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November 11, 2006

Comments

bodhisattva

we're in the pooper together amigo, its not like my country's politicians, well the actors in power did not put all their eggs (and our fate) in teh US basket,

i think the next few years will be fun (not in a good way)

goodluck to us all,

What is "Occupation"

Yes the Americans have always been short term in thought and deed. Not that the mentality of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is what you would call eternal either.

So much of american policy is reactive not progressive.

That being said, as per the syrian question,
today is today, yesterday is gone. The Assad's global position ie iraq, iran, hezbollah, hamas, golan & israel is shaping what is at play...

kill assad & his family and that will get you islamic nutjobs, if you strengthen assad, then you will get back stabbed by him the moment he can pull it off, if you do nothing Assad & family will continue to fund, support and kill our "friendlies"

Maybe the solution is patience. I see the best senario would be a Syrian Attack on the Golan, thus allowing israel to take out the 500 syrian tanks and anti aircraft batteries. Keeping it localized and measured the military might of syria will be drained away..

and those tanks that keep civilian quiet in damascus will be no more...

just a fantasy.

in real world action, i'd take out assad the moment i could, 2 am in the morning, just him, vaporize him, quick, quiet, no fuss no muss..

then let the generals pick a new leader

Ghassan Karam

Blowback is by definition an unanticipated development that occurs after a certain policy is enacted. Such a blowback does accompany all sorts of actions in all fields of endeavour. It is important to recognize the probability that most of our actions will result at one point in time in a blowback, that is the essence of how history unfolds. As soon as an idea makes its presence known then it creates a counter instance and the resulting conflict between the point and counter point resolves itself by creating a new idea that is in contradiction with the previous one. All what this means is that we live in a state of flux and the conditions under which we live are constantly changing. But when we become aware that no solution in any field is a permanent one and that often the adopted solution will trigger a set of conditions that will eventually overwhelm it this must never be used as a recipe for inaction and paralysis. We deal with what is present and we have to be willing to accept that our solutions will be rejected in the future. When that happens we will try again to deal with the realities as we see them. We should never forget that a blow back occurs when it occurs and that no one has the ability to foresee it.

I guess that what I am saying is that you are being too hard on the US foreign policy because these reversals in fortune have always been with us irrespective of the power at the center. There is nothing unique about the reversals that have occured as a result of US foreign policy. These reversals are an integral part of history. They have occured in the past and they will occur in the future.

Ammar

Ghassan, I really like and appreciate your Hegelian take on this matter. I just want to point out that our region has suffered too many blowbacks as a result of the narrow focus of US policy towards it, one that filters everything through the prim of energy politics, security, and the "special" relationship with Israel. If the neo-cons have made a positive contribution here is their addition of the insistence on human rights and democratic change to the list of US concerns and objectives. Their methods have clearly been foolish and arrogant, but a removal of the new concern they brought with them soon produce the one blowback that could finally spell the sort of apocalyptic doom that many have been predicting, and some have even been pining for (!!!), for so long now. For this reason, we have to make a stand now. No, this is will not be a stand against engagement per se, but a stand for an enlightened engagement, one that accommodates the concerns and aspirations of the democratic forces in the region, no matter how weak they appear at this stage, in fact, especially because they appear weak at this stage.

Alex

Ammar,

Let's replace the "bad" Bashar with a car salesman, who does not always tell the truth (following your new demo of the Syrian regime's badness through Bilal's denial that Syria has prisoners of conscious)

Let's replace the United States and the west by a customer who walks into the used car dealership and wants to buy the car he decided he needs and wants.

And, of course, that desired car represents "peace, democracy ..stability" .. whatever product the Americans wanted to "have" when they walked into the Middle East (or the Used Cars dealership)

Now your warning to the new American consumer (Gates, Baker…) says:

Trust me, the salesman you are planning to talk to (Bashar) is not a very good man ... first, he is not very smart in my personal opinion. Second, he does not always tell the truth. Third, he cares about his personal commission out of the sale, and not only about the interest of the car dealership. If you (the Americans) sound very gullible (overly eager to buy at any cost) then you will not get a good deal form this salesman and you might empower him (encourage him) to start doing the same "bad" thing in the future with other gullible customers who walk into the dealership.

