December 30, 2004

Iraq: Ripple Effects in Northeastern Syria

People often mock Dubya's "freedom is on the march" locutions. True, they often do ring quite hollow given the immense complexities we face in Iraq and democracy roll-backs in soi disant GWOT allied countries like Uzbekistan and Russia. That said, his statements can't simply be dismissed out of hand completely. Check out this NYT dispatch from northeastern Syria re: one example of democratic stirrings caused by American involvement in Iraq.

The Iraqi election next month may be evoking skepticism in much of the world, but here in northeastern Syria, home to concentrations of several ethnic minorities, it is evoking a kind of earnest hope.

"I believe democracy in Iraq must succeed," Vahan Kirakos, a Syrian of Armenian ethnicity, said recently. "Iraq is like the stone thrown into the pool."

Though Syria's Constitution grants equal opportunity to all ethnic and religious groups in this very diverse country, minority activists say their rights are far from equal. They may not form legal political parties or publish newspapers in minority languages. More than 150,000 members of Syria's largest minority, the Kurds, are denied citizenship.

Minority issues remain one of the infamous "red lines," the litany of forbidden topics that Syrians have long avoided mentioning in public.

But in the year and a half since Saddam Hussein was removed from power in Iraq, that has begun to change, with minority activists beginning to speak openly of their hopes that a ripple effect from next door may bring changes at home.

And here in Syria's far northeastern province of Hasakah, which borders Turkey and Iraq, there are signs of a new restlessness...

...In late October, more than 2,000 Assyrian Christians in the provincial capital, Hasakah City, held a demonstration calling for equal treatment by the local police. The demonstration, which Hasakah residents say was the first time Assyrians in Syria held a public protest, followed an episode in which two Christians were killed by Muslims who called them "Bush supporters," and "Christian dogs."

Nimrod Sulayman, a former member of the Syrian Communist Party's central committee, said Hasakah's proximity to Iraq and demographic diversity meant that residents of the province were watching events in Iraq and taking inspiration from the freedoms being introduced there.

"This Assyrian protest in Hasakah was caused by a personal dispute, but the way the people wanted their problem solved was a result of the Iraqi impact," Mr. Sulayman said. "They see that demonstrating is a civilized way to express a position."

"Since the war in Iraq, this complex of fear has been broken, and we feel greater freedom to express ourselves," he added.

There are cautionary notes, however:

Bachir Isaac Saadi, the chairman of the political bureau of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, said that throughout Syria, anger over the American presence in Iraq had set off a sharp rise in Islamist sentiment, which was creating difficulties for Syria's Christian minority.

"Christians in Syria aren't afraid of the government any longer," Mr. Saadi said. "They're afraid of their neighbors."

I've also heard first-hand reports that mosque attendance, in the face of wide-spread feelings of Arab "humiliation," is up significantly in parts of Syria.

Still, if policies are put in place that ease such democratization along, rather than brutishly force it down people's throats (risking nationalistic and/or Islamic backlashes in the process), it is possible to see (particularly in conjunction with an Arab-Israeli peace) the beginnings of a New Middle East ten or so years hence. Rosy Shimon Peres-like dreamy talk? Yes, to a fashion. But at least something is happening in the region to stir movement--and the catalyst is Iraq, of course. What Richard Haas has called America's "democracy exception" policy in the Middle East (where we seemed content to allow autocrats to stay in power in that region while fighting much harder for democratization in places like Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America during the Cold War), while not necessarily having come to an end--is certainly undergoing reappraisal forced on, not only by events in Iraq, but also by more modest policy initiatives stemming from the watered-down Broader Middle East/N. Africa Partnership. And, if we believe democratic reform, economic liberalization, and a solution to regional conflicts can bring about peace and prosperty in this so critical region--well, isn't it nice to see an Administration really grappling with these issues rather than just status quo'ing along? Of course, it's a matter of degrees. Iraq, for reasons I have extensively detailed, was a worthy candidate for regime change. Marching into Iran, say, or Syria--would be a massive blunder that would lead too many in the region to think we were simply looking to occupy the entire Middle Eastern land mass. But strongly encouraging reformist agendas, ones calibrated so as to avoid nationalistic and/or religious backlashes, in conjuction with progress in Iraq, economic liberalization, the Palestine issue--all could lead us to a happier place than where we sit today.

After all, isn't it a happy event that this man simply hasn't been arrested or worse?

Mr. Kirakos, the Armenian activist, has even begun a bid for Syria's presidency, an astoundingly brazen gesture in a country where the Assad family has ruled unchallenged for more than 30 years.

