What Revolution? (Part 1)

by Red Maistre on September 19, 2013

Never has there been so much talk of revolutions without anything revolutionary actually taking place. Ikhras

I liked saying what we said before, to keep our distance from these ‘movements’ so celebrated by opinion: ‘Not everything which moves is red’. In the serenity of the concept, let us say that not everything that changes is an event, and that surprise, speed, and disorder can be mere simulacra of the event, and not its promise of truth.
Philosophy and the ‘Death of Communism’ by Alain Badiou

In the midst of the intensifying assault on Syria, the blood stained humanitarians of liberalism are again to be heard everywhere, dominating the discussion with their noise, if not their persuasiveness. The blunders and crimes of these hypocrites are a familiar topic. After all, rejecting the apostasy of the Euston Manifesto is how a substantial segment of First World radicalism has defined itself in the wake of the “War on Terror”. Less discussed, however, is the behavior of groups within the broad coalition of the anti-war left that consider themselves to be hostile toward liberal imperialists yet concede many of their central premises, and that act as ideological disciplinarians against those who propose a more wholesale rejection of the forces destroying Syria or solidarity with those attempting to defend it. The anti-anti-imperialist left accuses its opponents of being pro-Assad stooges, of being blinded by myopic hatred of the United States into forgetting what really matters. In the name of a crude realpolitik, they claim, brothers and sisters in the common struggle are being slandered and sold out by the craven useful idiots of totalitarianism. Military intervention must be rejected out of hand, naturally, but only because it will frustrate the real revolution that is going on parallel to the confrontation between the US bloc and Syria.

Such anti-anti-imperialists presume something that must be proved, namely that there is indeed an ongoing revolution in Syria that holds claims to our solidarity. This presumption is itself based on a rose-tinted view of the turmoil in Syria (both in its present manifestation and in its 2011 origins); the denial or downplaying of the long counter-revolutionary regional project of the US bloc; neglecting to learn from the ongoing experience of the national liberation struggle of the Kurds; and finally, misunderstanding or denigrating the role of the Jabhit al Mumana’a (Resistance axis) in MENA. The consequence of the anti-anti-imperialist interpretation is that actual revolutionary tendencies in MENA are erased in favor of “revolutionaries” who have no aims that are not compatible with the capitalist-imperialist order. The anti-war discourse of the left is thereby weakened as it is forced from a partisan stand in a concrete struggle to an abstract moralism that attempts to defend something that simply not there.

What a Revolution is Not

First, some semantics: The very ambiguity of the word “revolution” confuses many arguments. If we understand revolutions as simply any attempts to overthrow the status quo, and preventing a government from ruling in the old way, then the events in Syria are indeed a revolution. But defenders of the Syrian Revolution are not only asking their audience to recognize the social strife as real in this trivial sense. They are claiming that such violence is a revolution in the normative sense of the word: that it is part of a movement advancing the cause of human emancipation. Otherwise, there would be nothing of value to defend in the first place from either the liberal imperialists or Assad. To support their case, we hear these clichés:

It has broad majority support”: If this is the condition, then the Syrian Revolution fails automatically (but then it’s in good company, given that almost all recognised historical revolutions lacked clear support from the majority of the population). Estimates of the size of the armed opposition at present range from 14,000 to 30,000 (including foreign fighters): at best, this is one in 1300 of Syria’s 22.5 million inhabitants, or .0062% of the population.This presumes, as we must, given the argument being made by the anti-anti-imperialists, that these fighters are at all representative of the 2011 demonstrators. It is a doubtful presumption, considering that the protesters had many different aims, some of which were only reformist in nature, and that many now at least grudgingly accept the regime. One could say: “But in the silence of their hearts, the majority want revolution; and not just any revolution but this revolution.” But if so, we must wait for someone to find a method to register this invisible consensus. Until then, this claim is a non-winner for the advocates of the Syrian opposition.

It is a response to exploitation and tyranny”:  This sounds very pleasant and progressive, until one considers simply that not all responses are equal. After all, the Gordon Riots, for example, were both plebeian and anti-elitist in character, yet do not deserve our support as they were an anti-Catholic pogrom. The broader phenomenon of fascism both draws its political support from the depredations of, and massively expands, the inequalities and crises of capitalism and the bourgeois state. And one should be leery, in the first place, of rushing to judgment about who is the “tyrant” in a specific context just because the apparent underdogs identify one for us. Crude calls for support of rebellion against a “dictatorship” have a dark history: if those who died at the hands of UNITA, the Contras, and the Afghan Mujahedeen are to be accorded any respect at all, then we must not repeat this blunder yet again. We must recognize that using the discourse of liberty to mobilize against nationalist and progressive governments is a historically familiar tactic of imperialism’s proxy groups, and it is one that rises in importance whenever direct intervention has been (temporarily) discredited.

It advances Democracy”: As it was throughout the Cold War, the response here should be “Democracy for whom?” “Democracy” has never been a univocal concept; and as a word, it has surely by now been degraded by so many reactionary projects, such as U.S. imperialism itself and the various middle class comprador movements that have furthered its purposes through coups and color revolutions. It is not the nominal political form aspired to, but the social goods that are being sought, that should weigh our evaluations of those who use such rhetoric.

Or to use the words of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party  (PYD)  in their document, The Project of the Democratic Self-Governance in Western Kurdistan:

Democracy is a term that is used today by all socio-political powers, including the regime and the opposition. On the other hand, the capitalist powers intervene in the affairs of the region under the slogan ‘bringing democracy to the region’. Therefore, the correct identification of the essence of democracy – both in terms of ideology and principles – is essential for the proper Implementation of the democratization process.

In the specific case of Syria, there is the real possibility that the endgame of rebel “victory” would not be a democracy of even the most degraded bourgeois type, but national fragmentation into Salafite “emirates”, warlord fiefdoms, and U.N. peacekeeping zones.

It is an expression of the self determination of the [ ] people”:  Unqualified invocation of self-determination is an extremely ambiguous criterion. The people of any given country are constituted by many differing political projects, each of which has differing ideas of what the “nation” should be: some Venezuelans want their country to be socialist, others capitalist; some Americans want a Christian nation, others a secular one, and so on.  To say that one expression of self-determination is “authentic” and the other false, is either an arbitrary exercise of intuition regarding the “will of the People”, or it is an implied argument for the real or possible value of one project over another. By itself, this criterion is inadequate.

It should be remarked that the fervor of those who use this line of reasoning has lead to some paradoxical formulations:

The Syrian revolution is a revolution that began as a struggle for self-determination. The Syrian people demanded to determine their own destiny. And, for more than two years, against all odds, and in the face of massive repression and destruction from the Assad regime, they persevered….

…I don’t care about sovereignty. Syria has become a land for everyone but Syrians nowadays. The myth of Syrian sovereignty is not why I oppose Western intervention. Neither is the prospect of the destruction of Syria, for it has already been destroyed by this criminal regime. I oppose Western intervention because it will work against the struggle for self-determination, that is, against the Syrian revolution.

The line that “Syria has become a land for everyone but Syrians” suggests that there is a homogenous Syrian people who are being cheated of their country, and denies the reality of the conflict as a civil war between Syrians of conflicting politics. The author appears to deal with this real lack of homogeneity by subtly suggesting that the pro-government factions, which just happen to include a majority of Syria’s religious minorities, are in fact not Syrian at all – unlike the predominantly Sunni opposition –  preserving by this sleight of hand the unity of the Syrian people as a revolutionary subject. This is then followed by the cavalier suggestion that this heroic self-determination of Syria will survive the death of Syria itself. But who then is the “self” that is doing the determining?

Let us propose, for now, that what constitutes a revolution is not the existence of a situation in which there has been a breakdown of the status quo, nor the mere presentation of just any demands by a certain number of people however large or well intentioned. Neither is it the expression of the mysterious, metaphysical will of The People or The Nation. Rather, revolution is the disruptive intrusion into an opening in the status quo, by means of politicized human agents, of a program which advances the rectification of structural injustice, and enables forms of human flourishing which did not previously exist in the intervened-upon situation. It may be from below or from above, from assemblies of citizens or institutions of the state, from civil disobedience, or from a war of liberation. All that matters is:

  1. That the guiding ideas have a positive emancipatory content (even if they are negative in their form). That they push for the side of the oppressed within any given historical contradiction, and do not collude with that of the oppressors. Such ideas do not obscure, but clarify, the historical problems that are to be faced, and what is to be done.

  2. That the concrete means to accomplish these ideas exist.

  3. That there are active militants to serve as the operators in the tortuous dialectic between the ideas and the concrete means.

If Syria were presently a revolution, it would not matter if the “nation” or “majority” approved, or if “democracy” were the watchword or not, as long as these three conditions were satisfied. However, examining the groups involved suggests they are not.

