the new army and to Cyrus. This tendency that the army was motivated by loot suited well Iskandar, other wise how could he lead this army to unknown lands?

In order to secure self-autonomy from the Son God Incarnate Iskandar resorted to three main schemes: first, he delayed as long as he could recognition of receipt of Imperial messengers.  Most of these messengers had a way of disappearing mysteriously on their way back. Second, Iskandar sent regular reports of achievement and occasionally a portion of the treasures that he might or might not have gotten hold of.  Iskandar messengers were selected from units far away from headquarter to minimize chances of the messengers learning of the rumors being circulated. Thirdly, Iskandar never rejected a petition from the Persian soldiers to return definitely home; that included the soldiers from the western provinces:  it was necessary to eliminate potential spies and the faint hearted soldiers who didn’t join for the loot but because of an Imperial order. In fact, Iskandar made it laudable and excellent traditional behavior to visit families or start a family.  Forth, Iskandar decided to keep advancing as far as he could from the Persian borders so that communication become very difficult and confrontation with an Imperial army more remote.

The major problem was that Iskandar and his army was not to expect support or assistance from central government, especially the crucial financial aspect in the organization.  Consequently, Iskandar was to focus on loots regardless of casualties since he could always recruit fresh souls with money.

Years later, it was rumored that Al Iskandar was worshipped and his face and Two-Horned hat sculpted on mountains in scales befitting the grandeur of a God.  Eleven centuries later, it is rumored that the Moslems destroyed these pagan figures because Alexander was never mentioned in the Old Testament as a legitimate prophet. (A plausible story since Taliban detonated two majestic and mountain sized Buda.  The “prophet” Abraham for example, who is recognized as the father of the three monotheist religions, is a very lucky man; he could get away with everything; he abandoned his Egyptian wife Hagar and his son Ishmael to die of thirst in the Arabian Desert. Many CEO’s are very lucky men; their golden parachutes open on ridiculously lavish bonuses even when their companies go bankrupt).

Natural borders: what for? (November 21, 2008)

This short essay is sort of a detailed argument of the previous essay titled “A Nation, a State, or a redundant community?

Most thinkers and sociologists would like to consider natural borders as one of the essential main factors for the establishment of a Nation or a national identity.  I used to take this argument as a given until very recently.

My position is that the topology of the interior of a country is far more important to providing stability for the duration and consequently to forming a “homogeneous” society than mere natural borders.

Obviously, natural borders are excellent arguments in litigations in the UN or international borders disputes, but not that essential on their own merit to constituting a Nation without topography that discourages invasions and long term settlement of invading troops.

Before I substantiate my hypothesis it might be necessary to emphasize two more ingredients for the formation of a nation.

First, a nation should manage to enforce a central official language to the majority of its citizens, regardless of the various slang and other different languages spoken or written in various regions in the nation.  For example, at the beginning of the 20th century, France was still unable to enforce the official Parisian language in all its territory and had to resort to intensive investment and incentives in education and appropriate laws and concentrated efforts to achieve the universal acceptance of the official French language.

Second, a nation should manage to incite the majority of its citizens to acknowledge a religion, for example official recognition in the civil registers, regardless of their personal faith or other affiliations.  Saying that there is separation between the State and religion in functions and responsibilities is a State matter but does not relate to the constitution of a nation in the long run.

I will consider a few Nations in the “Greater Middle East” and Northern Africa regions dating back from Antiquity and then from the European Medieval Age.

Of all the multitude of Empires that dominated the Old World at certain periods only Iran (Persia) can be classified without ambiguity as a Nation.  Since the European Medieval Age we experienced the emergence of two other nations, Turkey and Morocco (it ruled Spain for over 5 centuries).

Before I resume my argumentation let me state that I consider Egypt as a recent nation that satisfies most of the criteria, but did not in history.  The fundamental question is: why the Empires of Babylon, Assyria, Akkad, Egypt, Greece, and Rome were unable to maintain the structure and cohesiveness of a nation even after many centuries of dominion?

I will refrain of analyzing the cases of Greece and Rome because that would divert the focus of this short essay.

Why the Empires that originated in present Iraq, Syria and Egypt failed to survive as a nation to our modern time?  These Empires dominated the Old World for many centuries and had centralized power structures and centralized official languages and managed to impose their brand of religion or close variations to their entire Empires.  What was lacking then?

The topology in the interior of Iraq, Syria and Egypt could not offer any substantial hardship to huge invading troops.

