Monday, April 28, 2008

Setback (Again)

I’m a little behind. I had a setback. One of the annoying things about having little ability to suppress my emotions is that when irksome things happen, I need to take time to get over it. Even when I know what the correct emotional response to the situation is and I have developed the proper strategy with dealing with it, I’m pretty helpless to “just get over it.” That is the reason we suppress emotion. Well, not being able to suppress emotion, I have to be “good” with things before I could move on.

I’ve come to realize that before I was 26, I rarely was ever “good” with any of the shit that life threw at me. I just stated, “There’s nothing I can do. I won’t let this slow me down,” and then suppress the hell out of any negative emotions. Yeah, I’d whine and bitch to my friends, but I’d always get the job done. I’d adapt. My rule was I felt what I wanted to and suppressed the rest of my feelings. And negative feelings had their uses. I could channel them into other tasks. Emotional conflicts were rarely resolved. “Emotional resolution” was for the weak. Victory justified any annoyances along the way.

All of that is now completely beyond me. I have to be “good” with anything I have to deal with or I’ll fall apart dealing with it. This means when the emotional shit storms come, I have to clear the shit before I go on. So I lose a day or two. As my focus is shit, it may be a while longer before I regroup, if something else hasn’t turned up in the meanwhile. Well, at least my desire to post progress here helps me refocus on the task faster. Plus, if this were a normal class, my current progress would have been sufficient for finishing on time. As it is, I’m turning back papers on Thursday instead of Tuesday. And I am ready to teach Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality tomorrow. So things aren’t so bad. Plus, the Wings beat the Avs 5-1. Life is good.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Oh! I just discovered that my dear friends Gretchen North and Nelly Samoukova have left comments on the blog! Twit that I am, I didn’t set the comment feature to require me to approve the comments before they post, which is the only way I can find to get to notification that there is a comment waiting. I have fixed this and will undoubtedly reply more quickly. Expect me to post replies before the weekend is out!

Going into Halftime

Week 4 is done. Goodbye Locke; Hello Rousseau! Although I am a liberal, I’ve just never cared for Locke much. He’s just so clumsy.

This blog seems to be working. I lose focus when I’m grading. I did timeline a little on Wednesday during my office hours. I miss it. I’m doing fairly well this term. Jamie Mayerfeld, my prof, doesn’t make us come to lectures if we’ve already done the course with him once before. So I skip Mondays and Fridays so I can work. I teach three sections on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I attend the Wednesday lecture and have my office hours on Wednesdays. I have done pretty well for timelining when I’m not grading. If I had previously been as disciplined about grading as I had been in the past week, I think I’d have performed far better. I’ve gotten roughly 30 done in a week’s time. The difficulty is that I need the “at-home” days if I’m to actually get anything done. The three days I’m on campus are very unproductive. My focus is shot by the time I get home. I also see that without the blogs to force me to see the pattern of my progress is that when the grading is done, my mind will wander to something else before I return to timelining. I need to make sure I hit timelining immediately after grading is over.

Grading is my biggest distraction. I really understand why we’re seeing such a rush to the bottom in terms of education quality. Without good grading, the students can’t improve. But the students themselves don’t really care if they improve. They just want to be entertained. So the dominant, if utterly unethical strategy, is simply to be an entertainer. Make the grading easy, be entertaining, and you’ll get good evals with minimal work. You’ll have plenty of time for research. Well, I don’t have the heart for that. I just don’t.

On the other hand, there’s quality teaching time and shit teaching time. Being a TA is shit teaching time. I’m willing to teach any of the courses I’ve already designed. I’m willing to teach Arab-Israeli or Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict. Unlike being a TA, I don’t have to absorb any new material—the courses are designed. I get a grader and only have to grade 30 papers at a shot. I do a commitment matching thing with the grading. Students who participate in class get put in my stack the first time around. Then students who participate and students who made above a B+ get put in my stack the second time around. Then students who participate, students who improved from the first paper to the second and then students who made above a B+ get graded by me for the final. For the most part, those who care get a lot of attention. Those who don’t, don’t. The grader gets paid a completely ludicrous wage of $600/term. So I try to give them as low a comment burden as possible. First cut, everyone gets comments. As students fail to meet teacher commitment in terms of comment output, they get downgraded. It’s a time-efficient deal for me. I get maximum satisfaction for my efforts.

