[Marxism] Aid to Syrian "Rebels"

Jeff meisner at xs4all.nl
Thu Feb 28 10:35:12 MST 2013

At 09:20 28/02/2013 -0500, Louis Proyect wrote:
>The thing I'll never understand is how folks like Ron can one hand make 
>it sound like the US is playing the same role it played in Afghanistan 
>during the Reagan administration and then send newspaper articles to the 
>list that contradict that claim.

Well I know how. When people get an email at least 90% of them won't read
the article. But they'll all read the headline if it's in the subject line
of the email (or the soundbite from the 2 minute "news roundup" on the
radio). So anyone not going out of their way to investigate the truth, or
even read past the headline, will have absorbed that the Syrian rebels are
receiving US aid, EXACTLY AS Assad and many leftists have been assuring us
for the last two years, being the main explanation for the violence there.

But although it isn't going to affect the military balance of forces, there
is some significance to the US announcement, along with that of Britain.
First, they are trying to address consternation by the Syrian National
Coalition, which was formed last fall specifically in response to claims by
the US that they needed a "more responsible" and "moderate" leadership to
send aid to. Of course the Coalition was prepared to receive any
humanitarian aid (UN food aid has been insufficient, unable to reach many
affected areas), but the rebels have heard much "tough talk" from the West
that might have led them to believe that more decisive assistance would be
forthcoming. According to the Washington Post:

    Standing alongside Kerry in a joint appearance
    before reporters, the leader of the Syrian
    Opposition Coalition had no words of thanks for
    an offer that still represents a hedge of the
    U.S. bet on the group it helped to form last

    Coalition chairman Mouaz al-Khatib angrily
    appealed for a humanitarian corridor to the
    besieged city of Homs and said the rebels are
    tired of Western complaints about extremists in
    their ranks. He argued that the real enemy is the
    Assad regime but said too many outsiders are
    worried only about “the length of a beard of a

Secondly, the US move is unquestionably related to the somewhat stronger
move by the UK, also announced today, to supply (nonlethal) aid to the
rebels, made possible by the change taking effect tomorrow in an EU ban
that prevented supplies going into Syria (but which still prevents arms
shipments). This mirrors Libya, where the US felt compelled to join the
assistance (but in that case, military) initiated by Europeans, and which
in both cases I see as intended to maintain a stronger US influence
(especially in relation to Europe) among the future leaders of those
countries. In fact if you had asked me two years ago, I would have accepted
the conventional wisdom that the Libyan rebels' military dependence on
Western aid would have a corrupting effect on them and made them future
allies of imperialism. But of course I would have been dead wrong, as were
the other leftists who made the same prediction but in much stronger terms
(to the point that they considered the revolutionaries to be "imperialist
puppets"). If that concern was wrong in the case of Libya, where the rebels
got everything they asked for (a no-fly zone) within a couple of weeks,
then I would have no such worries in the case of the Syrian rebels, who
have been starved of weaponry for this whole time, regularly registering
complaints such as the above.

And third, but related to what I just wrote, the imperialists explicitly
want to tilt the balance of forces WITHIN the rebel camp, toward their
preferred factions, and away from, for instance, Jihadist forces (such as
Jabhat al-Nusra which has taken pride in their being shunned by the West).
Their loudest concern, which I don't doubt, is that they don't want the
Jihadists, which they equate with Al-Qaeda, obtaining Assad's chemical
weapons (and other resources). They are finally absorbing that their lack
of support hasn't led to the collapse of the revolution, but has led to an
imbalance among the rebels in favor of the Jihadists who have
preferentially received military aid from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. But if
there were a Syrian opposition group that really was pro-imperialist, they
certainly would have oriented toward that group (and probably sent it
arms!) and we would know about it. (Of course it's not unlikely they are
trying to prepare such an instrument to inject into the arena, but they're
late in the game and will have trouble producing a group of any size that
speaks Arabic with a Syrian accent).

Finally I will mention what Kerry said during their meeting (but which I
only heard on the radio and don't have in writing). Paraphrasing, his
concern was that the institutions of state not be destroyed in the process
of al-Assad's downfall. Which is another way of saying, as the UN has
especially, that there should be "an orderly transition of power" rather
than an all out revolution, thus keeping as much of the state apparatus
intact regardless of what happens to the top leadership. This was identical
to their intention at the time of Mubarek's downfall (which largely
succeeded, with the army remaining intact), and again couples with their
concern about the chemical weapons and the prospect of "terrorists" coming
to power or obtaining a safe zone as they would say Benghazi became.

- Jeff

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