Big Holes Left by Bernard-Henri Levy, on IS,Syria,Libya,EU,Democracy…. BBC Newsnight 23 Mar 2016

Video: French Philospher BH Levy on IS,Syria,Libya,EU,Democracy…. BBC Newsnight 23 Mar 2016

Bernard-Henri Levy (BHL) is France’s number one media intellectual (unflatteringly “TV philosopher”). In the no doubt edited interview above he gives a ten minute summary of his thoughts on the Brussels ISIS attack, Syria, Libya, European Democracy…. to BBC Newsnight on the 23rd March 2016.

Even though Levy is a stalwart Zionist, an insufficiently critical proponent of the Capitalist variant of Imperialism and worse still a larger than life “French Philosopher” it is still essential to listen to him. According to an American humourist “One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening.” [*] This has become an essential virtue for the “progressive” Left, who insist on talking at great length to themselves. Listening to BHL would be seen as an error of ideological taste, and perhaps taint the listener as a secret Zionist.

BHL started in the late 1960s, when sympathy for Israel was at its zenith. Zionist propaganda surrounding the Six Day War of 1967 had been swallowed by the West. At the same time the disgusting post Second World War indifferent avoidance of the Holocaust was being challenged by a new generation. As part of the “New Philosophy” movement BHL rejected the hypocrisy of previous French philosophers who tolerated the intrinsic authoritarianism of Marxist-Leninism.

Since then BHL appears to have contradicted himself, and embraced the authoritarianism implicit in the foreign policies of the West, which are usually directed by self-interested elites. This includes BHL echoing Zionist quarter truths on the reality of Palestine-Israel. This does not mean his positions and insights can be logically or practically rejected as a block.

The interview begins with his thoughts on the terrorist attacks in Brussels. BHL says Europe is at war with ISIS. Then he strangely waffles on about ISIS wanting to commit mass murder on cities (metrocide).

It is self-evident that the West is officially at war with ISIS. Behind the scenes Western elites and their supporters within the security services find Islamic Extremism useful in restricting civil liberties. The authoritarian regimes in the Middle East support Islamic Extremism in order to suppress democratic opposition, and justify more oppression. It is a strange kind of war.

BHL continues that ISIS is a different kind of threat because it is based in a self-proclaimed state between Iraq and Syria. We must destroy the headquarters, the training camps, the planners and this will be the beginning of the end of ISIS.

BHL ignores the problem of the rights of Sunni Arabs in the area that borders Iraq and Syria. Their grievances have made the takeover of the area easier for ISIS. Russian and Western bombing is killing Sunni Arab civilians, either by indifference or accident. The Kurdish Peshmerga and the Shia Militias that are fighting ISIS have no interest in avoiding killing Sunni Arab civilians, and favour ethnic cleansing of the area. So fighting ISIS should be by local forces which have a connection to the Sunni Arabs who live in this part of Syria and Iraq.

The interviewer reminds him he was passionate about aiding the Libyan rebels, and asks if Libya without Gadhafi is an improved situation. He says the real comparison is between Libya where the English and French intervened, and Syria where we effectively “washed our hands”. He says if the Assad regime had been “punished” in 2013 for the use of chemical weapons, we would not have seen ISIS or the millions of refugees.

He is right to compare Western intervention in Libya with luke warm Western semi-intervention in Syria. He should also say the comparison is between “non-intervention”, “intervention” and “partnership (that empowers opposition movements)”. The problem with Libya is that the opposition was not empowered, and the English and French left as soon as Gadhafi was ousted. BHL also assumes the West intended regime change in 2013, and that the Syrian Opposition had the power to create a stable new regime.

BHL then says the idea of ISIS is that they want Islam as a block to fight the West as a block. There are right wing Islamophobic bigots in the West who want the same thing.

This is true, but he does not say that the motivation is not to beat the other side, but to maintain or gain authoritarian power over the people they claim to be protecting.