The Christian Mr. Kirakos's presidential run - which he announced in September on Elaph.com, a pro-democracy Web site - is illegal, as Syria's Constitution stipulates that the president must be a Muslim. But though he lost his engineering job as a result of his activism and his family has received uncomfortable phone calls from the secret police, Mr. Kirakos is unfazed.

"I carry a Syrian citizenship which is not equal to Ahmed's citizenship," he said, using the common Muslim name as shorthand for Syria's Sunni majority. "It is the Syrian Constitution that must change. We should be writing a constitution that guarantees equal rights for everyone.

Talk of equal citizenship and changing constitutions. This isn't Hafez al-Asad's Syria, is it?


Posted by Gregory at December 30, 2004 03:16 PM
Comments

Good for Mr. Kirakos..that Armenian blood is boiling!!

Posted by: frieda at December 30, 2004 04:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While I agree that there are encouraging signs here and there, I would check your assumption that all can be attributed to Iraq.

Luckily, I have some data.

This Freedom House report on Jordan is a year out of date, but it is instructive. Jordan is still working to get back to where it was in 1994! And after 9/11 and in the runup to the Iraq War, freedom took a nose dive..

Ten Year Ratings Timeline (Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status):

1994 - 4,4,PF

1995 - 4,4,PF

1996 - 4,4,PF

1997 - 4,4,PF

1998 - 4,5,PF

1999 - 4,4,PF

2000 - 4,4,PF

2001 - 5,5,PF

2002 - 6,5,PF

2003 - 5,5,PF

[2004 - 5,4,PF] (added from the 2005 report)

Posted by: praktike at December 30, 2004 04:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is an interesting post, Greg.

It is worth noting that some minorities, Armenians in particular, have done OK under various recent Islamic regimes, such as that in Iran.

Saddam also was fairly kind to Armenians. There is an often repeated (and true) story of a wind storm blowing the roof off a church in Baghdad and Saddam donating money to have it replaced.

I do believe that Armenians and some of the other minorities would thrive under truly democratic situations.

On the other hand, if there is a serious backlash to the democratization efforts - as there is evidence of even now - Armenians could experience tragedies reminiscent of 1915.

I hope Mr. Kirakos knows what he is doing. It would be terrible to have him targeted by radical Islamic groups.

Incidentally, it would be nice if Pres. Bush would use all his straight shootin' style to compell the Turks to finally fess up to the genocide and then to put an end to the border problems instituted by Turkey and their Azerbaijani brethern that keep the Armenian people of Haistan cold and hungry.


Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

avedis - "It is worth noting that some minorities, Armenians in particular, have done OK under various recent Islamic regimes, such as that in Iran"

Yes as second class citizens, "dhimmis", protected but not equal to Muslims, only so long as they submit to Shar'ia.

From Dhmmi.org

"In this study, I tried to analyze the numerous processes that had transformed rich, powerful Christian civilizations into Islamic lands, and their long-term effects, which had reduced native Christian majorities into scattered small religious minorities, on the way to total disappearance. This complex Islamization process affecting Christian lands and civilizations on both shores of the Mediterranean - and in Iraq and Armenia - I have called: the process of "dhimmitude"; and the civilization of those peoples who underwent such transformation, I have named the civilization of "dhimmitude". The indigenous native peoples were Jews and Christians (Orthodox, Catholics, or from other Eastern Christian Churches). They are all referred to by Muslim jurists as the "Peoples of the Book" - the Book being the Bible - and they were subjected to the same condition according to Islamic law. They are called by the Arabic term, dhimmis: "protected peoples", because Islamic law protects their life and goods on condition that they submit to Islamic rule. But it is this very Islamic law that generates the processes of dhimmitude and of self-destruction."

avedis cites "Saddam also was fairly kind to Armenians. There is an often repeated (and true) story of a wind storm blowing the roof off a church in Baghdad and Saddam donating money to have it replaced."

Yes, Saddam was “…fairly kind to Armenians”, he had their tongues ripped out, eyes gouged out and summarily executed them with less frequency than he did to other ethnic minorities. To sugar-coat the policies of a fascist mass-murderer, Saddam Hussein, is to become an apologist for fascism and mass murder.

Posted by: DaveK at December 30, 2004 05:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DaveK,
Yes as second class citizens and yes as subject to shar'ia, although to some extent being subject to shar'ia is not so different than being a foreign born US citizen subject to the Constitution. Shar'ia is, after all, the law in Islamic land, no?

As for being second class citizens, it beats being dead which was the choice the Armenians faced circa 1894 -1915.

Armenians being dead may become in vogue again due to the disruption of balance in the ME (I see that Greg's article contains a heart warming anecdote).

