The US & Armageddon Lite!

With the region on the verge of implosion, the US needs to learn the hard art of conflict management, because this is one conflict it can run away from, anymore. Indeed, there will be a huge price to pay for staying the distance, which includes staying in Iraq and not shying away from further involvement in other regional affairs, but the price for leaving will have negative ramifications for US interests far beyond the region.

US interests (yes, especially the dreaded oil interests) in Central Asia and the Caucasus will most surely be affected should US involvement in the region become less direct, thanks to the Iranian, Turkish and Saudi connections as well as Islamists activities. Moreover, and thanks to the likes of Hugo Chavez and other populist leaders in the world, the ramifications will not stop at the border of the so-called Muslim World.

Indeed, and finger-pointing aside for now, the US has no real choice but to stay the distance and manage the conflict. This is a necessary corollary of the War on Terror, I guess.

The good thing is, there are certain rules indeed to conflict management, even in an area known for breaking all rules such as the Middle East, or the Broader Middle East, or still the Broader Middle East and North Africa Region. Knowing these rules, in their local variety of course, is the key to successful management. And though I don’t pretend to be an expert on these rules or to know all of them, I can at least name one with relative certainty: identify the various players involved, and then proceed to assess their relative strength.

The application of this rule is not easy of course. For the number of players increases depending on that part of the puzzle one is examining. The Turcomen and Assyrians may not appear as major players within the overall picture, but in Kirkuk they are. And an implosion in Kirkuk will have wider ramification for the entire Kurdish areas in Iraq, which in turn will have major repercussions for the Kurdish areas in Iran, Turkey and Syria, not to mention the rest of Iraq. As such, the relevance of Turcomen and Assyrians far outstrip their actual size. As such, they are indeed important players. And so on. Identifying the players is, in effect, a continuous process, and not something that can be done at a specific point in time and then relegated to the back of one’s mind.

Yet, identifying the major players is still nothing in comparison to the necessary assessment of their relative strength. By one account, the Kurds might appear as the weakest of all players, after all, if they appear to have the upper hand in Iraq now, one concerted effort on part of the Turks and/or Iranians can effectively destroy all of their hopes.

And yet, one can make similar cases for Lebanon, Hamas, Hezbollah and/or the Assad regime, among other players, showing them to occupy that unenvied position of being the weakest link.

Be that as it may, what the US needs to do vis-à-vis the weakest link at this stage, once one is identified, is to try to take it out of the game by transferring it from a chip/card/pawn in somebody else’s hand to ally in his own camp.

If this should be the initial goal of the US, then, this by default excludes Hezbollah, who, judging by its current stands, not to mention its avowed ideology, cannot be expected to negotiate with the Americans. Hamas might conceivably be maneuvered into a negotiating stance, but, for this, the current administration needs to show a bit more gumption in its talks with its Israeli allies.

Meanwhile, the Mullahs of Iran, the recent offer of Ahmadinejad notwithstanding, are simply not ready for negotiating, because they tend to think too highly of themselves at the current juncture. Still, and in my humble opinion, the entire US strategy in the region at this stage, should be aimed at maneuvering the Iranian mullahs into a more reasonable negotiating stance, which means that Iran’s hand needs to be considerably weakened first.

This brings us back to the Assad regime, my favorite antagonists in the whole wide world. Theoretically speaking, the Assads of Syria would make ideal allies for the US at this stage. Indeed, such an alliance could have been worked out had Hafiz al-Assad still been alive. But, the passing of Assad Sr. brought out the inner contradictions of the regime, exposed the Sunni/Alawites divide and served to empower a group of “pure” thugs with poor statesmanship skills putting them in charge of the decision-making process in the country. The Assads of Syria are currently running the country as a personal fiefdom without any sense of strategy or vision, or the ability to develop one in due course of time. This is why previous efforts at communicating with them had failed, and this is why the current US administration seems to have washed its hands of them. And rightly so.

But this transfers the Assads into a legitimate near-future target for the US, something that I have elaborated about previously (more recently, here, here and here).

This is not a comprehensive review of the entire situation of course. But since, I cannot, by any means, claim to be an expert on US-Turkish relations, or on US involvement in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Latin American and elsewhere, I prefer to conclude my little survey with this unabashed, unashamed, unwavering and relentless Take the Assads Out argument.

Heretically Yours,

Ammar

34 thoughts on “The US & Armageddon Lite!

  1. ok, my turn:As usual, I agree with most of Ammar’s analysis … until he hits the “A” word.Even if we are all utterly embarrassed and disappointed because one of the younger family members robbed a bank, took a million dollars, and managed to escape from prison and lives happily and safely in Lattakia! … we have to accept that we are not in Sweden … this is the Middle East, where the son of Mubarak, the son of Sharon, and the son of late King Fahd, all have their own ways of milking the system to various degrees. “Taking the Assads out” remains the highest risk option. The highest risk for the United States’ interests, for Syria as a nation, and for the Middle East. Instead of following our intuition, or experience, and just concluding “we have to take that risk” … can we attempt to quantify it? … try to computer-simulate that game using realistic estimates of all the relevant probabilities. Probabilities dealing with these:1) Hizbollah’s reaction2) Iran’s reaction3) The Syrian army’s reaction4) Syrian minorities’ reaction.4) world-wide reaction to the news of the US “taking out another Arab regime”5) Russian reaction6) Reaction on the Streets of Arab and Islamic capitals7) and most significantly: continuously-varying interaction effects of all of the above!Take the above problem to your best computer simulation team in Washington DC, and see if they accept to touch it. They will not.The word to describe the signals coming out of the Middle East today is NOISE. Try to find and analyze any logical, harmonic, predictable signal out of noise… you won’t find any. There is a reason why we are all going in circles in our discussions… What the bleep do we know?We simply have to reduce the noise first. Enough taking out regimes by force and not having a clue what will happen next. We need something predictable to use as a foundation for some fresh, wise, fair, and realistic policies.Again: my advice to the US: Bypass the Syrian regime for now and offer the Syrian people a deal they can not refuse (peace negotiations based on 242, huge economic aid program financed by rich Arab states, tied to democratic and economic reforms) … if they regime facilitates the process then they are “good”, if they complicate the process, then they are “bad”The above suggestion will have minimal resistance and negative reactions from the 7 forces listed above. That sounds like much less risk that the “take out the regime” option. No?