I’m thinking I need a respite from being a teaching assistant. There’s a job that’s come up with the graduate school, being a graduate student advisor for a program to advise minority undergrads to help them get into PhD programs. It’s twenty hours a week and the shifts are eight hours, so I could pretty much guarantee a three-day week. If I got the job, if the department wants me to teach independently, I’ll take it during the unpredictable, off-term when they offer it. Otherwise, I’ll be out of the TA loop.

I don’t know if I have a shot at the job. But I think I’ll shoot them an application and see what happens.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The rest of the weekend didn’t work out as well as I’d have liked. Craig needed to move offices at work and, with the commute, that took about six hours. We were moving file cabinets, desks, etc. I’m a pretty low-stamina guy and I was feeling low energy anyway, so it wiped me out for Sunday. I had to go into campus today (Monday, I just posted after midnight) to deliver two graded papers to Jamie and I stayed for the lecture since I had to go in. I crashed and had a three and a half hour nap. With making dinner, I only got five papers done on Monday.

So I’m fifteen behind. Let’s see if I can handle five a night over the next three nights. That will give me the weekend again for the last 29 papers.

I miss timelining. It’s been too many days since I thought about Lebanon. Grading is such a bitch. But, damn, the extra pay is handy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another Ten Bite the Dust

Wow. I seem to be doing this faster. I’ve noticed a few changes in grading over the past two years. While I’m as concerned with helping to write comments that can lead students to actually improve, I’ve gotten better at standardizing comments. At first I was just standardizing comments like “Excessively colloquial language” or “Writer does not present prima facie case—essay does not draw on reason to advance its thesis.” I realized though, that in writing individual comments, I would often repeat myself as well. So I made a rule this year that any good individual comment I wrote, I would keep and integrate into the comment sheet. If you want to see what the whole thing looks like, follow this link.

I notice that my feelings are changing as well. I used to suffer quite a bit when they wouldn’t get it. Now it doesn’t bother me quite as much. I still work like the dickens to get them to get it; it’s not that I don’t care. But I guess I don’t look at it like it’s my personal failing, especially when I have given them a lot of support and structure. I’m really a lot better at matching the student’s level of commitment. Moreover, the tension of dealing with the same set of problems with a new group after having struggled so hard to get the old group past it used to depress me. It doesn’t anymore.

Posting the meter to this blog seems to help. I know nobody reads this silly dull blog, but it at least makes me accountable to myself. I realize a great deal of my problem has been that I get lost in the fog of my mind. Having a graph seems to keep me focused and in context. It ties me to time usage.

Anyway, more papers tomorrow, Insha’ Allah!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ha! I Did It!

Ten down. Fifty-nine more to go!


Okay, I have 69 papers to grade. The gradesheet was all ready to go last week, so I can start plugging and chugging this afternoon. The goal: ten per day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for a total of forty this weekend. I don’t know if I can be this consistent, but I’m hoping this “post the chart so the world can see your progress or lack thereof” approach can keep me focused. If nothing else the method is providing documentation for exactly when and in what kinds of circumstances I fall off the wagon with the timelining. I hope this will help me improve. I really want to graduate and I need progress.

If this method (ten at a shot on weekend days) works, I should be done grading by Sunday of next week and be back to timelining again. I have to go to campus on Monday and that may throw me off. I have to give Jamie Mayerfeld, the prof running the lecture, two graded papers and if I go to school, I might as well stay for the lecture. But, we’ll see what can be done.

Nelly and I had a productive talk about the “Institutionalization” paper. More on that soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Peace to End All Peace

Okay, I’ve decided which parts of Fromkin to timeline. I’m going to do chapters 23-28, chapters 35-37, chapters 41-44, chapters 46-48 and chapter 57. Basically this surgical reading emphasizes the diplomacy that lead to the Great Arab Revolt, the revolt itself, and the peace settlement in the Middle East focusing on Syria and Lebanon and a little side voyage into the Turks’ s slaughters of the Armenians and the rise of Mustafa Kamal’s Turkey.