There is No Syrian Revolution

We will begin by looking at the main factions within the opposition and establishing:

A) if any have revolutionary aims

B) by what means they propose to or are achieving these aims, and

C) whether they are agents of influence in the present stage of the process, or mere accessories to another group’s project

First, let’s examine the civilian groups:

National Coalition for the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, aka the Syrian National Council (SNC)

The SNC consists of fractious shifting cabals of religious sectarians, Western-based expatriates,  cronies of the Gulf, “leftist” collaborators, and liberal technocrats whose authority is not much respected by the rebels on the ground, or even by its foreign patrons. How many of these “democrats” would actually win an election within their own country is an open proposition, unable as they are to keep a stable and legitimate consensus even amongst themselves. The political principles underlying their constant horse-trading and internal conspiracies are meager indeed. They range from the all too conveniently vague (“a civic democratic Syria”) to ones (“Absolute national sovereignty and independence for Syria”) which their organization, premised on the courting of the U.S. axis, makes impossible. There are no set assurances for women, oppressed nationalities, or religious minorities either: such things can be granted, denied, or negotiated away later.  Not that one should put much trust to begin with in any opportunistic assurances about human rights, freedom, and pluralism coming from a group that counts obscurantist royalist regimes and the racist Yankee empire for its allies. Further, there is no economic program offered for the workers and peasants of Syria, unless you count the implied one that would be acceptable to a group groomed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States throughout its existence. Nothing revolutionary could come from such an entity. In fact, nothing much at all will come of it, without a U.S. led regime change.

You would of course be hard pressed to find anyone within the section of the left being critiqued here who would say the SNC is revolutionary. But emphasizing the reactionary nature of the SNC is necessary, because, as we shall see, this has implications for the evaluation of some of the other major groups.

The Local Coordinating Committees (LCCs)

The LCCs began as decentralized networks of activists in the first year of the revolt in Syria, who seemed to have over time formed some type of co-operative unity, at least as far as their sponsors are concerned. Laying to the side, for the moment, what these circles actually were or could have been in 2011, the first thing that must be observed now is that this organization’s publicly available documents present a vague ideology of “revolution”, “liberty”,
“unity”, whose aim is “building a state for all Syrians” for the “Syrian people are one” (but who is to be considered a “Syrian” remains unclear). Into such wooly phrases, the agenda of neo-liberals or the PR savvy contemporary Syrian Muslim Brotherhood could be filled much more easily than any bona-fide revolutionary agenda. The LCCs, presumably, leave filling in the details of the political line of the movement to those that carry the gun, and to the official foreign based opposition, the SNC, to whom they profess loyalty as members. Considering the recognized nature of the latter body, this fact alone should disqualify them from being counted as a revolutionary force.

Some western commentators point to the existence of the LCCs as a sign of a quiet revolution that is building up the basis for a post-Assad society. This confuses the maintaining of a skeleton of the former administrative apparatus and the handing out of humanitarian aid with societal transformation. Construction of a “dual power” is impossible without a genuine alternative political vision, which, as we just observed, is conspicuously absent from the LCCs. Much of the activities of these groups can be summed up as people trying their best to aid each other in times of civil breakdown, out of a sense of mutual aid that is natural to humans living in society. Such makeshift altruism is common in wars and other general calamities. But that does not mean these ad hoc arrangements that are dictated by survival are advancing a lasting political alternative. Rather, they are keeping a modicum of livability in the interim before their side, or anyone’s side, wins the political-military battle.

They are said to be at least non-violent, which is true, in the sense they are not a military organization. But this does not mean they are neutrally working as a separate organization from the opposition fighters. Insofar as they still effectively exist in the ground, they act as civilian auxiliaries and propagandists for the so called “FSA”. Their report for September 2 is typical: A large part of it is a description of the multiple attacks led by opposition fighters, accompanied by videos allegedly showing rebels taking on regime artillery positions, attacking Hezbollah, and downing government warplanes.

Doreen Khoury of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs confirms this in piece entitled Losing the Syrian Grassroots when, after observing that the LCCs as a whole have much declined in importance with the intensification of the conflict, she talks about the successful ones:

However, there are numerous examples across Syria of successful cooperation between the civilian and armed opposition. In Idlib, Deraa and Kafrnabel, LCCs and local councils have remained strong; despite the presence of armed groups. In Kabboun, activists have said that there is a clear division of responsibilities between the LCC (media outreach, political activism), the local administration council (municipal services and local judiciary), and the local FSA division (security, aid and resource distribution on behalf of the local council)

Lina Zouhour, a sympathetic observer of the LCCs as a “revolutionary” body, confirms this trend towards integration, while trying to place a positive spin on it:

Acting as the guardian of the uprising, the non-violent movement is willy-nilly learning to coexist with the armed movement. Activists continue to act through the distribution of humanitarian aid and the organization of awareness campaigns, with the hope that they will reap the fruit of their labor in the long run.

The fate of the peaceful activists is thus tied to that of the armed opposition (see below). One cannot be in solidarity with the cause of the one without also siding with the cause of the other.

Finally, the most damning fact against the LCCs (besides their endorsement of the SNC) is found by following the money trail: the LCCs receive funding from The Office for Syrian Opposition Support (OSOS), a creature of the State Department and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the U.S. founded “Friends of Syria” group. In fact the OSOS seeks to provide training to “activists” in how to be the next “governing class” in post-Assad Syria. In addition, there are several private Western donor groups with paternalistic names like “Adopt a Revolution” sending money to the LCCs. This is where at least part of the sources for the “humanitarian aid” they distribute in the areas they help administer with the “FSA” ultimately comes from. Thus, the LCCs act as conduits for material support to armed rebels by the U.S. axis. They are not some independent, civilizing force working among the domestic combatants; they are a humanitarian cloak for the influence of Washington, Downing Street, and Riyadh.

National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB, sometimes called the NCC)

One of the genuine political (as opposed to the many human) tragedies of the conflict, was that this left-leaning, secular, home-grown, and anti-imperialist coalition that was even inclusive of Kurdish national aspirations (the PYD is officially a member) has been sidelined, having long been left behind by the escalating military logic of the uprising.  The opposition and the regime alike distrusted the NCB for being too soft on their respective enemies, and so they ultimately disappeared from view, though not existence. They survive on the interstices of the conflict, without an army or allies willing to lend them one, pleading and castigating the various parties for their crimes and betrayals.  Their own position is thus contradictory: They call for non-violence and oppose intervention, but yet they also consider the “FSA” a component of the revolution, while hoping that the Syrian Arab Army will step up to save the country from both the regime and disintegration . They want the foreign Salafists out for destroying the nation; they also want Hezbollah out, who is combating these Salafist factions. They, like certain Western leftists they resemble, wanted a speedy revolution in one country, and were wrecked on the rock of international realities. The neither/nor conclusions that the NCB has eventually reached from its premises are arguably flawed, but show an admirable integrity, have been paid for in suffering, and when peace comes, from the hand of others, its scattered members will hopefully find some role to play. At the very least, they have reached their position by taking part of the historical process, not as observers. Significantly, few if any of the western leftists in question talk about them anymore, thought they were used for a time to cover for the uglier elements of the opposition.

If there is a only a weak progressive faction among all the civilian factions, and all of them have little control of the realities of the ground, what about the armed elements? Are there revolutionaries among these armies without parties?

The Free Syrian Army (FSA)

There is no real organization called the FSA. There is no political charter, manifesto or constitution that one can examine, criticize, or even praise. As Swedish journalist Aron Lund puts it:

Media reporting has consistently focused on the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but the FSA has always been more of a brand name than an actual organization. Their widespread use of the FSA brand gave the impression of a unified movement, but no nationwide FSA structure was ever created to match the name.

As a popular franchise name, the “FSA” has proven useful for some commentators who seek to draw a hard distinction between the “legitimate” freedom fighter and “non-legitimate” jihadists who are not “really’ part of the alleged revolution. But in truth, what does not exist as a coherent political body cannot be said to be anything, either way.

The General Staff of the Military and Revolutionary Forces (SMC)General Salim Idris of the SMC with Senator John Mccain and Razan Shalab AlSham of the SETF

The SMC was an attempt to gain some semblance of reality to the FSA, and it does have a structure of sorts. On the surface, it’s a military central command, but this is a deceptive appearance. Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Salim Idris has little control over the organization of the fighting, or the mounting warlordism of the individual commanders. The SMC’s less nominal function is to dispense weapons and funds provided by the Gulf, with the coordinating help of the CIA in the name of the SNC, to the individual brigades on condition of supporting the goals (such as they are) of the SNC itself and refraining from allying with the less savory of the Islamist groups, which is an often ignored counsel. In this way, a diffuse control over the many brigades is established. Considering the nature of its source of funds, its open call for Western intervention, and its efforts to facilitate such an intervention, we can safely deny that the SMC is in fact a revolutionary body.

The Syria Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), The Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades, Durou al-Thawra Commission, etc

These are just a few names from a constantly splitting collection of armed groups with a “moderate” Islamist ideology who are counted within the pale of the Syrian opposition mainstream. What “moderate” would mean here is unclear, particularly since many of these groups include Salafists (the secretary general of SILF, for example, is Zahran Alloush, is a Salafist). The  rhetoric of their manifestos is ominously thin: Note that this founding SILF document promises only “protection”(not even “civic” equality), to the diverse peoples within Syria (not too consoling if you happen to not be an Arab and/or Sunni). Many derive funding from the Gulf kingdoms or Ankara. Further, the largest have joined the SMC, tying their wagon to its success and ultimately that of the SNC.

Unless the defenders of the revolutionary character of the Syrian rebellion would wish to assert that Jabhat al-Nusra,Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa-al-Ansar and other hardline Sunni sectarian jihadist groups (who are also the effective military vanguard of the opposition), or the many free-lance groups who are more brigands than anything else, are revolutionary, no further discussion is needed. If the civilian opposition had hapless progressives cut off from the live process of the conflict, the armed opposition is all too much a part of the conflict, and its governing “ideals” are differing mixtures of religious sectarianism and subordination to imperialism.