  2. alex,you said what i am thinking and you said it better ,the envolvment of the US in another war in the midleast will only drain the US resources and play in the hands of Rusia and China plan to weaken the US and make it have no freind in the region,I would rather have the US liked as was the time of Eizenhouer not feared like these time as when you are feared the enemies of the US will be standing to it when it is weak.

  3. how about this?the people of syria, get off their asses and stop waiting for someone to save them….newsflash, the usa aint going to save you, they learned that lesson in Iraq.the usa HAS offered syria numerous “deals” in the past, offering aid, cooperation, friendship etc.. Syria has declined. Syria wants to be THE player, it doesnt want peace with Israel or Lebanon, it want to be the MAN.So be the MAN, the EU, France (let me wet myself here) are not going to save you, they will CONTAIN you, the Euro’s are fed up with islam/arabs, after their failed colonial projects they now are WALLING off Europe BEFORE it becomes Eurabia.Times have changed, Israel has figured it out, withdrawl to defensive lines, build a wall, this is no different than what Saudi Arabia is building, a wall, no different than the wall Europe is building, no different than the wall the USA is building…either you will have a place we “want” to visit or you will have a ghettochoice is yours

  4. AnonymousIf there is something you still do not understand in my logic then don’t be shy, you can ask me to simplify it for you.Norman,I am sure the Americans have studied all options and they know about all the possibilities, but there are two things which worry me1) They try to optimize a different set of outcomes …Basically, they don’t care about exactly the same things we care about.2) Like most human beings, they allow their wishes (punish the Baathists in this case) to distort their estimates of probabilities … like making this assumption: The probability of secterian conflict if the regime is removed is very small.Their embassy in Damascus is telling them that most Syrian people are not yet in the mood for a regime change by force. So I hope this is not really an option. And anyway, Ammar was advocating regime change through Syrian opposition actions, not military invasion.

  5. POrk rindsThe majority of the Syrian people disagree with your statement. They don’t believe any offer to Syria short of returning the Golan heights and maintaining the country’s dignity (whatever way they individually define that).Whenever the Americans did come close to treating Syria right, relations and cooperation was great… one day they will realize that doing business with the Syrians (pre camp david Carter, Bush the father, clinton) made most things in the middle east go smoother. Confronting the Syrians (Regan/George Shultz, George W) created chaos in the Middle East.There are two ways to change things:1) go back to being reasonable and recognizing the Syrian role.2) trying some more to destroy them.Both are doabe. The first has specific costs attached to it (returning the Golan, economic aid), the second has a different set of potential costs …. like destroying the middle east.But that is where we hit the same problem of estimating probabilities of certain outcomes … many here would like to think that removing the Syrian regime is not likely to result in more chaos, or in too much chaos.

  6. The iraqi case is not comparable to the syrian one ,we will not see in syria what we have seen in iraq,syrian moslems and the minorities dont have a foreigner marja3iya ,the alawite community is geographicaly isolated and is mostly secular ,as for the kurds,they live in non mountanous region as it’s in iran ,iraq or turkey.they are limited by their relative small number and geogaphicaly and the relations between syrian arabs and syrian kurds have never known serious tensions.as for the christians they are well integrated in the syrian society since the begining of Islam.asad are the source of suffering and misfortune..

  7. Everything that Alex said makes a lot of sense to me, and indeed resembles the position I have been advocating up until a little less than two years ago. What change is my realization that one cannot do business with the Assads. Things would have been much better had the Assads been different or had they not been in charge. But this is not what we are dealing with here. Still, I really appreciate Alex’s reminder to all that I am not advocating military action, but more support to the opposition, changing the regime is indeed our job, but we cannot do it alone. Indeed, the US is not going to save us, and democracy is not be the immediate outcome of regime change in Syria, but the predilections of the Assads makes regime change a necessary step in this direction. Again, wish this were not the case, things would have been much easier. But we have deal with what we have, and what we have is an old-style mafia in a post-modern era. They simply don’t fit, and they won’t move unless they are moved, and they cannot be moved by cajoling.

