DDGD – October 2, 2015
The problem with what goes for realism these days is that it dehumanizes people and cares little for their suffering. Indeed, when realists act on the humanitarian front they do so only in the hope of silencing their critics, and because that’s their main and perhaps only concern, their efforts in this regard represent no more than a drop in the ocean. Knowing this, some realists become even more "realist" and advocate a do-nothing policy even on this front. What difference is there between these realists who still claim to believe in democracy, and autocrats who only believe in their necessity if all show little concern for human suffering? Cynical amoral realism does not make the world a better or safer place, even if it sounded rational.
Articles & Commentary
As he continues his invasion to end all invasions in Syria, it might be relevant to bear in mind that Mr. Putin has little qualms when it comes to “collateral damage” which just happened to include dozens of Western-backed rebels, and civilians, far in access of his alleged target. Here is a telling sample of this kind of damage that Syrian activists are circulating on the web:
Coming on the heels of Stephen Walt’s exotic “grappling” piece (original here, my comment on it here), Thomas Friedman’s latest take in the NYTimes demonstrates another way for “realists” to do the Shirk ‘N’ Shift (that famous song-and-dance that allows “realists” to shirk responsibility for something while shifting blame for it to others). Mr. Friedman’s accomplishes this by misstating the nature of the challenge in Syria, and reduces America’s interests in the matter to fighting the Islamic State and curtailing the wave of refugees struggling to reach safety in Europe for fear of destabilizing the European Union.
However, a really realistic and rational analysis of the conflict in Syria, one that has bipartisan approval, clearly reveals that the rise of the Islamic State and other terrorists forces is, in fact, merely a symptom of the disease: the desire of a group of thugs – Bashar Al-Assad, his family and their small coterie of advisers” – to remain in power at all cost. It is the actions taken by this group, with Russian and Iranian support, that enabled the rise of IS and Nusra, facilitated the influx of Jihadis from all and sundry, and drove millions of Syrian into neighboring countries, and now into Europe as well.
So, if we are indeed quite concerned about IS and about the stability of Europe – assuming, of course, that we agree with Mr. Friedman’s argument that the influx of refugees does indeed pose an existential serious threat to the EU – doesn’t it make more sense, then, to tackle the real causes of the problem: conflicts, autocracy, corruption, mismanagement, underdevelopment and scarcity of resources? If so, doesn’t this require a willingness to be more aggressive when dealing with certain autocratic regimes, and more willing to intervene in certain conflicts? (Note: These phenomena are the main components of the Freedom Agenda, which realists have long dismissed as being ideological and unrealistic?)
If indeed the realists who see in Mr. Putin’s adventure in Syria a sign of his growing desperation and an attempt to deflect attentions from certain growing problems at home are right, then, doesn’t that mean that Mr. Putin will not hesitate to create other conflicts in time, and that failing to stand up to him now will lead to more instability elsewhere?
Long ago, realists would have argued that absent a component of force and intimidation certain conflicts cannot be brought to a close and will continue to flare and metastasize. But contemporary realism dictates otherwise it seems. The result: we now have an “arc of conflicts” to deal with and not a single Noah in sight.
What do realists like Friedman and Walt expect? Do they really think that Russian and Iranian interventions in Syria will pave the way for a return to stability? Do they really think that a continuing quagmire in Syria that has already sucked in Iran and Russia will not adversely affect stability elsewhere in the region? Do they really believe that they can help Europe deal effectively with its “destabilizing” “Refugee Crisis” while leaving the Syrian Cauldron on the burner? Do they care? Do they really believe that they can afford not to care?
But while the realist Left mistakes inaction for caution, its rightwing counterpart seems to mistake paranoia for vigilance, as evident by presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent statement on Syrian refugees which can only be described as dickish, pardon my Syrian. Indeed, JLaw would have been quite right in arguing that “if Donald Trump became President it would be the end of the world',” had Mr. Obama and his coterie of leftwing realists not beat him to the punch.
The No-Fly Zone: comments that just make no sense
According to this Kremlin propagandist, Syria is a Russian Holy Land. Following this logic, Europe has a much stronger claim to make, not that there any takers.
On the other hand, some Iranian mullas has no problem claiming Syria as Iran’s 35th province (This Wikipedia article provides a good background on Iranian intervention in Syria). Then again, Syria has long been heralded as the Cradle of Civilization, it’s no wonder that there are those who want to rob it. Rather, the problem is with those who think she’s worthless, or who are treating her as such.
Video(s) of the Day
This video reminds of an important but often forgotten historical fact, Syrians are more used to hosting refugees than to being refugees. The resentment with which they are being received in certain neighboring countries seems like an act of betrayal to them. The reluctance shown by certain European officials when it comes to hosting Syrian refugees seems at odds with the praise that they used to heap on Syrians for their hospitality. There is no reason for those who admire hospitality in others not to practice it themselves.
To take our minds away for a moment or two from the madness of it all, please enjoy this nice variation, or taqseem on the Oud by Syrian composer Osama Badawe
I may not be a real cartoonist, but I do have the gull to play one on my website. This is the first in a series that I plan to publish on a semi-regular basis.