The last two parts are important because the Maronites are quite mindful of the slaughter of the Armenians and see this as a primary motivation behind the expansion of the borders of the autonomous sanjak of Mount Lebanon into the Greater Lebanon of today. Given that this choice was a demographic disaster that has guaranteed that Lebanon will never be the Christian state the Maronite Church had hoped for, the paranoia that led to it needs some explanation. Moreover, France’s need to re-fight its war with Turkey and to eventually abandon the Treaty of Sèvres is important for our story. Re-fighting the Turks made the French vulnerable to insurrection in Syria as they had to deploy their men northward. Moreover, losing this small war meant that the French had to cede to Port of Alexandretta to the Turks. As Alexandretta was the only decent port in the Syria mandate that had not found its way into the borders of Greater Lebanon, the outcome of this war was one of the stressors that plagued the French Mandate in Syria.

Fromkin isn’t too dense, so let’s hope I can do this quickly. I have grading to do next week. Yippee.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Where Have You Been, Talal?

I know. No progress posted for over a week. We had a birthday party on the weekend of April 5-6 for my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. That kept me busy. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my teaching days. I find I have shit for focus after commuting, teaching three sections, attending a teaching meeting (Tuesdays only) and commuting back. I tried to timeline on Thursday, but my concentration was shot and it went nowhere. Wednesday, a friend had some personal career stuff to discuss, so I was busy with her that afternoon. I only left the U District at 4:30, so I was pretty tired that day, too. Sometimes I can timeline if I’m tired, but Zamir loves to shift back and forth across time and can be awfully vague with dates (despite being the most detailed historian in the group). When he’s in his back and forth mood, I can’t follow him if I’m tired.

I miss the Old Talal’s sense of focus. The Talal 2.0 (MS Version)© Operating System crashes way too easily.

But enough bitching! Zamir is finally done. What’s the strategy from here? Well, I was hoping to fill in the chronology from 1910-1926. That way I could start posting some interesting blogs about the creation of the mandate. I hate to keep this so boring.

That strategy, however, is riddled with problems. I was thinking of reading the first few chapters of the Ziadeh. I was hoping he’d be my complement for Zamir. While I have other sources in the timeline for 1910-1926 that aren’t in the chart, they’re mostly books about French imperialism and the Treaty of Versailles. Zamir is basically my detailed source for Lebanon itself during that period. The Ziadeh piece, being a book of Lebanese constitutional history from the 19th century until the roughly 2005, likes to skip. He really doesn’t cover the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the war. Moreover, only one chapter of his book (chapter 4 covers 1920-1943) really covers the meat of my paper. He really has a gap between 1915 and 1920. While without a doubt, I’ll read his chapter 4 for the paper, I’m wondering if I need to add a book that can give me at least 1910-1920 coverage.

It seems almost like cheating, but I was thinking of selections from David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. It was published back in 1989 and is a bit dated now, but it has several elements that make it appealing. It has chapters on the Ottoman Empire during the war, on the Great Arab Revolt (yes, I know it wasn’t really all that great a revolt and mostly involved British troops. But I’m a Jordanian-American. I’m trained to call it the Great Arab Revolt), and The French war with Turkey and the Turks genocide of the Armenians. I could use a little more of all those elements to contextualize the situation in Lebanon just before the start of the mandate. It would be nice to have another source for the period that is focused on Lebanon, however. I hoped that Ziadeh would do the trick, but I don’t think he can do much for me in that period.

After that, I think I want to deal with the Gaunson. It’s a full book of facts about five years I can only rely upon Zisser for. I wrote in an earlier blog, Firro covers the period, but you never want Firro to be your fact book. Zisser is not as bad as Firro, but he isn’t as fact-rich as Zamir. Gaunson looks like he might do the trick. After Gaunson, then finally to the Solh. He looks Firro-esque in terms of his style. I figure waiting until later is the best I can do with him.