BTW, avedis is an Armenian name. I know a wee bit more about all this than you do DaveK.

As for Saddam pulling out Armenian tongues, etc. Do you have a cite for this? I hadn't heard of it. I guess relatives like to keep quiet about some sensitive issues, but I'm a little surprised by this.

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 08:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I believe democracy in Iraq must succeed," Vahan Kirakos, a Syrian of Armenian ethnicity, said recently. "Iraq is like the stone thrown into the pool."

Indeed he might be right about the analogy of the stone in the pool of water. Unfortunately, those ripples could be either positive or negative, or both. There is no doubt that there will be some form of blowback from Iraq. Hopefully, democracy and stability will prevail and can spread in some capacity. The alternative is catastrophic to consider. I believe this is what Fukuyama called staking foreign policy on the "roll of a die."

I wonder Greg, if there was not a way other than invading Iraq that could have shaken up the status quo? I wonder if 9/11 itself was not a catalyst for Muslim introspection, or an opportunity for addressing this region which has languished beyond the pale of our democratic instincts.

In either event, let's wish Mr. Kirakos well. That is a tough road to travel.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 30, 2004 09:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes as second class citizens and yes as subject to shar'ia, although to some extent being subject to shar'ia is not so different than being a foreign born US citizen subject to the Constitution.

I guess it is, except for the "human rights" stuff, like redress in courts and the second-class citizenship. Makes a guy wonder why those kaffirs in South Africa ever bitched, eh? It was just like living in the U.S., right?

Posted by: spongeworthy at December 30, 2004 09:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dear Avedis,
How can you compare Sharia to US Constitution? As an Armenian who has lived in Iran I must clarify some of your thinking. Yes, Armenians are not being tortured to death because we have learned to keep our heads low and stay out of politics.

We are less than second class citizens in Iran. Armenian schools are run by Mullahs now (it was not the case during shah's regime), Armenian language can not be instructed during normal school hours. All Christian’s business owners must have a sign displaying their Religion symbol to warn Muslims! According to Islam, a Christian is not considered “clean” and it is “Haram” to accept/buy food from them. Armenians can not hold government jobs at all, but then they have to serve in the army (mandatory!). In Court of law, 2 Armenian witnesses are equal to one Muslim witness...If a Muslim kills an Armenian, he can get away with minimum of charges, but if an Armenian kills a Muslim, it carries maximum punishment. I can go on……( I have not mentioned the Armenian women issues yet!) …. There was 200,000 Armenian living in Iran and we have less than 50,000. Why do you think that is the case? So please don’t ever compare the unique US Constitution to Sharia, it’s an insult.

Posted by: Frieda at December 30, 2004 10:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Frieda, I did not in any way mean to compare the virtue of the US Constitution to the virtue of Sharia.

I simply meant that each is the law of its respective land and, as such, it is normal and proper that a citizen of the land follow the law of that land.

Sometimes I write too fast and am not clear enough to make my point which is often a simple and minor one.

Obviously, the US Constitution is infinitely superior to Sharia. I see the US Constitution as one of the finest concepts conceived and implemented in the history of humanity- and the best in secular human history.

The Sharia I find to be oppressive and beneath humanity's potential.

That said, it is the law of Islam. Hopefully you can find a way to immigrate to the US because I don't see how the Sharia can be removed without much bloodshed; particularly the bloodshed of Christians in an Islamic Backlash. That was my point.

I despise the second class status of Armenians everywhere in the Islamic world. My blood boils when I think of that occurring in Turkey, in cities and towns that were the home of my family, like urfa and everek.

Again, we can decry the Sharia all we wish. However, that is the Islamic world. Some people, like the neocons think they can change the situation through force. Some people like bin Laden know that neocons think they can change the situation and will resist with force. Hence, we are at war.

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 11:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By the way Frieda = Fehdida?

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 11:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

So if the neocons had never hatched their evil scheme to invade Iraq, Osama Bin Laden would have retired or something? It seems to me that 9/11 happened before the Iraq invasion. Before Osama Bin Laden attacked no one talked about bringing democracy to the Middle East. Yes, I know, what about US imperialism over the years? Certainly the neocons can not soley be blamed for the last 50 years of US policy. Stop using the word "neocon". You have no idea what the word means. You're just showing your ignorancing and proving that all your arguments are made in bad faith (Example: See the previous thread "lazy... Prep school ass).

What exactly are you proposing for American foreign policy. Obviously encouraging democratization is out in your world. Realism in the Middle East is a failure. So what are you proposing? Surrender? Isolationism? What? You have nothing to contribute.

