Sunday, December 11, 2011

Exactly why Barack Obama and Juan Cole are wrong about Syria

This is an edited version of what was originally a comment left at Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog. It may make it past the moderation filter, it may not. But as long as it is published somewhere, I'm not too concerned with Cole's editorial decisions.

Cole: Of course al-Assad has a choice! He could stop shooting demonstrators and hold free elections. That is the way you get a soft landing for Alawites. The path he is on likely ends in tragedy for everyone.

This is both wrong and a topic on which Cole neither specifies his reasoning nor allows discussion in his comments section, which is a detriment to the blog Informed Comment.

Peaceful protests cannot remove state armed forces from territory. Occupy Wall Street, for example, could not create a free or liberated area even in the one square block area of Zucotti Park.

Liberated area, in Homs or Benghazi means armed rebellion. Period. If alongside the armed rebellion there is or has been a peaceful component, the peaceful component is neither the threat to the regime nor the target of regime's armed response.

I've said before, in a comment that was not published, that Barack Obama would absolutely not allow any small town in Texas or anywhere in the US to become liberated territory, territory free of any armed security presence loyal to the US government. He would put down the rebellion that would be necessary to liberate the territory with overwhelming force. He would call the liberators terrorists and would not care at all if Juan Cole or anyone else claimed the movement was mostly peaceful or overwhelmingly peaceful.

Of course, Cole and others calling the Syrian opposition mostly peaceful would not call a movement that created or aimed to create liberated territory in Texas from which it would be possible for forces to stage to fight the government in other places "largely peaceful". It would be an insult to the intelligence of their audience for them to do so, no more or less than it is now in the case of Syria.

The part about free elections. The Turkey-based opposition, supported by Barack Obama's position that Assad is not legitimate, has put severe limits on what it, in coordination with the US would accept as "free elections". Assad and his supporters cannot run as candidates in what Obama has defined as free elections. Once free elections becomes externally directed regime change, as has become the case with Syria, then it is no longer a demand that any sovereign government could accept.

US policy today aims to dismantle Syria, to plunge Syria into a civil war. I can only guess that the US and Israel hope that 1) at least during the war, Syria will be less able to assist Hezbollah and Hamas 2) possibly Saudi money will be able to influence Syria more during and after the war than it can now 3) the US can prevent Russia from modernizing or maybe even keeping a naval base on Syrian territory.

There is no question that from the beginning the opposition sought to create liberated territory inside of Syria that no sovereign state, least of all the US under Barack Obama, would tolerate. There is no question that ambushes on Syrian government forces were present from the very beginning of the uprising. There is no question that the opposition has access to external resources.

We also have to remember that the policies that the US opposes Assad for are policies that themselves are legitimate according to local values. To get a Syria that does not support Hamas means that Syria has to, in the end, be undemocratic. To get a Syria that aligns with the US, while the US pursues its primary regional objective of being the patron of Israel, in essentially anti-democratic.

Which leads to a last point. The right to protest was abused in 1953 in Iran to produce an anti-democratic outcome. The US and Israel transparently hope to accomplish the same in Syria. US commentators such as Juan Cole and US political figures such as Barack Obama, George Bush and Hillary Clinton seem to fetishize the right to protest, much more than they support the more important and more primary right to government that is accountable to the governed.

The US stands opposed to the right to accountable government in Bahrain as well as in what are effectively US colonies of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and others. In Bahrain, for example, a democratic majority could vote to evict the US base from their country.

The US has issued a statement calling for "real power" to be relinquished by the SCAS in Egypt. That is actually consistent with the arrangement imperial Great Britain attempted to impose on Egypt in 1922. The civilian government would have "real power" except in matters of foreign affairs where Britain reserved the right to intervene.

What Obama has not called for is for the military to _EVER_ fully return to the barracks and to be subordinate to the civilian government the way the military of the US is subordinate to the civilian government. Juan Cole noticeably also has never called for that.

So the US position on Syria is wrong - according to the values that the US professes to stand for - in a lot of ways. These do not seem to be innocent mistakes but rather the result of perception skewed by the fundamental idea that the US is justified in preventing over 400 million people in Egypt's region from being able to hold the foreign affairs of their governments accountable for the sake of an enforced political majority state for fewer than six million Jewish people.


Lidia said...

Something more about Assad not wanting "free election". 

 "Very extensive reforms, by the way, very extensive reforms. The only thing on which they've dug in their heels is the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that is the issue, I'm told, on which the negotiations with Turkey broke down. Turkey wanted 50-60% of the transitional umbrella organization's seats to be allotted to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Syrian regime said: Constitutionally we cannot give a seat to a religious party. So, reforms were rejected out of hand because the objective is regime change."

It seems that for Cole "elections" means "selection" :(

Lidia said...

Arnold, have noted how Cole also repeats the propaganda memo about "impeding massacre" in Syria - the same was done regarding Libya. In short, Cole is preparing so-called "public opinion" in USA and beyond to one more rape of defenseless state. 

And Cole is not mincing words: "I like Israel and Israelis". Of course, he adds "The Likud not so much" - as if Likud is something foreign to Israel, and not is a core of Zionism, together with Avoda, Kadima and Merez. 

I do not suppose Cole will post your answer, but he did let Vashti post a b...s... named "Over 120 Hezbollah, Basij fighers killed in Syria, report" :(

Arnold Evans said...

Thanks for that link.

This comment did not make it past moderation over there which is actually intellectually cowardly on Cole's part.  Another comment that was more supportive of Cole's rebuttal of Gingrich's Palestinian claims did get through at around the same time.

When you have to pretend a response to your argument was never made, your argument is lost.  Cole's positions on Libya and Syria are just indefensible which he demonstrates by not even making the attempt.

He can repeat non-violent protest, non-violent protest, non-violent protest but it still doesn't make sense.  1) Non-violent protests can't create liberated territory, which everyone agrees existed in both Libya and Syria in the earliest stages of the protests and 2) no nation, including Cole's, tolerates or would tolerate liberated territories being established on their jurisdiction.

No response.  Those 2 points are enough to prevent any comment over there from ever being seen on his blog by his audience.

That's his right, but it is intellectually cowardly for him to exercise that right the way he is.