I need to timeline this week. I’m grading for three sections after Thursday. It’ll be a nightmare.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Mission: To Debunk the Theory of the Velveteen Rabbit

If you are not to die of boredom reading about my adventures in timelining, it would probably help to tell you what the paper is about. The question I’m trying to answer is “What makes a state real and not just a bunch of people you could ignore?” Steve Hanson, one of my teachers, defines an institution as a standardized pattern of behavior. Well, how does the pattern of the state become standardized, so much so that institutional practices can appear to be as inevitable a fact of life as gravity? Clearly, people don’t always go along with all attempts to create institutions. I tell my students, “I proclaim the Hattarian Empire! Join me and together we shall rule the world!” and yet no one bats an eyelash. Much to my disappointment, they don’t cry out, “No! I’ll never join you!” They just give me that impossibly jaded and bored look, waiting for my lame attempt at a joke to end so that they can jot the next real point down in their notebooks. Clearly, they have no difficulty separating the real from the imaginary.

We all know institutions are imagined in the sense suggested by Benedict Anderson when defining nationalism. A nation he says, is an imagined community, “an image of communion.” We don’t know most of the people in our community. Yet, the group has a distinct sense of entity. Because this “image of communion” is shared by many individuals and had rules that serve as a reference point for their political discourse, it is real. The same is true for the state.

We know there is no superentity, no artificial deity in the sky. Rather, as Timothy Mitchell suggests, this image is anthropomorphization of the coordinated, disciplined practices of many discrete individuals. The effect of the disciplined coordination of individuals across time and space evokes this sense of an entity. This is especially true as the coordinated pattern of behavior, when successful, can subsist years after all those who originated the pattern have perished. The pattern seems, like Frankenstein’s monster, to be alive. The state, then, is imagined, but it is no means imaginary. This is Hobbes’ description of the state in Leviathan:

For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH, or STATE (in Latin, CIVITAS), which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment (by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty, every joint and member is moved to perform his duty) are the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the particular members are the strength; salus populi (the people's safety) its business; counsellors, by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the memory; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will; concord, health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death. Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation.

Here is Hobbes’ original conceptual sketch:

This is always a fun passage to teach in intro political theory classes, because while Hobbes claims that by art he hopes to create an artificial man, Hobbes later admits what I believe any honest reading of the description makes clear—what he really hopes to create is an artificial god—one that comes with no annoying problem of theodicy. Hobbes’ artificial god exists to enjoin good and prevent evil. While Hobbes does not delve into theology, one imagines he sees such a deity as an improvement on the original, from a purely pragmatic and political standpoint.

So the state is imagined as an artificial god. We know the state is real when the impact of the coordinated, disciplined actions of the discrete individuals involved in this pattern of behavior leaves us with this sort of powerful image of god-like action. Yet all imagined but real institutions were once purely imaginary. How is it then that the United States, once imaginary, became a real, imagined entity, with power over millions, whereas my Hattarian Empire is doomed for all eternity to be a comical figment of my imagination? How do states become real?

Huntington’s Definition of Institutionalization

Well, naturally, before I take a shot at answering the question, you will want to know what’s in the existing literature. The last answer is relatively old. A guy named Samuel P. Huntington calls the process of “the state becoming real” by the name institutionalization. Here’s his definition:

Institutionalization is the process by which organizations and procedures acquire value and stability. The level of institutionalization of any political system can be defined by the adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence of its organizations and procedures. So also, the level of institutionalization of any particular organizations or procedure can be measured by its adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence. If these criteria can be identified and measured, political systems can be compared in terms of their levels of institutionalization. And it will be possible to measure increases and decreases in the institutionalization of the particular organizations and procedures within a political system (Political Order in Changing Societies, p. 12).

Note that there’s not much “there” there. Institutionalization is a process, however the process is not defined. To the extent it offers any substance, the definition is practically circular. An institutionalized state is valued and stable. Is it stable because it’s valued? Is it valued because it’s stable? Is there a causal relationship between value and stability, or indeed are both caused by one or more other variables? All we know is that we can measure institutionalization by the institution’s adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence. Clearly Huntington knows the effect when we he sees it. And the effect is the state is like a living, breathing person, and a fairly dynamic one at that. Adaptable, complex, autonomous, coherent—would I did so well for myself! He doesn’t quite know how the set of rules crosses the boundary between “imaginary,” on the one hand, and “imagined, but real,” on the other. But he’s sure he knows what the institutionalized state looks like. Huntington definitely sees Hobbes’ Leviathan.

