The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Steve Coll Parachutes Into Syria (ok, DC), But Misses the Beltway!

Steve Coll has a disappointing piece in the New Yorker here. I did a paper for New America/Century Foundation and was pleased in general by them, but this effort typifies the dangerous (limousine) liberal interventionist case that needs to be sidelined before they get the US and the people of the region into a level of violence which the US is unprepared to actually meet, which won’t affect the writers and editors in NY/DC, which will likely cause a lot of deaths for the natives … and which actually has BETTER alternatives (more on this in the next day or two!).

He writes: “A Syrian spring that rewarded its hopeful citizens would signal a major change. The country, though not as influential as Egypt, has modernized in certain respects; it has a sophisticated middle class. Moreover, because of its geographic centrality, Syria has been a fulcrum of regional politics, and it is pivotal to the futures of Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinians.”

— Coll amazingly leaves out the significance of syria’s role at the center of the ongoing hot and cold war between the Resistance Axis and the status quo axis. Without an understanding of this framework, one cannot appreciate the dangers, nor can one properly and objectively evaluate the likelihood and degree of actual meddling going on by an array of interested actors…. So right away we know that Coll does not have a particularly deep or nuanced understanding of the strategic power dynamics and risks.

He adds “American policy toward Syria presents mainly a record of failure. One strain of that policy has sought unsuccessfully, through diplomatic engagement, to coax Assad to instigate internal reforms; weaken Syria’s alliances with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas; and broker a peace with Israel. As recently as 2008, Assad told an American diplomat that he was “a few words away” from an agreement with Israel. He never delivered.

— This is of course the old canard – assad did not deliver…. is Coll completely unaware of the March 2000 collapse? The reasons why the 2008 talks collapsed…. sadly, he does not even give the (incorrect) argument/cliché that Assads simply cannot deliver peace because they are allawite! So his claim stands even without the talking point which he subconsciously is relying on… not very good rhetoric!

— But then again this makes since – he is not trained in the middle east it seems, and certainly not at all in the languages – at least it seems from his bio. He has written books on AT&T.. and bin ladin…. but the levant? How does he get away with writing this for the New Yorker…. well ok, it always happens i guess.

He adds: “For half a century, the region has made outside idealists look like fools, turned realists into complicit cynics, and consigned local heroes—Yitzhak Rabin, Anwar Sadat—to martyrdom.”
–Coll, Sadat was a US and Israeli hero right or wrong… but he is and was not a LOCAL HERO…. he was a ruthless dictator who tortured his own people, encouraged and used a brutal form of Islamism and which helped pave the way for … MOUBARAK… and Bin Ladin in fact (man he should know this from the book he did!) Where does he get these “facts.” Are they just blind assumptions for the natives from dc/ny?
He writes: “In the Arab world, the reaction to the President’s words was mostly tepid.”
— Huh? Which arabic articles is he referring to? I have a piece in Bloomberg today that actually quotes people saying quite the reverse…. who exactly and how extensive was the tepid reaction…. again, where did he pull this talking point? Why no fact checking at Nyorker?
HE CONTINUES: “The Obama Administration should press hard, by the same mechanisms, to hold Syria’s regime accountable. Syria’s future is pivotal to the future of the region, and the country requires credible leadership. The time for hopeful bargaining with Assad has passed”
— Well that is his flourish – his “kicker”…. No discussion about the costs to the natives for the strategy or that maybe one should at least look for alternatives….
Again – how can one take pieces like this seriously when they seem so disconnected even from the clichéd talking points circulating within the beltway!

Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Posted in ANALYSIS


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