On Interventions and the Syrian Revolution

The Syrian revolution is a revolution that began as a struggle for self-determination. The Syrian people demanded to determine their own destiny. And, for more than two years, against all odds, and in the face of massive repression and destruction from the Assad regime, they persevered.

In the course of the revolutionary process, many other actors have also appeared on the scene to work against the struggle for self-determination. Iran and its militias, with the backing of Russia, came to the aid of the regime, to ensure the Syrian people would not be given this right. The jihadis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and others, under the guise of “fighting the Assad regime,” worked against this right as well. And I feel the same way about any Western intervention.

Some would argue that we have come a long way from that, that it isn’t even about self-determination anymore, but rather, simply stopping the killing. This is a position I cannot support. If it was simply about stopping the killing, then I would’ve supported the jihadis when they came in, because, no one can deny, they were the best armed and the best equipped to challenge the Assad regime. But I didn’t, and many others didn’t, because we knew that despite their ability to challenge the regime, that they did not share the goals of the Syrian people. They wanted to control the Syrian people, and stifle their ability to determine their own destiny. Because of this, they were counter-revolutionaries, even if they were fighting against the regime.

And now in the face of a possible Western intervention in Syria, I hold the same position. Many would say I’m being ideological, and that I should just focus on stopping the killing; but those people are ignoring that, even on pragmatic terms and within their own line of reasoning, their argument holds no sway, after repeated US insistence that “these will only be punitive strikes” and they “do not intend to topple the regime.” What indication is there that these strikes will do anything to stop the killing, or “solve” the Syrian crisis?

I don’t care about sovereignty. Syria has become a land for everyone but Syrians nowadays. The myth of Syrian sovereignty is not why I oppose Western intervention. Neither is the prospect of the destruction of Syria, for it has already been destroyed by this criminal regime. I oppose Western intervention because it will work against the struggle for self-determination, that is, against the Syrian revolution.

Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. I have no doubt about this. And this could have been prevented if the Syrian resistance was actually given weapons that could have tilted the balance against the regime. But foreign powers sat on their hands, not wanting Assad to win, but not wanting the resistance to win either. They couldn’t give weapons to the Syrian people to defend themselves, they said, who knows whose hands they might end up in? They might accidentally end up in, say, the hands of Syrians who wanted to determine their own destiny despite foreign interests!

So we’ve come full circle. No one armed the Syrian resistance, so they were killed by the regime, or forced to put up with jihadi infiltration. So Assad used chemical weapons against the Syrians, and the West wants to respond to teach Assad a lesson, a response that still guarantees that Syrians have no say in the matter of their future. And the regime will probably live through any “punitive” Western intervention, and the killing will probably not stop.

But despite all that, the Syrian revolution, and, at its heart, the Syrian people’s struggle for liberation and to determine their own destiny, will live on.

  1. Muhannad said:

    This is a great piece, which should put into perspective the elements having to do with Syria today; however, there are three assumptions that Darthnader makes, which I want to point out. In the end I think Darthnader is an optimist. I am not.

    1. Though I agree in principle that “the Syrian revolution is a revolution that began as a struggle for self-determination”, I disagree with his diagnosis that it’s having not succeeded (yet) is due solely to Assad’s unbounded aggression, the interference of jihadi militants, and perhaps soon that of American armed intervention; something seems to be missing from this equation––something, moreover, that is deeply tied to the claim being made about Syrian autonomy in the first place: one must stare in the face the total lack of competence requisite to self-determination that characterises the Syrian people today. Despite the Darthnader’s optimism, for my part, I can’t help feeling that it was the total lack of any programatic vision that led to the Syrian people being abandoned by the International and Arab communities. Extremists have a vision (albeit a terrible one) and that’s why jihadis have enough guns. This brings me to a second point.

    2. That America’s desire for a strictly punitive strike, which many are projecting to be short-lived, will in fact turn out to be just that. In the past 60 years, every time American said that it was gonna just ‘get in and get out’, like some obscene bachelor, America was seen to be raising the next generation, like an incredibly unwilling and perhaps incompetent parent. As a result, I don’t share Darthnader’s opinion that American armed intervention will just be another element further hindering Syrian self-determination; this is because I don’t believe in the prospect of Syrian self-determination any longer. Consequently: American armed intervention will mean, finally, a decisive turn in the 2 and a half-year Syrian civil war. This will perhaps be the ugliest phase to date, heralding much more misery to come and the total eclipse of the Syrian struggle for autonomy.
    But there is something more fundamental going on here in the false reasoning that America simply wants to punish the regime: it suggests that they are there to defend some party, which, I think we will all agree, they are not. This leaves us with the problem of motivation. Why is America doing this? Just to punish and go? This is why I don’t think it matters whether Assad used chemicals against his own people; whether he did or not, it is still being used as a pretext for an attack. This is not an issue that goes over the heads of the Syrian people and their question of self-determination.