The only thing that Huntington keeps coming back to in the text is legitimacy. The state is institutionalized because it is valued. My advisor, Ellis Goldberg, once wittily called this the theory of the velveteen rabbit. You might recall the touching exchange from your own reading:

“Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit.

“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

So Huntington’s basic dictum, to the extent we can ferret it out, is, “If you love it enough, it will become real.” Well, my basic response echoes the words of a woman with eminently more life’s experience than me:

“What’s love got to do with it?”

Tina Turner

My basic theory is that the reason the state appears as a god-like autonomous entity in our imaginations is due to the discipline imposed by a hierarchically organized staff of individuals. I can hear your now. “Ah,” you say. “That’s very clever. But haven’t you really just removed the problem to a different level? It’s all well and good to say that we obey because there is a special staff of organized individuals who apply both rewards and sanctions to us. But what about the staff? Why do they maintain the pattern, especially when they have the opportunity of doing things like siphoning off all the state revenues to Swiss bank accounts and leaving their piss-ant country to live in the French Riviera?”—don’t laugh, this happens quite frequently in the states at the bottom of the global per capita GDP pecking order—“Could it be that the state is real because the staff loves the state and work hard to make it real for the rest of us by bribery and whip-cracking?”

Well, my response runs something like this: It undoubtedly helps if the staff love and believe in the state, especially when you are first trying to get the state “off the ground.” But, in any society, politics is deeply attractive to those individuals who seek pre-eminent status. Owing to this less than congenial company, the desire to practice politics very rarely afflicts those individuals who are deeply principled and selfless. If the pattern is to be maintained consistently, it seems quite unlikely to me that it can always be the result of a deeply ethical staff. Even the most committed of us are only human. Corruption is a constant temptation, which is one of the central reasons we need the state in the first place. Self-discipline undoubtedly helps, but I doubt it is the answer.

Our dilemma at theorists, then, is (1) we know the staff isn’t a group of incorruptible true believers and (2) the staff sticks with the narrative as if it were what they really and truly believed it most of the time and (3) we really can’t take recourse to another hierarchy watching our first hierarchy, as this would simply defer the question another level. We know the state works in practice. How do we make it work in theory?

I’m still trying to hammer it out. This is the fuckin' messy part.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Timelining Problems

It’s been a rough slog. Chapter Three of Zamir’s Formation of Modern Lebanon is a messy, descriptive text that zips back and forth across 1920-1925. Sorting it out has not been easy.

You see, I love timelining when it yields organized data. It’s a useful way of understanding a history, as historians are often quite giftless in their organizational ability. Without imposing my own order on the facts, I often won’t get at the meat of their argument. It’s also a useful way of preparing to synthesize several secondary sources. I get a high off of seeing the product grow and develop. It can be amazing.

Nonetheless, the method has some limits against which I’m struggling. Timelines are event driven. There are two types of narrative that can easily accommodate:

1. Event-oriented narrative: This type of narrative deals with temporal sequencing and causality of events. These are ideal for timelining because you can locate events relatively precisely. Even when precise dates aren’t given, one can often contextualize. The results look like this excerpt from the year 1921

March 4: De Caix and Catroux conclude an agreement granting the Druze of Jabal Druze local autonomy with minimal French intervention in their affairs (Zamir, Formation, p. 168, 134 in passing).

March: The High Commissioner issues an arrêté to unify all taxes and duties throughout the Greater Lebanon on the basis of the Ottoman legislation that had been in force in Beirut. The affect of this decision is most keenly felt in southern Lebanon’s tobacco-growing regions, as a monopoly tax existed on tobacco dating back to 1876. (Firro, pp. 79-80)

Sometime before April: Kamal al-As`ad tries to instigate a Shi`i rebellion in Jabal `Amil (Zamir, Formation, p. 135).