  8. stated: The majority of the Syrian people disagree with your statement. They don’t believe any offer to Syria short of returning the Golan heights and maintaining the country’s dignity (whatever way they individually define that).I dont doubt that… define what the “actual golan heights are”and can we get a definition on what is “maintaining the country’s dignity”and while we are at it from the israeli side i would see them ask: what dignity is there in supporting suicide bombers in israel & iraq?what promises can the syrians make as to not supporting the murder of israeli men, women and children? will syria promise not to dump waste into the sea of galiee? as for dignity, will the syrians admit that JEWS have a right to a national home in Jerusalem as stated in the torah, new testament and the koran?if you open the dignity issue, it gets ugly, other diginity issues, will syria return all seized jewish property from 1948? will syria allow syrian jews the freedom to emigrate?so forget dignity, focus on basic land and peace issues…stated: Whenever the Americans did come close to treating Syria right, relations and cooperation was great… one day they will realize that doing business with the Syrians (pre camp david Carter, Bush the father, clinton) made most things in the middle east go smoother. Confronting the Syrians (Reagan/George Shultz, George W) created chaos in the Middle East.too simple, how about the elimination of the USSR changed the dynamic?stated: There are two ways to change things:1) go back to being reasonable and recognizing the Syrian role.why add the word “reasonable”the syrians have been causing trouble and murder in the middle east for decades, their role has been terrible, time to call to the carpet their behavior maybe syria needs to be humiliated 1st, go learn about the AA programs, you have to hit rock bottom and accept responsibity 1st.stated: 2) trying some more to destroy them.syria has not even FELT the wrath of the usa in the slightest, so to say “trying some more to destroy them” is untrue.. how about a 3rd option?making syria irrelevant completely…

  9. WOW another completely moronic comment by the porky boy.Question that comes to my mind; when you are that stupid, as you clearly are. Do you stop and think to yourself…”man I am dense”?Look man, I am not calling you stupid just because you are racist. There are many out there who are just as hateful. But maybe the gems you uttered sealed the deal for me. “newsflash, the usa aint going to save you, they learned that lesson in Iraq.” That was my favorite. So what the US wanted to do is save Iraq? Spread freedom and democracy? Or was it to enforce its own policies and strategic interests in the region? But hey… whatever makes you sleep the night“the usa HAS offered syria numerous “deals” in the past, offering aid, cooperation, friendship etc..” Now that is absolutely correct. Syrians kicked the hand that fed ahhmm… Israel. Supporting it with billions of dollars and upgraded its military force annually, while enforcing an arms/economic embargo on Syria. We are such ungrateful bastards.“define what the “actual golan heights are”” look at the UN maps genius”and while we are at it from the israeli side i would see them ask: what dignity is there in supporting suicide bombers in israel & iraq?” and what’s the dignity in invading other countries, oppressing and destroying a nation and refusing to abide by international consensuses? Just give them back their land and when they go out of line you can have the right to object or punish.“f you open the dignity issue, it gets ugly, other diginity issues, will syria return all seized jewish property from 1948? will syria allow syrian jews the freedom to emigrate?” Syrian Jews have been free to immigrate since the 90’s (was not right to block them I agree), actually there are only 5 jewish families left in Syria the rest left. But a dinosaur like you wouldn’t know. Well there is more but I am bored, but if you kindly allow me to give you an advise before I finish. Try picking up reading, it really does wonders.Ammar – sorry for the name calling and if you delete this its ‘cause I deserved it.

  10. Innocent_Criminal said…WOW another completely moronic comment by the porky boy.I feel the love Mr Criminal….Mr Criminal: Question that comes to my mind; when you are that stupid, as you clearly are. Do you stop and think to yourself…”man I am dense”?Yes, usually after some palestinian blows himself to death and his loving parents scream in joy how they are happy their son or daughter died killing a jew.Mr Criminal: Look man, I am not calling you stupid just because you are racist. How so? I have a response to arab suicide bombers, the odd arab who advocates equality stuns me and makes me feel joyMr Criminal: There are many out there who are just as hateful. But maybe the gems you uttered sealed the deal for me.“newsflash, the usa aint going to save you, they learned that lesson in Iraq.” That was my favorite.how is that racist? The USA has learned it’s lesson…Mr Criminal: So what the US wanted to do is save Iraq? Spread freedom and democracy? Or was it to enforce its own policies and strategic interests in the region? But hey… whatever makes you sleep the nightDid I say any of that? or did you just put words in my mouth? hmmm, no you said that, not IMr Criminal: “the usa HAS offered syria numerous “deals” in the past, offering aid, cooperation, friendship etc..” Now that is absolutely correct. Syrians kicked the hand that fed ahhmm… Israel. Supporting it with billions of dollars and upgraded its military force annually, while enforcing an arms/economic embargo on Syria. Yes, and the USSR did the same for syria for decades, how is that any different, except israel actually does have an ecomonyMr Criminal: We are such ungrateful bastards.tell me, is that how you really feel?Mr Criminal: “define what the “actual golan heights are”” look at the UN maps geniusWell if we did, you see that israel has left lebanon, altough syria now says it hasnt…, if we look at a map, which map? and from what date? 1947, before israel was created by the UN, that same UN that the arab world rejected israel’s creation from…no, simple name calling doesnt prove a point, it lessons your pov…Mr Criminal: and what’s the dignity in invading other countries, oppressing and destroying a nation and refusing to abide by international consensuses? Just give them back their land and when they go out of line you can have the right to object or punish.now we are talking, tell me when the UN created israel and the arab world rejected international consenuses we would not have this discussion, when the League of Nations originally created the jewish Palestine answer the arab world rejected consensus, so lets not be selective here…Mr Criminal: Syrian Jews have been free to immigrate since the 90’s (was not right to block them I agree), actually there are only 5 jewish families left in Syria the rest left. But a dinosaur like you wouldn’t know. Well there is more but I am bored, but if you kindly allow me to give you an advise before I finish. Try picking up reading, it really does wonders.really be bored, when you talk of peace and refugees, try saying this out loud, ONLY Palestinians deserve to have their land back… that is what the arab league has said for decades…Mr Criminal: Ammar – sorry for the name calling and if you delete this its ‘cause I deserved it.please delete it, i love it.. just PROVES my point.

