Monday, November 14, 2011

Democracy: Barack Obama's, Juan Cole, and most Westerners' hypocrisy on Syria

The problem with Syria isn’t, or shouldn’t be, that a government kills people it believes threaten its rule. The United States killed 625,000 people on both sides in its Civil War.

The problem is, or should be, that Syria is not accountable to the Syrian people. We don't know if Assad is the most popular political figure in Syria or not. But efforts should be underway to determine his political popularity and to move toward a graceful transition of power, with minimized loss of life, if he is not.

Civil war, which always causes huge losses of life, should be avoided if at all possible. The US should first do no harm. The US should not make statements or take positions that make civil war more likely, as occurred in Libya where that country's tens of thousands of deaths may or may not one day lead to popularly accountable government that may or may not have as much popular support as Gaddafi had.

The US should not actively support dictatorship and should not actively encourage civil war in Syria, just as in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others in the region, most of which have governments that are accountable to the US rather more than to their own people.

Juan Cole, like Barack Obama, should, by the US’ professed values, speak out against all of these governments, and withhold US cooperation for these dictatorial rulerships before hundreds or thousands of people die resisting them. Mubarak did not become a dictator when protesters died occupying Tahrir Square. The United States should, by its professed values, have said Mubarak should relinquish power long before then.

Juan Cole, like Barack Obama, should, by the US’ professed values, say that the dictators of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and others should leave today. Just as much as they say this about Syria.

Neither Obama nor Cole is willing to speak against the pro-US dictatorships in the region. Probably because these pro-US dictatorships are necessary for Israel to be viable, and therefore both of their careers could be threatened by any challenge to US support for these dictatorships.

But the truth is the truth whether or not it appears in speeches by the President of the United States or on the Informed Comment blog.

This leads to the problem (or maybe for Obama and Cole the benefit) with elevating a supposed right to protest above the right to accountable government, or the right of people ruled to government that reflects the values and sensibilities of the majority.

Protests can be manipulated externally, as the US did in Iran in 1953 resulting in the installation of a pro-US stooge dictator. Was foreign assistance covertly used to help establish a liberated territory around Benghazi? What role are foreigners, and what role is the US playing in the conflict in Syria? We may learn a generation from now. Now we know that liberated territory does not happen as the result of peaceful protests. Liberated territory is the result of local armed forces loyal to the state being out-gunned.

If somebody expels all armed forces loyal to the United States federal government from Miami, we can be sure Barack Obama will order columns of tanks with air support to recapture that city. We can also be sure that there will be substantial civilian casualties. Obama will label whoever "liberated" Miami as terrorists in the exact same terms Gaddafi used for the rebels of Benghazi and Assad used for the rebels of Hama.

There are non-violent protests occurring in the United States today. Of course none has established a liberated area the size of a city or town, which is to say a large zone free of security forces aligned with the government. There is no non-violent way to do that.

But because there is no current armed uprising against the pro-US dictatorships of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and others, Obama and Cole are comfortable supporting these governments with their silence.

About Egypt, I hope Egypt escapes from the US colonial orbit that it is in now. But no transfer of power to a civilian government has been committed to this or next year, and there are emerging signs that any transfer, if it does happen, will be incomplete, and will not make Egypt's policy regarding Israel accountable to any government elected by the Egyptian people.

There is no reason to expect Obama or Cole to be more critical of a post-Tahrir unaccountable government than they were of Egypt pre-Tahrir. Or than they are of the other effective US colonies in the region. Not to defend them, but to understand them:

1) They have no choice. Neither could hold their current positions if they did not support, or if it was perceived that their support was even in question for whatever is necessary for there to be a viable enforce-majority Jewish political state in Palestine.

2) They are American. They developed both personally and professionally in environments where it has always been assumed that the interests of the non-White people (as defined by US terms) of the region should be secondary to those of the Whites of the region. This may seem more surprising regarding Obama than Cole, but Obama's childhood home was racially more similar to Cole's than it was to, say, Jesse Jackson's.

With great courage and honesty, both of these two factors could be overcome. Unfortunately great courage or honesty cannot be attributed to either Barack Obama or Juan Cole especially on this issue.


Toimisto said...

I am from Finland. I have read many things from internet sites only, of which TV and newspapers don't tell. Actually censorship in the mainstream media makes my country a dictatorship, ruled by the political and economic elite.

Finland is a corrupt country. Nobody can have a public post without being a member of a political party. In Finland all high-ranking officials, who earn 5000 euros a month or more, are members of political parties.

No one can criticize the elite in the mainstream media. Any one who criticizes leading politicians, will lose his or her job.

Finland as well as neighboring Sweden and Norway are dictatorship countries.

Arnold Evans said...

Thanks because I focus so much on the Middle East, it is very important that I be reminded that while everywhere is different, the pure democracy and freedom to form, express and spread ideas that should be so beneficial to the entire human race is stifled in different degrees and in different ways all over the world.

I feel for you and hope a better way can be found for your country just like I hope so for Egypt.

temashenry said...

In one generation we can learn from. Now we know that the liberation of the results of a peaceful demonstration is not happening.

IT Consulting Toronto

Arnold Evans said...

You're right though. There are some exceptionally courageous and honest professors at US colleges and universities. But not Juan Cole.

And Juan Cole, even less than Obama, is unable to pretend to be ignorant.  He knows exactly what it means to write article after article denouncing Syria while remaining silent about Saudi Arabia.

Lidia said...

The "argument" about too few being killed in Bahrain is the favorite of one Joe from Lowell or something. But he is not alone - when asked about all Blacks murdered by Libyan "rebels" Cole answered that there are not so many blacks in Libya! 

By the way, Syria is much more populated than Bahrain, so, relatively, the death toll is at least comparable, not mentioning that in Bahrain they do NOT use arms against state.

Arnold Evans said...

I noticed both of those!  Especially the second and thought, what? Sometimes these thoughts trigger responses, sometimes they are just forgotten like that would have been if you hadn't reminded me.

Arnold Evans said...

This post was born as a shorter comment left at informed comment that I do not believe will be published.  Yesterday, in an article about Syria I wrote only (if memory serves):

Juan Cole:

Do you have any criticisms for the governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and others?

Today I see that that comment did not make it past the censor.  It seems commenters are just not allowed to mention some dictatorships.

One of the posts that was allowed through says that because Bahrain killed fewer people, it should not be criticized as Syria is.  That is really wrong, and a shorter version of this was my response.

But of course, if yesterday's post didn't make it, this also won't.

Lidia said...

Obama would never been able to become a prez without being 100% dependable regarding all basic points of USA politics, foreign one including.

Cole, on the other hand, is not in the same position. Some USA professors were and are anti-imperialists - not too many, but still. If was interested in his personality, I would guess that his family background (military) made him able to write such words without blushing: 

"We knew all along that a small group of jihadis fought Qaddafi brigades in the revolution. But there is no evidence that they were a core group or that you can just write off the Libyan revolution as “al-Qaeda,” as Muammar and Saif Qaddafi said."

Or those

"Egypt, Tunisia and Libya now lead a pro-democracy, pro-civil rights bloc within the Arab League. The new governments and their people view Bashar al-Assad as a clone of overthrown dictators such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and they want him gone."

And mind you, I do believe that Cole knows a lot about the ME :(