A means to an end
If I end a posting abruptly it is because I want to keep the historical accounts as short as possible. Sites like Wikipedia have so many links it is easy to forget what you were looking for in the first place. Don’t get me wrong Wikipedia is brilliant if you have loads of time and know a little bit about the subject already but, if you don’t, it can be distracting.
How do Machiavellian principles relate to the Syrian conflict?
BBC One aired a programme recently on the importance of Machiavelli and the ideas expressed in his book ‘The Prince’, which is about his observations on the art of war. The programme boasted how English writers almost satanised Machiavellian principles in the 1600s but, in my view, Britain is quite adept in its attempts to exercise the ethos; as was demonstrated throughout the broadcast.
It illustrated how well the principles apply to modern-day Britain and its politics, big business, the monarchy and to the invasion of other countries. In relation to the latter one commentator described how, during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, British soldiers threatened local inhabitants until they submitted, then agreed to play football with them.
Chapter 17 of ”The Prince” alludes to ”Cruelty and Clemency”, and says an invader needs a mixture of love and fear in order to conquer. When I heard a preview of the programme, I looked up ‘The Prince’ on the internet and discovered other principles that apply to the invasion of Iraq and Syria. Chapter 8 is concerned ”With those who have obtained a principality by wickedness”. It suggests that if victory is not immediate, more and more killing is necessary and as a result the invader never succeeds. Mind you the breaking up of a country is effective in itself as you can then re-draw existing borders in order to feather your nest. The break up of Syria was inevitable once they got away with it in Iraq.
The same chapters suggest that a successful invasion requires strong leadership to unite the opposing forces and, that the leader settle in the conquered country. Machiavelli mentions Hannibal who led an army from Carthage, in modern-day Tunis, to Italy where he remained for 15 years until the Romans reciprocated and invaded North Africa. Now Hannibal, a Muslim, is known as a successful military strategist but the same cannot be said for most present day military or government leaders who, abandon the countries they have devastated as soon as a trade deal is struck.
No doubt some of the invaders will remain in Syria, in the name of Islam or heritage but this will only lead to a state of perpetual war with President Assad, who incidentally has never invaded another country, and his followers, who are intent on defending their beautiful country against the usurper.
This brings me nicely back to the history of the Arabs and how they became unified under Islam and spread the word through the system of Caliphates (see the previous entries)
The History of the Arabs continued
As Nomads or Badawi, (the Arabic word for nomads), the life of the Arabic people was extremely hard. Muhammed, later to become the Prophet, was born into the Quraysh family who were semi-nomadic and slightly wealthier than those who survived solely in a desert environment. He was an extremely astute man and as a merchant, was aware of the more sophisticated life styles, led by neighbouring monotheists, who practiced Christianity or Judaism.
Whether or not he spoke to a higher authority is not for this blog to decide but suffice to say Muhammed was intent on unifying the Arabic people under the tenets of Islam, derived from the root word Salema, Arabic for peace, purity and obedience. The historian, Karen Armstrong, describes a ”spiritual emptiness” that existed in the town of Mecca as its inhabitants saw their Persian and Byzantium neighbours practicing their one God religion. Though it has to be said that Pagan and Animist beliefs had served the Badawi, prior to the domination of trade routes by the settlers.
I know many present day activists who bemoan the demise of the nomadic way of life and the emergence of religion or ”civilisation”, which seems to have caused so much strife in the world. Peter Mansfield though, writes that their tribal lifestyle gave the Arabic people a military advantage as they conducted raids on the various settlements and, that in turn many settlers adopted the values and life style of the Badawi. Perhaps it is human nature to dominate but the raids were on cultivated land and no doubt made survival easier.
The Badawi had no written laws and their social groupings were composed of family and extended family. I read somewhere that the word for tribe in Arabic coincides with that of family and inheritance. This seems to make sense as the Umma, a term that refers to an idea of ”Muslim community”, which was spread through the Caliphates, is interestingly the word for mother in Arabic.