April 21: Gouraud pardons Kamal al-As`ad and gives him the Légion d’Honneur. This crude buy-off is apparently enough to win over the support of Jabal `Amil for the mandate. The Shi`a of the Biqa` Valley remain unenthused, as they had closer relations with Faisal (Zamir, Formation, pp. 135-136).

April: The High Commission holds a trade fair to encourage French trade and investment (Zamir, Formation, p. 104—Location of trade fair in unclear).

April: Gouraud holds a reception for Greek Orthodox leaders and notables (Zamir, Formation, p. 133).

2. Descriptive narrative to contextualize an event: These also are easy, as you can simply enter an excerpt of the original text beneath the event with its date. This is greatly simplified with a text scanner.

April: Albert Sarraut’s colonial program becomes French government policy, (Andrew, p. 226). Andrew and Kanya-Forstner on the Sarraut program (pp. 226-227):

In April 1921, the enormously ambitious colonialist vision of the Empire’s economic development also became government policy. Amidst exuberant colonialist fanfares Sarraut presented to the chamber a huge programme of infrastructural development covering every part of the Empire. The programme was intended to end the uncertainty and lack of continuity which had hitherto characterized attempts at colonial development and to provide the ‘clear, stable and precise plan’ which had been lacking in the past. From ‘museums of samples’ the colonies would be transformed into ‘centres of production’. ‘The progressive execution of a large and creative programme of action, carefully and conscientiously elaborated’, Sarraut declared, ‘will ensure, through the increased strength and prosperity of the whole of France d’Outre-Mer, the future strength and prosperity of the Mère-Patrie’.

The Sarraut programme, however, was not so much a development plan as an imperial fantasy. Ever since the war years, the popularity of mise en valeur had been based on the illusion that it would provide instant, or almost instant, solutions to the economic problems of the metropolis. But colonial government could never be other than very long-term and tremendously expensive. The very economic crisis which the Sarraut plan was intended to solve made its implementation impossible. The deficit on external trade in 1920 was 20.4 milliard francs, even higher than in 1919. During the year, the value of the franc fell by almost half against the pound and the dollar. The even more precipitate fall of the German mark made the prospect of reparations on the scale originally envisaged increasingly remote. Unable to balance the metropolitan budget, France was in no position to spend several milliard francs on the Empire. The most fantastic part of the Sarraut plan was its funding. Both Simon and Klotz had vaguely envisaged a state-financed Crédit National d’Outre Mer to provide an annual credit of 450 million francs over a ten-year period for colonial development. By 1920, however, it was unthinkable for parliament to approve colonial expenditures on this scale, and Sarraut abandoned the idea in favour of issuing bonds on the open market. By 1921, this idea too had been abandoned. Sarraut later admitted that he had counted on German reparations to balance the metropolitan budget and free private capital for colonial investment. Without reparations, he could think of no other solution. Incredibly, his Bill contained no financial provisions at all; these, he promised, would be submitted later. It did not even include an estimate of the total cost.

Harder than these first two, but still manageable is:

3. Narrative relating a compressed series of events: This is often used to summarize demographic and economic changes. Typically this narrative method describing a series of events as a general trend, locating endpoints of the process. One solves the problem by marking the endpoints in the timeline, each with a note dating the complementing endpoint.

Where I am having genuine trouble is dealing with a fourth type of narrative:

4. Descriptive narratives not tied to an event: Here’s an example:

Zamir on the malaise that begins to grip French imperial policy at this point (Zamir, Formation, pp. 103-104):

For the French, the disappointment was particularly acute. They had hoped that with the removal of Faisal and their occupation of all Syria their troubles would be over, but the following years found them faced with an exhausting war against Turkish nationalists in the north and continual unrest in Syria which culminated in the Druze revolt. The majority of the Muslims resented the French mandate, and Arab nationalist leaders in exile in the neighbouring countries and in Europe waged a bitter anti-French campaign in which they demanded the complete independence and unification of Syria. Fur­thermore, the French were soon disabused of their hopes for eco­nomic advantages stemming from their control over Syria. Having poured millions of francs into Syria and Lebanon, they had expected to reap the benefits of their investment, but it soon became apparent that Syria's economic potential and importance for France had been greatly exaggerated. Without the oil of Mosul and the rich agricultural region of Cilicia, and with the port of Alexandretta under continual threat from the Turkish nationalists, Syria could fulfil very few of their expectations. The French government and public then realised that Syria was not a second Algeria, but an economic burden that would have to be continually financed from Paris.