  11. I won’t delete any comments. What’s a “dialogue” between Middle Easterners without occasional lapses into name calling? It’s the spice of life. Still, let’s stop it at this stage, seeing that no one is going to convince the other of anything really.

  12. Ammar your rhetoric indicates that you are metamorphosizing into a member of the neocon camp. I don’t intend to be conspiratorial, and I understand what must be accomplished, but don’t let that cause you to lose sight of the intentions of those with whom you are working with. The means do not justify the ends. Even Kafka didn’t realize he became a ‘monstrous vermon’ until too late…

  13. Anonymous,Can you elaborate as to why you think Ammar is “metamorphosizing into a member of the newcon camp”?

  14. hm..well i kind of think the ‘neo-con feeling comes through…in the tone of the beginning of this post. Why is it assumed that the US has the job of conflict management..or fixing the world…or…’staying the distance’ for its ‘Interests’..I don’t mean the responisibility…I mean the ARROGANCE of being the world hegemon….the one who gets to decide how the middle east will look or how to secure it. I mean why are you even talking about US interests…as if these are the ones we should all be concerned with. How about world interests…and syrian interests…or the people of iraq or syrian….and the average people of the US….who have nothing to gain by our governments hegemonic activities. And also, Ammar’s language…of “taking the Assads out”…we should lose that. It does sound like a mafia movie…and old western? I agree with Alex here…..enough talking about taking regimes out by force without having any way of knowing what will follow. I realize, as was clarified, Ammar is not advocating military intervention (like a neo-con)…but still…to make the point..how exactly CAN one force a regime out..without violence…is the question. To advocate ‘taking them out’ sounds like the usual…outside force..which always IS leading to some kind of annihilation or occupation…and inevitable suffering. The other force…by internal coupled with external opposition…still must rely on support of the people. In essence, this isn’t FORCE…then…this is…a rising up…of populist strength. This isn’t the 1700’s here…europe or us…We aren’t going to behead the Lion…or use the guns of militias…to bring down the leaders. No, i think it will be technology, economy, visibility, and feeding the syrian public – knowledge of the possibilities, desires for prosperity- and a lot of hope..and inspiration. The carrot not the stick…..Then they will bring the mafia down…out of sheer belief in the alternatives.

  15. and to add…….On the attitude of Pork Rinds…Really, why are you so soo bitter….and married to notions of PUNISHMENT AND HUMILIATION. Can you really believe that this is going to a positive outcome in Syria or anywhere else in the middle east or the world for that matter!…humiliation is the worst solution..for anything. Especially speaking of arabs and arab cultures. God! all you get back are people who ARE in fact , willing to kill themselves in order to get revenge…self destruction to revenge that humiliation. Nothing good will come of it. …And “the wrath of the West”!! come on…I will say again,, annihilation and atrocity…as solutions to subjugating people and beating them into submission…with bombs and laser missiles…please…is this really supposed to make the middle east a better place!..Give up this mentality of retribution. And is irrelavance of syria…even possible or desirable? that would be tragic too, i think.

  16. Zenobia stated: On the attitude of Pork Rinds…Really, why are you so soo bitter…. are mistaken, I am not bitter, quite the reverseZenobia stated: you and married to notions of PUNISHMENT AND HUMILIATION. Can you really believe that this is going to a positive outcome in Syria or anywhere else in the middle east or the world for that matter!…it’s good that you ask that, I see it as the only thing that matters in arab society, not death, not economics, but humiliationYou say it’s the worst solution..for anything. But i disagree, the palestinians complain of check points and humilation, they never protested saddam murdering fellow arabs by the hundreds of thousands. still today, somehow after the gaza has been evacuated the palestinians still call it “occupied”no, my friend, violence is only death, humilation is self accepted. arab humilation for once being on top of the human food chain and now being last is self inflicted. To beat the “arab” mind is to utterly destroy it’s cultural thinking and icons. Not mass murder, something the arab world and persian seems to express 24/7/365. No I see humilation as a tool, like with a recovering alcoholic, the culture of denial needs to be “woken up”Zenobia stated: Especially speaking of arabs and arab cultures. God! all you get back are people who ARE in fact , willing to kill themselves in order to get revenge…self destruction to revenge that humiliation. so if the arab world has no problem with this behavior now, maybe a few months of full throttle craziness will wake up your leaders to start a new path, you cannot advocate the suicide bomber for jews and crusaders in one breath and condemn it when it attacks only moslems…Zenobia stated: Nothing good will come of it. well we have from the last 50 yrs of arab war footing, nothing comes from that either…Zenobia stated:…And “the wrath of the West”!! come on…I will say again,, annihilation and atrocity…as solutions to subjugating people and beating them into submission…with bombs and laser missiles…please…is this really supposed to make the middle east a better place!..you miss my point, america and israel can and will prevent iran from nuking europe, israel or the usa, there will be NO carpet bombing of ma & pa arab, the west dont work that way. However once another train is bombed in europe or another jew kidnapped in paris, or a moslem riot in sweden happens, the european, that amazing bigotted killing land that gave us the real death camps will turn their knives on the moslems. this is a friendly warning to the arab/islamic world (from a jew) you do not know the real animal whose tail you are pulling… I do, they murdered 10,000 jews an hour for years! you think the arab/islamic world is any match for these crazies?Zenobia stated: Give up this mentality of retribution.ok, will syria give up the mentality of suicide bombers can murder jews?Zenobia stated: And is irrelavance of syria…even possible or desirable? that would be tragic too, i think.tragic yes, i dont disagree, however the arab/islamic world is making it happen.. btw, if only 5 jewish families are left in syria, what caused the 10,000 of thousands of jews that were there for centuries to flee?have a nice day, thanks for discussion with out name calling.