He then says his life was threatened by Islamist Extremists because they cannot stand anyone saying that “Islam as such is not evil” and there is “good Islam” which should be reinforced. This is more intolerable to them than a red neck Islamophobic bigot. Islam and Islamic Extremism are connected in some way, but the question is “what does it have to do [with Islam]?” This must be addressed by the wisest Muslims.

BHL appears to be patronising, and rather demeaning towards Islam. All the major religions are subject to fundamentalism. This is certainly true of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. There is something about all religions that allows this to happen, and the attributes that allow this naturally differ between religions. A cynic would say that the religions that prosper and survive must be adaptable to the power structures around them, and so although not corrupt must be inherently corruptible.

The interview then turns to the question of the decline of Europe. BHL says Europe may be dying, and the mistake of his generation was to assume the issue of Europe was settled. Presumably he means in the sense of a united stable peaceful democratic culture. He believes that instead of inevitable progress, there is a “backwards and forwards”. He lists symptoms of the decline of Europe as Greek financial crisis, Britain’s referendum on leaving Europe (Brexit), refugee crisis…. and says the collapse of the European Union would lead to more unemployment and misery for European peoples, and so more crisis.

It is true that European solidarity and democracy is under threat. The root cause is financial, with a problem that effects the whole Western world. There is unsustainable wealth inequality and debt. Democratic governments have surrendered their voters’ economic rights to uncontrollable international financial markets. The European Union has a democratic deficit, mostly because its component nations also have the same deficit. BHL does not say that crisis can lead nations to be locked into brutal authoritarianism, so there ceases to be a “backwards and forwards” of progress. Technological changes give more power to authoritarian regimes to efficiently control their populations, so making this process irreversible.

BHL is introduced at the beginning of the interview, as just coming back from making a film about the Kurdish Peshmerga in Kurdistan (autonomous region of Iraq). He is a committed Zionist, who like others, vigorously promotes Kurdish Nationalism for a people who have suffered a long history of oppression, including the genocide committed by Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s. Which includes the infamous Halabja Massacre of 1988 in which thousands of Kurdish civilians were killed by Sarin gas.

The Kurds span Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran so a united Kurdistan would spread geopolitical chaos. Europe had two world wars as a consequence of nineteenth century nationalism. A better solution are stable states that are inclusive and guarantee human rights, with self-administration rather than autonomy for regions with previously persecuted minorities. In addition, instead of an international “duty to protect”, an international “duty to empower oppressed peoples to protect themselves from aggression by their own authoritarian governments”. As an example of ultra-nationalism, Israel is hardly a model of progress. It is a military state, riven by racist apartheid, and constantly in aggressive disputes with other states.

In comparison to BHL, Obama believes that democracy in the Middle East and the Arab Spring is not linked to US national interests. He also found as US president that he could not change anything in his own country, even with a popular mandate. I wish he would connect the US democratic deficit, with the need to support democracy abroad, as a human virtue that strengthens us all. Perhaps BHL would do this job? BHL seems sound on diagnosing problems, but handle his solutions with care.

[*] Americans love proverbs, it goes back to the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin and the Almanacs of popular protestant literacy. No wonder they went on to create Twitter.

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French Philospher BH Levy on IS,Syria,Libya,EU,Democracy…. BBC Newsnight 23 Mar 2016

Video: French Philospher BH Levy on IS,Syria,Libya,EU,Democracy…. BBC Newsnight 23 Mar 2016

French Philospher BH Levy on IS,Syria,Libya,EU,Democracy…. BBC Newsnight 23 Mar 2016

[Posted by Lara Keller 25/3/16]

French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy on BBC Newsnight 23rd March 2016, on so called “Islamic State” and the Brussels attack, Islamophobia and Fundamentalism, Syria, Libya, Intervention, EU Democracy ….. all in 10 minutes. Interesting listening, with the precaution that Lévy has strong uncritical sympathies for Zionism and Kurdish Nationalism including the PKK/PYD.

Breaking the media frame that imprisons the Syrian Crisis.

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Breaking the media frame that imprisons the Syrian Crisis.

