An Arab’s tribute to the genius of Napoleon Bonaparte

The late Fahed Aslan Agha Al Barazi, who comes from the illustrious lineage of Mohammad Agha Al Barazi, the commander of the Ottoman forces, spent 12 years to decode the life and times of the French military and political leader



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Thu 11 Nov 2021, 6:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 12 Nov 2021, 6:02 PM

Fahed Aslan Agha Al Barazi’s grandfather, Mohammad Agha Al Barazi, was the commander of the Ottoman forces that stretched from Damascus to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the lord protector in that sector.

In acknowledgement of his achievements, Napoleon III sent him the famous 3 Golden Revolvers, which were signed by him and are still in the family’s custody.

Fahed channeled all his energy into engineering after graduating from the elite University of Florida in the USA. He established IMEC Electro Mechanical Engineering in the UAE in 1982, and the company has never looked back, and is run by his son Aslan Al Barazi.

Fahed Aslan Agha Al Barazi in his younger days
Fahed Aslan Agha Al Barazi in his younger days

However, he continued his military studies on his own. This enabled him to make military analyses that are reflected in his book to such a meticulous degree that he found no comparable works. He dedicated efforts to writing two volumes about French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte, which took him over 12 years to complete, and prior to that he had done extensive research on Alexander the Great and Hannibal.

Fahed passed away in December 2019 in Lebanon.

The proud Syrian passed away in Lebanon in December, 2019.
The proud Syrian passed away in Lebanon in December, 2019.

His son Aslan Al-Barazi, who lives in the UAE, spoke to Khaleej Times about the making of the magnum opus on Bonaparte.

He explains the reasons behind his father’s choice of writing a book on Napoleon Bonaparte and not on Sultan Salahuddinne Al Ayaoub. "I think it's partly to do with my father's appreciation of the overall character of Bonaparte, and partly to do with the wider availability of readable as well as accessible research materials in the US and London, where my father spent a significant part of his life.

“For instance, he travelled to Waterloo to get a feel of the battle front and gathered valuable details of the battle between France and its allies against her enemies in Europe. He chose to write about Bonaparte for many reasons, but above all his honourable character, shared many of his sentiments and could relate to him in several ways.”

He says, “Sultan Salahuddine Al Ayaoubi figures prominently in the book as an honourable Arabic leader who defeated Richard the Lion Heart in the wars against the Crusaders. Chivalrously, Sultan sent his own doctor to treat Richard of his battle wounds and later insured his safe passage back to England, along with his army.

“The Sultan, who was of Kurdish origin, is also linked to our (Al Barazi) family. My father always referred to him as a great Arabic Kurdish Commander.”

Bonaparte's legacy has some relevance in this day and age.

“The principles of honour, courage, family values, and justice are universal and timeless virtues, which were the means and ends of Bonaparte’s actions. In this ever-changing world that is dependent on speed, technology and hard work, we should never forget our humanity. This concept is universal, to the Arab world and the rest of our planet,” says Aslan.

Le Code de Napoleon is the biggest legacy of Bonaparte for present and future generations. It encompassed both civil and criminal laws and is still used in France and in many parts of the world. It calls for gender parity and the concept of freedom transcends time.

Fahed did meticulous research on Bonaparte’s life.

“He read several books and encyclopedias on Bonaparte, Napoleonic wars, his family, his marshals, and adversaries, as well as philosophers, thinkers and other relevant people of that era. He also visited the famous French libraries, military museums, castles and battlefields of Bonaparte,” says Aslan.

“Inspiration, time and energy are the essence of the book. My father used to write when he felt relaxed and was in the right state of mind,” he adds.

Fahed always stated that the biggest mistake that Bonaparte made in the Iberian Peninsula war was to stay put. Initially, the Spaniards were his allies, but later turned against him when Bonaparte decided to stay and put his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, which deeply angered and offended them.

He should have instead gone in when he needed to act against the Portuguese resistance. He had tied up more than 200,000 French troops in Spain and Portugal, which was also a blessing in disguise for England. His choice of appointing Marshal Junot to conduct the Spanish campaign against the Portuguese was also a decidedly bad decision and was based on friendship rather than merit. Instead of fortifying the Portuguese coastline against the English marauders, Junot squandered instead his time in philandering with Portuguese women, the book delineates.

Many leaders, thinkers and philosophers had envisaged in the history of Europe a United Europe, such as a European League, European Parliament or a form of European Front against the enemy outside. However, Bonaparte was the closest to this vision. He always envisaged the United States of Europe on the lines of the USA. Bonaparte did unite more states and countries in Europe as compared to present European Union (EU) members and in a brief span of time. Although many view Bonaparte as a warmonger, my father always thought of him as a man whose goal was to unite Europe and attain lasting peace for the region.

He was a victim of ineluctable fate.

“Perhaps, it’s easy to reflect on the mistakes of Bonaparte such as in the Iberian Peninsula or his Russian campaign. It was clearly not worth pursuing Portugal — an ally of England — by entering through Spain. Or of entering into Russia, which was known for its hidden territories, unforgiving climatic conditions, and great difficulties in maintaining supply and logistics lines in the vast swathes of varied geography. It may have saved his empire or at least may have contained it, if Bonaparte would have accepted some indignant form of a sacrificial peace agreement, against other rising and competing European nations. But that would have been completely out of line with his character,” Aslan adds.

- joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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