So, without discussing the accuracy of the three "bad" aspects of this salesman's character, my advice to the American consumer has two parts

1) If you have a product that interests you in this dealership, Ammar is right .. you can not be too naive or overly trustworthy. But All the other sales people of this dealership (the Middle East's other politicians) are more or less "bad"

If you feel that you are not shrewd enough or not experienced enough to negotiate a good deal with a used car salesman, then don't ... get out of the dealership.

2) Whatever you decide to do, I hope you are not going to repeat what the customer before you tried to do .. he shot the doorman (and his family), he broke the gate of the dealership and walked in with a gun and threatened us saying: "I represent the forces of good ...I am here to clean this dealership from all of you bad salespeople ...oh, and I also want to walk away from here with the car I want without paying anything for it, and if any one of you bad used car salesmen tried to oppose me, I will shoot him next.. and, again, I want you to be good human beings from now on … don’t forget, I represent the good side".

And I am not going to read the silly cheesy example I typed above because if I did I will probably erase it.

ghassan karam

Ammar, I want to make sure that I did not come across as if I am an advocate of the neo-cons. The fact of the matter, is that I have been an opponent of Perle-Wolfowitz et al for years and a big critic of US foreign policy.

I do not agree with most of the positions that have been advanced by the foreign policy establishment but yet I admit that if these policies were not taken then I am equally confident that what I would have supported would have also resulted in a blow back of sorts.And furthermore I cannot in all honesty say that the blow back that has occured is either more severe or even less severe than what would have happened had a different position been adopted. Ther just is no way of telling which would have been better. As a result I am in favour of full transparency and open dialogue concerning every issue so that the position adopted would turn out to be the result of meaningful, deep and thoughtful deliberations.Once a decision is undertaken it is neither helpful nor constructive to try and second guess what would have been. We are certain that had it not been for the CIA interference then the Shah would not have ruled and thus Khomeini might not have come about etc.. but we have no clue of what would have been the case had the CIA not interfered. Maybe that would have led to an earlier rise of the Islamic Republic but then maybe not.

newc

Just because you see electoral change does not necessarily mean that foreign policy changes immediately. I doubt America will give up on stated objectives of a more Democratic Middle East. It sure worked in Turkey so we know it is possible. It worked in Kurdistan.

And even if the representatives give up on it, that does not mean that Americans as a whole will.

Rosemary

I do believe that President Bush is the only one who was looking at this situation with a long term eye. (He certainly is NOT reactive.)

He is a patient man, but he has had all these Communists fooling the American people into demonstrating against America and him.

The ME has been heavily influenced (at least its leaders) by Hitler and Lenin. We need to show them that Republican form of democracy is much better, but we were not allowed to do this.

With the NY Times printing our national secrets, the Ruskies aiding Iran, China backing Sudan, etc, everyone wonders why the president doesn't just let our men go and do what they are trained to do. I am one of them.

I try to get the word for Iran, and if there is anyway you can get news to me about Syria I will print it for you. But only if it is towards a free people who get to tell the government what to do, not the other way around.

One vote does not a democracy make, but it is a step in the right direction. As far as the people with the pointy hats (state diplomats), they can all go to hell.

I'm sorry I'm taking up so space, it is just my frustration in the lack of will of the American people. I do not, however, believe that all Americans are upset because we are doing too much. We are not doing enough.

Gates should be flogged. Just wanted to add that. :)

Alex

Ammar

No, this is will not be a stand against engagement per se, but a stand for an enlightened engagement, one that accommodates the concerns and aspirations of the democratic forces in the region

Great. but Ammar, I think it is very simple: The Americans need to be balanced in their approach to talking to Syria and Iran ... they should not talk down to them with arrogance, and they should not beg them for help

Don't worry .. I think the pendulum will now be in the right place after having visited the two extremes.

ghassan

Alex, maybe you should have reread the "cheesy story"(LOL) because then you would have noticed that it sounds attractive because it is not totally divorced from reality but I hope that you would have noted also that the story is so unrealistic that you had to go through so many twists and turns to make it fit your predtermined position.

