*The Impossible Revolution*

by on November 14, 2017 at 12:05 am in Books, Current Affairs, History, Political Science | Permalink

The subtitle is Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy, and the author is leading Syrian intellectual Yassin Al-Haj Saleh.  Imagine having a well-written book, totally conversant in the arguments of the social sciences, that set out to explain the Syrian tragedy to an intelligent reader.  Here is one typical bit:

The extremely decentralized nature of the Syrian revolution stemmed from nearly half a century of regime-enforced seclusion and isolation of Syrian society.  It was also occasioned by the regime’s forcible domination over all social interaction — and so a divide-and-conquer strategy was used by the Assadist oligarchy to confront the revolution right from the start.  Such strategies made any protest activities in central squares obviously impossible because this would have permitted the gathering of Syrian society’s diverse groups, and perhaps would have also allowed a degree of discussion, exchange of opinions, and general building of trust.  Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear that the extreme, forced fragmentation of the revolution’s activities is an additional factor that has facilitated the spread of the nihilist synthesis of complete distrust and a propensity for violence.

Where else can you find a book that compares and contrasts ISIS nihilism to 19th century Russian nihilism, or Sultanic principles in Syria vs. Lebanon?:

Lebanon is a neo-Sultanic state without a Sultan, and should either fill the gap and assign a Sultan with a well-developed general security shield, or turn the page of the sectarian patronage system and evolve toward a state of citizenship and equality.  In the context of present interconnections between the two Sultanates, Lebanon is the incomplete one with a large ‘security branch’ (i.e. Hezbollah) that is leaning more towards Sultanism, and the complete model is currently beset by a revolution.

Strongly recommended.  And as the author himself suggests in closing: “It is always necessary to demystify sectarian fraud…”

You can order the book here, though please note I do not sympathize with the author’s career or overall views in many respects.  He was a political prisoner from 1980-1996.  “Worthy of Gramsci…”  This book remains under-reviewed by mainstream outlets.

1 rayward November 14, 2017 at 12:18 am

https://www.amazon.com/Hostages-Daughter-Family-Madness-Middle/dp/0062385496

In this gripping blend of reportage, memoir, and analysis, a journalist and daughter of one of the world’s most famous hostages, Terry Anderson, takes an intimate look at her father’s captivity during the Lebanese Hostage Crisis and the ensuing political firestorm on both her family and the United States—as well as the far-reaching implications of those events on Middle Eastern politics today.

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2 rayward November 14, 2017 at 7:46 am

Not a comment by this particular rayward but a comment I would claim credit for. After midnight is not a time for me to be reading this or any blog.

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3 anonymous November 14, 2017 at 12:52 am

Communists killed 150 million people – all but a few million very nice people – and this poor fucking bastard still calls himself a Communist. On behalf of the dead 150 million, I say, fuck you and your 16 years of imprisonment. I can’t say it 150 million times. Nobody can. Sorry you spent those years in jail. The 150 million are still dead. I am not going to read the book of someone who calls himself a Communist. I don’t read Nazi books, either.

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4 Larry Siegel November 14, 2017 at 2:18 am

Thanks for saying what I was thinking.

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5 Anon November 14, 2017 at 2:48 am

TC does ” not sympathize with the author’s career or overall views in many respects ” but still recommends the book. Think about that . Maybe there are more shades of grey than in your white and black world-view.

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6 atomliner November 14, 2017 at 3:24 am

Damn, the Black Book of Communism said only 100 million, where you getting those numbers? Stalinists (they are out there) would say that those statistics are a product of manufactured capitalist propaganda designed to de-legitimize a system that actually led to population growth, rapid industrialization, and the improvement of culture and quality of life. I’m not sure what to believe. Certainly there was a huge incentive to slander the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and if you look at critical Marxist analyses of say, the Holodomor, or the Great Leap Forward, they do have some evidence and persuasive argumentation to discount high death tolls as is claimed by Western academia. Who to believe? I place my trust in the orthodox view, Communism, especially in its Leninist, Stalinist, or Maoist version tends to inspire governments that kill large numbers of people believed to be political opponents or even to have that potential. Yet I understand how someone otherwise rational could be convinced that Marxist-Leninism contains within it an accurate explanation of economic history along with a program for the liberation of the oppressed and exploited.

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7 So Much For Subtlety November 14, 2017 at 6:05 am

The extremely decentralized nature of the Syrian revolution stemmed from nearly half a century of regime-enforced seclusion and isolation of Syrian society.

