The Fallacy of Weighing Our Anti-Imperialist Struggle Solely on the Backs of Syrians
There’s great alarm over the fate of Syria’s Revolution as the stalemate in the country leaves it subject to external forces capable of dislodging its beleaguered combatants. For the regime, it can rely on its Russian and Iranian benefactors to provide diplomatic, financial and military aid. For the opposition weathering military sieges in Homs, Hama, Daraa, and the suburbs of Damascus, such natural allies are not so readily found.
In the absence of natural allies, the opposition within Syria may soon or have already sought out the assistance of either Western powers or regional Arab states aligned with the West. This potential alignment has struck the most well placed suspicions of the West’s intentions, but it plays best to audiences in London and New York who are inclined to both support the popular revolution in Syria while opposing any foreign intervention, whatever differing forms it could take.
The article “Imperialism, Despotism, and Democracy in Syria”, by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad isn’t for an audience in besieged Homs. I’m at least hoping he wouldn’t argue to irregular fighters in Homs that they confront Assad’s tanks with what inadequate weapons they salvage from Assad troops just so he can be assured they surpass the highest of ideological purity tests. This is a test in blood that can result in a staggering death toll. It was a test some from the safety of London wished on the revolutionaries in Benghazi.
It’s a difficult situation and we owe it to ourselves and the people in Syria to acknowledge it as such. From that, I’m incapable of arguing an effective model to balance the need of Syria’s revolutionaries to make tactical choices with our need here in the West to maintain solidarity without abandoning our opposition to interference by the nations we reside in.
In any circumstance, as leftists in the West, we must own up to our own failings that leave an international order where revolutionaries have no where to turn when the dictator they fight plays by “Hama Rules”. They’re left with limited options while some like Joseph Massad righteously wield against them a yet to be assembled ideal method to defeat Assad without any external help to even negate the support Assad is receiving from Iran and Russia.
We would be foolish not to credit the judgment held by those in Syria who’ve waged an over ten month campaign against the regime. No one can say they’ve hurried to turn outside for help. They delayed escalation to arm struggle despite the brutal repression throughout 2011. They insisted on continuing their peaceful revolution even as Libyans achieved success in military battle.
We, like the tyrants of the Arab World, underestimate the Arab revolutions at our own peril. Tunisians renewed their revolution after the fall of Ben Ali to ensure his regime fell down with him. Egyptians are also undergoing this process in challenging the military state which produced Mubarak. Libyans, having lived through direct international intervention while toppling Gaddafi, have demonstrated to the world that their revolution is still in their hands, taking to the streets of Benghazi to protest the transitional government’s combined lack of transparency and commitment to change.
Just as we shouldn’t under estimate the Arab revolutionaries, we shouldn’t assign them our responsibility to defeat imperialism. That victory is to be seized by common struggle by those living in the West and those who’ve been made subject to it. It certainly won’t be won on the back of an Assad tank shelling the ill-equipped defenders of Homs.