Side Note: Mercenary Abstractions

Why does the opposition prefer to use such generic language and avoid definite programs? Because it pays. If the LCCs, for example, committed themselves to a clear program against capitalists and landlords, how would they attract funding from Gulf donors? How could the SMC aligned units hope to convince the US State Department to arm them if they made struggle for the liberation of Palestine part of their regional vision? Consider the fate of contemporary movements whose theory and praxis are overtly red, like the Naxalites of India or the FARC of Colombia. They make capitalism and imperialism an issue, and thus must fight under conditions of extreme international isolation. Similarly, only the documents of the Kurdish PYD that lay out their somewhat inconvenient aims read like bona fide political  documents, without the vacuous and infantilized style preferred by other opposition groups. The PYD, in turn, is the most invisible force in Western representations of the upheaval in Syria. “Perhaps the Syrian rebels are just trying to be practical”, some may argue.  But to say one must sometimes have to be practical implies that you have identifiable convictions to begin with. The evidence that there is more than is being advertised among these groups does not exist.

The Outcast Kurdish Revolution

Despite all this, there is, in fact, revolution in Syria: It is the one occurring in Western Kurdistan. The PKK-affiliated PYD with its de facto armed wing, the Popular Protection Units, (YPG)  has taken advantage of the weakness of the regime to successful liberate virtually all of Syrian Kurdistan and created what is effectively an autonomous zone, which it has begun to administer with their (unarmed) junior partners, the Kurdish National Council (KNC),  furthering the emancipation of their community from a system that has long denied them recognition and equality. They will have a solid position in any final political settlement, barring an outright victory by imperialism and/or the takfiri. More will be said about the significance of their struggle. For now, it only needs to be observed that their revolution, though it began as one part of the larger uprising, stands apart from it. Ideologically, this is shown in their unambiguous commitment to secularism; their insistence on social, not merely civic, equality; their open commitment to the advancement of women; and their hostility towards imperialism and its agents. The other reason for this distinctiveness from the rest of the armed and civilian opposition movement is the PYD’s practical isolation; partly because of the Kurds own priorities, partly because of the hostility of their supposed Arab brothers-in-arms. Both the “FSA” and the Jihadists have violently terrorized and de-legitimized the PYD administration in the Syrian autonomous zone as Kurdish “shabiha” and as ethnic separatists who cannot be tolerated. And as is to be expected, the civilian “leadership” in exile, with their own chauvinist prejudices and concerns with positioning themselves to foreign powers, has no time for their cause. (Considering the clout of Turkey within those circles, and the treatment of the PKK mother organization as terrorists by the West, this is inevitable). Like the NBC faction, they are often conflated by pseudo-anti-imperialist leftists with the rest of the opposition forces in order to inflate the moral weight the rebels as a whole.

The Beginning was Never as Innocent as It is Now Remembered

Looking from this dismal perspective, some among the left critics of robust anti-imperialism may say: “You forget about those early months of 2011. Perhaps there is no revolution now, but there was one then, before it was broken under military repression.” By seeking to invoke the general optimism of that year, to imply that they themselves, at least, are faithful to the legacy of emancipation, while their opponents are accused of colluding with the cynical tactics of an oppressive regime. The purity of the event remains, though history has buried it under cycles of violence.  But there are no innocent beginnings in politics, and cynical tactics are not the monopoly of the Syrian Baath.

In those optimistic early months, there were certainly activists who decried the movement towards liberalization of economic policy of the regime, minorities who were seeking justice, and pauperized refugees from the drought-ridden regions of the country who marched for reform and democratization in the social as well as the formal sense of the words. From the beginning though, there were also religious sectarians; those who thought economic liberalization had not gone far enough; and compradors “who were tired of the regime’s radical foreign policy rhetoric, which isolated Syria and made it difficult to travel or connect with other people.” Among and between both these two broad camps, the camp of potential revolution and the camp of potential counter-revolution, one could find that most politically visible, and ambiguous, of demographics: educated middle class youths with frustrated professional ambitions.

In background of this vulnerable incoherence struggling to define itself, existing even before the first demonstrations were held or the first shots were fired in 2011, was the reality of foreign subversion that had prepared the grounds for an opposition moldable to its priorities:

The files show that up to $6.3 million US was funneled to the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based dissident organization that operates the Barada TV satellite channel, which broadcasts anti-government news into Syria. Another $6 million went to support a variety of initiatives, including training for journalists and activists, between 2006 and 2010.

Asked point-blank by reporters whether the United States is funding Syrian opposition groups, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news conference Monday, “We are — we’re working with a variety of civil society actors in Syria with the goal here of strengthening freedom of expression.”

How many of those Syrians who demonstrated, who ran LCCs, and who provided gruesome reports of atrocities to the international press in the first crucial months were groomed by such State Department funded “civil society actors”? We cannot know for sure, but knowing that there was indeed American involvement in certain activist circles prior to the eruption should give us pause before taking the spontaneity or political rectitude of the uprising in 2011 at face value. Even if we discount entirely any reports of violence in the early months, this would not mean they were acting with the best intentions. Non-violence itself can be utilized into a strategy of provocation and imperialist subversion.

As the pro-war T.V. “journalist” Clarissa Ward, who won a Peabody award for her reporting work among the Syrian rebels, explained to her peers  in April on Face the Nation when asked why the “ordinary Syrian people” were “disenchanted” with the United States:

WARD:…When people first took to the streets in those peaceful demonstrations, there was a calculation — a few of us maybe will die, but then the U.S. will step in and help us. And nobody, nobody believed for a second — so they were willing to die in the beginning.

GERGEN: It reminds me– to go back in history — Hungary in 1956. They thought we would come in. They went into the streets. We didn’t go.

NOONAN: Czechoslovakia in ’68. Some of them thought we would come in. They got slaughtered.

The witless ideologues of the ruling classes understand, casually, without irony, what so many radicals continually refuse to understand: (1) Protests do not occur in a vacuum, but within the global context of imperialism; and (2) savvy demonstrators know this.  If the activists’ agendas are reactionary, they still know who to call, who to send the videos to, what stories to weave, what buzzwords to include, etc. Such Contras without guns know the value of a provocative act just as well as those who deal in bullets and bombs. They know that turning their bodies into testimony (to the cameras, preferably) for the cause by risking injury and death provides the necessary material for the media theatre of supplication and salvation.  Imperialism must have victims to rescue, after all.

Not that the one was required to be corporeally in Syria  (or even from Syria) to further the revolution through “activism”:

In Egypt there was a grassroots movement, but there was also a very significant Facebook, Twitter movement that galvanized international support and that helped to organize demonstrations against the army and against the state, and the army stood aside. In Syria this has been driven to a large extent by people in Washington, in London, using Facebook, Twitter, so forth. A lot of the Twitterers have been from Egypt. And they are driving this agenda and trying to keep the winds of change moving across the Middle East into Syria.

And we can be sure that some of those people were not merely politically conscious private citizens.

Not only was the U.S. interested in fostering activists to serve as the unarmed foot soldiers for regime change: it was interested, long before 2011, in creating an expatriate political opposition to replace the Baathist state. As was written in a 2007 New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh :

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

Finally, as early as 2007, there was the creation via the Saudis, of armed Sunni sectarian groups in the region whose potential targets included Damascus. As the Middle East think tank expert Vali Nasr explained this development:

Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.

The existence of such jihadist cells goes a long way in explaining the initial murky acts of opposition violence in March-April of 2011: the  the killing of 7 police officers by “armed protesters”, along with the torching of a courthouse and a Baathist party headquarters, in the first week of major protests in Daraa, and the assassination of security forces by unknown gunmen in the ensuing weeks as the regime sought to de-escalate the situation with reforms and clemency.

For at least half a decade before the uprising, Washington and its allies were preparing the elements – grassroots activists, a potential interim government, and armed Sunni militants – which would come together in 2011. And note when this unwelcome attention to Syria began: after 2006, the year in which Hezbollah successfully defied Israel during the 34 days war. Far from viewing Damascus as a “friend”, the West wished to eliminate the Syrian government for failing to end its solidarity with resistance factions in the regions and go down the route of Sadat. With Syria out of the way, the encirclement of Iran would be perfected, and a rollback of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon would be more feasible. Participating in the extraordinary rendition of Sunni extremists (who have always been much more an existential threat to Syria than they have ever been to the United States) was a paltry favor compared to its unforgivable “crime” of membership within the Resistance axis; a relationship that Syria’s moderate economic liberalization in the context of the continued state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy made more, not less, worrying. A Chinese style state-developmentalist path would allow Syria to set the terms of its participation in the market, and maintain, perhaps strengthen, its political sovereignty, including in foreign affairs.

And in fact, from the point of view of the State Department, during the era of liberalization, U.S.-Syria  relations “worsened”:

Issues of U.S. concern included the Syrian Government’s failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam Hussein regime elements supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its interference in Lebanese affairs [i.e. Supporting Hezbollah], its protection of the leadership of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus, its human rights record, and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

This is not to say that the Syrian revolt was simply a conspiracy. The Unites States is not omnipotent, nor is it the proximate cause of all social contractions within any given society. What is being asserted is that a spontaneous movement from its beginning was surrounded by premade snares and traps. Imperialism did not need to manufacture out of whole cloth the original political crisis; it just needed to have the networks in place for taking advantage of it. Lacking sufficient political acumen and resources, the (Non-Kurdish) left wing factions soon became trapped in the currents of those who knew what the international community wanted, and had an idea of what attracted their attention.