The case of dishonest second hand car salesman has been used often to explain the problem of assymetric information. The issue is an important one and has been overcome by the "lemmon" laws that protect the consumer and by creating the special programs of inspected second hand cars. My point is that if your hypothetical customer had walked into the dealership with blazing guns then s/he would have been as much of a low life as your dishonest car salesman in the first place. The efficient solution to the problem can be found through constructive steps rather than destructive ones.

Alex

:)

Ghassan, glad to see you here again.

You're right, ... it took me 30 minutes trying to make my used cars story fit the Middle East.

As long as the new mood in washington is compatible with your last statement "The efficient solution to the problem can be found through constructive steps rather than destructive ones."

Ammar

Alex, I don’t get this about car salesmen and all that, all I know is that I have friends, colleagues and family members in jail for their all too legitimate opinions and activities, and I was forced into exile by a high-ranking member of the regime on account of my equally legitimate opinions and activities, and I want to see this situation addressed and redressed, not only with regard to my case, but with regard to all those who are in a similar position, even if they don’t like me or agree with my views and even if I might feel the same way about them.

As such, I am no longer in a position that allows me to be as pragmatic about the Assads as you seem to be, but, when these issues are put on the table again, and some serious and real progress in this regard is made, I might get there, again, and might be able to adopt, once again, a more gradualist approach with regard to democratic change.

But who am I kidding? No good can come out of the Assads. But some people will have to find this out on their own the hard way.

As for pendulum swings, the jury is still out on that. Be that as it may, newc is right “Just because you see electoral change does not necessarily mean that foreign policy changes immediately.”

Alex

Ammar, of course the "new" mideast policy of the United States will not necessarily change quickly or change dramatically. The vice president and his friends are still here. President Bush still dislikes the Syrians. The Israeli govenment is still too weak to start an unpopular peace process with Syria, and the Hariri investigation and the international court could still be used as a pressure tool against he Syrians.

Nevertheless, I think there will be changes taking place sometime this year. No one knows how far they will go.

And I will reply to your other point by email.

Zenobia of the East and West

Really Ammar I don't understand how you can speak as if the "neo-con" agenda is genuinely concerned with Human Rights and Democracy. I think that is nonsense. Yes, they can spout this idealist gobbledygook....but I happen to think it is subterfuge....

none of it is in good faith. for one example,the administration's neo-cons, at least, are ones....in the camp of Cheney, a man who fully supports CIA black hole prisons and 'reasonable' methods of torture. Human Rights?
And do they promote human rights or democracy in occupied Palestine? No....not until hell freezes over.
so, basically, this premise of the neo-cons being so ideologically more in line with notions of human rights and democracy...is rhetoric with zero substance behind it.
to their mind - those nice liberal things come after, only AFTER our military subdues every people and leader who is anti-american ...then they can have democracy....oh yeah...and only in line with the absolute unconditional acceptance of american global hegemony.

Meanwhile.....you cite the realist fuck ups in the past.

first off, I also appreciate Ghassan Karam's comment on blowback and the unpredictability of the consequences of policy.
And I would also agree with you...that there must be possible some amount of forethought about the future outcomes of our actions and policies. However, maybe...we should look at what the ends were in those prior cases verses what the ends are in the situations in which some people advocate 'engagement'.
For instance, it wasn't in the name of peace and human rights that the americans supported the Afghan mujahadeen..... it was total ideology.....and communist....bullshit...to my mind....the endless nastiness that continues decade after decade...

this is not about preserving and promoting democracy in the world.....that has always been about protecting Capitalism.....and these are very different things.

so, i am trying to suggest that the crime may not have been engagement with bad guys.....but for what end ...that engagement occurred.
The americans....'engaged' Saddam Hussein....but was this for peaceful ...purposes....?
No, it was so we could help him met out death...onto his neighbors.
And then we get the blowback later....surprise surprise.
Was the US ...support of overthrow in Iran...Mossedeq and all that....to further democracy?....no...it was to further the goals of the West ...and Capital again.......
and what was the consequence...the blowback...... the later ousting of the Shah....in favor of the ultimate islamic extremists.
AMERICA DID THAT. that is blowback...to a T.

so....couldn't we say...that the problem isn't realism...per se....but...for what purpose and end...the american policy was created....?....