Posted by: Collin at December 31, 2004 03:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This statement "As for being second class citizens, it beats being dead which was the choice the Armenians faced circa 1894 -1915." is a jaw-dropper.

America exists today because some men chose liberty (and possible death) over repression. As for me and my family, I chose liberty - and death if I must - but I will never submit to being a second class citizen.

How much hope could the rest of the world have if Americans were no longer willing to die for freedom's sake? Someone has to hold the light of freedom so that men who live in darkness can see a way out.

Posted by: antimedia at December 31, 2004 04:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

“the neocons think they can change the situation through force”

I assume you don’t like neocons! Have you ever read or heard any of Mr. Wolfowitz’s interviews or writings? He has been very outspoken about ethnic minorities’ rights in Arab nations, more than any other politician. He has been talking about Kurds’ rights during 90’s when America was happy with it’s 90’s prosperity and sense of “fake” peaceful decade. About 6 million Kurds are calling America their true liberator. We should be proud of what we have done over there. It’s sad when I see the Middle Eastern immigrant population in America did not support the war. They enjoy their freedom and American system here but they don’t want the same for their brothers and sisters over there. How ironic!

The neoconservatives had long believed that American power need to be tied to American principles. What’s wrong with that? Would you rather see us propping up corrupt Middle Eastern rulers? As we have done for decades. The neoconservatives believe that America has a duty to spread its ideals and values of human rights around the world. It’s a noble idea, what is wrong with that? Even many Intellectual Muslims believe that Islam needs to go through renaissance to reflect today’s human right issues.

No neocon that I know has suggested forcing democracy to Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia. Democratization might produce instability in the short term, but in the long term it would produce a far more stable and trouble-free world. How can you disagree with that? Read any of the Iranian reformists’ weblog and you will see that even they welcome America’s moral support and that’s what neocons are talking about.

p.s/ what do you mean Frieda=Fahdida...my name is Frieda..it means peace in Latin

Posted by: frieda at December 31, 2004 05:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fehdida was my grandmother's name, but we called her Frieda to be more Americanized. Just curious.

The kurds can go to hell for all I care. They were terrorists then and then are terrorists today. I find it interesting that the war on terror is so selective as to what bombers and assassins are labled terrorists.

"We should be proud of what we have done over there." Why? There has been no conclusion. The situation could very well end up worse than before for the US and for others too. If the "effort" in Afghanistan is any predictor of what we will do in Iraq, then I'd say we're headed for failure.

"The neoconservatives had long believed that American power need to be tied to American principles. What’s wrong with that?"

Yes, Wolfowitz, the Straussian philosopher insider that believes it is acceptable to tell "noble lies" when governing people and who all but admitted that WMD as a reason for the Iraq invasion was one such lie. What does he know of democracy? His kind cannot be trusted.

Otherwise, of course, tie American power to American principles. It's about time that was done.

However, that is not all that the neocons stand for. They also advocate utilizing America's position as the self proclaimed sole super power to overthrow governments and establish military bases in Middle Eastern countries.

I say that this is a risky approach that is likely to backfire. I even question the premise of "sole super power". It seems like a delusion to me. We can't even control Iraq, let alone N. Korea - who we're scared to death of - or a dozen other countries.

Sole super power.....do what we say or else! Or else what? is the question that begs to be asked. N. Korea has asked and the world has paid attention. The answer, of course, is "nothing".

Sole super power military might is a fantasy of a wrong thinking cabal.

Neocons will disenfranchise allies and potential allies and cause them to ally together in oppositition to us. Game theory (and common sense) as well as current events show this to be self-evident.

"No neocon that I know has suggested forcing democracy to Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia."

"...they welcome America’s moral support and that’s what neocons are talking about."

Then you don't know your friends too well. Check out the Project for a New American Century and/or other neocon classics.

The neocons definitely advocate armed invasion and occupation of some of the countries you list. Thet also believe by pointing guns at some people and by simply liberating others, democracy will spread in the region. And through internal revolution (I guess) non-invaded countries will also switch to democracy.

It is a happy little story with little basis in history or regional politics. It is, as one neocon described, " a role of the dice".

As for what I think would be best; I think the Muslims need to stand up for themselves if they really do want freedom as defined by America. That's how we became free. It's how France began to throw off tyranny, England........

I don't see that happening. All the revolution I see in the Islamic lands is towards one or another form of Islamic theocracy.

And that's probably what will get in Iraq. A Shi'ite theocracy where the mullah may be elected and with Sharia in full force and probably with some strong Iranian influence.

So don't get too hung up on what the neocons are selling. Remember if it sounds to good to be true it probably is.

