I did Not get to the point where your time to Sapiens, from animals to gods (Debate) or the author, Yuval Noah Harari (Haifa, 1976), meet him along your husband and companion IItzik when he presented his book in Barcelona and beyond by 2014 (one of the two, Harari, or I should not have the day). But now I have very much enjoyed their special Operations in the Age of chivalry, which has just published Fasd. I was attracted by the title, of course, and also the hull, the cover, of the type called a great helm, heaume and helmet barrel, used especially by the crusaders and just like one I have at home (in plastic) that I purchased in the souvenir shop of CaixaForum during the exhibition The pillars of Europe, the result of the agreements with the British Museum. I often wear it at night (although with him it is difficult to have dinner) and I feel, in those hours of solitary. The real Black Prince, or that sensational Enguerrand of Coucy, mirror knights, who took Barbara W. Tuchman, the conductor of his unforgettable A mirror far away and that he died a captive of the sultan Bayezid the fall prisoner after the magnificent and impetuous (and failed) charge of the heavy cavalry of the French in the battle of Nicópolis, a disaster.

Harari, who is a great student of military history and publishes regularly in The Journal of Military History –the thing that makes me regret even more our clash initial–, surprises us with his book by postulating the existence of special operations in the middle ages, claiming that they are not a modern phenomenon, and by ensuring that such missions were a central part of medieval warfare and, despite the fact that could be seen, paradoxically, as a little chivalrous, enjoyed a popularity similar to that enjoyed in our time (and that time there were no movies or computer games, although novels of chivalry). Mystifies the terminology (usually the studies on the forces and for special operations only date back to the Second World War, when it appeared the green berets and the SAS, among others), but in reality it is logical, for little that we think, that in every war and conflict of the story (from Troy to Entebbe, to paraphrase the title of a book of reference) the use of methods and personnel that were not part of the uses of combat as usual.

The book is full of examples, he develops with great erudition and amenity the topic and gives a lot to think about. Why were not the military orders such as the knights templar, the hospitallers and the teutonic knights, with its great cohesion and esprit de corps a sort of special forces, elite warriors, that are used in particularly difficult situations and with the idea of the balance of the battle? We can imagine the templars in Acre, fighting decisively at a crucial point of the wall as the Navy Seals in the Second Battle of Fallujah or the Rangers and Delta Force in Mogadishu. In reality, it is not just the military but every medieval knight , which accounted for only a small percent of the armies of the time, it was a special power by himself: he dedicated all his life to be trained, had better weapons (including spear, sword, and armor), had a high mobility (horse) and was highly motivated. Also had problems of relationships, especially the templars who could not kiss or his mother. We could see Ivanhoe as a prototype of a fighter of special operations. And Bois Guilbert as a tormented Rambo’s Temple. It is tempting in this line, compare to Robin Hood with ace sniper Chris Kyle (the sheriff of Nothingam give faith of his lethal marksmanship).

we Could see Ivanhoe as a prototype of a fighter of special operations. And Bois Guilbert as a tormented Rambo’s Temple. It is tempting in this line, compare to Robin Hood with ace sniper Chris Kyle.

All this are just my, of course, because what makes Harari is much more serious (although it has a study on the long bow in the War of a Hundred Years, so that makes me think that Robin will). The historian examines the special operations land medieval (the sea the leaves for another time –I would have much to say about that force amphibious that were the Cavalieri di Santo Stefano – and the airlines obviously do not have in mind) and point out how to conform to the definition of military action limited to a small area, executed in a short time and are carried out by a reduced-strength but able to get results strategic or political disproportionate to the resources invested. Stresses that this type of operation almost always involves the use of methods of struggle-conventional or covert. The author describes numerous bold strokes of hand executed by forces medieval and points that are addressed above all to imprison enemies, to liberate friends (including princesses), capture fortresses –there were experts in climbing walls, eschelleurs – or strategic points (the decision of Meulan or of Chartres), to destroy vital installations of the adversary (the mill of Auriol, who left without flour to the imperial troops recalls the attack command against the installations of heavy water in Norway that drove away the nazis of the race atomic). Instead it seems that there were no special operations to get or to rescue relics (the holy Grail or the true Cross), apart from the literary Lancelot or Galahad.

Harari is stopped in the case of the nizaríes, the famous sect of the shi’a assassins, and the manner in which hunted by Conrad of Montferrat, with great echoes of the operation Geronimo to kill Bin Laden, but the other way around, or cross Bohemundo of Hauteville (a classic character from the special forces, defined as trapisondista supreme, that would make today a good captain of the COES, although it is crumpled a little in the ladder of the taking of Antioch).

The group that freed the king Baudouin was bound by an oath of loyalty and the commitment not to leave anyone behind and achieved his goal, killing of-way to a hundred muslim soldiers in the castle, but even then could not be retrieved.

Despite its scientific character, there are great adventures in the book as that of Robert Guiscard, who saved my life just because he put his head under a table to spit at the precise moment that a command sent to kill him he threw a poisoned spear. Or, above all, that of the undercover operation to save the king Baudouin held captive in the fortress of Khartpert (Quart Pierre) who carried out a handful of armenians, polyglot, infiltrated behind the enemy lines, disguised and with hidden weapons. The group was bound by an oath of loyalty and the commitment not to leave anyone behind and achieved his goal, killing of-way to a hundred muslim soldiers in the castillo, but even then could not be retrieved (by the irritating lack of helicopters in the TWELFTH century), in the purest tradition of operation Red Wings in Afghanistan.

I don’t know that Yuval Noaha Harari is a relative of the legendary Mike Harari (I have asked by email but I have not answered), the high command of the Mossad who commanded the unit of revenge against Black September (operation Wrath of God) and who passed away in 2014. Seen special Operations in the Age of Chivalry I wouldn’t be surprised that it would be…