Sunday, August 12, 2012

Syria, Palestine, and the Future

For all I know, the portrayal of Asad as no friend of the Palestinians is accurate.  Maybe he never gave a shit about them, maybe he and/or his father deserted them at crucial moments, maybe he has always obstructed Palestinians-in-exile movements, maybe he persecutes Palestinians on an impressive scale.   And maybe his alliance with Hezbollah has proved to be a torture-murder pact.

None of this contradicts the claims of many 'anti-imperalists' (I can't help enjoying how this has become a term of derision).  The following is also accurate.   First, Hezbollah without Syria is a spent force; Iran can never maintain the organization without Syrian help.   Second, if and when Asad goes, there's not the slightest chance that this help will continue.  Third, and most important here, Hezbollah is presently not only the best but also the only hope the Palestinians have.

I'll leave discussion of that ludicrous bit of wishful thinking, the One-State Solution, for another post.  (Or see    For now I'll just say that, if you think Israel, more secure than ever, will give up its existence as a Jewish state rather than abandon the West Bank, you probably think that Kofi Annan's peace plan is gonna work Real Soon Now.    Israel has become so powerful that, just when it has lost the battle of public opinion even in the West, it no longer cares what the world thinks.   Europe is far too timid to do anything about it.   The US government, though it realizes that Israel is now a huge liability, cares far more about nut-case US Christian fundamentalists than about the Middle East, and will never do anything either.    The only thing that worries Israel, that gives Israel an incentive to make peace, is Hezbollah, the only entity ready, willing and able to confront Israeli armies.   In short, without Hezbollah, the Palestinians have no chance of stopping Israel's drive to deprive them of the very ground on which they stand.

So a hard choice between the Palestinians and the Syrian revolution seems unavoidable, right?   Wrong.   The anti-imperialists are disgracing themselves to no purpose.    Asad, even if he continues to preside over a smouldering slaughterhouse, is finished.   He will be under constant assault of one sort of another and unable to maintain Hezbollah in the style to which it is accustomed.   Hezbollah is, therefore, also finished as a real threat to Israel.   For now, the Palestinian cause is in truly dire straits, but supporting Asad won't improve things even in the short run.   In the long run, it will weaken the Palestinians even further.

This bleak situation doesn't have to end in despair, but only if its larger lesson is appreciated.   The Palestinians are screwed for the same reason the Syrian revolution is in such agony:   the Western powers now count for nothing in the Middle East.    Europe is terminally dependent on the US mothership, and the US is nothing like the Behemoth leftists love to hate.   Its 'military might' failed miserably in Afghanistan and Iraq, just as it failed on a massive scale in Vietnam.   The defeats have broken its nerve.   Neoconservative megalomania has given way to incurable timidity:  that, in the end, is why US aid to the Syrian revolution is so contemptibly insignificant.

It seems that the governments and peoples of the Middle East, unlike their Western counterparts, have come to realize this.  If so, there is hope for the Palestinians and for the region.   All that is required is for Middle Eastern governments to accept that they alone must manage the transition from client states to real powers.   This may mean many nice things having to do with social and economic development, but don't fool yourself:  it also means developing real military power.   It means acting like realistic sovereign states, not school-children anxious to conform to the paternalistic expectations of Western powers.  Want to know how to help the Palestinians and gain real respect in the world?  Middle Eastern nations should very politely announce that, after all, they think they should - just to restore the balance of power in the region -  develop nuclear weapons.   Even if this remains a merely verbal undertaking, Israel and the West will stop treating the region's concerns as a fifth-rate annoyance.

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