Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’


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139685_600 Steve Bell cartoon 5.11.2013

Syria-news 9-3-13-2

Clearly, many more Americans have begun to follow closely the war in Syria (thereby giving lie to the idea that Americans just don’t care)—and most Americans are opposed to U.S. airstrikes there (which, at leaset thus far, actually seems to be having an effect on their congressional representatives).

The problem is, Americans are being presented with a false choice—not unlike the false choice I suggested was being presented in Egypt.

Slavoj Žižek [ht: ja] is one of the few commentators I’ve read who seem to understand this.

there are no clear political stakes, no signs of a broad emancipatory-democratic coalition, just a complex network of religious and ethnic alliances overdetermined by the influence of superpowers (US and western Europe on the one side, Russia and China on the other). In such conditions, any direct military intervention means political madness with incalculable risks – say, what if radical Islamists take over after Assad’s fall? So will the US repeat their Afghanistan mistake of arming the future al-Qaida and Taliban cadres?

In such a messy situation, military intervention can only be justified by a short-term self-destructive opportunism. The moral outrage evoked to provide a rational cover for the compulsion-to-intervene (“We cannot allow the use of poisonous gas on civil population!”) is fake. Faced with a weird ethics that justifies taking the side of one fundamentalist-criminal group against another, one cannot but sympathise with Ron Paul’s reaction to John McCain’s advocacy of strong intervention: “With politicians like these, who needs terrorists?”

The situation in Syria should be compared with the one in Egypt. Now that the Egyptian army has decided to break the stalemate and cleanse the public space of the Islamist protesters, and the result is hundreds, maybe thousands, of dead, one should take a step back and focus on the absent third party in the ongoing conflict: where are the agents of the Tahrir Square protests from two years ago? Is their role now not weirdly similar to the role of Muslim Brotherhood back then – that of the surprised impassive observers? With the military coup in Egypt, it seems as if the circle has somehow closed: the protesters who toppled Mubarak, demanding democracy, passively supported a military coup d’etat which abolished democracy … what is going on?

The millions of “impassive observers” in the case of Syria, about whom we should be concerned, are now being displaced and are being forced into the burgeoning refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Those are the places where a humanitarian intervention might actually be useful.


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Martin Rowson 20.08.13 136071_600