And when we speak about 'engagement' today.....there should be difference....
Are we engaging Syria or the Assads...or Hezbollah...or Iran....in order to exploit them ...or use them.....or extend the corporate reach of the multinationals and Capital.....once again?????

or ...could it be that there are some policy diplomats....some realists....who actually believe in engagement for the sake of building a better world...

do you really believe that ....the so called 'idealists' are actually...in good faith in this regard....because ...i don't think so....
Is Assad had said in 2001 on.....how much he was willing to do all America's bidding.....
the neo-cons et al .....would have been perfectly happy to have him stay...for certain.

Alex

Time Magazine's new cover story, and the Pendulum

It starts this way

This was a big deal. Certainly, it was the end of George W. Bush's radical experiment in partisan governance. It might have been even bigger than that: the end of the conservative pendulum swing that began with Ronald Reagan's revolution.

Anonymous

Ammar, I hope I’m not reading your blog because the way you been treated by the regime or because they kicked you out of the country, this is not what honest people are fighting for, we are fighting for freedom of press and freedom of speech. We are opposing this regime because he deprived the people from thinking and from voicing their thoughts, because they treated the country as their farm animals, because on their hands thousand of people who been killed without anyone dare to question them or say why, because they placed laws to keep the country under their lid preventing it from civilizing or from any change as a natural process of selection, because government and presidents should be changed and not to sit on the chest of people for centuries.

Ammar

What I was trying is that my case is symptomatic of what the regime is all about, and that fighting to redress the wrongs in my case requires joining the struggle for democracy and justice in the country in general. So, there is indeed a personal stake here for each one of us. I just laid out mine, you can lay out yours, and others can lay out theirs, and in the end we all have to work together to get these issues addressed.

Zenobia, of course the neo-cons intentions were not pure, but, before them no American administration referred to the issue of democratization and human rights in the region with such consistency. It is important to keep that focus, and if the intentions of the neo-cons were questionable, then our task at this stage is to lobby to keep this focus and purify the intentions behind it, by showing the positive relevance of real democratic change in our part of the world to the security and interests of the US.

EHSANI2

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3326871,00.html

Ammar

While the Observer and the Guardian ran a story a reported phone conversation between Blair and Bush in which the former allegedly urged the latter to engage the Assads, a brief report in the Economist reveals what is really at stake here. The report alleges that during the visit by Nigel Sheinwald to Syria, Bashar laid out four conditions for breaking off with Iran: halting the investigation into the Hariri assassination, a US guarantee not to undermine the Assads regime, allowing Syria to retrieve its influence in Lebanon, and last, and very much least, it seems, the return of the Golan.

How we can square this with Rice’s recent statements regarding the dangerous nature and behavior of the Assads is something that requires us to look at this entire context as a necessary prelude for engagement, or, to be more specific, for a Qaddafi type deal. Be that as it may, the next 4-6 weeks are crucial. If not deal is made by then, a countdown for war will likely commence.

Alex

Ammar! .. I'm sure you are not serious here.

"and very much least, it seems, the return of the Golan"

So basically we are to believe that Assad gave the British envoy a written list which started with "please don't take my brother Maher to court", then way down at the bottom of the list he wrote, "and very optional last demand, or actually it is only a suggestion, if you can also return the Golan, it would look good for our image in Syria"

Or, maybe, we should believe that it was verbal ... right? so that envoy told Bashar: "please rate for me your demands in order of importance" and Bashar (the infinitely corrupt evil adn stupid president) replied with that alleged list in that same order (Golan last) that proves that Khaddam was right all along, Bashar only cares about his family.