The Islamic world will accept democracy and freedom when its ready to, not when the neocons tell them it's time. The people of the Islamic world will have to make the first investment, perhaps with their own blood, just as freedom lovers everywhere democracy has flourished have done.

Posted by: avedis at December 31, 2004 07:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, the real problem avedis has with Wolfowitz is doubtless his religion (he's Jewish). The "Noble Lie" goes back to Plato describing what Patriotism and shared nationalism is. So yes, Wolfowitz certainly read the classics.

The Neocon argument is that America MUST in self-defense post 9/11 get involved in Middle East countries, using force where needed to remove hostile regimes. Pre-9/11 they had very little influence, Bush was more interested in Mexico and Vicente Fox than any other foreign country, post 9/11 their influence is large and they essentially framed the argument for intervening in Afghanistan and Iraq for better and worse. It's not that radical a step, FDR and the Four Freedoms posited essentially the same policy.

I'm not surprised at Avedis saying the Kurds can go to hell. Doubtless he approved of Saddam's genocide against them (they weren't Armenians, and were supported by America, so doubtless according to orthodoxy their lives didn't matter). Recent mass graves in Northern Iraq found mass graves of Kurds, mostly women and children, including the skeletons of a women and infant with matching bullet holes in their skulls, and a toddler clutching a ball.

This is the guy that Avedis is weeping over, Saddam who had infants and toddlers executed. Oh well Bush removed him so he must be a good guy, an innocent victim of American Imperialism. If he was bad Kofi would have made him go.(sarcasm).

I am UNRESERVEDLY proud that the US removed Saddam. Avedis is on the side of keeping him in power, so any moral arguments he makes are ludicrous. If you can't remove from power a guy like Saddam, who literally executes infants, then you have no moral basis for foreign policy and you're basically Henry Kissinger. How sad that the Left has basically become the realpolitik Kissinger-ites.

Islamic societies have a deep sickness, Sharia law is one of them. Stoning to death thirteen year old girls for being raped is wrong, on all levels, for a society, yet it's Sharia law and being done in Iran. Avedis's moral relativism won't allow him to condemn this (this is why the Left is like Kissinger ... never met a dictator who kept deathly order they didn't like).

ONLY American force can remove broken, sick regimes like Saddam's, Iran's, etc. [Whether it would be wise to do so is another question, I have issues over the wisdom of picking Saddam vs. Iran but that's another story]. No Arab country has EVER overthrown a brutal dictator. When the Muslim Brotherhood challenged Hafez Assad in the 80's ... he simply surrounded the city and shelled it into oblivion, killing about 50 thousand. The world ... didn't even react.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at December 31, 2004 08:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

You write: “The Kurds can go to hell for all I care. They were terrorists then and then are terrorists today”

If this is your logic then Armenians were terrorists too then and even recently in Neghorno-Kharbagh? I guess your forgot the Armenian group called ASALA in 70’s……..So any ethnic minority that rise up to demand an independence, is terrorist?? If any ethnic minority deserves independence it’s the Kurds. They are the largest ethnic group in the world with no nation. Probably numbering 25 to 30 million living in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran and about 800,000 in Europe.

So by saying they can go to hell, you are basically have the same mentality that Saddam had! Interesting.

You also write: “The people of the Islamic world will have to make the first investment, perhaps with their own blood, just as freedom lovers everywhere democracy has flourished have done”

Well, I don’t know any revolution in the world that just happened because people wanted to…. Go back and read Bolsheviks’ revolution in Russian and who financed it and how it started. Every revolution needs an outside help!

You write: “All the revolution I see in the Islamic lands is towards one or another form of Islamic theocracy”

Well, in regards to Iran…’79 revolution started with Communist student movement (I was there) and it was the Carter administration who pushed Khomeni movement forward. They thought Khomenin was a “Gandhi like” figure. They allowed Khomeni a platform in Paris and gave him a voice which he did not have before. I believe that Carter thought a religious figure would be better then a communist head. And the rest is history.


Posted by: frieda at December 31, 2004 04:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"....If this is your logic then Armenians were terrorists too then and even recently in Neghorno-Kharbagh? I guess your forgot the Armenian group called ASALA in 70’s……..So any ethnic minority that rise up to demand an independence, is terrorist?? If any ethnic minority deserves independence it’s the Kurds. They are the largest ethnic group in the world with no nation. Probably numbering 25 to 30 million living in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran and about 800,000 in Europe."

Ah, at least one person on this site is capable of proposing at least a reasonable discussion; figures that it would be an Armenian. one out of two - excluding myself - is not too bad.

