[Marxism] The Right to Protect

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jun 1 12:39:16 MDT 2016

Sometimes I really have to scratch my head over the attempts of 
otherwise very smart people like Vijay Prashad to view Syria as some 
kind of bid by the rebels to lure the Americans into a Samantha 
Power-type "right to protect" intervention along the lines of Kosovo. On 
ZNet, a website that is actually worse in many ways than CounterPunch 
that at least flies its Assadist colors proudly rather than trafficking 
in self-flattering semi-anarchist platitudes, you can find his article 
titled "The Right to Intervene" that draws lessons from the 
"humanitarian facade" that served to justify bombing Milosevic's Serbia, 
although rather poorly.

When both of these wars took place, I wrote many articles opposing 
Christopher Hitchens type arguments, so much so that I got the 
reputation of being an apologist for Milosevic. There are some things I 
wrote back then that I'd not write today but in general I'd stick to 
being opposed to American intervention everywhere and every place. This 
is especially true of Syria where CIA agents worked with Jordan and 
Turkey to prevent MANPAD's shipped from Libya getting into the hands of 
the FSA. If the USA had not intervened in that fashion, the war would 
have ended in early 2013 probably.

Vijay writes: "The rebels in Libya (and later in Syria) had much the 
same strategic assessment. If they could elicit state violence, then 
they might be able to assert their right to international protection." 
If they could elicit state violence? Let me clue you in on this. Assad 
didn’t need any help. He was much better at killing civilians than he 
ever was at ophthalmology, I'll bet.

I read this sentence over and over, wondering how an important scholar 
associated with Edward Said's powerful writings on the Middle East can 
come to the point where he would write such a false statement. Elicit 
state violence? WTF? You mean when they got their hands on some 
automatic rifles so they could prevent death squads from coming into 
neighborhoods and preying on nonviolent activists who were organizing 
mass demonstrations? What possibly could have possessed him to write 
such a conspiratorial scenario as if defectors from Assad's military 
were trying to lure the Americans into a “regime change” invasion after 
the fashion of the East Ghouta sarin gas attack? Maybe they just didn't 
care for 15 year old girls being raped in a Baathist prison.

Missing from Vijay’s article is the one instance where right to protect 
did actually took place in Syria rather than the one he warns about 
darkly. (You’d think after 5 years of laissez-faire mass murder, this 
stuff about Barack Obama being for “regime change” would have been 
dropped especially after the Jeffrey Goldberg articles in the Atlantic.)

The article does not mention the Kurds once. Furthermore, in a March 24, 
2016 Alternet article titled “How the Kurds Will Save Syria”, he does 
not once fret over how American bombers were supporting the YPG’s fight 
to oust Daesh from Kobane. He writes, “Bombing runs from the United 
States as well as pressure on the Turkish government to allow Iraqi 
Kurdish reinforcements to enter the battlefield allowed the YPG to push 
ISIS away from Rojava.” Where’s the outrage over American bombing runs? 
I guess that you make an exception for the Kurds because they believe in 
Murray Bookchin and because they have women in arms. As Orwell put it in 
a different context, some people are more equal than others.

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