It seems ironic today – but ten years ago Syria proposed a WMD free zone in the middle east. The reality is, the brutality of middle eastern regimes who are not allies of the United States is not completely irrational – it is connected to a perceived and to some extent real threat of American/Israeli aggression. These are countries formed by Western colonialism, and they are countries which have been subject to Western/Israeli aggression over a long period.
The Syrian Regime’s incapability to respond constructively to the demands of the initially peaceful Syrian revolution is a product of the recalcitrance that finds its justification in the need to be strong in the face of Western and/or Zionist aggression. And it’s not completely wrong to emphasize this need for strength – Israel has engaged in wars of conquest and demonstrated an ability to militarily occupy and annex territory. If it weren’t for the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon, South Lebanon would still be occupied by Israeli forces, and settlers would pressure the state to allow them to build towns there. And, America has demonstrated an ability to invade states and cause regime change both openly as in Iraq and covertly as in Iran.
We should not simply call Obama hypocritical because he is acting on Syrian chemical weapons while he did nothing about Israeli chemical weapons – we should recognize that Western and Israeli aggression is one, although certainly not the only cause behind the stubborn criminality of the Syrian regime. If people in Western states want to support the demands of the Arab spring, they need to understand how their countries have been involved and/or complicit in the post-colonial imperial control of the middle east since WW2.
This does not mean taking agency away from the people of the region. Pathologies spring up everywhere, and although I have above defended the Syrian need for strength against Western aggression, this has been for a long time used as a crux to support a more or less fascist regime. Moreover, critics in Syria, such as Sadeek al Azm, have argued since 1967 that mostly this “strength” is a lot of hot air, and that if Syria really wants to be strong over-against the West and the Israelis, they need to act altogether more rationally and not fall prey to silly excuses.
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