Saturday, May 11, 2013

Syria's Problem

"More than ever, the U.S. and worldwide antiwar and social justice movement must demand: U.S. Hands Off Syria! Bring All U.S. Troops Home Now! Self-determination for the Syrian people! No to U.S. Sanctions! No U.S. Aid to Israel! U.S. Out of the Middle East Now!"

That is the closing paragraph of Jeff Mackler's recent piece in Socialist Action (SA) entitled Israel Bombs Syria; US Signals Support. It is an excellent summary of everything that is wrong with SA's position. Other recent articles are here and here. All three indicate that SA lives in the Land Of Wishful Thinking.

The biggest howler is their call for "Self-determination for the Syrian people!" World to Socialist Action: there is no Syrian people. There are Sunnis and Alawites and Kurds and Christians and Palestinians and Druze and Ismailis and Assyrians, and probably still even a few old Jews. But none of these groups are especially loyal to Syria--a state in arbitrary boundaries drawn by the British after WWI. The Sunnis are the numerical majority, but they now nurse a murderous hatred for the Alawites. A Sunni rebel victory will lead to vicious ethnic cleansing.

The Sunnis are tribal, and the various tribes are already fighting each other during pauses in the main battle. The Kurds hate Assad, but since he has tactically chosen to leave them alone they are now fighting the Sunnis (who are allied with the Kurd's other enemy, Turkey). The Christians don't like Assad either, but view him as the lesser of evils. They stand to lose if the country erupts into an all-against-all civil war. Most other minorities share the Christian's dilemma--Assad always billed himself as the protector of minorities. The Palestinians--Sunnis--have divided allegiances.

SA will have you believe that the war is a working class rebellion against the Syrian "bourgeoisie." Again, world to Socialist Action: there is no Syrian "bourgeoisie." People like me are inclined to call Assad's regime socialist, and indeed, the Baath party has strongly secular, vaguely Marxist roots. They were closely allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But in deference to SA, who will reject that characterization, I'll just call it a kleptocracy. There are no capitalists in Syria, i.e., people who put up capital to run businesses. Instead you have a Mob-like, rent-seeking class that, with government connivance, extorts a kickback from any business transaction.

So SA barely mentions the ethnic diversity of Syria, but instead touts irrelevant organizations such as the "local coordinating committees" (LCCs). Now I'd never heard of these folks before, and probably you haven't either. In SAs imaginary universe, they represent the class-conscious, secular workers striving to impose a secular, socialist state in Syria. Put another way, they are advocating for the traditional Baath Party program, claiming only that they could execute it better than the existing Baathists. We could call them the Re-Baath party. This will not go over well. World to Socialist Action: secular Marxism (or more accurately, Leninism) is an absolute dead letter in Syria. It has no future. Get over it.

In SA's imagination, the most evil country in the world is the United States, who at this very moment is conniving to commit the most horrible atrocities against the Syrian people. To prevent this, even the most innocuous involvement by the US must be prevented at all costs. Thus SA opposes humanitarian assistance. Their article puts "non-lethal aid" in scare quotes, because it's supposed to be scary. Hence the absurd demand: US Hands Off Syria.

Syria's problem is not too much US involvement, despite what the irrelevant LCCs say. It is precisely the opposite--too little American involvement. The truth is that Syria is just not that important a country. At this point the primary US concern is that the war doesn't spread. It has sadly already reached into Iraq. If we can keep it out of Lebanon and Jordan, so much the better. The last thing anybody needs is for Turkey to get directly involved. Syria would be much better off if the US would just invade, prevent a round of ethnic cleansing, and install a civilized government. But we're not going to do that because that simply invites a larger war. We're not even providing arms to the rebels for just that reason.

If the US is the most evil country in the world, it isn't by very much. I've quoted the last paragraph in the article, but here's the lede sentence:
No serious of Middle Eastern politics believes that the Zionist, colonial, settler, and racist state of Israel makes a single move before consulting with its U.S. benefactors.

Wow--that's some invective! Apparently the Global Jewish Conspiracy still lives. World to Socialist Action: Israel is a bit player in the Syria conflict. It has no dog in the fight and it doesn't like either side. SA, by grotesquely exaggerating both the influence and evil of the Jewish state displays it's not very secret anti-Semitism.

Further Reading:

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