Sure, the Syrian problem was not caused by the tribal and sectarian nature of Syrian society. It was caused by the regime. Which happened to be a tribal and sectarian regime pretending to be a Fascist party pretending to be a Soviet-friendly National Revolutionary party.

And I have a bridge to sell you.

Lebanon was not closed off to the world. Lebanon allowed a high degree of discussion, exchange of opinions, and general building of trust. And yet its civil war was much the same except not as long.

So a worthless piece of whining from someone who is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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8 Thor November 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Exactly. Had Syria NOT been decentralized, we would undoubtedly have heard that the distinct lack of decentralization contributed to Syria’s problems.

I recall reading about Lebanon ages ago. Look at the books of the 80s and even late 70s that correctly prophesied that the secular pluralism of Lebanon — chaotic yes, but a beacon of hope in a benighted region — was threatened by Islamism.

Our choices over the past years seems to have been between bungling neophytes like Obama and Trump (or the greasily unlikeable HRC). The Middle East’s “choices” seem to be Assad tribal fascism or Islamism.

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9 dearieme November 14, 2017 at 7:23 am

Which tribe/sect/gang is he a member of?

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10 rayward November 14, 2017 at 7:30 am

No mention of the sectarian conflict that is at the heart of the conflict and mayhem in the region? Before the civil war, the Syrian population was divided about 85% Sunni Muslim and 15% Alawite (Shiite) Muslim (which is roughly the same split of Muslims worldwide). Yet, Assad and his government are Alawite; a minority government imposed by force, not unlike Saddam Hussein’s minority (Sunni) government in Iraq. The Sunni uprising in Syria was the natural consequence of the mayhem unleashed in Iraq (including the Sunni insurgency following the overthrow of Hussein that resulted in the death and maiming of thousands of American soldiers); that the Sunni uprising would spread to Syria came as a surprise is a reflection of ignorance. For the minority government in Syria, defeat in the civil war would have meant certain death for Assad and his Alawite brothers and sisters. As for Lebanon, the Muslim population is split about equally between Sunni and Shia, the effect of which is to force the two sides of the sectarian divide to compromise; thus, a government lead by a Sunni Muslim but dominated by Shia (Hezbollah). Our “ally” in the region, the Saudis, who fund the Sunni extremists including those who attacked America on 9/11, the insurgents in Iraq who killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers, and the terrorists (including ISIS) who are carrying out unspeakable acts of violence in Syria and Iraq, have no use for sectarian compromise in Lebanon and, thus, have orchestrated the current crisis in Lebanon, a crisis that could lead to an all-out regional sectarian war fought by, you guessed it, America on behalf of the Saudis. What a tangled web we weave.

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11 So Much For Subtlety November 14, 2017 at 8:28 am

There is no point, really, to correcting a Ray post. Syria is not 85% Sunni and 15% Shia. It is about 60% Sunni Arab, about 10% other Sunni – mainly Kurds. About 12% of Syria is Shia – which includes Twelvers, Ismailis *and* Alawi. The Alawi are only Shia by courtesy. Baby Asad’s father paid a lot of money so that the Shia clergy of Lebanon and then Iran would recognize them as Shia. Which meant that the Sunni radicals were supposed to kill them later rather than immediately. What they are is Ghulāt – extremists beyond the Pale of Islam who do things like worship their own trinity. Although, naturally, they don’t talk about it much. About 10% are Christians and the rest Druze.

There is no reason to think that the fighting in Syria was a consequence of the fighting in Iraq. The Sunnis of Syria have been unhappy with their Ghulāt government for a long time. This round of fighting is caused by the fact that Baby Asad is weak – and visibly weak – compared to his father who was a genuine son-of-a-b!tch. They thought they could try their luck with the son and they were nearly right.

As for Lebanon, no one knows what the religious balance is because the Christians do not let the government carry out a census. The CIA Factbook estimates the breakdown as 27% Shia, 27%, 21% Maronite Catholic, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 1% Protestant, 5.5% other Christian and Druze 5.6%. The fact that the population is divided does not force the government to compromise – see Syria or Iraq. The French handed out power according to confession – over the head of the Shia community – and the system has survived. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Eastern Orthodox. The current President is Michel Aoun who is a pro-Hezbollah former military officer who is Maronite.