France was then undergoing a serious post-war economic crisis and lacked the resources necessary to establish control over Syria and Lebanon. The French public began to resent the large govern­ment expenditures in areas where they felt France had no vital inter­ests. As the difficulties confronting France in Syria became more apparent, nearly every aspect of the government's Syrian policy came under attack in the National Assembly and in the press. Moreover, after the enormous loss of life during the War the French were reluctant to send soldiers abroad to fight Turkish nationalists or Arabs for objectives that remained obscure. During the first few years of the mandate the formerly strong emotional drive for French control over Syria rapidly gave way to increasing opposition to French involvement there, particularly in the National Assembly. The Syrian mandate became a much-debated issue in French poli­tics, and proposals for a reduction in the Syrian budget an annual phenomenon. There were still many deputies and senators who felt the need for a French presence in Syria and Lebanon, but increasing numbers of them, particularly those of the Left, who from the start had opposed France's involvement in the Levant, criticised the government's policy and the large expenditure it entailed. The opposition was centred in the Finance and Foreign Affairs Com­mittees of both chambers; it eventually succeeded in exerting a strong influence on the government's Syrian policy.

Zamir gives no dates in this passage. Clearly the context makes clear that he is talking about attitudes that are forming over the early twenties. But it looks like the optimism of the Sarraut program gives way to this program of “empire on the cheap” fairly quickly. I stuck Zamir’s passage in 1921 in my timeline because it seems that the volte face was fairly quick. They’re making drastic cuts as early as 1921, and General Gouraud resigns as High Commissioner over these cuts by November 1922. But the Sarraut program becomes policy in April 1921! This is a very rapid turnaround. My problem is that Andrew and Kanya-Forstner, the authors of the source that tell us about the Sarraut program, don’t really cover how the volte face occurred. Zamir doesn’t give us nearly as much as Andrew and Kanya-Forstner on just how grand French ambition was (although to his credit, he does discuss this—you can rely on Zamir for detail, if not always for good contextualization).

What I imagine happened empirically is this: Sarraut and the many French interest groups that favored the colonial program had a very “neo-con” bent, where they imagined France as far more powerful than it actually was. Sarraut, the other French diplomats who favored the Syria policy and the interest groups who clamored for it simply assumed it would be easy to make Syria into an Algeria. I don’t know much about how Algeria became such a profitable colony for France, so I can’t compare and contrast. However, it’s pretty clear that Sarraut and company didn’t compare and contrast, either, and it was their empire!

The grand program has many interest groups backing it, but the appropriations committees in France take one look at the funding and say, “Mais non.” But the program is popular, so they give it some funding. It never dawns on our luminaries down at the Quai d’Orsay that they’re going to get back so little, so two or three years into the occupation, they suddenly have to retool and scale way back.

It’s my guess that all this goes down in 1921. But there’s no historical backing in my secondary sources.

Needless to say, Syria never became an Algeria for France.

In the third chapter of Formation, Zamir is in what I like to think of as his “high descriptive mode.” He does this a lot in his next book, Quest. He describes trend, giving dates only for examples or quick reference points. So instead of a chronology, he’ll talk about things thematically, going back and forth across the history taking examples from 1925, then back to 1918, etc. I try to order everything chronologically. It’s a pain in the ass. But when I’ve done the timeline a clear narrative emerges that makes his thematic discussion make sense. But it’s difficult to contextualize the thematic discussion without the chronology. This leads me to believe that al, good history must be based first and foremost on strict chronology. One builds the analysis over the chronology as you relate events in order. Zamir does this sometimes, but other times, he doesn’t. Those times are a huge pain in the ass.