Once the invading troops crossed a natural barrier the whole county was opened for easy progress.  For example, “Greater Syria” (composed theoretically and according to natural borders of the current States of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan) had definite natural borders of high mountain chains north and north-east, desert in the south and south-east, and east, and the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  If we extended “Greater Syria” to include Iraq, the Arab/Persian Gulf would be the border in the east.  It seems that natural borders are not of major consequences if the interior is an open country.

The invading war-like Empires just needed to satisfy their curiosity of what is beyond the natural barriers to come in. The Persians, Egyptians, Turks, Greeks, Romans, and Arab/Moslem troops entered and conquered the land from all sides with no major resistance.

It seemed that “Greater Syria” was unable to unite and constitute a national army or a central government even though the population was mostly cohesive in language, religion, and culture.

What this region managed to form were hundreds of City-States, structurally centralized and well organized, but unable to come to a unified “need” for a Nation.  It seems that through history, these people recognized that they would never be able to stop the advance of war-like empires; it was much cheaper to open the City-States gates and then assimilate the commercial demands and wants of the invading Empires.

This policy permitted the civilization of “Greater Syria” to transform and change the cultures of the invading Empires in all domains. (Review my essay “Lions and Lionesses in the Fertile crescent“).  What is striking is, although Syria could never institute a political nation for any substantive duration, the populations in these States are more homogeneous culturally and linguistically than any currently established nation.

What is true to Syria is compatible to Egypt. Egypt had natural borders of deserts and seas but we cannot claim that it constituted a nation until recently due to demographic explosion, vast land, a majority of a religious sect, and common language.

The difference historically between Egypt and Syria is that the invading Empires were not interested in all of Egypt; suffice to secure transit commerce between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and the crops of the Nile River.  Syria was all interesting because of its rich City-States, skilled artisans, education, schools, commerce, and fertile lands;.

Syria was for the keep because of its hard working value-adding population!

That is why it was impossible for Syria to form a political entity because the war-like Empires wanted Syria at any cost.

The State of Lebanon: A string of exclamation and question marks (November 11, 2008)

I need to state my position on the socio-political structure of the State of Lebanon.

Isn’t it enough that the individual is living a lie, that I have to swallow a bigger lie concerning my “nationality”?

Lebanon is a State recognized by the UN and it has endured for over 65 years after many civil wars and countless invasions by Israel and a long Syrian mandate for over 20 years.  Is not this fact legitimate enough for us Lebanese to unite and reach an understanding of common denominator that would protect us from further senseless divisions?

Let me recapitulate.  The Lebanese society is structured around 19 self-autonomous religious castes.  The various religious castes may be grouped around three larger religious tribes: the Christians, the Moslem Sunni and the Moslem Shiaa.  Let us expound on the smaller castes.

The small Druze caste is fundamentally in its inception a Shiaa “fatimide” sect but had found it more advantageous to obey the Sunni Caliphates for several reasons.

First, when the “Fatimide” dynasty in Egypt was replaced by the Sunni Ayyubide and later the Mamelouk dynasties, then physical persecution of the Druze and the Shiaa was common place. Thus, to survive, the Druze had to pay allegiance to the Sunni monarchs. Actually, the Sunni Ottoman Caliph empowered the Druze families of Maan and then the Chehab to dominate the political life in Mount Lebanon for over three centuries.

Second, in the State of Lebanon it was far lucrative for the Druze to take umbrage under the larger harmless militarily but powerful politically Sunni tribe since the Shiaa constituted a menacing immediate neighbor for their autonomy as a caste.

The Christian tribe encloses at least a dozen castes.

The Maronite sect is presently barely more numerous than the Greek Orthodox. It is said that the State of Lebanon would not exist without its Christians; that might be true.  But to state that the State exists because of its Maronites then it is incorrect.

The Greek Orthodox are by far the most numerous Christian sect in the Near East region and spread throughout Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine (Syria has more than 5 millions).  If it was not for the heavy presence of Greek Orthodox (and supported by Imperial Russia at the time) then the State of Lebanon could not be imposed no matter how, and the Maronite caste would not have enjoyed the supremacy of its administration for over five decades.  As a matter of fact, the first two Presidents to the Republic since 1920, under the French mandate, were Greek Orthodox.  Presently, Seniora PM is reluctant to define the responsibilities of his Greek Orthodox Vice Premier.

All these civil wars in the State of Lebanon were basically the need of this caste system that viewed the establishing of a strong central government as anathema to survival of its petty interests: their respective free float interests would be jeopardized and those two dozens warlords, small feudal leaders, civilians as well as religious, would lose much of their powers over their subjects.

Sure, the various foreign State interests played a catalytic factor but the civil wars would not have been so frequent or so enduring without our caste system.