  17. Well, Zenobia. I have always been speaking and writing about Syria’s interests, but a foray into American interests is more than necessary these days, considering how active they are in the region. In truth, the interest of a small and weak country like Syria has always to be filtered through those of other regional and international players. This has always been the case for modern Syria. Hell, this has always been the case for much of Syria’s history as well. Syria always needed a big brother by her side, perhaps even a few, because, on her own she could not stand. This whole episode that was the United Arab Republic is a case in point, then, and under Baath rule, it was the Soviet Union, with the addition of Iran after 1979. And now, it’s only Iran, with occasional help of Russia and China. Small states don’t have the luxury of principles. And more importantly, large states often betray the very principles they claim to advocate. So, who in his right mind can afford the luxury of principle when you’re talking politics and clashing interests, especially oil interests? Those of us who are principled and who, driven by their principles, find themselves having to dabble in politics, do so to contain the damage, and minimize the inevitable losses and the suffering. My anti-Assad tendencies are premised on a conviction born-out of experience, not some theoretical or ideological framework, that the Assads, with their adventurist policies and well-nigh suicidal tendencies, are driving the country and its peoples into disaster. Am I wrong in this conviction? Some on this list definitely think so, others merely wish so. But, most opposition members that I know, inside and outside the country, share this conviction. The latest opposition party to emerge just referred to the Assads as standing “outside of time.” In the minds of many of us in the opposition, the Assads posit the greatest danger to the viability and survival of Syria. This is why we are driven to dethrone them. If there are some opportunists in our midst, well, it comes with the territory. As for the arrogance involved here on part of the US, I believe that by demonizing the US above all other actors on the scene, we are missing the real point: in the pursuit of our perceived interests we all tend to be self-righteous and arrogant. In this, the Americans are no different than the Chinese or the Russians, or the French, or the Indians, or those aspiring Mullahs of Iran, etc. As for the neo-con label, I have repeatedly written on this blog of the plight of the Arab liberal who often finds himself siding with the neo-cons of the world US, because the leftists are not offering any alternative vision out there that can offer even an iota of hope for change in our region. The leftists would rather hung us to dry, be letting us fend for ourselves, after all, who are they to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Meanwhile they will continue dealing with our oppressive regimes, empowering them, legitimizing them and looking the other way, each time, one of us is imprisoned, tortured, and/or killed. Everybody is a hypocrite. I just want to use the existing momentum to see if we can create some new dynamism that can offer some hope in Syria. There is some opportunity for this now, but I don’t think this window is going to last for much longer. Things are going difficult even should we take advantage of this opportunity. But they are going to be even tougher should we not.

  18. ok,so HUMILIATION “matters”…..and..?Matters because it effectively gets a reaction from those who are subjected to it. But that is not a justification for using it. What is the objective, after all. Does it bring about resolution or a cessation of violence, reform?, a transformation of a negative mentality or behavior? Abosolutely not. Shame…is different. Shame is what I believe you are pinpointing in speaking of the need for self recognition and responsibility. Shame does have a social function..similiar to guilt. But Humiliation? NO. Humiliation is NOT self-inflicted. It is inflicted by one onto another. And the other in this case..or for example the Palestinians…has no value except to show the power of the humiliator to inflict it and thereby take away dignity. btw, AA does not utilize humiliation at all. Synynon (or whatever you call it)..in the sixties..tried that…and it was brutal..and very ineffective. But AA..leaves it to the individual to recognize their own wrongs and responsibilities. I don’t actually think this is a useful analogy anyway. We are not talking about a bunch of addicts here. We are talking about groups with histories. To clarify, I certainly would never advocate suicide bombings or anything of the sort..for anyone. Yes, the Palestinians etc etc should absolutely cease this activity. I totally understand their feeling of desperation…but it is completely counter productive, self destructive, and immoral, yes. Seems obvious.But humilating them…or anyone else only encourages this response. Months of more infliction of pain…or “full throttle craziness” as you put it…isn’t going to “beat the ‘arab’ mind” or cause anyone to be “woken up”….more pain…will lead to more reactionary stupidy…and more..deterioration of possibilities for changing mindsets and behaviors to something more positive. The premise of authoritarian methods of punishing bad behavior…is so…false..Finally,….ys…the europeans were once the big bloodletters…and racists…but I think after several world wars…maybe they learned something. And notice that Germany is practically a pacifist nation at this point. Why? not because they are so anti-racist. No, because 90% of the people are surviving well…..and no more humiliation. I disagree with you; Europe is not about to met out punishment on the middle east. They had already had their terror attacks, and they know better than to become aggressors again.Meanwhile, Israel is preventing Iran from nuking people? Israel isn’t preventing anything!…America is behind Israel…that is their great trump card. But you know what, the big giant is rotting out from the inside out. You come here…and you will see. It will take a while..but Bin Laden is correct. We are fucked. The price of this control over the middle east or the crazy in Iran…by force of arms….is HUGE. We can’t afford it. And it won’t last. Ok…a few years sure…but when all hell brakes loose in the ME…how long do you think america can sustain the lid on the jar?People here are so upset already….our credit cards are maxed out….no fucking health insurance….in debt up our ass if you want an education…come on!…the american public…is not willing to have the US play school yard master bully forever. Israel is going to be out in the cold one of these days….and if she wants to survive…(which by the way…I feel that she should at this point…history is made already)then she better make other friends on the playground.