All of this takes on an even more sinister light by considering the rebel campaign preparing for the 2011 NATO intervention against the Jamahiriya of Libya, with its sensationalist, dishonest, racist propaganda; long cultivated expatriate opposition networks; the involvement of Sunni extremist groups and other armed factions with foreign connections; and a host of non-Libyan cyber activists circulating stories of atrocity-patterns emerge. By juxtaposing both rebellions, we notice the similarity in the tactics that, to differing degrees of success, were utilized in both countries during the so called “Arab Spring”, and we can hold a more sober view of what was happening in 2011 within Syria and what its ultimate destination may be.

Yet “Neither Washington nor Damascus” is Still Not the Answer

After it is admitted that the Syrian revolution is a mirage, there still remains, unchallenged, the premise of neither/nor-ism among the beautiful souls of the Occidental left: the confrontation, they say, between Syria and the United States is just the confrontation of two rival ruling classes. To position ourselves with the former is just as bad as positioning ourselves with the latter: “Why should we support Assad, just because he in the sights of the Empire?” And that is how it is often phrased, as “supporting Assad”, tellingly echoing the infantilizing mantras of the pro-war propagandists, as if it what was at stake was the personal character of a particular head of state. Yet such leftists still insist their position is anti-imperialist, and in fact that it is the purest type of anti-imperialism, because it opposes aggression without caring on any level for the governments attacked.

But if there is no reason for caring about the governments and states destroyed by imperialist aggression, it becomes hazy why anyone should oppose imperialism in the first place. If one says we oppose it as a matter of principle, because such behavior is just wrong, then one is open to the charge of ahistorical moralism, tying the hand of action with empty “oughts”. One could say “because of the people that live there.” But while it is undoubtedly the case that many will suffer in an imperialist war, we then end up the same ground as the militant humanitarian, who can point out that people will die if there is no intervention too. This reduces the argument with liberal imperialists into an interminable calculation about whether more people will die than not if the “right to protect” is invoked; a debate which mirrors the way the technocratic policy makers treat the issue among themselves. This line of reason also presents the people as one entity, somehow completely separated from the state they live in. The neat division of state and people is a favored imperialist trope, used so that the interventionists can trample the rights of the former in the name of saving the latter. If we are to escape becoming trapped in the ideological cul-de-sac of the progressive crusaders, this reactionary contempt for states outside the magic circle of the “West” must be combated.

In order to avoid this mess, the material and historical grounds for anti-imperialism, its social content, must be reaffirmed. Any apology, however cogent or indulgent, of the present government in Damascus as a whole is not sufficient for this purpose. For this would be to base opposition to imperialism, and solidarity with its targets, with the contingent, positive features of the government in question, while implicitly saying that if the United States suddenly decided to lay waste to an unsavory erstwhile flunky (say, Saudi Arabia), we would look the other way (or maybe cheer!). Our political line would then truly become a mere shadow of Washington’s shifting caprices, as in the case of Baathist Iraq, where the shameful crimes done by that regime with the encouragement of the United States became an alibi for some leftists to be thankful for its destruction by none other than…the United States.

Who is more at fault: the large multitude of states in the periphery and the semi-periphery who are constantly pressured from all sides to sell their resources, land, sovereignty, and dignity for survival; or the minority of strong predators who are all too willing to buy when they cannot steal? Whose collective rights should be asserted, whose protection ensured, and whose association be encouraged, when the most pressing political choice is between the one or the other ? If we answer the former over the latter, than to not recognize the claims of any one of the states on the geo-political disposition matrix in a confrontation with capitalist imperialism is to perpetuate the system of division which encourages collaboration in the first place. It puts the onus of blame on the weaker parties for the criminality endemic to the system itself.

The states of the Global South must be defended collectively from imperialism, or the moral and legal claims made by any one of them against aggression will be weakened. Every successful regime operation is a violent message from Washington and co to any countries who even think of stepping out line: “Nothing will hold us back if we think your continued existence inconvenient.”  If the fall of Syria to aggression can be achieved without impediment or legal scruple, then so can the fall of Iran; if Iran, than Cuba; if Cuba, than Venezuela, and so on. And if we, of the western left, can shrug off one attack as not our affair, because the President of x did y, or because of this or that policy of the government in question, then we cede to our ruling class its contention that rights are for “us” in the “Free world” to grant or take away as we please. When imperial states of exception are allowed to erode the generic force of the hard won norms that affirm national sovereignty and condemn aggression, no one is safe. The declining Western bourgeoisie have made clear their intention to rule the world with an arbitrary supremacy; we, in turn, must pick up and carry forward the flag of international legality which they have lightly thrown in the rubbish heap. Lawless imperialism is not discriminating in its destruction; any politics claiming to oppose it must answer back with a matching firm lack of partiality in the defense of the colonized.

To fully understand why such political-legal principles are worth preserving,it is necessary to come back again and again to their social content. This means that the material and historical grounds for anti-imperialism must be reaffirmed. Only by returning to this foundation can we soberly identify which forces combat empire and which collaborate with it, and shape our political efforts accordingly.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis Proyect September 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

The files show that up to $6.3 million US was funneled to the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based dissident organization that operates the Barada TV satellite channel, which broadcasts anti-government news into Syria. Another $6 million went to support a variety of initiatives, including training for journalists and activists, between 2006 and 2010.

Sad to see the Global Research/Stephen Cowans/James Petras reductionist cum conspiracism showing up here but not that surprising. The CIA poured far more money into the youth movement in Egypt. Looking for a “colored revolution” under the bed is a sure sign that you have nothing to say. For those of you first coming around the Syria question, I recommend a look at a reading list I put together of material that can be accessed on the net:

http://louisproyect.org/2013/09/16/a-guide-for-the-perplexed-on-syria/

What’s missing from this dreadful article is any engagement with class dynamics in Syria. One would think that a website committed to Marxism–at least verbally–would require this in an article. Binh, for all his failings, would have put this in the circular file.

Reply

Red Maistre September 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm

1st) I deny explicitly that it was simply a conspiracy in the text. My case was that any potentially revolutionary elements were easily outmatched by pre-existing networks and schemes.
2nd) Your argument that there was no color revolution dynamic in 2011 Syria is based on asserting that another dubious Arab Spring revolution got even more money. Its not clear how that improves your case.
3rd) Perhaps if the Syrian oppostion groups in question had clearer (or any) positions on class related issues, I would have been compelled to engage more in the particularities of Syrian class society.

Reply

Siusaidh September 20, 2013 at 5:51 am

Excellent reply to the tiresome Mr. Proyect, who has been working overtime slandering everyone who does not agree with him. Lack the patience to find out if anyone meets his demanding political standards.

Thanks RM.

Reply

Michael Pugliese September 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm

A serious analysis I will have to return to when I have time. In the meantime re, quote : ” Estimates of the size of the armed opposition at present range from 14,000 to 30,000 (including foreign fighters)…” On pg. 27 of this recent report, Zelin, Tabler and White , write, that Jabhat al-Nusra itself, was estimated in late 2012 or early 2013 to # between 5,000-10,000, citing in footnote 16, Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake, “Jabhat al-Nusra: A Strategic Briefing,” Quillium Foundation, January 8,
2013, http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/jabhat-al-nusra-a-strategic-briefing.pdf and David Ignatius, “Al-Qaeda Affiliate Playing Larger Role in Syria Rebellion,” Washington Post, November 30, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/
blogs/post-partisan/post/al-qaeda-affiliate-playing-largerrole-in-syria-rebellion/2012/11/30/203d06f4-3b2e-11e2-
9258-ac7c78d5c680_blog.html.

On pg. 7 they do write this though. “Equally difficult is estimating the number of rebel
fighters—a traditional problem in the analysis of irregular forces. Besides being indeterminate in number, rebel combat formations are not of a standard size. Units
appear to vary widely from a handful to hundreds of fighters, or, in the case of the larger composite brigades, perhaps a few thousand. In total, active fighters probably
number in the tens of thousands, with their numbers rising and falling with gains and losses from combat, recruitment, and the formation of new units.
Pg. 17
“In a speech to the Aspen Institute on July 20, the deputy
director of the Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly
stated that 1,200 opposition factions exist in Syria. Although it is not clear if he was referring only to armed elements, the figure suggests the very large size of the opposition in terms of numbers of groups.  Terry Atlas, “U.S.
Military Intelligence Warned No Quick Fall for Assad,”
Bloomberg, July 21, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/
news/2013-07-21/u-s-military-intelligence-warned-noquick-fall-for-assad.html
.

Reply

RedMaistre September 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Thank you for the interesting references. It is indeed difficult to go through competing claims regarding the size of non-state armed elements. Though I doubt that even higher estimates of armed rebel strength would register majority support.