[Posted by Lara Keller 20/3/16]

[March 2016] The reality is that all of the backers of the different groups in Syria, whether they represent Syrian public opinion or not, has either no or weak interest in change towards a representative government. Even the foreign policies of the Western democracies in the Middle East (exc Palestine-Israel) are very little influenced by public opinion. Which is either indifferent, jingoistic or hypocritically ultra-pacifist ; but rarely constructive.

The Algerian Civil War of the 1990s ended when a deal was done in which foreign backers agreed to cut support to all strands of the opposition, in return for token changes to the FLN dictatorship. A similar outcome is likely in Syria. After Geneva fails, a deal is done in private to cut all support to the Syrian opposition in return for a change of presidential figurehead, more Sunnis in government and a better sham electoral system ; but which in reality keeps the Assad regime essentially unchanged.

Everyone, except the Syrian people, will then congratulate themselves on finding a “diplomatic solution”.

Alternatively the idea that people have the right to rebel against oppressive brutal regimes, the right to request support from democratic countries and the responsibility to design a viable alternative government. People living in freedom then have the duty (and long term self-interest) to respond adequately to these requests, in return for rebels meeting their responsibilities.

The Syrian Crisis is bigger than even Syria or the Middle East region. These ideas have been lost in the endless mass media waffle around Syria, that tediously and reliability always misses the point. Is this being challenged by the activists in way that breaks the frame inside which the media imprisons the Syrian Crisis?

The defeat of the Syrian Revolution will create shocks in the West that dwarf extremist terrorism.

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[Posted by Lara Keller 6/3/16 Updated 15/3/16]

[Update 15th March 2016 …. Three recent developments may well put a different spin on the way in which the defeat of the Syrian Revolution is being planned. Yesterday Putin announced that Russia would be withdrawing the bulk of it’s air-force, whose bombing of Syria has reversed the fortunes of the Assad militias (a blitzkrieg of 9000 sorties since Sept 2015). A clear pattern of increased diplomatic exchanges and visits between the Sunni monarchies and the Kremlin. Apparent tension between the Assad and the Russians….. This could add up to a plan by Putin to extend Russian influence beyond Shia Iran, Iraq and Syria, towards the Sunni authoritarian regimes (while saving money and military hardware for other wars). Creating a dubious “peace” in Syria by cutting support from the Sunni monarchies for the Syrian Opposition (both the moderates and extremists) in exchange for a re-balancing of the Assad regime towards the wealthy Sunni business class in Syria. They have lost ground since Hafez was replaced by Bashar in 2000. A new authoritarian regime that appears not to be Shia Alawite dominated could then be presented as a compromise, and a triumph for diplomacy. The US would then have no alternative but to drop their half hearted support for the moderate democratic Syrian Opposition. Any opposition to effectively a re-branded Assad regime could then be crushed without outside intervention. An example of this kind of process on a much smaller scale can be seen in the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s.]

Nearly two weeks ago now US president Barack Obama finished his speech, with the phrase the “world will be watching”, just before the ceasefire in Syria on the 27th February was due to start. This is exactly what the world has been doing for the last five years, as the Assad dictatorship has fought a war against ordinary Syrians demanding representative government. Most of the speech was directed at so called “Islamic State”. It did include the statements “there’s no alternative to a managed transition away from Assad”, and that many Syrians would continue to fight while he remained in power.

Russia has been supplying military support to Assad throughout this conflict, and has been conducting an intensive bombing campaign against the Syrian Opposition (and to a lesser extent towards Islamic State) since last September. The Assad regime is now advancing, and looks set to crush the opposition. The chance of serious support for the Syrian opposition appears to be close to zero. Industrial scale murder and torture by the Assad regime, that has impoverished and starved millions, killed hundreds of thousands, tortured tens of thousands to death and even dropped chemical weapons on civilians, has provoked no meaningful response, beyond an endless media debate of distorted swirling half-truths. The absurdity of this debate has been covered before in depth, and there is no point in revisiting it now (see:

