Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Syria Getting You Down? Write Lady Gaga!

In a remote area not served by ambulances, a neighbor's child has fallen off a shed roof and suffered serious injury.    Some of us say, drive the child to the hospital.   Some say, it's none of our business.   Some say, how awful!   let's mail a letter to Lady Gaga and see if she'll help.   Others look for the kid's little brother to tell him not to climb trees.  Others say it is a very tricky issue and the alternatives should be carefully weighed.

There aren't four points of view here.  There are two.   There are those who favor saving the kid, and those who favor leaving him to his fate.   The second group is composed of brutes who are clear about their choice, and creeps who deliberately obfuscate because don't want to look too brutish.   I say deliberately because they seem to know what they're about.   They couldn't really be so dumb as to believe in their ploys, could they?

So here there are real and fake alternatives.   How about Syria?
One real alternative is arming the FSA with modern anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and lots of ammunition.   This will almost assure their victory.  Since there is a war going on, we may also be sure that the FSA will commit war crimes and human rights violations - just like, for instance, the Allies in World War II.

 Another real alternative is not arming the FSA.    In this case, perhaps Assad would win, and certainly the struggle will go on much longer.   Régime forces will continue to operate for months or even years.   The certainties here are that the régime will commit war crimes and human rights violations many orders of magnitude more vicious and more extensive than anything perpetrated by the FSA.   If Assad wins, repression incorporating these crimes will go on indefinitely.

There are no other real alternatives.   The FSA will never conduct itself with Ikea-level innocuousness.   The Syrian régime will never, in the heat of war, attain a level of basic humanity that it never reached in peacetime.   Neither side will ever compromise because because both sides face an enemy absolutely determined to destroy them.   And because this is a world of adults, not children, 'we' will never find allies in Syria 'we' can trust,  nor will the orgy of violence become an orgy of nonviolence.   Finally, the hand-wringing West will not suddenly be overcome with lust for empire and conquer Syria with a crusading army.  These ideas, like negotiating with Assad, can arise only within a determined effort to deny reality.

Write Lady Gaga

To deny these are the alternatives is not to advocate doing nothing; it is to make that choice.  The deniers belong to the "write Lady Gaga" crowd.   To advocate negotiations, to 'work' on calling the FSA to account for its crimes, to bemoan 'militarization' of the conflict, to insist on the virtues of nonviolence, to pretend to be serious about the UN or the Arab  League or Morsi's good wishes - all these are little more than flights into fantasy.   At most they are cosmetic 'initiatives that will yield at most cosmetic results - for example, FSA 'leaders' in Turkey promising to abide by the Geneva Conventions.   These so-called results serve only to make inactivity more comfortable.

Find the kid's brother

As for those who focus on humanitarian aid - not the aid workers themselves, but the nations who make this the centrepiece of their policy - they are like the find-the-kid's-brother bunch.   Sending humanitarian aid is not a decision about the conflict in Syria; it is a decision to do something about one of its consequences.   It takes us away from the conflict itself, even from Syria itself.   It's the magician's trick, misdirection.  We are implored to spare a thought for the refugees - "the children", usually - so that we don't notice how many children don't even get to be refugees.   Instead they die, some under torture.  Our attention has been led away from the very cause of the refugee problem.   That cause, the desperate struggle itself, is left to go on and on.

It's very tricky

Of course you could, like the 'very tricky issue' people, always muddy the waters by attaching scary uncertainties to the real alternatives. What if the FSA goes all Al Qaeda on us?  What if their victory is followed by a sectarian bloodbath?  The bad faith of these speculations becomes apparent when you realize that the uncertainties are always attached to doing something, i.e., arming the FSA,   The scary uncertainties attached to doing nothing aren't mentioned.   Gee, how about those chemical weapons?   What if Assad survives and develops nukes?  deploys chemical weapons against Israel?   foments a return to civil war in Lebanon?  unleashes Kurdish separatists against Turkey?  enables Iran to funnel all sorts of deadly new technology to Hezbollah?  I dunno, steals our wimmen??

This scare-mongering is very popular among commentators and decision-makers who favor inaction.  All the 'experts' who urge caution, or write those conclusion-less 'analyses', adopt the same pernicious tactic.   First they cherry-pick possible bad outcomes whose actual probabilities are either completely unknown or studiously ignored.  Then they present their slanted collections of nightmares as weighty reasons to do nothing, that is, 'to proceed with caution'.  If they stuck with the certainties,  the real pros and cons of the real choices would be clear.   But that's exactly what the commentators want to avoid.   They want to let Assad continue wreaking sadistic catastrophe while covering their asses with 'analyses'.

The 'analyses' gain credibility from the completely unwarranted tacit assumption that, should some of these possible bad consequences occur, nothing can be done about them.

The Al Qaeda bogeyman is a good example of this.  Suppose Al Qaeda did become important after Assad's fall.   How exactly would that work?  Al Qaeda would  be operating in a country - unlike Afghanistan or Pakistan or Mali or Yemen - completely surrounded by governments and societies that hate it.   Most of these governments - Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Israel - are militarily strong and have strong relations with powerful states like the US.   In Syria, Al Qaeda would be detested by all the minorities and - given the decades-long resilience of organizations like the Muslim Brothers - most of the majority.    So how is this supposed to become some terror tsunami?   How would this be even remotely as bad as Assad's continuing rule?   It is again telling that these questions are never asked.  Telling too is the another sleazy imbalance:  no one professes helplessness should Assad precipitate some problem with his neighbors.

From callousness to cowardice

In short it's like the injured kid story.   Don't be fooled by the earnest pursuit of irrelevant or impossible alternatives.  Don't be impressed by the pretentious experts and 'policy wonks'.   There is no honor here, no rationality, no decency, only callousness and cowardice.   Dressing it up as something else just makes it even more contemptible.

1 comment:

  1. Yet again, another excellent piece by @intensionality. Exactly what I was thinking but could never hope to write. - The Revolting Syrian