Reply

Brian S. September 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Hi Michael – there are various ways of triangulating this issue, and, as your source says, estimating irregular forces is always going to be uncertain.
1.In my exchange with al-Gharbi he conceded “I didn’t say the number was only 30,000, I said it could be anywhere between 30,000 to the hundreds of thousands.” (140 000 was the upper figure he had mentioned.) If you recall my comment on his work,I pointed out that Joseph Holiday of the Institute of War had made an estimate of 40 000 in May 2012 – that’s at an early stage of the conflict – the FSA was only 10 months old and was still essentially a self-defence force for opposition communities. Many sources noted that there was a big influx of civilians (as opposed to SAA deserters) into the armed opposition in response to the regime’s massacre in Houla in May 2012. And that grew once more militarised operation began in Aleppo in July (which also coincided with the first significiant arrival of foreign fighters.) Add all that together and I think you get a figure of at least 90k.
2. If you take various sources that give figures for specific units and add them up you get a higher figure – eg. Aaron Lunds figures add up to c.120k (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/freedom-fighters-cannibals-the-truth-about-syrias-rebels-8662618.html)
There are various other techniques: likely defector/civilian recruit ratios; reported death ratios.
However you cut it you get a likely range of 90-120k. And that’s the only sort of figure that could explain the military successes of the opposition against such a well-armed opponent (indeed, even with those figures FSA performance looks little short of a miracle).

Reply

Brian S. September 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm

This statement bears a remarkable similarity to the views articulated by Musa al-Gharbi, making the same arguments, employing the same methods and, citing the same “facts”. I dealt with his work both on this site http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=9922
and over on Louis Proyect’s: http://louisproyect.org/2013/09/12/when-truth-is-the-first-casualty-of-warfare/#comments
Al-Gharbi also has a fondness for part-works, but there is an important difference – al-Gharbi loudly insists that he is not an Asad supporter, whereas this author heads his post with an aphorism from an open supporter of the regime. So obviously it can’t be the man himself but merely some passing acolyte.
He doesn’t get off to a very good start with the assertion that “Estimates of the size of the armed opposition at present range from 14,000 to 30,000 (including foreign fighters)”. I think he must have been basing this on a previous edition of the collected works of Al-Gharbi, who, in the course of his exchange with me, acknowledged that a figure of c.130 000 is the most accurate one. The attempt to deduce the level of support for the opposition from the size of the fighting force mirror’s al-Gharbi’s silly reasoning: as if fighters didn’t have families, support networks, civilian allies, and a social base of supporters, leave aside those who are just fed up with being bombed and watching their children die, and would be prepared to support the devil to get rid of the regime responsible for it.
I hold no particular brief for the Syrian National Coalition, but I do have some respect for the truth: so I must note that it seems disingenous to suggest that the Coalition has no interest in the situation of minorities when it includes one of the most prominent advocates of Syrian women – Suhair Atassi, who created quite a stir when she led the Syrian delegation to the Arab League (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/profiles/2013/03/27/Suhair-Atassi-.html); and the veteran leftist and Christian activist, Michel Kilo. The author continues this distortion by quoting from one page of the Coalition’s website to demonstrate their alleged lack of a political program; however readers who are not as lazy as he or she is can make an additional mouse click and find a document that states, among other things,
“Our goal is for a democratic, pluralistic Syria based on the rule of law and civil State, where all the Syrians will be equal regardless of their ethnic, religious and sectarian background. The Coalition guarantees the rights, interests and the participation of all components of Syrian national fabric in shaping the future of Syria.
Our revolution and vision are for all Syrians. There is no room for sectarianism or discrimination on ethnic, religious, linguistic or any other grounds. Universal human rights principles will apply to all Syrians men and women.”
Arguing with someone who uses these methods gets tiresome and boring for me to write and for others to read. The only way to do it and stay awake is to adopt a broad brush approach, taking an overview of the methods, falsehoods, and distortions that the author resorts to. Since his canvas is only half finished, I’ll leave this space open to others who may want to take up some of these issues, and perhaps return to the fray when all his goods are on display (excuse the mix of metaphors).

Reply

Red Maistre September 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm

1) The document you bring up I missed because it was not there when I researched that part of the article in the first week of September.it was added, apprently last week, when they rebooted their website’s look during the unfolding of the CW diplomatic crisis. but it’s existence does not challenge the substance of my claims.The SNC’s phrases about respecting minority ethnicities is belied by its efforts to divide and destroy the PYD run Kurdish autonomous zone, both diplomatically and through the armed efforts of the SMC. Further, note that the document does not say what they consider universal human rights to be (is health care one of them? Shelter? Employment?). the social inequality between men and women is left unmentioned, evidently a form of discrimination they are not particularly concerned about. Finally, there is no economic program for the poor or the laboring, which should be a major wake up call by itself. It’s a very by the numbers NGOish document that provides vague promises to the liberal constituency while providing cover for the elements of the opposition who would stand up less to public viewing.

2) The document you mentioned certainly does not change their client relation to the US, the Gulf States, Europe, or Turky, with their noted records of advancing human happiness and dignity in the region.

3) I do admit the existence of leftists in the SNC-the type of leftists who openly collude with U.S. agression. Are those leftists we should be supporting?

4) you say you hold no candle for the SNC. Do you consider them a revolutionary body or not?

5) do you have definite alternative numbers for rebel fighters, or just speculation? Are they a majority or not of the general population? Not that possessing a majority has any necessary relation to the existence of a revolutionary situation or not…..

Reply

Brian S. September 20, 2013 at 1:04 am

Yes, I do think we should be supporting committed and courageous left figures like Suhair Atassi and Michel Kilo. I think the NCo, as I have illustrated, has a perfectly reasonable democratic programme, and is playing a role in the revolution – Atassi, for example, coordinates communications and assistance to the civil opposition inside Syria.But its a badly factionalised body and that prevents it being an effective or coherent representative of the struggle.
My estimate of the size of the rebel forces is taken from figures provided for specific units and groupings by people like Aaron Lund. As I mentioned, this figure has been acknowledged by Mr Musa al-Gharbi in the exchange we had and which I provided a link for. But you must concede that a force of the size you indicated could not have had the military successes the opposition has had.

Reply

Red Maistre September 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Even if 130, 000 was the correct number for armed fighters though, the point of my argument in that section-that by the popular criterion of appeal to majority support, the Syrian uprising is not a revolution- would still stand. For the rebels would still only constitute .59% of the Syrian population of 22 million. Even if it was ten times 130, 000, it would still only be 5.9 % of the population. You still didn’t provide figures and sources for how many people you think support the fighters, so I still can’t comment on that.

You think the “NCO”-do mean the SNC?-has a reasonable democratic program, despite the various lacuna and obvious hypocrisies in the document I pointed out. You also ignore that nothing is said in it which would be objectionable to the American and European backers of the organization, who produce tons of documents like that themselves every year, full of flowery and vague phases about human rights, while violating them daily around the world. 2 years in (7 years in, for some of them) and the best the expatriate “revolutionary” opposition can come up with is State Department boiler plate. This does not inspire respect or confidence.

You still do not seem bothered by those foreign forces who patronize and shape the character of the SNC. Or the many calls for armed intervention by the SNC itself and the SMC, which is technically its armed wing.

Michel Kilo, a former leftist member of NCB now a member of the SNC, is linked to in the article. In the link, he is saying in a recent interview that America is obligated to strike militarily against the regime. Whatever his past services to progressive movements in Syria, I don’t think we are obligated to follow him down the road he has chosen to take.

I am getting the impression that imperialism is not an issue for you. If so, then the article is partially unsatisfactory for you because this was written as a critique of those who think themselves anti-imperialist,but support the Syrian uprising regardless, not those liberals and leftists who view Western aggression as a progressive force.

Reply

Brian S. September 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Red, sorry for the typing error I meant to type SNCo (to differentiate the Coalition from the Council). The SNCo programme is a satisfactory democratic one because the immediate tasks facing the revolution / opposition are the overthrow of the Asad dictatorship and the establishment of a democratic framework so that the Syrian people can work out their own future. You have only scratched the surface of the documentation available on the Syrian opposition in its various manifestations in order to pick and choose bits that support your argument. There are other stories to be told and perhaps we’ll get around to discussing them.
Imperialism is very much a concern for me – as I’ve expressed many times on this site – but I think you need to take an historic approach to anti-imperialism: no one will build any kind of effective anti-imperialist movement by supporting brutal, authoritarian, crony capitalist regimes like those of Ghaddafi and Asad. That was an illusion of the 1970s – and its time the left grew up.
But let me say – I appreciate the work you’ve done on this: I don’t agree with your conclusions or some of thequestionable methods you use, but you have set out an agenda for the discussion, and if you speak for others on the left then its good to get these things into the open.

Reply

Red Maistre September 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm

1) If supporting a besieged state is not anti-imperialist, than it certainly can’t be anti-imperialist to support organizations that actively calls for imperialist intervention, as the SNC and its mitary arm, the SMC, does.
2). Where are the socialists/anarchists programmes you are implying I am ignoring? Where are the armies fighting in the name of that program?

3) The barest, most formal outline of a bourgeoise democracy is hardly sayisyfying as a political objective at any time. When it is being used to advance the expansionist interests of Washington, Europe, and and the Gulf , and cloak the growth of religious sectarianism, “Democracy” is an abhorrent shame

Reply

Red Maistre September 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

You certainly can not be an anti-imperialist by defending organizations like the SNC and their arned representive, the SMC which openly lobby for imperialist aggression.

Reply

Brian S. September 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm

The loose use of words like “aggression” don’t really help the discussion – you should be clearer about what you mean. If you are referring to the mooted retaliatory missile strikes by the US, I don’t see any evidence that the SNCo is calling for them (but I’m always open to correction). Certainly Salim Idris, is: but he’s a military man, and the principle of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is a powerful one from that perspective – every insurgent force in history (including those on the left) have drawn on it – and can you blame them? If you were leading a force against an enemy that had a huge advantage in military technology including a monopoly of airpower (and extensive foreign support) would you really a say “no thanks, we’ll just put up with the air strikes,, and missile and chemical weapons attacks in order to maintain our ideological purity”.If so, I wouldn’t give much chance for your cause..

