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Discussing “The Blindness Of The Western Commentariat On Syria”
Chris E: There is however a pretty large gap between recognizing the democratic impulses of a people and believing that ‘we’ have the ability to bring it about with careful and judicious application and supply of weapons – especially in the face of large popular movements which are fundamentally anti-democratic.
The track record on such things isn’t good at all – if any other area of policy was subject to the same rate of failure we’d seriously question the sanity of anyone who still supported it.
Lara K: Quick response for now, as short of time. 1. previous intervention not designed to promote representative government, that was the PR. 2. As article says good intervention is many things, one element empowering force if necessary. 3. Syrians want representative government, the people who get the weapons make the noise. Go see We need to get out of the box, and start talking good v bad intervention. Time to think, if want to survive.
Lara K: Time for a more considered reply. Need to make some necessary initial changes of emphasis to your question.
Living in a country where torture is meted out to anyone who seriously challenges the small clique who extort the vast majority of the economy, for over 45 years, has produced a strong desire for representative government in Syria and other countries in the region. Much more than a “democratic impulse”.
Empowering this demand involves the supply and use weapons in response to acts of barbarity by illegitimate governments and extremist groups. This is just one element of military intervention, which itself is a small part of the partnership needed to empower representative government.
So the question you pose, should be “Does the West have the means to work in partnership (with people in countries like Syria) to empower the strong demand for representative government, through a full range of different types of intervention, given the large gap that needs to be overcome?”
The major obstacle creating this “gap” you identify, are “large popular movements which are fundamentally anti-democratic”. They are in reality, powerful movements which due to lack of viable alternatives gather support. This is significantly different.
The problem that really causes the “gap” is that all the external powers are “anti-representative government”. At best they want a change of dictatorship, that favours the vested interests of their elites. In the case of Syria this is true of Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Gulf States…. It is also true of vested interests of elites in Europe and the United States, who have more to gain from cooperating with authoritarian governments, in joint enterprises to accumulate wealth. As a consequence authoritarian regimes, and only their opponents who are extremists, are supplied with adequate resources. People are then driven to join the least worst option.
The “gap” that has made recent interventions in the Middle East fail, is less to do with the religious or ethnic identities of the people of these countries, than the intentions of external powers. In the case of Western countries especially since 2011, the voters have been lied to about the intention of the intervention, and also deliberately misinformed that failure is due to the intrinsic attraction of Islamic extremism.
We are not advocating the same type of failed intervention. Progressives in the West have failed to adequately understand or explain why intervention has failed. They have failed to advocate for good intervention. They have failed to link this to struggles for progress in the West. This exposes a serious failure of moral and political judgement.


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