Thus, Lebanon is meant to experience a civil war every 25 years or so in order to destroy and exhaust any accumulation of energy and good will for instituting a strong government.  All the foreign powers and regional powers know these facts except the Lebanese citizens who prefer to survive on chimerical dreams of a full fledged “nation”; sometime referred to as Phoenicia, or Canaan or Arabia or Nation of Islam, or even Switzerland of the East.

Lebanon is not a “Nation”; it is a State recognized by the UN.

Can we live and unite within this definition?

Switzerland is not a nation: it is a State and its sovereignty is protected by an agreement among all its strong neighboring nations.  Among the over 190 recognized States in the UN, maybe no more than a dozen could be legitimately considered as full fledged, self-autonomous and independent Nations.

The calls for defining our origins as a “Nation”, (be it Phoenicia, Canaan, Arab, Fertile Crescent, Islam or even Switzerland of the East), benefit only the regional leaders in their respective cantons; simply because they have no viable programs to entice their youthful “subjects” but to offering them chimerical fictitious national sentiments.

Tiny Lebanon needs to unite under a State strong central government in matters of defense, finance, foreign policies, national civil register, and general planning and control.

Tiny Lebanon needs decentralized administration and State economic incentives on performance.

Tiny Lebanon needs a fair and equitable electoral law; variations on the proportional system should be seriously considered for a feasible and lasting electoral law; with minor reforms every now and then as the central government affirms its responsibilities for providing security and opportunities to all its citizens.

The State of Lebanon needs to vigorously obtain the long lasting support of its regional powers to securing its stability, sovereignty and neutrality.

If, and only if the next parliamentary election in May is not rigged to maintain a balance among the opposite political parties, then maybe some kind of hope for reforms of this caste system could be contemplated with the tacit agreement of the regional powers.

Note:  I am Christian by birth but a secular citizen; no, I am not a Greek Orthodox if you are already suspicious.

I really don’t care about all these sects and wouldn’t care one iota about their theological and apologetic differences; all these sects are fundamentally politically motivated by their clergy for closed autonomic institutions and to get a piece of the pie from their naïve co-religionists.

Cyrus “Iskandar” shining star


            Three weeks later, Artax sent an Imperial messenger to Cyrus “Alexander” ordering him to resume the project.  Cyrus was to lead “The Adventure Caravan” and Seleucus, the right hand of the late H-2 Alexander was to lead the advance guard regiment.  Cyrus had the honor of selecting two of the Imperial guards divisions as rear guard of “The Caravan”.

First, Artax had to secure exclusive rights of the title of Son of God Incarnate; thus, Artax summoned the High Priest of Egypt to his Capital Persepolis. The Son of God Incarnate snatched the crown from the High Priest hands and crowned himself Son of God. With a modest sized army, light in baggage but loaded with treasures and money Artax exited his Capital on a long journey.  Artax was to catch up with Cyrus; His travel this time around turned out not to be that straightforward or luxurious.

In the meantime, the fame of H-2 Alexander (better known as Al Iskandar in Afghanistan) preceded Cyrus “Alexander” in Afghanistan.  In order to have a glorious passage in that dangerous Estate of the Empire and avoid any useless engagements, Cyrus had to dye his hair blonde, shave clean his beard and order a Two-Horned helmet fabricated especially for this passage.  This transformation was to be temporary but it took exigencies of its own for the remaining life of Cyrus.  “Al Iskandar” was welcomed as a living God and he loved every minute of it.  What amazed the Afghan people is how quickly Al Iskandar learned to understand their language and even pronounce adequately their difficult vocal words. 

A very normal accident


The Imperial caravan has been four months on the road without any significant obstacles.  In fact, it was a road strewn with flowers and roses that the Persian little people hurried to have a glimpse of a God Incarnate.  The instructions forbade Alex to engage in any battle; his job was to negotiate and transmit the kind of troubles and the danger level; for example red, orange or yellow; red meant that Cyrus had to advance two divisions to link up with the retreating regiment; Cyrus was to dispatch a messenger for Artax to dispatch a division to fill up the space/time gap in Cyrus camp.

On a bright spring morning, Alex was having his regular morning fast paced walking exercises when he tripped and fell.  His three body guards dusted him off and casually lifted him off the ground.  Alex’ broken right hip condition was worsened by these inconsiderate rough guards.  The previous Two–Horned King was screaming in pain and could not breathe to ingurgitate any Babylonian beer.  The Macedonian physician resorted to the very old fashion technique to calm down Alex’ humiliating screaming; the brave physician clubbed gently Alex head.  Alex went into sleep.  In fact, Alex suffered a serious concussion in the head and the two combined injuries lead to the real Alexander untimely death. All the fantastic stories about Alexander’ death are the legendary Greek style for recording “historical” events in hyperbolic and imaginative mythical Homeric epics.