Look Frieda, it is Bush and his neocon cadre that are waging a "war on terrorism". And I'm just saying that if you're going to stomp around the globe threatening friend and foe alike and proclaiming your moral superiority, then you'd best be prepared to stick to your guns.

Various Kurdish organizations are active terrorists. The Kurdish people and the Kurdish nation have supported and harbored terrorism for many years.

Now Bush and Wolfowitz and the gang want to make the US look like hypocrits by fauning over terrorist Kurds.

This is not a good image to project to the world because the ME will see the whole neocon ME policy as cynical US colonialism without moral force, per usual.

What I personally think about who's a terrorist and who isn't is irrelevant. I will say that I think the war on terrorism is, at best, a silly slogan that never should have been adopted.

Certainly, terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I understand that. Bush does not. That guy just has a knack for making the US look bad. Selectively rewarding some terrorists and punishing others does not engender faith in the US' motives or goals.

As for Karabaghk, Armenians did not attack civilians, did not bomb public transport like the Kurds do in Turkey. Again the point is US consistency and integrity anyhow.

As for Iran, I am not so sure about your version of behind the scenes history. It doesn't matter. Perhaps what your own words describe is an Islamic world that would be better off with more self-determination and less US interference.

Posted by: avedis at December 31, 2004 05:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And there it is, Avedis, you coward. Your truth, as I knew you saw it.

"As for being second class citizens, it beats being dead"

Being dead is not worse than being a second class citizen. But it takes a person of principle - a poet, a soldier, a teacher, a priest or someone similar to know the truth. If only the political left still felt this way.

I'm sad for you, I really am.

Posted by: Art Wellesley at December 31, 2004 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Art, read my last.

I absolutely advocate the peoples of oppressed countries standing up for themselves. I just haven't seen the people do that yet. Or in circumstances when they have the results have been contrary to what the US woulf prefer.

I don't believe that those people are like children who need to be rescued by the US, as you do. I believe that they have within themselves the power to forge their own destinies.

As for the quote that you think is evidence of my cowardice, I meant that current situations are the result of a historic choice, for Armenians, of being dead or being a second class citizen.

Of course for intellectual slackers and moral cowards such as yourself, it is much easier to shout down the messenger and distort the message than it is to take the time to learn and to self-examine so that situations can be objectively assessed. So much easier to join in with the angry mob. I suppose that you get a rush out of being associated with a country that is rolling its war machine and killing and crushing, etc.

Have you ever killed an enemy combatant - a man, tough guy? Ever put your life on the line? Ever lived in close proximity to death due to a cause inwhich you believe?

Posted by: avedis at December 31, 2004 06:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shorter Avedis:

"no I'm not - you are" with added non-sequitor.

Quite the skill set, Doctor.

Posted by: Colin at December 31, 2004 08:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Art wrote:
And there it is, Avedis, you coward. Your truth, as I knew you saw it.

"As for being second class citizens, it beats being dead"

Being dead is not worse than being a second class citizen. But it takes a person of principle - a poet, a soldier, a teacher, a priest or someone similar to know the truth. If only the political left still felt this way.

I'm sad for you, I really am.

I don't agree with everything Avedis has said in this thread, but it's a little presumptuous for you (facing a computer screen) to lecture people in Iraq about preferring "second-class citizenship" to gruesome death.

Posted by: Guy at December 31, 2004 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't agree with avedis on everything, but choosing being a second class citizen to certain death is not an ignoble stance. However, his point defeats his argument. That is the question all Iraqi's faced and many others in the ME face. Certain death should they try and stand up. When a regime is as ruthless as Saddam's outside help of one type or another is crucial. That doesn't mean Bush has made the right choice, but claiming what you are claiming avedis is naive and your own rhetoric shows why.

As for your slams on the neo-cons. Disagree with them all you want, but you are misrepresenting their views, not to mention they are hardly of one mind, much less a cabal. Michael Ledeen for example opposed the Iraq war and opposes any invasion of Iran. He supports helping the internal democratization movements. Hardly the caricature you have described. Does that mean you have to agree that it will help? No. But there is no reason to misrepresent them. Wolfowitz may be wrongheaded, but you are misrepresenting him also.

As for the Kurds, terrorists some may have been, but it hardly means the population as a whole deserve your contempt. Their freedom is a good thing if they can keep it and reduces the influence of their more extreme elements. At least the Kurds kept their terrorism aimed at the oppressors for the most part. Unfortunately Bin Laden, Hezbollah, Hamas and the like have made it a wider war. Bad for us, hopefully it will be good for the peoples of the area. Unfortunately that is still open to question.

