In a thread about Syria on David Osler’s Facebook page (I know about as much about David Osler as I do about 700 other “friends”), economist Alan Freeman had this to say:
David, I don’t really know how to begin. The US state is trying to start World War III by mobilising a Europe-US coalition to retake the ground lost to an opposition which, by the admission of its own most prominent defector, commands the support of at most 4 million out of 24 million of the people of Syria.
Which side are you on?
From what I know of the secular opposition in Syria, it will stand with Assad against the proposed invasion.
If you want to supply them with weapons, start by defending the Russian position. What more can be said?
This is war. It is not some kind of game. Take sides.
I only knew Freeman in the past as someone committed to the FROP thesis and a close collaborator with Andrew Kliman. I generally have shied away from the debates between these people and Michael Heinrich, but Freeman’s jaw-dropping display of stupidity has almost convinced me to support Heinrich simply on the prima facie evidence of being able to think.
Freeman states that based on the testimony of a “prominent defector”, he views Bashar al-Assad as enjoying the support of 85 percent of all Syrians. What else would we expect a defector to say? That al-Assad is hated by most Syrians? Alan Freeman is the editor of a series of books at Pluto Press, one of Britain’s premier radical publishers. If this sort of gullibility is being overlooked by Pluto’s chief, I worry about their future. As someone who has watched defectors over the years, from Nicaraguan pilots during the contra war to the North Koreans welcomed to the arms of the South, the rule of thumb is that they are reading speeches written by their handlers. I find it singularly disconcerting that a prominent leftist intellectual can publicly defend the word of a defector. This is not far removed from some of the nuttier things I have read on the Internet lately, including the claim that Israel nuked Syria.
Like most people favorably inclined toward Bashar al-Assad, Alan Freeman is convinced that the chemical weapons attack on Damascus neighborhoods is being exploited by imperialism to launch an Iraqi-style invasion. Some “anti-imperialists” are convinced that the rebels killed these civilians in order to provide a casus belli that would allow Obama to launch “World War 3”.
Major T.J. “King” Kong
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, top officials of the Bush administration were going on TV for months in order to pave the way for an invasion. So who is the Colin Powell of today trying to unleash the dogs of war? One would suspect that General Martin E. Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would be playing that role today. For someone cast in Slim Pickens’s role of B-52 pilot Major T.J. “King” Kong in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”, Dempsey sounds much more like someone speaking at an ANSWER rally than any warmonger:
Even the Putin press figured it out, if people like Alan Freeman remain clueless:
USA disavows all Syrian rebels.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that the Syrian rebels could not promote U.S. interests at this stage. The “Hawk” who recently proposed five options of Syrian intervention has surrendered. The statement marked the position of the military that do not recommend a direct U.S. involvement in the conflict in Syria.
This being the case, why would the USA now be sending ships toward Syria? We do know that Obama is considering a Kosovo type intervention as the NY Times reported on August 23rd:
As President Obama weighs options for responding to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, his national security aides are studying the NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.
I think a better analogy would be the sort of air attacks that took place against Libya and Iraq in the 1980s and 90s. As Doug Henwood once put it, the USA needs to smash a defenseless third world country against the wall to show them who’s boss. In some cases, the violence is a means to a specific end: regime change. This is not always the case, however. When Bill Clinton bombed a medicine factory in Sudan, it was not the first stage of a war that was intended to put a more pliant state in place. It was just to remind the Sudanese who was boss. Although I am not a Nostradamus, I am inclined to believe that this is the case with Syria today.
With Obama going on about “red lines”, it makes him look impotent when a chemical attack of major proportions takes place. He will only appear “soft” like Jimmy Carter if he continues to allow his threats to go unheeded. Furthermore, firing some Cruise missiles at Baathist headquarters or some air bases does not cost very much. In fact, it is basically a Drone attack on steroids.