Alex corps was burned and his ashes kept in a gold urn.  According to Alex wishes his ashes were buried in Babylon in the garden of the Imperial Palace.  The caravan momentarily halted its victorious advances and the Imperial Monarch, not reluctantly, returned with his consorts and concubines.  The funeral was conducted as secretly as feasible and in the privacy of the Imperial Palace in Babylon but with great pomp as befitting a worthy King and adversary.  It happened that Roxanne, one of the Monarch’s wives, died in the return journey and Babylon observed the ritual of one week of mourning.

Artax mourned Alexander for two weeks in an isolated tent and forbade any contacts with him.    Alexander could no longer be his catalyst to changing the world and Artax went through a period of deep depression. Artax emerged from his seclusion a changed man with a definite purpose.

Artax’ secret project taking flesh


            The whole Persian Empire, from the confines of Africa to Afghanistan and Kazakhstan got words of a most serious and grandiose project perpetrated in the Capital.  The whole preparation was conducted in absolute secrecy!   The Imperial palanquins were being refurbished, the Imperial tents were dusted off and repainted and the Imperial guards re-clothed and re-armed.  The whole Persian Capital was feverish and excited with the grand scale remodeling and re-painting of monuments and carriages.

            These preparations were undertaken six months after Alex’ reversal to Babylonian beer and one year after Alex near death imprisonment.  During the last four months Artax and Alex had frequent meetings under the patronage of Scheherazade as a cover up gimmick since pleasure associations were excluded from formal requisites.  Alex was to subscribe to Artax secret project of moving forward eastward to the most exotic lands. Most importantly, Artax assimilated the goals and urges of the hot headed Alexander. Instead of resuming his plan to launch a counter offensive on Greece he decided to explore the confines of his Empire that his predecessors declined to do.

Alex was to lead the whole caravan with a regiment of one thousand men of war and Artax was to lead the slow moving and substantial reserve.  Cyrus “Alexander” was to lead the fresh three divisions at a day distance from the leading regiment of Alex.  Alex had thus earned the honor of discovering first hand the magic, the beautiful, the amazing, the scariest and the deadliest of surprises.  Alex had reservations as to the loyalty of Cyrus when the tough gets going and the God Incarnate revised his orders:  when in war, Alex will lead the three divisions and Cyrus “Alexander” would be the Chief military counselor to the God Incarnate, if and when rescue missions and support are needed.

            In the meantime, a second higher education center for research was to be established in Asfahan City; this center would be at the cross roads of the famous learning centers in Afghanistan, India, and Central Asia Estates.  Alex had the authority to hire the most learned scientists and philosophers in Greece, Albania, and Romania. Basically, Alex relied on Athens and its environs for his vast recruiting endeavors. On purpose Alex reduced to the bare minimum messengers to Macedonia:  Alex didn’t miss his mothers or her frequent letters of lamentations and remonstrance. Olympia was devastated and highly frustrated that her beloved Alexander put a brake on his beliefs on a Divine Star leading his steps. 

            Alex expressed a desire to visit the World City of Babylon, the most famous City in the Old World for three millennia.  Alex has heard of the suspended gardens wonder and the gigantesque Victor Arch and the fortified inner City of Nabukodnosor, one of the late founders of the Babylonian Empire before Persia entered the City.  The Son God Incarnate gave in to the puppet eyes of Alex on condition that his visit is a private matter and not as a guest of the Persian Monarch.  Thus, Alex will live in moderate size palaces and traveling in ordinary attires.

Alex was overjoyed and Babylon exceeded all his expectations in grandeur, richness and variety of nationals and languages.  Almost all caravans wanted to schedule a stop in Babylon and do profitable commerce.  Babylon was the nerve center for gathering intelligence and negotiating deals (political as well as business) and enjoying a most liberal climate and fun exotic places for late night orgies.  Alex forgot his stature and re-converted to an adolescent seeking freedom of attachments and responsibilities.  Within three days and nights Alex was sick and feverish; he kept pleading to be buried in Babylon.   The Imperial guards were ordered to dispatch Alex in shackles.  The return to Persepolis was most humiliating and degrading to a sobered proud soul.  Alex was confined into a much smaller apartment and put on diet of goat milk, yogurt and fruits. It was a hellish life without booz and beautiful girls, especially the abstinence of alcoholic beverages. 




November 2008

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