Δευτέρα 4 Νοεμβρίου 2019

Asterix in the M East and the stone of oil

by Nicholas A. Biniaris 

In the famous comic strip, Asterix the Gaul, created by Coscinny and Uderzo, travels with Obelix to the M. East to find and bring back the stone of oil. He is asked to do so by the tribe’s Druid Getafix who needs it the make the magic potion that gives superhuman strength to whom drinks it.
As they journey across the sands of Syria and Iraq they meet the Sumerians who are after the Acadians. Further down they are attacked by Hittites who are chasing the Babylonians who are after the Assyrians but a little later the two Gauls find out that they are attacked by the Egyptians who are after the Assyrians. Later on they meet the Persians who are after the Medes. They escape from all plus the Romans who are the rulers of Palestine and bring back the stone of oil, that is petroleum so that the Druid will make the magic potion.
Since then, as before, the area which Asterix passed through is in constant political, cultural, religious and internecine turmoil. There are never ending wars, invasions, inhuman slaughter and destruction. After the Greeks of Alexander, the Roman moved in, and then the Parths, the Byzantine Greeks, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Mongols, the Turks, the European colonialists and lately the Russian and the Americans. The inventive Europeans, before they withdrew from the area, sent the Jews of Europe those who survived from the criminal aspect of Europe’s subverted humanistic Enlightenment. So they too, became a new pole of contention and hatred for the local and the surrounding Arabs.
After the European internecine WWI the Ottoman Empire, the Constantinople Caliphate for the Moslems worldwide, was split by the European Great Powers in various states most of them producers of large and cheap quantities of the industrial magic potion. These were not national states but the Great Powers aspired to remake and abolish the history of an area consisting of Arab tribes, Moslem sects, some Christians who are now under attack and are leaving the Cradle of Christianity and a diversity of non-Arab minorities, one of the largest of them being the Kurds. The stone of oil, abundant in the area turned Bedouins to millionaires and anointed shepherds to kings and princes. So the sands are covered with super modern cities and camels were exchanged for luxury cars. In this way the Europeans hoped they could construct citizens, politics and western type democracies!!
Henry Ford, the industrialist had said that “history is bunk”. On the other hand W. Faulkner believed that “the past is never dead, actually it is not even past.” Both propositions are true. For the inventor engineer and businessman history has no meaning since his purpose is to overcome it with the present looking at a new future. On the other hand Faulkner reveals a truth that is based upon biology and the mental, the biology of memory, the necessity of continuity of consciousness of experience and meaning in time. The West as a missionary of Fordism never actually found equilibrium between these two truths.
USA, most easily takes at face value Ford’s world view. The revealing Trump’s statement that “the Kurds didn’t help us un Normandyis an irrevocable sign of the decadence of Western civilization. It was the West that introduced history as a human endeavor. Now we like to believe that we can turn history to a travesty, that we are neither West nor the East. Trump remembered who was not there, so that that he could conveniently support some nonsensical political decision. History in this sense is indeed bunk. As Oliver Stone, a British historian wrote in a letter to The Times when Yugoslavia was bombed: “European leaders lack basic historical knowledge due to their deficient education.”
The M. East was the crossroad of Empires, civilizations and movement of people through the ages. It never stopped being so. Nations, borders, and statehood, are imported notions. As the Arab historian and sociologist Ibn Khaldun believed, Empires fall from inside because what he called Asabiyyah, social cohesion, is diminished. As a result tribes of the periphery with strong Asabiyyah conquer the internally weakened Empires. Khaldun’s social cohesion is different from the meaning ascribed to it by leftist theories founded upon economic equality. Asabiyyah can be understood as social solidarity, tribalism, a strong bond among a group of people. The continuous rise and fall of civilizations and Empires in the area, something Coscinny makes fun of in Asterix’s adventure, demanded an explanation and Ibn Khaldun gave one which with certain revisions resembles the situation as it is today.