When the USA is committed to regime change, you will know it. All the top Obama administration officials, from Samantha Powers to John Kerry, will be going on CNN and MSNBC going on about the need to protect innocent civilians and all the rest. General Dempsey will be giving speeches about the need to finally eliminate weapons of mass destruction in Syria, even if they are not nuclear in nature.
The reason this is not likely to happen is that a key element of regime change is missing. You need a dominant class formation ready and willing to assume the reins of power. In Iraq, this obviously devolved upon the Shia bourgeoisie in Basra whose massive social base across the country could guarantee a stable platform for American economic interests—at least this was the plan. As it turned out, the billions invested in war-making have not generated a happy outcome. Iraq is far more interested in cementing alliances with Iran than the USA, while Sunni resentments continue to boil up. Of course, such instability is a bonanza for the bourgeoisie that makes profits off of militarism so perhaps the affair will pay off in the final analysis.
When the imperialists backed the Libyan revolutionaries through a no-fly zone, it is not clear what they expected since there was no equivalent to the Basra bourgeoisie even if some “anti-imperialists” viewed the Benghazi elite in the same terms. The only thing that a reasonable imperialist can feel nowadays about Libya is buyer’s remorse. Despite all the predictions that Libya would become a beachhead for imperialism, the Libyans themselves developed the strange idea that it was up to them to decide the country’s future. With many young men organized into militias, it is hard to argue with the proposition that political power continues to flow from the barrel of a gun.
If that was true for Libya, it is doubly true for Syria. With a large Islamist presence totally hostile to the USA, there is no reason to help overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Even the “moderates” in the FSA and SNC are not likely to get the red carpet treatment at the White House. Here’s what the past leader of the SNC stated in October 2012, words that would hardly comfort planners at the State Department:
We should identify our own shortcomings and weaknesses that allowed Western powers to inject sectarian hatred in our societies in order to know why the talk about taking military action against Iran has become very normal.
The bitterness in the hearts of Sunnis caused by the alleged Iranian-sponsored Shiite invasion of the Arab World is not a sufficient reason to be silent in the face of a possible military strike on Iran. If we suppose that we have 50% doctrinal differences and 20% juristical differences with Iran, we all know that we have 90% doctrinal differences with the wicked West.
Iran’s possession of nuclear capabilities poses no threat to any Sunni but it will be a formidable deterrent to the evil powers that are rushing madly upon the Muslim World.
The aggression against Iran is an upsurge of Western domination to snap at the riches of this region and deepen the cultural and social invasion of our Muslim World. In all honesty, it is genuinely logical and Islamic to refuse any action against Iran and to consider such action an aggression against the whole Muslim World.
The USA never supported regime change in Syria. It sought the same thing that it sought in Egypt: Mubarakism without Mubarak. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often gang astray. They are now getting Mubarakism with Mubarak, a combination that will only lead to future mass explosions.
In Syria, the big bourgeoisie is behind Bashar al-Assad, most of whom are Sunni. The USA would love nothing better than if they threw their weight behind some “reformist” General who would put a bullet in al-Assad’s head in order to create the illusion of change. But the system is so frozen along sectarian lines and the cronyism so deep that this was never possible.
Instead what you are likely to see is more of the same, with brutal asymmetrical warfare leaving Syria’s cities looking like Grozny in Chechnya. This does not matter to the USA. If it really cared about human rights, it would have drawn red lines about aerial bombardment. In the final analysis, the 400 pounds of TNT in a rocket dispatched from a MIG will kill you as quickly as poison gas.
For all of Freeman’s rhetoric about WW3, the war in Syria will not risk the future of humanity but only that of Syrians. If and when the heroic people of Syria topple the Baathists, they will likely encounter the enmity of the USA since they have made clear often enough that they are harbingers of change in the Middle East. If nothing else, the hatred of the Egyptian military toward Syrian refugees is proof enough of their bona fides. Along with Hamas, the Syrians are facing a deepening repression. No wonder that Hamas understands whose side they are on, even if Alan Freeman remains in a total and probably terminal fog.