Syrian novelist bares revolution’s inner struggles

Syrian novelist Samar Yazbek examines the moral ambiguities of her country’s rebellion, in a Washington Post guest-op, “The novelist vs. the revolutionary: My own Syrian debate”:

Samar Yazbek

Samar Yazbek

The revolutionary, who has met with leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and other influential jihadist battalions, is gripped by fear at what they represent. But she believes that Assad has encouraged them, knowing that an unsavory alternative to his regime makes the international community hesitant to intervene.

* * *

The novelist regrets that the opposition movement has evolved from its peaceful origin. She refuses to condone, let alone applaud, armed uprisings. “Isn’t political opposition the better alternative?” she meekly suggests.

* * *

These two women crash about beneath my skin, colliding at every twist and turn of this unfinished narrative. But there’s one thing they agree on: Anything that might bring a definitive end to the murderous Assad and his regime is a force for good. The question is: Does the world really want to stop these atrocities, or is it happy to stand by and watch?

Syriously? Another War?!

No matter how narrowly you try to define it, lobbing missiles into another country is an act of war. The term was carefully avoided in the US Senate foreign relations committee today. The unquestioned assumption seemed to be that the US military can act with impunity and no repercussions. Secretary of State Kerry, however, made a scarey slip when asked if the Authority to Use Military Force resolution could be narrowed to exclude authority to “put US boots on the ground.” Kerry painted a scenario in which US troops might need to be called in to protect the Syrian chemical arsenal from falling into the wrong hands if the Assad regime fell.

A part of me wants to believe that President Obama is using the time and cover of the workup to a congressional decision on attacking Syria to direct some serious behind-the-scenes diplomacy to avoid the need. I’d hoped we’d gotten beyond the old “my rocket’s bigger than yours” approach to foreign policy with this president.

The cynical part of me fears that our national testosterone overload has the president drawing a bloody line in the shifting Middle Eastern sand that he feels he must defend even though the sands have obscured his vision of the line and its purpose. When it comes to retribution, we’re dealing with people who have blood-feuds running through their veins.

French spies report that the Syrian regime has hundreds of tons of sarin, mustard and VX gases in its sophisticated chemical weapons arsenal. If Bashar al-Assad has actually ordered the gassing of his people, offer him some simple choices—amnesty from a trial at the Hague in exchange for stepping down; otherwise he’s overthrown and/or assassinated. He’s got to see where this is headed, but maybe he can’t.


…hurling US into the Abyss

What can we do to halt our government’s hurling us deeper into the Middle East quagmire—a tar pit of ancient blood spilled in unfathomable rivalries? The Brits, who were largely responsible for throwing rival tribes together into make-believe nations as their own empire was vanishing, have the good sense to stay out of this particularly nasty dust-up. A US military attack on Syria is folly.

English: Dust storm in the Middle East

Dust storm in the Middle East (Wikipedia photo)

   I listened to both the Secretary of State and the President lay out their case, and found it wanting. Kerry’s evidence was circumstantial; I doubt it would stand up in any court—in spite of his repeated assertions that “we know.”
    I’ve sent a couple emails to the White House today and signed a couple petitions urging no acts of war against Syria. The government should make its case before Congress and the court of world opinion, finger the perpetrators, bring them to justice with precise, police action. If the president must exercise his machismo, challenge Assad to hand-to-hand combat, a duel, whatever. Just don’t drag the rest of us into another senseless war in a country we don’t understand.

White House comment line: 202-456-1111 or to send an email:

A couple petitions:

To the president:

To Congress: