Adonis Diaries

Natural borders: what for?

Posted on: November 21, 2008

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.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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