  19. Ammar,mmm. ok…of course,,seizing the opportunity is absolutely necessary…One can avoid ‘demonizing’ the USA… while still recognizing…that there are some people in the administration that are pretty insidious…and maybe worth demonizing a little or a lot. I can’t agree with pacts with the devil, so to speak…(You know…i kind of wondered why it is that you have links on your blog to other bloggers who then have links -literally one step-from some serious redneck mentality!..very very right wing shit to my mind. I mean LLano Estacado is not even one step! the minutemen! for christsake)What are you thinking…..I agree with the anonymous person who I think meant to say that ‘the ends do not justify the means’. The problem with the ‘Left’ you mention…mmm yeah, it so true. But it isn’t the left in america..who collaborate with tyranical regimes around the world. It isn’t the left who empowers the oppressors in the world or ‘look the other’ way to human rights abuses. The problem is that the left is so impotent and lacking in the drive and motivation that the seekers of power and money have. I am reminded of your lament from a few weeks back about being at the literary conference where you were puzzled at how the participants could be so anti-war, anti-establishment, critical, but sooo lacking in any meaningful political and revolutionary insight or energy about how to build a new kind of world. I couldn’t sympathize more!..It is soo frustrating and pathetic. really..Everybody IS a hypocrite….sigh…..But you say…that small states dont’ have the luxory of principles…?Hey, the habitable portion of Finland isn’t that big. Neither is Lichenstein or Singapore.no, seriously, I WANT PRINCIPLES!you know….America…had principles…we had principles up the wazoo. Look at our Bill of Rights! Look at the Declaration of Independence!God!….read them….they are soooo beautiful!….Did america live by them? not always..no.She was struggling all the time….battling with her conscience….living on the backs of slaves…for so long…pillaging latin america on the side.But those PRINCIPLES!…are always our salvation….they just barely save her….from total hypocricy…just barely. I love america…precisely because we are always so imperfectly…striving. Quelling the tyranny of the religious right. Filing lawsuits like crazy to protect minority rights…reign in the machine……endless stuggle.Now, a small country like Syria, and anyone else for that matter….can take from America…all her mistakes to learn from. The countries of the world can do even better!..by not repeating some of fatal flaws of america.Democracy does not equal capitalism…….do not collapse them together!…and the electoral college must never be repeated. Take the money out of elections. Add a bit of proportional representation and revised voting systems. Above all do not elevate the corporations to gods…giving them the ultimate rights and protections under law…that should only belong to individuals. but…you know, other than that…. America is a queen. laugh!

  20. On the topic of seizing the opportunity, please refer to my post on this general issue. This was done by comparing Bashar to Musharraf

  21. But you say…that small states dont’ have the luxory of principles…?Hey, the habitable portion of Finland isn’t that big. Neither is Lichenstein or Singapore.no, seriously, I WANT PRINCIPLES!Zenobia of the East and West Finland is actually a rather big country, bigger than most West European countries and the whole country is inhabited. Finland is only small in the amount of people (little over 5 million). I know I was born and live in Finland.Before Finland was much bigger, in WW2 we lost in two wars a quarter of our land to Soviet Union. The super power Soviet Union wanted a regime change in Finland. After the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty Soviet Union was ready attack Finland. Stalin staged a situation so that Finland had attacked Soviet Union and established a puppet regime. Soviets calculated that Finland would collapse in weeks and throw roses on the feet’s of the invaders. The Winter War bloody moral defeat for Stalin. After 3 months fighting Soviet Union agreed to peace but was unable to invade the country. In many respects the Iraq war and Finland’s situation had equalities. The superior big power wanted a regime change and used astonishing equal rhetoric and means as USA against Iraq, Iran and other. Finland’s past experiences with a “super powers help” are the main reason I am so sceptical of USA’s “democracy and liberty” adventures around the world. Little countries have the luxory for principles and opinions. Watch for example Norway, Sweden, Finland etc. Sweden for example did not participate in a Nato’s peace keeping training because there were Israeli soldiers. Israelis did not like those good argued principles Sweden told the world. Israelis naturally called Swedes anti Semitists.

  22. while enforcing an arms/economic embargo on Syria.Arms emarbgoes? Syria bought all it’s weapons from the USSR, all through the Cold War. To say teh US had the capability of enforcing an “embargo” on Soviet weapon exports during teh Cold War is absurd. If that were true, there wouldn’t have been a Cold War. There are more soviet made Kalishnikovs in the world than every other type of military firearm combined. The number of T-72 (and other) tanks/armored vehicles the Soviets exported is staggering.Sorry, I can’t go along with that. We are such ungrateful bastards.Don’t know if that’s true or not, Syria has no reason to be grateful to the United States.