Reply

Red Maistre September 21, 2013 at 9:06 pm

As in a war of aggression, the use of violence by one state against another state that is not used in self defense that has for its purpose the destruction of the latter entity’s political independence and/or territorial integrity, A recognized crime that has become more and more opprobrious under successive waves of anti-fascist struggle, national liberation wars, and the efforts of post-colonial states to resist neo-imperialism. It is not really unclear, though the United States pretends otherwise.

To imply that bombing another country with the intent of weakening its government and ability to defend itself is not an act of war, that’s it’s really nothing, is pure sophistry. Particularly considering any “limited” military strike would not likely end there.

Yes, the SNC lobbies for military intervention It did so quite recently: http://www.news.net/article/453840/Top+Stories
Considering that you just defended the SMC doing the same, this must not bother you.

Why do you presume anyone should care about the military necessities that have driven the SMC to demand money, arms, and air strikes from the U.S axis? The case has not even been made that he has aims that deserve such a solidarity, unless we are supposed to be suckers for one more group putting on the bumper-stocker of “Democracy”. We should be asking ourselves; What does it say about a “revolution” who looks for help from such friends? What does it say about them that they have found a sympathetic hearing?

Reply

Brian S. September 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I was “implying” nothing: I was seeking to clarify what sort of acts you considered fell under the heading of aggression. Your reference to money and arms supplies deals with that.
The statement of Jarba doesn’t correspond to the official positions of the SNCo, which emhasize action by the UN and the ICC (although their SNC predecessor did talk of “safe zones”) but I’ll concede the point. As you say, it falls within my comment regarding Idris.
I find your reasoing here difficult to understand – on the one hand you want to invoke a strict interpretation of international law (a perfectly reasonable position in its own right) – but to defend an utterly lawless and bloodstained regime. There may be ways to square that circle – but I haven’t seen you do that thus far.

Reply

Red Maistre September 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Perhaps the apparent contradiction between the “official position” of the SNC and the words of its presidents should tell you how much that political body values its own organizational declarations.

There is no real contradiction to my position here. I deny that any allegedly crime done by the Syrian government done in the course of its, in of itself, legitimate right to put down an insurrection can be punished by imperialist vigilantism. Laws do not exist to protect angels from devils, but rather to ensure that cracked vessels do not further break each other further, and on that basis provide conditions for common human flourishing.

To call in the utterly lawless and bloodstained United States to resolve an alleged violation of a norm is like “correcting” a flawed election with a military coup; it increases the lawlessness it claims to end.

Molly Klein September 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Great article, thanks for writing it.

Reply

Louis Proyect September 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Whoever you are, there is no engagement with Syrian society–no analysis of the economic changes that led to the protests. No understanding of class-the ABC’s of Marxism. Stephen Gowans does this sort of thing, as does any of the regular contributors to DissidentVoice, Counterpunch et al. You need to read more Leon Trotsky and less Michel Chossudovsky. This is not Marxism, it is “All the President’s Men”. Following the money trail? We are much better off examining social and economic data You write:

>>Finally, the most damning fact against the LCCs (besides their endorsement of the SNC) is found by following the money trail: the LCCs receive funding from The Office for Syrian Opposition Support (OSOS), a creature of the State Department and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the U.S. founded “Friends of Syria” group.<<

This is the sort of thing one would expect from someone writing for a Marxist website. It is from an article by Raymond Hinnebusch:

"The reformists, in practice, focused on making Syria a centre of banking, tourism and cross-regional trade, turning it into a version of Lebanon. Invest- ment was predominantly in tertiary sectors, as Gulf capital has little interest in manufacturing: up to $20 billion was invested in luxury housing and hotels. The absence of rule of law deterred long-term productive investment in industry and agriculture and the return of much of Syria’s enormous expatriate capital. Only 13 per cent of investment after 2000 was in manufacturing, while a flood of cheap imports allowed by trade liberalization drove small manufacturers and micro- enterprises out of business; indeed, reduced tariff protections for industry served as an incentive for investment and entrepreneurship to move from industry into trade. The economy grew at a rate of 5 per cent in 2006 and 4 per cent in 2007 and 2008, and while this enriched the crony capitalists around the regime and the treasury managed to extract a share as well, it did not provide nearly enough jobs to compensate for cuts in public employment and little of it ‘trickled down’ to ordinary people."

Reply

Red Maistre September 19, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Which elements of the Syrian opposition, in your opinion, represent the interests of the workers and peasants wronged by the liberalization described by that piece? Who has a program to rectify those injustices? Just because a political movement has its roots in certain social contradictions does not mean it provides a solution.

Reply

Louis Proyect September 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm

“Red Maistre”, are you expecting me to answer these questions in a comments box? When I write about a struggle, it is usually in great depth and after I’ve had time to carry out a lot of research in the Columbia University library. Here’s a sample of how I analyze such questions. You may learn from it:

http://www.columbia.edu/%7Elnp3/mydocs/state_and_revolution/nicaragua.htm

I imagine that you are a young person first coming around the left, like the editors who made the sad mistake of publishing your article. I can’t blame you so much for your flawed methodology since it is endemic on the left now and even has seeped into the Cuban media that just published an article filled with ridiculous conspiracy theory elements, quoting a far rightist named Michael Maloof.

Anyhow, this is the last comment I will be making here so let’s leave it at that.

Reply

C. Derick Varn September 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

“I imagine that you are a young person first coming around the left, like the editors who made the sad mistake of publishing your article” Most of the editors are over-30. One of us is almost as old as you, Louis, but has not taken to your tactic of personality fatwas so perhaps he does come off as young. Get off it and quit the conjecture and slander that you consistently substitute for an argument. There are claims of fact in here which go beyond someones age, and the fact that you do not feel there is “no engagement with the Syrian people” or with class does not change of them.

Reply

Anthony Abdo September 22, 2013 at 5:06 am

Louis Proyect likes to mount ad hominem attacks on people and likes to call for censoring people he disagrees with on issues. He has a rather long history, on his own controlled and owned sites, of denying people the right to express counter opinions to his own. Here it is once again from Proyect himself…

‘I imagine that you are a young person (Red Maistre) first coming around the left, like the editors who made the sad mistake of publishing your article.’

Proyect is directly calling for Red Maistre to NOT be published further by TNS, and is youth baiting the entire ‘editors’ of the site itself as well as Red Maistre, simply because they collectively have allowed to be published here a counter viewpoint to Proyect’s own.

Calls to censor others from being allowed to express their political opinions should ALWAYS be resisted throughout the entire international Left, and not just here on The North Star. This sort of behavior by ‘leaders’ against others on the Left does immense harm to all of us. It makes us all look totalitarian to others just beginning to think about socialism at all, when we tolerate in the least this sort of thing when it happens.

Reply

Тревор Конско on Facebook September 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Very good, nuanced analysis.

Reply

Anthony Abdo September 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm

A lengthy commentary indeed. However this is the single line that sums it up for me, I think.

‘In the midst of the intensifying assault on Syria, the blood stained humanitarians of liberalism are again to be heard everywhere, dominating the discussion with their noise, if not their persuasiveness.’

No, the unrepentant humanitarian imperialist liberals are not very persuasive to most on the Left at all, but they are definitely NOISY and most especially so since they they always try to silence others on the Left from hearing counter opinions about Libya and Syria to their own NOISY constant pushing of the Nato/ Pentagon Made Wars.

We can see an example of this from the frothing at the mouth of some of the posters here on this thread who oppose having us be able to read what Red Maistre has wrote here. Some, including one who acts as if he was the Pope of Marxism, want to claim that Red Maistre’s views stated here, are not examples of marxism at all! Preposterous baloney this is, in fact.

It is precisely supporting the propaganda efforts of the Pentagon that is not marxism at all, and Red Maistre has correctly labeled it to be the pov of ‘blood stained humanitarians of liberalism’. Right on target, Red. That’s why they want to shut you, and ALL others with like views to your own, up so bad here on TNS.

Reply

molly klein September 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Proyect what’s Marxist about that paragraph? Is there something there Forbes or the Economist would dispute? That says nothing about class struggle in Syria and explains nothing about the US proxy war.

Reply

molly klein September 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Proyect are you suggesting trends of investment to real estate development is provoking paramilitaries led by Saudis to terrorize and gas ppl in Syria? Thus is your idea of a Marxist analysis? Harpo Marxist?

Reply

Likely_liberal September 20, 2013 at 6:43 am

This is really one of the best, if not the best article on this site! I love how the author is able to skillfully avoid losing his attention in peculiarities and anomalies, disregard the sporadic phenomena, and focus on things that matter. It is sad that much of what passes for the “left” today doesn’t understand the fact that fascism is also a phenomenon arising from class contradictions, fascism is not just coming from above, it always has support from the grassroots. Fascism represents the propaganda victory of the right, the ability of the right to mobilize the masses against their own interests. This is precisely what happened in Syria – masses are mobilized to fight against the state, but they are not being told that whatever vacuum is left after the state is destroyed, in current global material and ideological conditions of capitalism, can only be filled with more radical forms of capitalism and exploitation. It is very obvious that if what is happening in Syria can be called a “revolution” then Nicaraguan Contras or Yugoslav ethno-separatist forces could also be considered a “revolution”, because, especially in Yugoslavia, most of the “struggle” was carried out by the poorest and most exploited. To say that this fact makes it a “revolution” with any kind of positive outcome, makes one wonder – has the left gone insane? Thankfully, articles like this prove that not all is lost, and there are sill people aware of the big picture.

