Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ha'aretz Tails After Barak

Ha’aretz Has A Big Front Page Scoop

The message in the front page headline, spread over six of the eight columns in today’s English edition of Ha’aretz (December 21, 2011) is clear and unequivocal . The headline states: ”Assad losing control as 10,000 soldiers desert Syrian military.” Here is the full text of the article, for your info.

However, there is a slight journalistic complication. No recognizable or identifiable source is given for the information. The only sources cited for these dramatic developments are simply “sources” or “Western intelligence agencies.” Moreover, Ha’aretz seems to be the only one out there with this tremendous scoop. The 10,000 deserters did not make it into the NYT today, which carried a routine balanced report on the daily casualties and on the preparations of the Arab League delegation to Syria.

Maybe the real clue to the Ha’aretz scoop is based on a statement by Defense Minister Barak a month ago (and cited in the very article) that Assad will fall in a few weeks. Now, it seems that the two Ha’aretz journalists, Issacharoff and Harel are playing that old Shin Bet game. They are converting their “personal” connections with Barak into a nice bit of journalistic hearsay. You see, no one can prove that they are wrong.

Ha’aretz, true enough is not the only media channel revealing a bit of hysteria these days. The “danger” of negotiations is looming and there are indications of attempts at a negotiated settlement. Such a negotiated settlement may be the only way to prevent a protracted civil war in Syria, which might easily mushroom into a regional conflagration. Now if you are against negotiations, the best argument against them, and you can hear it in the most recent Israeli commentary, is quite clear and simple. Asad is falling. He is dead. Why would anyone in his right mind want to negotiate with him?

Barak “knows” that Asad is going to fall any day. Barak’s buddies over at Ha’aretz send up this balloon. And this is Israel’s leading newspaper. Leading to where and to what?

All the above applies as well to the Hebrew edition of the paper, with one single difference. The banner heralding the scoop in the Hebrew paper was a bit longer.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ME Perspectives

The ME does not seem to be quieting down. Neither now or in the near future.

Instability is the rule and not the exception all over the area. Change is on the agenda.

The change is not uni-directional and the level of violence is different from country to country. Any country by country summary of major events in the region verifies the clear conclusion that the scope and the depth of tensions and instability on a regional level is unique in every sense.

The fact that there are salient differences in trends and directions from country to country has allowed the so-called experts to come up with the brilliant assertion that things are different from country to country and one should avoid generalizations. This generalization about the danger of generalization is about the most superficial stupidity that the establishment punditry has to offer. Differences, even important ones exist.

Even so, can one ignore the pressing probability that there must be some common forces at work, that there must be some under the surface dynamic that is the key to understanding the discrete events.

First Summary

The following ME survey should get us on the way to some sort of over arching analysis, or at the least, the tools required for this purpose.

Egypt and Tunis

We have here two unfinished revolutions. The US and its European allies, for short “the West” have lost their “safe” regimes. At this point they are doing everything to contain the damage. The hatred for the former rulers keeps the revolution going but the stalled pace is being utilized by the West to develop a new set of alternative forces and bridges to the mainstream alternatives. The main search is for a “moderate Islamic” electoral winner. But even formally free elections can push the scene anywhere. The West is in no hurry. The signs of growing economic difficulties may push the electorate to the right if there is no credible nationalist or left alternative.

Libya and Syria appear to be two successes for the “West.” Libya is real gain. The military defeat of Gadaffi shows that intervention, if organized and staged properly, is still an effective weapon. As the West prepares to assume control, everybody can formulate their own conclusions from the almost hysterical debates that beset the left. I doubt if there are anyone on the left who still believes that the intervention was an act of moral justice to prevent the annihilation of the Libyan masses by the regime. It is absolutely tiresome to have to reconvince people on the left that you cannot judge the forces at work from reports of the danger of a single specific pending atrocity. Even if the reports on the impending danger were totally accurate, that danger was, for the West, no more than a flimsy excuse to show some muscle. Many thousands of Libyans are dead. Few, if any white Europeans were discomforted. It is clear that there were enough Libyan people on either side to justify the view that this was a civil war. The war was not about any pending atrocity that had to be prevented but about control of Libyan territory, Libyan oil and the possibility of enthroning a much more compliant regime.

I definitely understand and support the basic position of Castro and Chavez, which is that whatever the specific crisis in any one country, the left should maintain a firm and unyielding position against outside military intervention. Even when the crisis is a result of internal strife and there are masses facing the military dictatorship, it is the duty of the left to distinguish between justifiable condemnation of the use of force by the regime and the possibility of an outcome which is as bad if not worse than the present situation. Dictators will invariably use naked force to stay in power. The masses have an inherent right to rebel. But this does not relieve us from the hard questions. What forces are leading the opposition? What are their programs and international connections. Are there ways to avoid an all out civil war? The Western media would have us freeze our analysis to the original scenes and prepare us for the victory of their scenario. Even when, as in the present situation, it is our duty, especially ours, to condemn the brutality of the Assad regime, there is no reason to desist from an analysis of events to refrain from pursuing an outcome that could lead to more positive and progressive outcomes. We cannot exclude the possibilities that events in Syria have transformed into elements of civil war. And we cannot be blind to the powerful simplistic message in the daily media to the effect that only NATO has the answer to ending the crisis. Is it not clear that this message confirms our worst apprehension that NATO might be trying to influence events in Syria in directions that will increase its chances for intervention?

There of course people in the left who wish to seize on any deviation from the simplistic message – overthrowing Assad as the main and only goal of the Syrian struggle - as an act of complicity with the dictatorship. In the eyes of the “liberal left” any hesitation about supporting any and all opposition forces in Syria exposes the hesitators to the charge of refusing to abandon their previous positive evaluation of Syria’s regional role. However, the anti-Assad demand that refuses to discriminate between forces and trends in the opposition is precisely the NATO position. Nothing is clearer than the fact that NATO is desperately searching for any bloc of internal forces which could sponsor their intervention.