If Asterix would return on the scene he could observe Turkey and its leader President Erdogan taking advantage of its geographical position guarding the passage from East to West and from North to South. It is a valuable piece of real estate also because it lies next door to the great wealth of the stone of oil. Syria, Oil producers, Saudia, Iraq are internally weak states whereas Turkey seems to be strong. The Empires from afar, Americans and Russians vie for the oil and control of the area, as China patiently waits to complete its R&BI. The descendants of Asterix, rich but with no social solidarity anymore or will to act are an easy target for the wily Turk. Erdogan is not ready to sell the property, but perhaps to lease it and for a steep price. As an Islamist, and an advocate of “political Islam” he would rather prefer to revive the old Ottoman Empire according to the visions of the “philosopher” Davutoglu, who argued for Neo-Ottomanism.
Erdogan also knows that the right Asabiyyah for Turkey is the imported fruit from the West, nationalism as contributing the most towards social solidarity. Now that the weakness of the Western Empire is manifested in open view by an ignorant and divisive President, who as Nixon in 1974, is threatened by impeachment, the periphery that is the Turks spotted an opening, as they did then to invade Cyprus. So the Kurds were once again thrown under the bus and are used by the local Empire, Turkey to initiate the first stage for the realization of the Ottoman reign over a failed tribalism and Arabism.
The grand slam of the Turks is that they proceed to all their illegal moves in Cyprus, Iraq Syria with the blessings of the USA, Russia, China and even the UN. Nobody care then and nobody cares now and so the Ottomans will be emboldened to proceed further down the road of conquest and subjugation. But as an act of Cosmic Justice over Islam hover the ghosts of Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the romantic idea of a return to the primitive Islamic Caliphate. The historical phenomenon ISIS compels us to rethink Faulkner’s words. Islam never reached its Reformation and thus it never became a religion with a critical view of the Divine and the Human. It remained a belief as the Orthodox Rabbinical tradition which destroys the most secular nation on earth, Israel.
Those who know Ottoman history are aware that Turkey will never return to its former borders, as it never left north Iraq or Cyprus. The strongest local adversaries of Neo-Ottomanism are three. Iran, a winner in Syria but at this point it hedging its bets being under severe economic embargo Secondly, Israel that is searching in the dark for a new policy in the area since Russia is left temporarily the sole arbiter of Syria’s fate and finally Saudia, the super-rich and also the super-ineffective Arab state, corrupt and unable to defend itself. It calls itself the custodian of the two Holy Cities and all the Sunnis. An innate enemy of Iran fearful of its determination and will to survive Saudia is a variable, both dangerous and vulnerable to the vagaries of fortune. Turkey and Saudia compete for the position as the “core” state of Islam, but the second is more of a prize to be won by the winner of the contest rather than a candidate for the prize.
The pundits see Putin as the winner of the contest versus the USA. This is a mirage. Russia is a huge landmass but a poor and historically mismanaged country, relying on its nuclear bombs and military technology. It produces nothing of interest and exports mainly arms, raw material, oil, and gas. Putin cannot outsmart the locals, Turks, Arabs, Iranians. He cannot change the hearts and minds of millions of destitute and unemployed people. The only thing he can hope for is good relations and good trade agreements, something to show the Europeans and the Americans that he too is capable to act as a shrewd diplomat who doesn’t care if he deals with dictators or democrats. He has taken a leaf out the Chinese diplomatic bible and remains an active agent churning the pot of insecurity as the USA does.
However, the civil wars and the historical phenomenon of ISIS in the M. East have taken a horrendous human toll which in unmanageable except with massive use of force. Asterix traveled to the M. East to bring back the stone of oil to secure the freedom of his tribe against the Romans. He did it with cunning and imagination. For us living in the area all the sound and fury of the internecine wars, the contest among the “Great Powers” and the millions of refugees and job seeking illegal immigrants is a reality that brings back all the dark and conflict ridden history and animosities of this part of the world. We better start reading our history books again.
Nicholas A. Biniaris writer 28/10/1019