The Assad regime will win back dictatorial control of Syria, unless there is a sharp change in Western foreign policy. Bashar Assad was only ever a figurehead, and will be replaced by another psychopath from the regime’s inner circle. The security forces will continue to torture men, women and children. Human rights reports will be written and ignored as they have been for the last 45 years. Damascus’ luxury shopping malls and shanty towns will continue to expand. The Gulf States will direct their support for Islamic Extremists away from Syria, towards Tunisia and Libya, where the threat of the Arab people demanding their rights and dignity continues. The states around Syria will turn the refugees back towards the Assad prison state. Young Syrians will say as young Algerians do now, that the only hope is emigration. Western secret services will sigh with relief that the status quo of stability by threat of torture has been returned to Syria. The Hard Right will say that this is the only way that Muslims deserve to live. The Hard Left will sip their cappuccinos, and congratulate themselves on defeating “Capitalist Imperialism” in Syria. They will then continue with their real work of leading the left up radical blind alleys. The bitterest fruits will be human scars of young lives blighted by the conflict, and the moral and spiritual scar that inevitably “Syria” will be shouted every time an appeal is made to support people struggling against brutal authoritarianism.

Discounting the defeat of the Syrian Revolution shows an acute failure of analysis. Our leaders have been so careful in appeasing international tension, they are creating a greater crisis.

The situation is this:

An impending economic crisis is set to overwhelm international economic cooperation. Western democracies unravel into nationalistic authoritarian states, with the covert support of Russian and Chinese dictatorships. At this time the success of the Arab Democratic Revolution would be highly valuable to ordinary people in the West, informing a popular counter movement to isolation and paranoid nationalism. The authoritarian counter revolution is currently winning in the Middle East. The defeat or victory of the revolution in Syria would determine which way this tide flows.

The background is:

Market fundamentalism over the last 35 years has led to an international economic system built on historically unsustainable levels of debt, owed to elites who own an international financial system beyond any national control. The only method of temporary redistribution of accumulated capital demands continuously increasing debt.

The response to ever deepening economic crises and endless austerity, will be aggressive nationalism and attempts to regain national economic control. This will be led by the resources of the same global elites who created the problem. These elites are no longer fighting any ideological war, as happened during the Cold War. The result is that public opinion is no longer required in the West to win this type of conflict, resulting in relatively weak democratic institutions.

Economic power will not be regained by democratically elected governments. Instead it will pass to monopolies run by these elites, replacing unaccountable international corporations and money markets, with powerful crony capitalists. See Russia, China, India and Brazil for contemporary large scale examples of this process.

This corrupt process in the West provided the ideological backing for the “market fundamentalism” that replaced it in the 1980s. Most of the blame was directed by the media to traditional trade unions, with the larger problem of business monopolies mostly ignored.
A system of mutually beneficial international trade agreements, and national economies which balance and blend social responsibility with individual enterprise is possible. It requires politics that are not polarized, and an atmosphere of constructive progress rather than crisis. Chance of this is zero.

Greater nationalism will inevitably lead to fragmentation of relationships between democratic nations, followed by authoritarianism. Solutions to the most critical and urgent problems of our times, “climate change” and related “resource shortages” will never be agreed in this atmosphere.

Not to grasp the reality of the shared interests of global elites that has developed since the end of the Cold War is laughable. This is true internationally and regionally. Much is made of the proxy war and sectarianism in Syria, with the greater theme of resisting authoritarianism ignored. All the governments backing sides in the conflict, want the return of authoritarianism, and promoting sectarianism is the main way to achieve this. The answer is for ordinary people in democratic countries to demand foreign policies that support the rights of the Syrian people, rather than the narrow elitist agenda of Western elites or political extremists.


A strong healthy democratic culture in the West that we do not realise that we now need, would never have allowed mass murder, starvation and torture to bulldoze the revolution for representative government in Syria. Half-truths would not have swept aside solidarity with the revolution. It was a chance to turn back the counter revolution against the Arab Democratic Uprising that has been thrown away. An uprising whose courage and spirit we need desperately. As the defeat of the Syrian Revolution slips from the headlines, expect shocks that put small scale extremist terrorism in the West into clear perspective.