  23. Syria could not purchase anything significant (fighter jets, bombers, tanks, Anti aircraft missiles) since the early 80’s.

  24. Simohurtta:shit! i forgot you are Finnish! (got to be careful on my selections!) But you know what…i was under-pressure to come up with a ‘small country’ doing well who decidedly has ethics/principles…and..i believe i WAS thinking in terms of size of the population. Anyhow, the Scandinavian countries are all good examples except that they have such different situations in terms of diversity (or lack of) in the populace , historically anyway though changing now with immigration. (i may be speaking out my ass again,, i am not sure, i mean what about those Lapps….laugh).So, Finnland has principles! and I know Sweden does. and btw, as an aside, i think Finnland comes to mind, cause one of my grandmothers is Finnish! (the other Syrian)….and I do know some of this bloody history with Russia/ USSR that you describe. My great-grandparents were hauled off to Siberia and killed by the russians, sent back to Tempere in coffins. This is why my grandmother emigrated to the US..and i am here today……

  25. Zenobia,Choice of people on one’s link list is not predicated on ideological grounds only. After all, I have a lot of disagreements with Josh Landis, for instance, but I do link to his site, and guess what, he is even a good friend of mine. As for the small states arguments, I think you are ignoring one very important aspect here: none of the states you referred to has to contend with the kind of developmental challenges with which we had to contend, and none of them is cursed with so much oil, and sects, and ethnic groups as we are. Moreover, I believe the manner in which they made their introduction onto the contemporary historical scene is quite different from ours, as such, their identity crises have never been as deep as ours, and the issue of borders and delineations has never been as problematic as ours. The problem with our small states is that they are still caught up in mid-birth. They are not fully born yet, and the might be born dead. When I speak of principles and states, I don’t mean to sound so amoral. I just think states live by a different set of rules and principles. In order not to wax philosophic here though, let me explain what I mean by all these references to principles and pragmatism by going back to the original context of this blog: Syrian politics. Syria’s leaders are still being touted by some as having true champions of Arab nationalism and all that, and as having stood by this principle than other Arab state, etc., and that this is why it has been targeted by Israel ad the United States. I look at things differently, because I have a different set of principles. To me, Syrian leaders championed Arab nationalism at the expense of internal economic and social development, and ended up building a bastion of repression and corruption in the process. They also lost the Golan and failed to get it back, neither by war nor, more importantly, by negotiations, their principles always standing in the way. In 1978, their principles made them look down at Camp David. In the 1990s, their principles made them avoid “scurrying (harwala)” for peace, thus dragging the negotiations for year on end, until they collapsed. Our people are under occupation, but our principles prevented us repeatedly from scurrying to save to them. The se are some strange principles I tell you. Meanwhile, the principles of our leaders did not prevent them from denying us our basic rights, did not prevent them from being corrupt, did not prevent them from killing 20,000 people in Hama, so on and so forth. Is it any wonder, then, that I shy away from talking about principles? But in reality is I do have principles, and I am actually acting out of principle. And my principles tells me that for a small underdeveloped state like ours, developmental issues should be foremost on our minds, anything that distracts from this is should relegated to the side. Had Bashar granted us more freedom to tackle these issues, I would not be calling for regime change now. But we still cannot even establish a real independent NGO for crying out loud, all the organizations that sprung to life in the last couple of years are all founded in cooperation with some regime figures and are acting under tremendous scrutiny and under many restrictions. Most become obsolete within months after their formation and begin to function in the usual bureaucratic and corrupt manner of a public sector institution. The new private schools and universities that are being founded to compensate for the shortcomings of the existing public schools system are: 1) too expensive to be afforded by most Syrians anyway, and the tuition fees have just gone up, again, 2) established as an investment by some regime figure (Rami Makhlouf, for instance, is the founder of the Shoueifat School in Damascus), and 3) poorly run due to the lack of qualified cadre of teachers and administrators. Yes, and except for some shining example here and there, we seem to have run out of good teachers, they are all working in the “whoring” Gulf states, or in Europe, the US and Australia. My principles tell me this situation cannot continue for long. My principles tell me that we need to act fast so as not to become another failed state, another failed society, another historical deadweight that the world has to contend with. If this means that I have to shelve the Arab Dream for the time being, I will. And guess what, the Kurds (in Syria) will have to shelve theirs as well, in exchange for linguistic and cultural rights and some measure of decentralized rule. If this means that we need to compromise on a small strip near Lake Tiberius, so be it, if we can finally reunite the thousands of Golanese families that have been separated since 67. We need to start working on building this country, yet, we continue to dabble in Lebanon, support “radical Palestinian groups,” smuggle jihadists to Iraq (at least in the early phase of the occupation), and so on. This is not where the interests of the Syrian people lie. So, I might sound neo-conish when I speak of US policies in the region, but the reality is the US has committed itself to a course of action (that I wouldn’t have recommended, and in some of the conferences and meetings that I attended prior to the invasion with some “interesting” figures from the US, I indeed advised against it, like many other analysts from the region) that it cannot simply give up on now, without this region and its peoples suffering even more serious and tragic consequences than if the US simply stayed the course. If the US reversed its interventionist policies in this region, this will leave a major power vacuum that all and sundry will try to fill, the resulting mayhem, in my opinion, will be far worse, than continued bundling by the US. In conclusion, indeed, I don’t want to see my country cut up to pieces for some “principled” stand of its self-styled patriotic and heroic leaders. For if there are any plans to divide Syria, the Assads, with their stupidity and avarice, are simply facilitating their implementation.

