Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 20, 2017

Was Syria an exception to the Arab Spring: commentary on Stephen Gowans’s “Washington’s Long War on Syria”

Filed under: Counterpunch,Syria — louisproyect @ 12:29 pm
Stephen Gowans
COUNTERPUNCH, OCTOBER 20, 2017

One can debate whether to label the ideology that structured the Arab nationalists’ economic policies as socialism, but U.S. officials unquestionably regarded the economic demarche of the Arab nationalist countries, including Syria, as socialist. As mentioned, some even went so far as to brand Assad’s father, Hafez, an Arab communist. Others described Syria’s economic policies under Bashar as inspired by Soviet models.

— Stephen Gowans, “Washington’s Long War on Syria

Late last year, a group of big-name investors — including Bill Miller of Legg Mason Capital Management and Barton Biggs, managing partner of Traxis Partners, a New York hedge fund — spent a week in Syria and Lebanon. They met with top political leaders and local businesspeople and were feted with elaborate dinners with the cream of society.

Traveling to far-flung corners of the world to get an early look at promising markets has long been a staple of global investing. But Syria — until recently a pariah state in the eyes of the U.S. — proved irresistible, drawing an unusual array of money managers.

Long isolated from international finance, Syria is one of the last remaining investment frontiers. It has a sizable economy, an educated populace, and, lately, a new degree of openness to foreign investment.

“This was not a group of naive investors, and [I] have to say it opened all our eyes,” said Steven Galbraith, a partner at Maverick Capital, a $11 billion hedge fund.

— Joanna Slater, “Syria Woos Investors From Half a World Away”, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2010

Published in April, 2017, Canadian blogger Stephen Gowans’s “Washington’s Long War on Syria” is a 282-page full-throated defense of Bashar al-Assad, who, according to the excerpt from the book’s Introduction above, amounts to a heroic figure defending socialism just as much as Fidel Castro did during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. In a Manichean-like understanding of politics that permeates the openly pro-Assad left, the world is divided between Good and Evil. On one side, you have vintage Arab nationalism that stood up to Israel, exploited a nation’s resources for the common good, opposed medieval Islamic institutions, and generally took the side of people struggling against imperialism everywhere in the world. On the other hand, you had villainous Salafi jihadists funded by the Saudis and other Sunni states in the Middle East who sought to kill “infidels” such as the Shia and the Alawites. These mustache-twirling fiends were in turn backed by the CIA and Israel. According to this scenario, the revolt that began in 2011 was nothing but a plot hatched by the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria to foment discord among a comfortable and untroubled Sunni population that was unfortunately susceptible to demagogic appeals based on religious dogma. It was not hardship that drove people to protest but differences over who is entitled to speak in the Prophet’s name.

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4 Comments »

  1. Just another chapter in Amerika’s long “War on Terra”.

    Comment by Alan Coovert — October 20, 2017 @ 1:58 pm

  2. Thank you Louis for the thorough rebuttal of the nonsense put out by this particular Assad supporter. What a great wealth of research you have brought to the task. Much appreciated!

    Comment by Reza — October 20, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

  3. Thank you for this article — in this regard, this is an excellent book which your readers will be interested in: https://www.amazon.com/Destroying-Nation-Civil-War-Syria/dp/1784537977

    Comment by Alfred Giannantonio — October 23, 2017 @ 10:58 am

  4. Alfred, that book comes recommended by Robert Fisk, and Joshua Landis, so it seems likely to be very biased. And having watched the Dutch diplomat’s post-Ghouta interview he seems just another supercilious, cynical , speaker of mock- profundities. On Ghouta; ‘Assad has no need to use chemical weapons’ (!?) ; ‘What follows this regime, could be a worse regime’. A whole book of that level of thinking is pretty nauseating to contemplate.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — October 23, 2017 @ 9:43 pm


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