    3. The final assumption, I can’t help but sniff out in Darthnader’s reasoning is that the Syrian civil war is not simply the most apocalyptic and convulsive manifestation of a much larger conflict than that of the Syrian people against their own regime: the reason why this revolution – if it ever war – was high-jacked, was that a far more fundamental battle between Sunni and Shiite extremism needs to play out; and this is an epic that America will have a role to play in, as we shall see in the next few days and after that.
    My sense is that Darthnader will take issue with this last point, perhaps stating that it is a conservative ploy set to disqualifying any radical spirit in the ME, which could break the chains of the sunni-shiite dichotomy. In response, I would assert my pessimism about Arabs today and go on to assert the platitude that pessimism is just the other side of conservatism.

    I’d like to hear why I am wrong.

  2. I agree with much of what you’re saying, but I think it’s pretty evident that the U.S. did not arm the rebels not because of the elements that seek real self-determination but because of radical elements that may target Western targets with those weapons (foreign airplanes, Israeli tanks, etc).

    I also don’t think that weapons to the rebels would have prevented the use of CW by Assad. A strong Western stance (manifested in arming the rebels) might have deterred Assad from using the weapon, but it could have also done the opposite – Assad is escalating the attacks on the Syrian population because he is desperate, and better-armed rebels would have made him desperate even sooner. It’s hard to tell.

  3. PB said:

    Let’s be clear here. By “intervention,” you mean airstrikes. Intervention can mean many things, like U.S. arms to the Free Syrian Army, which would be a good and not a bad thing. These airstrikes are for show, not to hurt or even dent the regime; this is pretty obvious from the fact that the U.S. is literally broadcasting its timeline for an attack as well as its intended targets and goals beforehand. No military strategist would do this unless he was reluctant to engage in combat.

  4. The strength of your position is that it takes the interests of the people of Syria and the fight for national self determination of the whole of Syria as its starting point for coverage of events in Syria which follows in a similar direction I suggest the weekly articles in the Militant. http://www.themilitant.com/2013/7737/773705.html . I agree strongly with your position against any external intervention–and we know that there is a great deal of it– in Syria, whether that be by the Gulf States (GCC), Western Imperialism, Russia, Iran, or the U.S. This certainly includes the funneling of weapons to the various groups. There are quite sufficient weapons in Syria at this point, the question is entirely one of political will, leadership, tactical moxie and courage.
    “Imperialism in the 21st century has refined the tactic of drawing out the battle in which the conflict itself becomes a further weapon of oppression as it becomes the justification for still further oppression. Ours is to evade this cycle rather than to engage it directly.” http://rawlinsview.com/about/
    The feeding of weapons and training of various forces which has been going on in Jordan for many months is entirely about currying favor with various forces and individuals in whom Imperialism can ‘rely’. This of course means that they can be relied upon to support imperial economic and geopolitical interests in the future and of course equally be relied upon to sell cheaply the self-determination of the inhabitants of Syria.
    The struggle for the self determination of Syria is one of significant importance to the international working class. The threat of direct military intervention on the part of the US remains immanent, “peace deal” notwithstanding. In fact it is quite likely that the chemical weapons deal opens the door for deeper US intervention as it has created a pretext for the intervention of ground troops for the purpose of ‘protecting’ the weapons inspectors and chemical weapons sites in the middle of a raging civil war. I would almost assume the existence of soon to come news reports of a ‘small’ imperial force, probably under UN flag, on the ground in the immediate future. Keeping the focus on the situation there and continuing the demand for all external forces to cease their intervention is a worthy exercise.
    You should not feel alone or foolish in your optimism. The Syrian crisis as an international geopolitical event has evidenced the weakness of imperialism on the heels of its Iraq adventure. The resort to extranational Jihadi terror as a weapon has also evidenced the growing desperation, weakness and isolation of the Monarchial system that rules the GCC Gulf States. The strength of the Kurdish national movement has already proven to be a significant development growing out of imperialism’s failed Iraq intervention and the Syrian uprising. It is not unreasonable to have faith in the ability of the Syrian people to resist the reactionary Jihadi movement both militarily and politically.

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