  26. Dear Ammar,Thanks for your impassioned words to me. …(and everyone else)…on this subject. This account is very very helpful to me…and makes me think a lot about your views….as always.Certainly, the way you are using the word principle and the description of the way that dramatic harms can be done under the name of principles…..makes me understand and agree with you. I kind of want to just say that these leaders simply had the WRONG principles! but then, who decides…right….I too am a pragmatist…really and truly. People need to survive, to live, to feel safe…….they have a hierarchy of needs, for certain, and so does a country, and principles…of a higher or ideological order must take a back seat or at least account for these survival and economic needs. I do have a clearer view now of what you were saying, your cynicism, and why you bristle at the notion of sacrificing on ‘principle’. Syria is indeed not Sweden (i was being pretty frivolous there). And we are not talking about the declaration of independence here.I have hope. I do not think Syria is stillborn, she has not yet been born again……into this modern world…thanx to hundreds of years of occupation, colonialism, etc..etc. but perhaps, i would like her to fast forward right over the modern and into the post-modern.This is why…i have to say….as much as I sympathize with your view of the necessity of continued US intervention in the region……I just really don’t think I can stomach it!Look, perhaps if we were talking about a different US administration …(and I mean really different……no John Kerry,,,no Clinton)…seriously radically different! …that did not have the horrendous ideology of the present figures involved in the State Department and the Dept of Defense…. or even the real politik adversarial ideology of the last sixty years…for that matter. Thenmaybe….maybe I could agree with this attitude. After all, America could in theory be a positive influence in the world. But this history of intervention! Christ, how can you ignore it. Has it really ever done anything positive for anybody? Latin America, Iran, Afghanistan, the ME, South East Asia!…common on!what evidence is there…..that this intervention anywhere…..has brought good. I just don’t see it. My stance is that to prevent all that mayhem you fear, all intervention should in theory be made in a multi- national and unilateral way. As much as the UN gets continuously maligned and undermined (so badly)…..such a body is the answer in the post-modern world. No more empire driven, real politik , poker playing, ‘intervention’ in the region or the world. There needs to be a global system of checks and balances. We will all lose in the end otherwise.

  27. Indeed, Zenobia, I think we are getting to understand each other much better now. As for your last comment, remember that the US is pushing its strategy vis-à-vis Syria through the UN Security Council, and in coordination with France and England. So, its moves are not as unilateral as they use to be. This is more encouraging, no?As for a more enlightened interventionism, indeed, I,too, wish this could be the case, but, in the final analysis, we have to deal with the reality that is staring us in the face. Once again, I have to say, I am seriously afraid of the backlash against democracy activities and reform, that will be precipitated by a US withdrawal from the region.

  28. PSAmmar, I also really want to thank you also…for providing in your reply -so many examples of what you are thinking of, and all the detail about the situation in Syria and what has occurred past and present. It is terrifically educational for me, and I really really like it! sounds corny…but..true… I don’t think i could get such a expose..(also from your other commentors too) ….anywhere else, and I really appreciate that.

  29. I think a clinton type of different administration will be good enough to move things into a more positive diretion. After the current administration’s policies, the Arabs wil find Clinton (Bill, not Hillary) very reasonable.Kerry, for example, visited Damascus lat year and was very understanding of its issues and priorities.The United States shoudl not fail in the Middle East. it won’t be a good example to other anarchists who would conclude that it is easy to defeat THE superpower through violence.But no one can help the United States if they can not help themselves… they need to reverse some policies before it is too late… find new goals that are easier to reach: how about improving women’s rights in the gulf states?, how about pressuring Mubarak to take it easy on the bloggers and the harmless opposition. I am trying to say the following: taking Iraq all the way towards “democracy” is not doable in a couple of years … that takes much longer. Instead, more modest advances towards democracy but in many Middle Eastern countries could be more realistic and doable.Does not hurt to try.As for the UN instead of unilateral US actions …. not much different. The security council is still acting mainly as a result of concentrated US, British, and French efforts. It is not the “UN”

  30. I realize that I intended to say that I want to see multi-national and MULTI-lateral forum for deciding interventionist actions….(mistakenly put unilateral)…..and yes, currently the UN…is dominated by superpowers and the security council that can be strong armed by the US or the others on the council. But my hope is that the UN or a future UN type of body….would be the advocate for more just and collaborative global politics.Dreaming…? maybe….meanwhile…yes there is, indeed, that nasty ‘reality that is staring us in the face’……………

  31. That’s alright Zenobia, I was the only one called “a dreamer” here.It’s your turn.And after three hours blogging today, I am out of here. Ammar I hope you are having time to eat your meals and sleep … don’t know how you can keep up answering all of us.:)

  32. The problem with the neocon camp is that they can certainly secure regime overthrowal, and perhaps they can assist in the establishment of a democratic institution, but they cannot magically bring about a democratic society.That, and their domestic policies are incredibly fucked up. But I guess that doesn’t really matter as far as foreign policy is concerned.

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