Posted by: Lance at December 31, 2004 11:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Kurds can go to hell for all I care. They were terrorists then and then are terrorists today."

You're so tolerant and superior to us.

The Kurds are somewhat pro-American. They've been tread upon by their neighbors. And yet during the period between the two US-Iraq wars, they managed to establish a well working democracy, which they hope to maintain within a unified Iraq.

Like any people, they've got their own bad apples, especially with regards to their conflicts with Turkey.

It's a pity for you that Hussein is no longer able to give them them that gift.

Posted by: Cutlerj at January 1, 2005 02:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Guy? A question.

Why would you fall for your own set-up. Aren't you assuming that Art is not a policeman or firefighter or sailor or some such?

Wouldn't that constitute 'irony'?

Posted by: TommyG at January 1, 2005 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Worse is the implication that because I'm not an infantryman - I need to just shut up and cook the meals.

FY , Guy - and the Avedis you rode in on - you couple of BS Fascists.

Posted by: Camilla J at January 1, 2005 05:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would suggest that avedis' view of the Kurds is colored by their role in the Armenian genocide.

Moving on.

Greg, since you're intersted in changes in Syria, you might want to check out Josh Landis' blog. He's a professor and a Syria-watcher who is now in Damascus and will be blogging from there when he can.

Posted by: praktike at January 1, 2005 09:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I see avedis saying that the US is picking and choosing which terrorsts will be labled terrorists and which will be labled freedom fighters. Avedis is correct that the Kurdish PPK group is a terrorsit group in the mode of Hizbollah and that the Kurdish nation has funded and otherwise supported the PPK.

The US has also sided with some other unsavory characters in the various 'stans in our efforts to fight terrorist threats.

I believe that avedis is concerned that the US will be perceived as exporting something other than democracy and equal treatment under the law.

Our war against the likes of Bin Laden is as much about ideas and ideals as it is military operations.

America must be perceived as being legitimate and consistent. Arguably, the US has continued with old school realpolitik; an approach that many experts think is partially responsible for the willingness of Islam to join into groups like al qaeda.

His putting forth the notion that second class citizenship is preferable to death lacks appeal to Americans who have always enjoyed freedom and civil rights. However, in the part of the world where freedom and civil rights are barely known - if known at all - the contention is based in certain realities.

Is it America's responsibility to free the people of the world? This is a debate as old as the United States. Men more knowledgable than you or I have to come to radically different conclusions to that question. More often than not the answer is "no", both for philosophical reasons and practical reasons.

Practicality of toppling governments and thrusting democracy upon populations is a consideration that requires considerable discussion. For Mr. Kirakos it is central. If the US fails for any reason - and there are many reasons that it might - in its mission to deliver democracy to the region, Mr. Kirakos' life may be forfit.

If the US fails it is conceiveable that Mr. Kirakos himself would agrue that second class citizenship is preferable.

Avedis also proposed that the US should not assist in democracy promotion until the people of a country have demonstrated a will to attain it, a thirst for it. I see merit to that approach.

Niether you nor I nor the White House currently knows what it is that the people of the middle east want for a form of governance. They may well prefer the sharia to the bill of rights.

I think the neoconservative movement is too quick to take for granted the basic assumption that all people everywhere will sieze the opportunity to develop democracy as we know it if given a chance. There have been many examples in recent history where people have choosen something else when given a chance. Democracy and free markets have not worked out so well even in secular environments like Russia.

I hope the neoconservatives advising the White House are correct. There is ample reason to reserve judgement until the project is finished. Hopefully, at worse, we will not have done more harm than good.

P.S. why is it impossible to question the neoconservative movement without having someone, usually a conservative, accuse the questioner of being anti-semitic?

I have read this entire thread. I have also read some of the threads to other posts here. I haven't seen avedis say anything anti-semitic. He has questioned the policies of Isreal and he has questioned the neoconservatives.

For this there are those quick to hurl accusations of anti-semitism and even of nazism. WTF? Must conservatives resort to the same kind of obfuscation through PC that the far left employs?

Posted by: observer at January 1, 2005 11:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Guy? A question.

Why would you fall for your own set-up. Aren't you assuming that Art is not a policeman or firefighter or sailor or some such?

Wouldn't that constitute 'irony'?

We all know how horrible Saddam's regime was -- a place where people suffered torture and death for doing a lot less than complaining about their second-class citizenship. I'm willing to guess that Art, regardless of his profession, hasn't faced that kind of choice on a regular basis.

But even if he has experienced such a choice, he has no moral right to criticize those who faced those kinds of choices under the Iraqi regime. I don't think choosing second-class citizenship over being bathed in acid makes someone a lesser human being.