Reply

Darwin26 September 20, 2013 at 7:50 am

this is a pair of lines i found leap out
“When imperial states of exception are allowed to erode the generic force of the hard won norms that affirm national sovereignty and condemn aggression, no one is safe.”
Good Article ~ thank you ~ we in our Uniting People conference call last Sunday Ziad Abou Fadel a Syrian professional & political. He didn’t have nice things to say about interventionists of any kind and he was also with the Palestinian Left thru his wife.

Reply

Brian S. September 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

Its good that Red Maistre acknowledges the continuing role of the civil opposition – especially the LCCs – this is a vital element that is usually ignored by both the media and the left. People should try and put themselves in the position of these activists who have to work under the most incredibly difficult circumstances – many are still in towns and cities subject to regular bombardment by regime airforce and artillery; many lost their lives while going about their work during the regime chemical attacks on the Ghouta towns on 21 August: “The chemical attacks, on the first day of the massacre, claimed the lives of many media activists in Zamalka Coordination because they inhaled the chemical toxic gases. The day following the massacre fighter jets shelled the Coordination office itself. As for the media staff in Zamalka Coordination, they have all been martyred except for me as they went out to shoot and collect information about the chemical attack, but none of them came back”.
http://www.vdc-sy.info/index.php/en/reports/chemicalmassacrefollowup
People should also follow the link RM provides to the very good article by
Doreen Khoury (http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2013C09_kou.pdf) which discusses both the difficulties and achievments of the LCC’s and the other expressions of the civil opposition, and makes a powerful case for solidarising with them. I had not come across the “Adopt a Revolution” initiative (https://www.adoptrevolution.org/en/donate/ )before, so thanks to RM for publicising it. It looks to me like an excellent vehicle for linking up with the Syrian civilian opposition, which is something many on the left say they want to do. We should be actively exploring ways of building links both through initiatives such as this and other channels.

Reply

Red Maistre September 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Should we not donate through the OSOS too, while we are at it? That is the type of solidarity Doreen Khourty was arguing for in her piece:

“Establish a donor office for the coordination of support, in close cooperation with the Syrian National Coalition, to channel funding to, amongst others, authentic homegrown civil society organizations.”

Though the OSOS (founded well before the Doreen Khourty article) is, naturally, not attached to the Syrian National Coalition. The British and Americans, like virtually everyone else, does not particularity trust the SNC to get anything done right.

By the way: Does this implication of the name “Adopt a Revolution”-that the Syrian people are orphaned children or stray animals in need of a home-not make you wince at all? You don’t find the notion that their “revolution” needs a Western parent at all worrisome?

Reply

Brian S. September 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm

You can donate to whom you like, although personally I would avoid the OSOS web site – looks dodgy to me.
The Germans may agree with you on the semantics of their project – they use the word unterstutzen – which translates as “support”. But I quite like the english version – my dictionary translates “adopt” as “to take a person into a relationship they did not previously occupy”, and I think that’s right – not necessarily paternal, could be brother or sister. Or what the left calls “comradeship” (or we in the trade term “fictive kinship” – a universal human institution).
If there’s anyone in the UK reading this there ‘s a great chance coming up to show solidarity with the Syrian struggle, connect with the local Syrian community, and take in some great music: Voices for Syria: London, Manchester, Sheffield. Glasgow. Headliner will be Omar Offendum. For a foretaste (or if you’re just the wrong side of the Atlantic) check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXjEWrhkb6g

Reply

Red Maistre September 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Do you support Western aggression against Syria like the SNC, whom the LCCs are loyal to?

Reply

Brian S. September 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I don’t think “loyal” is the right word to describe the variable relationship between the LCCs (of which there are of course many) and the SNCo. You make it sound like a command and obey relationship.

Reply

Red Maistre September 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm

They certainly don’t trust the SNC (who really does?) and often complain about it, but they nonetheless proclaim loyalty to them and have sent representatives to it. As they must, because the SNC is the closest to a “revolutionary leadership” that the uprising has. And because the (weak) political head overseeing the SMC ( the closest there is to real FSA). To simply reject the SNC would not be convenient for any LCC group seeking to survive and thrive.

Which comes back to the basic question: Do you consider the SNC a revolutionary body?

Because you seem to be giving mixed signals on this point. You say you find its program acceptable enough, but in the post above you try to distant the LCCs from the SNC by appeal to the complexity of the reality on the ground. If you actually believed the SNC was a revolutionary body, you would have no shame in associating the LCCs with them.

Reply

The North Star on Facebook September 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Red Maistre commented on The North Star:

Should we not donate through the OSOS too, while we are at it? That is the type of solidarity Doreen Khourty was arguing for in her piece:

“Establish a donor office for the coordination of support, inRead more…

Reply

Red Maistre September 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm

This was originally a footnote that was lost in the transfer to wordpress:
“It seems that the KNC has broken off its relationship with the PYD and sided with the SNC without consulting the latter:http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2013/08/syria-kurds-join-national-coalition.html . Not surprising, considering its client relationship with the Iraqi KRG, a rival of the PKK”

This has been confirmed: http://www.thenational.ae/world/deal-with-kurds-gives-syrian-opposition-a-boost#page2
“Both the YPG and PYD have wide popular support among Syrian Kurds and remain outside the KNC.

They have also been fighting against rebel factions, primarily militant Islamist groups such as Al Nusra, but also Free Syrian Army units ostensibly under the command of the SNC – of which the KNC is now a part.

That means Kurds are now backing opposition groups ranged against one another on the battlefield..

“We call on the Kurdish National Council (KNC), which joined the Syrian Coalition (SNC), which supports these attacks against Kurdish areas, to openly declare if it too supports the war against the Kurdish people or not,” the YPG said.”

Reply

Anthony Abdo September 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Today’s counterpunch edition highlights a commentary that further backs up the pov expressed by Red Maistre, in that the author also believes that there is no real Syrian Revolution in process at this time. ‘See- ‘Arab Spring’ Degrades Into Sectarian Counterrevolution by NICOLA NASSER-

‘The “Arab Spring” was optimistically named after a season in nature during which life is reborn and was supposed to promise a renewal of the stagnant political, social and economic life in the Arab world, but unfortunately it turned instead into a sectarian season of killing, death and destruction by counterrevolution forces nurtured financially, logistically, militarily and politically by the most conservative among the Arab ruling regimes in the Arabian Peninsula and their U.S. – led western sponsors and backers.’

Complete article @ http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/20/arab-spring-degrades-into-sectarian-counterrevolution/

Previous commentaries by Nicola Nasser can also be found here- http://www.esinislam.com/Articles_Index/Nicola_Nasser_Index.htm

Nicola Nasser and Red Maistre both raise their respective opinions that celebrating a counter revolution in Syria, being heralded and put into march by imperialist forces, is not really supporting a ‘revolution’ in the process of being made like many nominal Western residing Leftists have been asserting it to be. Stating this opinion does not imply any particular support at all for the Assad regime itself, but simply is a recognition of political reality in Syria at this time.

Forces far to the Right of Assad have been moved into major play against him by international imperialist countries. Antiwar Americans ignoring this reality would just be plain stupidity on our part if we all go along with this fueling of Syrian Counter Revolution while all the while proclaiming it to being Revolution in the making we were actually supporting, when it clearly is not.

Many were fooled by their own wishful thinking in like manner regarding what was put into place by imperialism in Libya. Now being fooled again about Syria? And then what? Being fooled about counter Revolution being a supposed ‘Revolution’ once again in Iran? And never the while really building any antiwar movement capable of mobilizing anybody inside the US and Western Europe to stop the ongoing slaughters?

Reply

Richard Estes September 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

In the past, it has been explained to me that the Syrian resistance possesses a revolutionary potential because it will liberalize Syrian society by getting rid of Assad’s Baathist dictatorship. No one ever said that it is a revolution in the classic Marxist sense, one in which one class will overcome and replace another as the dominant one, thereby instituting new social, property and economic relations, such as, for example, when the bourgeoisie replaced the nobility.

Several months ago, when I inquired about this, Pham responded by saying that, after the defeat of Assad, there would be another conflict between the working class and the Islamicists. My response has always been that I doubt that the Syrians, with knowledge of what has transpired in Lebanon, Algeria, and possibly,even Libya, will be very enthusiastic about such a prospect. There is also the problem that separating the working class from the Islamicists may not be as easy as it sounds.

Over at Louis’ site, there has been back and forth about whether Syrians support the resistance or Assad. Advocates for the resistance discredit polls that show support for Assad, as they should, But discrediting these polls doesn’t mean that there is support for the resistance, whether FSA or Islamicist.

My guess remains that the most Syrians are tired of the conflict, and the remaining question is whether, once they get beyond fatigue, direct their displeasure towards civil resistance towards Assad or embrace the violent suppression of the resistance.

Given that I don’t believe that either side has majority support within the country, there should be a negotiated settlement that results in the departure of Assad and an electoral process in which all can participate. Hard to see how that can happen, given that the US, Israel and the Gulf States are hostile to it, with the US and Israel wanting the conflict to persist indefinitely, and that Assad doesn’t want to relinquish power.