There is no evidence the Saudis funded the 9-11 attacks. No one has any idea why the current crisis is happening in Lebanon but it is almost certain that Saudi Arabia does not want to destroy the sectarian balance but to try to reduce the power of Hezbollah. Which is an entirely worthy goal.

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12 Borjigid November 14, 2017 at 9:38 am

+1

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13 Hoosier November 14, 2017 at 10:19 am

What’s irans role in your perfect world?

I plan on reading the book about the shah that Tyler recommended awhile ago and Im open to the possibility he wasn’t as bad a leader as he’s made out to be. But something wasn’t right for the revolution to succeed.

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia deserve their share of influence. No nation on this planet should need to bow down to another.

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14 The Anti-Gnostic November 14, 2017 at 10:38 am

No nation on this planet should need to bow down to another.

Naive. There are numerous states out there that are pure economic and behavioral sinks. They will eventually be dissolved or annexed.

Three countries matter on the planet. Everybody else is along for the ride. Has it really ever been otherwise?

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15 rayward November 14, 2017 at 5:35 pm

“There is no evidence the Saudis funded the 9-11 attacks. No one has any idea why the current crisis is happening in Lebanon but it is almost certain that Saudi Arabia does not want to destroy the sectarian balance but to try to reduce the power of Hezbollah.” Today, Atty. Gen. Sessions testified that he was unaware of contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign and that at the time he objected to the contacts. Sessions further testified that all he wants is to maintain the political balance in Washington and try to reduce the power of the Democrats. There’s really no point in correcting Sessions’ detractors.

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16 The Anti-Gnostic November 14, 2017 at 9:34 am

“It is always necessary to demystify sectarian fraud…”

Yes, I suppose if Syrians were all communist intellectuals, or just gave all their guns to the communist intellectuals, that would work.

The idea I see occasionally floated from American pundits is the division of Syria along sectarian lines. Ironically, for Salin and these pundits, Syria probably emerges from this more nationalist than before. Winning an existential war is a great rallying point.

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17 Mm November 14, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Decentrad-you mean the gov’t seperated & treated based on origin & affiliation kind like the liberals do in the US-what could go wrong

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18 dux.ie November 14, 2017 at 7:47 pm

https://blog.politics.ox.ac.uk/overconfidence-and-the-war-in-syria/

There I was, looking at the OECD PISA academic scores of the innocent 15 yos and their mindsets, derived the OverConfidenceQuotient OCQ to get the list of the Overconfident countries where OCQ > 110,

What were the top 15 countries up to in the recent past?

MENA + US -> war

MENA + Turkey -> war

MENA + Isreal -> war

Tunisia -> proxy for Libya?

Colombia -> civil war

UAE + Qatar -> neibourly containment

Turkey + Cyprus -> war

DominicanRepublic -> proxy for Haiti (war with US)?

Thailand -> civil unrest

Mexico -> proxy for Central Americas ?

Brazil -> proxy for Argentina (war with UK) ?

Just below the cutoff, SKorea recently polled 60% wanted nuclearization. It is worrying that DPR NKorea could be above that and join the club.

US + SKorea + DPR NKorea -> ??

Who said there are no “Universal Trends” for overconfidence? I leave the proof on Dominic Johnson’s work,

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00382_13.x?journalCode=jop

Rather than overconfidence in the political and military elites, the effects right down to the 15 yos matter.

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19 dux.ie November 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm

The listing derived from OECD PISA 2015 data with the new scale,

Rank OCQ -Zscore Country

1 122.45 1.5 DOM DominicanRepublic

2 120.86 1.39 TUN Tunisia

3 119.27 1.28 COL Colombia

4 118.66 1.24 PER Peru

5 118.06 1.2 QAT Qatar

6 117.2 1.15 ARE UAE

7 117.14 1.14 CRI CostaRica

8 117.01 1.13 TUR Turkey

9 115.39 1.03 MEX Mexico

10 114.46 0.96 THA Thailand

11 113.29 0.89 ISR Israel

12 112.96 0.86 USA US

13 111.08 0.74 CHL Chile

14 110.96 0.73 BRA Brazil

15 110.44 0.7 CYP Cyprus

? ? ? DPRK NKorea

16 108.44 0.56 KOR SKorea

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20 Roy LC November 15, 2017 at 3:51 am

The second excerpt nullifies the first.

Lebanon needs a sultan? This is either evil or idiotic, actually it is both.
Lebanon abandon patronage system and embrace citizenship and equality? This is extremely funny.

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