Friday, April 3, 2015

The Shadow of Josephus: Tyrants and Terrorism 2000 years ago

CNN report from Aleppo Syria:
These are people who suffer any one -- or all -- of the following litany of afflictions daily: Barrel bombs -- randomly dropped, crudely made devices intended to maim, kill and terrify; warring rebel militia, also fighting with the regime; radical Islamic groups; shortages of food and water; people cutting down whatever trees they can find for fuel. Kidnapping is now the major hazard. After months of hospitality and risking themselves to assist journalists, rebels now find their ranks bedevilled by radicals and criminals who see foreign media often as a form of currency to help with boosting funds or dealing with another scourge: ISIS. This is the nightmare of being caught between a regime trying to besiege them on one side, and on the other, the evil of ISIS trying to impose their radical worldview.
Josephus, The Jewish War:
"The whole of Syria was filled with hopeless confusion, and every city was divided into two camps, the survival of the one depending on the destruction of the other. The days were spent in bloodshed, the nights-still more terrible-in fear."
"Every town was seething with turmoil and civil war, and as soon as the Romans gave them a breathing-space they turned their hands against each other...Faction reigned everywhere, the revolutionaries and zealots with the boldness of youth silencing the old and sensible."
"For Zealots they called themselves, as if they were devoted to good works, not zealous for all that was vile - vile beyond one was prepared to resist, as it was obvious that the Zealots would be very difficult to tackle."
"The group who supported the high priest Ananus were convinced that it was impossible to stay in the city unless they rid her of the terrorists, the Zealots that unless they triumphed they would be spared no punishment."
"Another type of bandit sprang up in Jerusalem, known as Sicarii. These men committed numerous murders in broad daylight and in the middle of the city. Their favorite trick was to mingle with festival crowds, concealing under their garments small daggers with which they stabbed their opponents. When their victims fell, the assassins melted into the indignant crowd, and through their plausibility entirely defied detection...many were murdered every day. More terrible than the crimes themselves was the fear they aroused, every man hourly expecting death, as in war."
"The faction fight in Jerusalem had broken out again; a three cornered fight now, as one party had split in two...We should not be far wrong if we described this as a faction within faction, like a maddened beast driven by lack of other food to devour its own flesh."
"Miserable was the plight of women and children."
Niccolò Machiavelli:
So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging
Remove a tyrant and underneath it is the rot of extremism and factions. The Tyrannical authoritarianism of Caligula and Nero helped set the stage for Jewish Extremism to rise in Judea. The brutal Tyranny of Saddam Hussein and Assad combined with the removal of Saddam by the United States set the stage for reactionary groups to rise. Maliki and Shia militias abused their position against the Sunni's in reaction to Saddam's previous brutal rule. Assad's violence against his people's aspirations fed into the Jihadi narrative of the unjust taghut who can only be fought by Jihadism.
Put it this way terrorist fish feed on the brutality of Tyrants and swim in the disenfranchisement of the people.
"The people resemble a wild beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to live in the woods, has been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where to conceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again."
Niccolò Machiavelli
Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions.” Niccolò Machiavelli
Reading Josephus (The War of the Jews) highlights the fact that religious fanaticism existed long before the Islamic extremists in the late 20th century or the Christian wars between Catholics and Protestants. It also reminds the reader that Imperial ambition and brutal Dictators have existed long before the present powers who seek greater security through greater power.
Common elements of this Ancient and Modern Drama are:
1. Imperial intervention in the Middle East
2. Monotheistic Religious Zealots
3. Moderates stuck between Tyrants and religious zealots
4. Terrorism
5. Factions
6. Rome’s inability or refusal to understand Monotheistic sensibilities along with the Fanaticism of certain elements within Monotheism.

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