Posted by: Guy at January 2, 2005 12:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shorter Guy:

X, not Y.
but even if Y, X.

Posted by: Observer at January 2, 2005 02:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Something to interject:

While not all neocons favor militarily imposed democracy in every Middle East nation (Ledeen, Fukuyama, Kagan) others have advocated a rolling list of invasion targets that include Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and possibly others. For example, William Kristol, in several columns, has advocated going into Syria and/or Iran, and Perle and Frum in their book An End To Evil, advocated the full docket of invasions.

Therefore it is wrong to say, as Frieda did above, that no neocons are in favor of imposing democracy through invasion. While neoconservativism is not monolithic (as exemplified by Fukuyama's recent eloquent dissents), there certainly are factions that propose extreme solutions.

It is also no secret that the neconservative movement has closely hewn to the policies of Likud in Israel. Even fellow neocon Francis Fukuyama has pointed this out:

"There have been such threats in the past: the Soviet Union could have annihilated us physically and conceivably could have subverted democracy in North America. But it is questionable whether any such existential threats exist now. Iraq before the U.S. invasion was certainly not one: It posed an existential threat to Kuwait, Iran and Israel, but it had no means of threatening the continuity of our regime. Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups aspire to be existential threats to American civilization but do not currently have anything like the capacity to actualize their vision: They are extremely dangerous totalitarians, but pose threats primarily to regimes in the Middle East....

Does the fact that an "enemy" poses a mortal threat to another free country but not to us qualify it as our "enemy?" Is Hamas, an Islamist group which clearly poses an existential threat to Israel, our enemy as well? Is Syria? And if these are our enemies, why should we choose to fight them in preference to threats to free countries closer to home like the FARC or ELN, which threaten democracy in Colombia, or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? What makes something "central" in this global war? Was Iraq central to the war against radical Islamism?...

Krauthammer has thought long and hard about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and his views on how the Israelis need to deal with the Palestinians colors his views on how the United States should deal with the Arabs more broadly. Krauthammer has not supported strongly engaging the Arab world through political strategies. In the past, he has put forward a particular view of Arab psychology, namely, that they respect power above all as a source of legitimacy. As he once said in a radio interview, if you want to win their hearts and minds, you have grab a lower part of their anatomy and squeeze hard.

Towards the end of his AEI speech, Krauthammer speaks of the United States as being in the midst of a bitter and remorseless war with an implacable enemy that is out to destroy Western civilization. This kind of language is appropriate as a description of Israel's strategic situation since the outbreak of the second intifada. The question is whether this accurately describes the position of the United States as well. Are we like Israel, locked in a remorseless struggle with a large part of the Arab and Muslim world, with few avenues open to us for dealing with them other than an iron fist? And in general, does a strategic doctrine developed by a small, vulnerable country surrounded by implacable enemies make sense when applied to the situation of the world's sole superpower, a country that spends as much on defense as the next 16 most powerful countries put together? I believe that there are real problems in transposing one situation to the other. While Israel's most immediate Arab interlocutors are indeed implacable enemies, the United States faces a much more complex situation. In Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, we do in fact confront an enemy that hates us for what we are rather than for what we do. For the reasons given above, I do not believe they are an existential threat to us, but they certainly would like to be, and it is hard to see how we can deal with them other than by killing, capturing or otherwise militarily neutralizing them."


Fukuyama is not an anti-semite for saying this, and no, I am not anti-semitic for pointing that out.

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2004/08/neo-neo-conservativism.html

Posted by: Eric Martin at January 3, 2005 07:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric, nicely put.

As to the neocons not be monolithic, you are, of course, correct. The primary difference between them seems to be the extent to which US military might should be utilized in the ME and other regions.

You named some representatives of the different neocon factions. I would point out that the faction advocating maximum use of US military might is the faction that is currently in cabinet positions in the Bush admin. or at least closely associated with neocon comrades in cabinet positions.

These men (mostly) have not been shy about what policy they advocate. They have publicly displayed their positions. Their desire to use military force to accomplish their goals is unambiguous. No doubt some of their wilder aspirations have remained secret, but was has been readily available is radical enough.

The party line as to motivation for said policy circles around spreading freedom and democracy and instilling a lasting Pax Americana (their term, not mine). Other motivations are easy to infer from neocon strategic maps and similar smoking guns.

In addition, many of these men have clear ties to the Isreali Defense Ministry. Clear ties, not inferred.

Mny of these same men have proposed a perpetual defense of Isreal by the US regardless of circumstances.

Facts.

Hurling slurs at the messenger won't change the facts.

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