If you were an outsider who never participated in negotiations, I would understand, but you know better how these things are discussed. If Bashar wanted to ask the British for their help in a personal matter like the Hariri investigation, he would do it by hinting, not by begging. Especially that there is no trust yet between the two sides to allow such candid admission from Bashar.

And there are no numbered lists of demands that allow whoever eh Economist is quoting to leak so quickly.

You know, I will start a new practice. Every time you get enthusiastic for one of these regime incriminating news stories that you read in in one of the wonderfully reliable Syrian opposition sites, I will link a similarly silly one from one of your favorite Syrian newspapers' sites.

here is one for today from sana:

dividing the world into axis of evil and good according to the US policy and the logic of he who is not with us, is against us confirms the failure, confusion and sliding of US policy into destructive curves that threatening the stability and security of our region

Let's use this as proof that America is evil and that the regime is the wisest regime on earth!

Ammar

I am sorry Alex, I have forgotten that you think of the Assads as credible national leaders and not some military junta/mafia family. On this we will always differ. Link to what you want, anytime you want. Our farcical exchange will not make much of a difference in the overall scheme of things.

Anonymous

Ammar, you are a writer, a good writer and maybe a great writer in our sphere, putting your personal vendetta against the echelon of the regime, is sinking your rank to their stumpy level and does not serve the common cause. This set of echelon is no difference from previous ones, believe me I met some of them and I know their level of education it does not go beyond Syrian high school books. Your foundation and your outlets is currently the only source for free press bringing free thoughts to our people in the land of drought. Please keep this discussion on that level for all your fans and your readers.

Anonymous

Dear Ammar, following up with my previous comment, anonymous comment, I would like to read about you take and opinion, and a debate to follow, about how the regime in the past 40 years used the sect card to keep power for that long, especially how they used Alawite card and how the Alawite been benefited from this policy and how affected the wealth distribution between other parts of the country. I also, would like to tell me where I could find an analysis about how the regime could put down other voices, though they represent small minority. You have touched on this subject before but so far it is not well studied so can opposition can develop a strategy for the change. The question mainly is about the violence campaign been applied during the last forty years so we understand why people are silence even their environment, lives and income in a dreadful condition.

Rancher

Ammar, you're getting some flack for joining the NSF at Little Green Footballs. X is clarifying to the readers that you are not a Muslim Brotherhood member but thinks you sold out. His post:

"Each of the 3 men have their own individual foundations or are affiliated with other organizations outside of the NSF, yet when it appeared to Ammar Abdul Hamid that Khammad and Bayanouni (exiled Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanouni) were getting more face time with the U.S. National Security Council, he was more than willing to throw his 'liberal' principles under the bus and jump on the band wagon with a Ba'athist and an exiled leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood."

It's now a dead thread but thought you might like to know. You might consider what blowback you may encounter should you succeed in ousting Assad. I do support you in this however. I reminded the lizards that an organization that is attempting regime change in Syria will have to incorporate many different elements in order to succeed. Remember our bedfellows in WWII (Stalin), the cold war (Saddam), and in the WOT (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.)

Ammar

Thank you Anonymous, I indeed need to be reminded every now and then to take easy on the Assads. But, believe me, I am motivated more by disgust than vendetta. As to your questions, they indeed, deserve a more serious consideration. Perhaps this is something that we can accommodate more through our work in the Tharwa Project.

Rancher, thank for bringing this to my attention. Indeed, and as my friend George Ajjan, has noted, here and, more recently, on his blog, I am going to be targeted more often from now on by all and sundry. I think my cause will be better helped from now on, if I focused more on hard dispassionate analysis, at least with regard to Syrian issues, and find a different outlet for my more sentimental takes. I think I can do it, which might make even more hateful in the eyes of my self-anointed antagonists. But, I shall pursue with my policy of not engaging in any kind of meaningless tit-for-tat argumentation with anybody.

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