In early January, Lee Smith’s new book, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, will be available in bookstores. Here are some of the first reviews, as well as a little known back-story about the author, according to a certain Dr. Martin Dysart.
“The Strong Horse is hard to describe and even harder to put down. Lee Smith has concocted an addictive and original brew of reportage, memoir, and political analysis that casts the Middle East and its relations with the ‘Great Satan’ in a fresh and fascinating light. Writing about his meetings with everyone from Omar Sharif to Natan Sharansky, he delivers one shrewd insight after another. Anyone seeking to understand the world’s most volatile region should read this timely and entertaining book.”
- Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Lee Smith is a free-thinker in an age of herd mentalities. The Strong Horse is a powerful book—trenchant, shrewd, informed, vivid, provocative, and full of a wisdom that is not the conventional wisdom.”
– Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism.
“In The Strong Horse, Lee Smith lets readers see beyond the stereotypes by which Western academics have misunderstood, and Western governments have mishandled, the Middle East. Based on wide-ranging conversations in the Arab world as well as on a dispassionate understanding of its intellectual and political history, he shows how the tribal nature of Arab societies combines with Islam to produce a way of life in which force is the ultimate argument. The Strong Horse is a fascinating journey from Cairo’s cafes to the Gulf’s business offices, to Lebanon and Syria’s countryside, and into the region’s seminal literature.”
- Angelo M. Codevilla, Professor emeritus of international relations, Boston University.
“Lee Smith is the rarest of Middle East commentators, an observer without any ax to grind, whose book is a hammer shattering many of the blithe pieties about the Middle East that prevail in academia, government, and the media.”
– Peter Theroux, former Director of Persian Gulf Affairs, National Security Council.
“A chronicle of one American’s journey to the Middle East in search of an answer to the question “why 9/11?”, The Strong Horse offers a fascinating depiction of a culture so different from our own that it is a challenge for us to understand just how great this difference is. Lee Smith has faced this challenge, and the insights he offers require nothing less than a radical paradigm shift in American thinking about the Middle East. If we wish to shape history, and not be run over by it, there is no better place to start than by reading Lee Smith’s beautifully crafted and deeply moving journey of discovery.”
– Lee Harris, author of Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat to the West and Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History.
“Here I am. Find me. Find me. Kill me. Kill me. Find me, and kill me. Kill me. Find me, and kill me. Find me, and kill me. Find me, and kill meeeeeeee.”
And from Dr. Martin Dysart, the following exclusive report:
Those familiar with Mr. Smith’s writings on the Arab World in Slate, the National Review, the Weekly Standard and other periodicals had long diagnosed the author as suffering from a kind of hoof-and-mouth disease.
Veterinarian specialists on matters hoven, however, have now determined his condition is more accurately a peculiar strain of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). EEE is most likely caused by exposure to a rare breed of mosquito (aedes nowus libanus), a species found mostly in the eastern Mediterranean region.
The medical science community remains divided on the history of the disease. Some trace EEE to reported incidences of dementia among the troops of Napoleon’s Egypt expedition. Others dismiss such lineage, suggesting that those individual cases often involved French cavalrymen, who had a very practical justification for their obsession with enemy horses – the most dramatic symptom of the disease. Moreover, they argue, those suffering similar symptoms in the nineteenth century often knew Arabic and had actually read books about the region, the only two known vaccinations for today’s EEE.
The latest research posits EEE as an unexpected mutation or possible genetic combination of similar viruses first reported in Lebanon after 1967. As scientists dispute the history of EEE, as well as its basic physiology, medical doctors have largely diagnosed the disease based on the appearance of certain common symptoms. The first of which include: a fevered mind, sensitivity to the Arabic language, manic bouts of excitement and depression, Islamophobia, increased thirst for beverages commonly found in Tel Aviv beachside cafes, a mental fixation on ethnology and religious irredentism, neighing, political tribalism, and an attraction to caramel skin and other sugary confections.
As the virus grows inside a host, more serious symptoms occur. Reported are: an irrational form of American-Zionism, psycho-sexual babble about Arab societies, a preference for elections and civil rights when it suits Israel’s national security prerogatives, zoological analytic frameworks for human communities and an unending search for unrepresentative anecdotes that confirm one’s inner delusions.
At its most advance stage, EEE causes an unnatural obsession with horses, characterized by a kind of equine worldview in which all political phenomena appear as horses, surging and falling behind based on the strength, speed and genetic superiority. Over time, this fixation develops into horse worship, wherein the patient increasingly attempts to make communion with his horse-breeding god by either figuratively or literally taking on equine traits, including neighing, certain dietary habits, galloping and sexual attraction to what they believe to be “other horses.”
There is no known cure, and three quarters of survivors suffer from neurological sequalae for the rest of their lives.
To date, forensic pathologists have struggled to identify the exact circumstances under which Mr. Smith contracted the virus. One Lebanese physician suggested that Mr. Smith may have been first infected during a riding weekend in Mukhtara. “I cannot say 2007 for sure,” said Dr. I.M. Shaheen, “but I did notice an immediate preference for fevered zoological rhetoric after his short time with a notable Druze horse-trader.”
Others have speculated that his exposure to the EEE virus occurred much earlier and point to a late-night of carousing in Beirut’s Gemaizeh district that allegedly left him and his friends shirtless and asleep face-down in a Nahr Beirut puddle for several hours. A Lebanese woman in jodpurs was reportedly involved, or so gossiped a member of Beirut’s notoriously unreliable foreign journalist junta, who may well been describing his own misadventure.
Colleague and co-EEE-sufferer, Michael Totten, indicated that Smith’s symptoms were already noticeable in late 2006 during an Off-Track-Betting conference in Herzliya, Israel. “He kept shouting ‘the Syrians watered the track, the Syrians watered the track,’” Totten said. “He then neighed uncontrollably in the arms of an Israeli Military Intelligence officer and refused any sugar cubes.”
His condition reportedly worsened in late May 2008, with reports of him spray painting a Lebanese flag he had acquired during his travels with the words “horse killer” in dark sky blue. Close friends have recalled the period as a dark one, saying he retreated to seclusion, adopted a hay-only diet and incessantly painted oils of yellow horses galloping menacingly through Beirut.
With the virus showing no signs of dormancy, Smith turned to Ukrainian epidemiologist Natan Sharansky, a longtime friend who had helped him during an especially vicious flare up of symptoms in the summer of 2006. Sharansky, who had earned his renown for treating so afflicted cowboys in the 1600 Pennsylvania region, advised Smith to retreat to the Hudson Institute for Eugenics and Equestria in New York City so that he might finish his book on “Arab culture.”
Once stable-keeper Sheldon Adelson agreed to pick up the bill for his convalescence, Smith heeded Sharansky’s advice, hoping that he would regain his strength by being around individuals who had found fortune riding Iraqi horses from Hampstead Heath to Baghdad.
And there, he remains. And in fairly good spirits, according to longtime horse counselor Uzi Arad. “He still wakes up in the middle of the night shouting: ‘damn you, Black Beauty, you are weak, damn you’ but writing this book has been extremely therapeutic for him.”
Rudy Giuliani, a board member of the Hudson Institute and lower Manhattan polo legend, was even more upbeat on Smith’s condition and possible recovery. “I see him up, back in the saddle and out riding Persian horses by 2012. At the latest.”