Reply

Brian S. September 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Hi Richard – I’ve been one of those involved in the “back and forth” you mention, and my view is that we have no way of knowing the distribution of views among the Syrian people. Indeed, it may not even be a relevant question in the midst of a civil war – the view someone holds on Monday may be rather different on Tuesday after his or her child is blown up by a cluster bomb. As you say, that is what democratic institutions are for.Its clear how the Syrian people can’t get there – with Asad and his death squads in power. Its less clear how they can.

Reply

Anthony Abdo September 21, 2013 at 4:48 am

You both seem to think the main issue for American/ European/et al Leftists is mainly how ‘democratic institutions’ under capitalism might get built in Syria, somehow with our paltry number of comrades helping out who are not Syrian based at all, but rather are US and Western European based and know nothing really of Syrian realities?

‘As you say, that is what democratic institutions are for.Its clear how the Syrian people can’t get there – with Asad and his death squads in power. Its less clear how they can.’ (Brian)
…and….
‘Given that I don’t believe that either side has majority support within the country, there should be a negotiated settlement that results in the departure of Assad and an electoral process in which all can participate.’ (Richard)

Why is this supposedly the main issue for us Lefties who reside in the imperialist countries though? The whole world is without ‘democratic institutions’ really when one thinks some about it. Isn’t the real main issue for us instead stopping the Pentagon imperialist military and dismantling the imperialist war machine? For me it definitely is, and further I think that is what any self respecting socialist group should prioritize as well, for its US/ European/ English language countries’ political work.

Cheerleading for some very few antiAssad assorted Syrian Leftists from the sidelines is not anything I want to be engaged in. I wish them the best and what not, but our job is to concretely keep US allied imperialist military forces, armaments, and monies out of Syrian battles…. and out of being able to go ‘intervene’ anywhere.

We don’t get there by talking about how best to help get supplied some little Syrian ‘Left’ groupito or the other with weapons. And for what? So as to supposedly build ‘democratic CAPITALIST RUN institutions’? It won’t ever work this way for anything good at all. It can’t. It is not supporting revolution in the making at all.

Count me out on this ‘solidarity’ mainly cheerleading from the side stuff. I’d sooner go out and organize canned food distribution to Colorado flood victims and Indonesian Tsunami Wave victims than that! It is more materialistic and less idealistic than trying to build some imaginary democratic revolution in Syria is from the USA.

We need to stop the US war machine way much more than try to aid unknown people in Syria to try overthrowing Assad through a blood bath. That’s not really our job, and we should be doing other other things than trying to make a supposed Syrian Revolution work out from afar. We cannot ever really know what we are doing with our knowledge base about Syrian internal affairs being totally absent as it really is.

We should not delude ourselves that we can really somehow comprehend Syria’s political situation without being even Arabs speakers or being from fellow Arab countries. We cannot and our job is to stop our own capitalist class’s military from bloodying up the world anyway.

Reply

Musa al-Gharbi September 22, 2013 at 7:15 pm

@Brian S. @Red Maistre

So I don’t want to get into the weeds of this article, but for the record, I’ll say I think it was overall very strong and fairly exhaustive, with a number of good references and important points. Of course, no analysis is perfect, to include my own, but it is very good.

I only want to weigh in on the popular support question, which really goes to the heart of my position on Syria. But I want to start by thanking Brian for acknowledging that one does not have to be an al-Asad supporter to take the position I have adopted. In previous dialogues, this subtlety has been glossed over—I am happy that here, both in the original post and the comments, more care was taken.

Now, to the main course—
Brian, in your comment here you said that, as a result of your critiques I was forced to “finally” concede that the rebel forces were likely in your specified range. This was not a concession, it was very clear in “The Numbers Game” and virtually all subsequent postings.

People like to gravitate towards the small end of the range, but I think that is a very weak way to argue the point. And it is not needed. In “The Numbers Game” and all subsequent works, I rely on the GENEROUS force estimates—even if you go with the upper-threshold of protestors and combatants, it is difficult to establish that more than 2% has taken part in the uprising.

In fact, at the time I wrote “The Numbers Game” Idriss was offering a pretty exaggerated force number, which I discussed in paper. Moreover, he was estimating that he was going to get an ADDITIONAL 200k forces for a “final” push into Damascus. I pointed out that this was totally implausible, turns out I was right—but I said that even IF he managed to get those numbers, the total forces, even by the upper threshold, would still be an extremely small percentage of the population.
Now, do they have family and friends? Of course. But one can not infer that all of their family and friends support their actions. In any civil war, families, friendships, and communities tend to get split down the ideological lines—it is likely that many of the fighters’ family and friends support the government. And even among those who sympathized with the protests, many of them may not support the armed insurrection.
We can set that aside—in ALL of my works where I discuss the popular issue, from the Numbers Game (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mepo.12003/full#ss5) through part 3 of my Counterpunch series (http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/16/the-endgame-in-syria-ending-the-games-in-syria/), I acknowledge that there are likely a number of people who sympathize with the rebels but failed to take up picket signs or guns—but THERE IS NO WAY TO PLAUSIBLY ESTABLISH THAT ANYWHERE NEAR A MAJORITY SUPPORTS THE ARMED INSURRECTION.

In fact, all the available empirical evidence seems to suggest that more people support the government over the insurgents, and there is a large body in the middle who is torn—maybe sympathizing with the critiques of the government, but feeling that if the rebels are successful, everyone’s lives will get worse rather than better. Or maybe they feel that while the government needs reform, Bashar al-Asad is going to be a more reliable partner than the rebels to make it happen—despite his track record, he’s the best hope they have. It’s hard to know where they stand precisely because they have not taken a stand. From the available evidence, it seems as though many more Syrians support the government over the rebels. Again, I ask for any empirical evidence which would undermine this.

I guess I will push back on one final point, which was your assertion that the rebel performance was “miraculous.” In fact, it isn’t.

The reason the rebels are still alive is because of the extensive external support they are getting—both in terms of aid, supplies, weapons, and foreign fighters.

But sidestepping this, the reason the rebels have grown more effective, as I point out in the Numbers Game and many other works, is because they adopted the al-Q guerilla playbook, and because they took the fight from the countryside into the cities.
Before the rebels adopted these measures, they would get decimated in any confrontation with the government. However, by moving into fluid, urban environments—especially where many regime supporters reside, the rebels hamstringed the regime’s strength advantage by disqualifying many heavy weapons. Again, even by the HRW report, only about 9% of the total casualties were the result of air bombardments (and many of them were combatants: http://www.sismec.org/2013/04/13/distortions-lies-and-death-from-the-skies-2/ ) Why so low? Because al-Asad wants to survive and rule a functioning Syria, he wants to minimize the destruction of Damascus and Aleppo. And he wants to minimize the deaths of people who support the government or do not support the uprising.

These guerilla tactics make combat difficult for ANY army. Consider the U.S. experience in Iraq—as a specific case, consider Fallujah. There was a much higher number of U.S. soldiers to militants—and these soldiers were from the richest and most powerful military in the world, with the best weapons available (not an army working largely with Cold-War Soviet weaponry)—and still, the government was not able to purge the fighters. Ultimately, they told all women, children, and seniors to leave, trapping all fighting-age men in the city (along with those who refused to leave) and just leveled it with cluster bombs, depleted uranium shells, and other major weapons. And the situation repeated itself over and over across Iraq & Afghanistan.

Guerilla fighters in fluid urban environments are extremely difficult to purge under any circumstances—and relatively small numbers of soldiers can easily withstand and even repel much larger and well-armed forces. It isn’t magic, and it isn’t particularly extraordinary.

Reply

Red Maistre September 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Thank you for stating the point regarding numbers on this point more exhaustively and thoroughly than myself, and thank you for your work in general on studying the uprising, which was very illuminating and helpful for me.

Reply

malcolm mcewen September 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Having come to you via facebook and then this post I had hoped to read something a little better than a long list of Historical dates that bear no relevance to what is happening in Syria and elsewhere.. wtf has Hungary got to do with anything?

I feel so many of you are blind to what is really going on and if anything the above proves a point that I just made in a recent blog post ( http://conceptual-reflections.w43w.com/3417/anti-capitalist-ladder/ ) as to why the modern left will fail: it is too caught up in historical arguments.

The reality is quite simple: All of the revolutions and invasions have been in countries that are not ‘fully’ Capitalistic and represent a threat by their mere existence to Capitalism. Nothing absolutely Nothing to do with Democracy but everything to do with Capitalism.. If Democracy was the objective then Saudia Arabia would be top of the list rather than No1 Ally.

But Sadly despite claims the contrary the Left is now as Capitalistic as the Right and as a consequence cannot see the woods for the trees.

Reply

モンクレール ガムブルー December 5, 2014 at 4:07 am

preserve pledge increases the idea that it’ll be the story of supernatural retribution that right after that moves associated with that hope upon alone. The unnatural points prove to be probably second to go to the gatherings in the day-to-day lives of four womans given that they attempt and normalize the pain in their life with the punishment of these tries. it is definitely a story regarding the few awful dysfunctions that can disrup younger ladies in real life aided by the unnatural available as more a story attribute as opposed to power.

Reply

Jenny December 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I discovered your What Revolution? (Part 1) page and noticed you could have a lot more hits. I have found that the key to running a popular website is making sure the visitors you are getting are interested in your niche. There is a company that you can get traffic from and they let you try the service for free. I managed to get over 300 targeted visitors to day to my website. Visit them here: http://doo.lu/u6r8w

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 7 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: