Foreign Affairs

However painful it might be, we should oppose Imperial Order regardless of what Syrians think

Whenever pro-intervention liberals excoriate me for ignoring what Syrians ask, as long as it furthers my political goals, I say they’re absolutely right. In a certain sense, I am less sympathetic to the Syrian population – especially when it’s the orientalist kind of sympathy – than I am ideologically motivated against USA and the NATO.

And why should it be otherwise? Aren’t we struggling against the Industrial-Military complex, against the politics of drones, against a pseudo-feminist Kissinger like Hillary Clinton? This must be first of all ourstruggle, our own interest, regardless of what other communities think or say. Whatever ‘call for justice’ invokes the trigger-happy arm of the State, the supersonic precision bombers of the Empire, the death penalty for the offender, we should reject it without any bogus sense of guilt.

Given that in this particular struggle none of the forces seems to be inspired by Socialist, Marxist or Internationalist principles, I’d rather support direct action of ideological-missionary guerrillas in the style of Che Guevara – who risked, miscalculated, and perished, but in first person – or even an Underground Railway for mass desertion of Syrians, than pastoral letters of good-will.

Most of the anti-war commentaries I’ve read recently, sound rather patronising towards the Syrian people. Basically, they boil down to: “Dear Syrian friends, Let me tell you what is wrong with the the US intervention. This war is wrong because it is against your interests. Let me tell you what is right: we are right, because we’re opposing it for your own good.”

It sounds like quite a phony statement to me. Is it compassion? Or is it a hypocrite, Western-centered vision of the world?

Does anti-imperialism really mean telling Syrians – or anyone else – how they should fight your war and what sort of response they should desire?

Probably, trying to convince the Syrian people that this war wouldn’t be a blow to economic oppression, censorship, militarism or authoritarianism is a useful effort.  Some of them might object saying they wouldn’t be able to get rid of their dictator without an imperial intervention: and they’re right. And they are right, of course, when they depict Assad as an enemy of unspeakable evil.

Do the governments planning this war, the US, the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, countries who watched Saddam gassing his people and did nothing, Israel using white phosphorus and did nothing – represent something significantly different, in terms of moral responsibility? This question shouldn’t be asked to Syrians. They already know the answer. If the oppressed calls for the Sheriff to restore social order it’s not because they believe in the moral authority of the Sheriff, but because the only social order, the only language they know is the one of the Sheriff.

We should try to speak a completely different language, even daring to brush against the borders of autism. We shouldn’t insist on telling others what is good or wrong for them, rather than defining our moral and political priorities. It is our moral and political priority, not that of the Syrians, to stop the climate of fear at home; it is our moral and political priority, not that of the Syrians, to put a dent to the astronomical military budget, and to protest aggressive actions abroad and more repressive actions in our society.

Trying to change someone’s mind through benevolent persuasion, adapting the desires of others to our own idea of justice and, what is worse, without a practical example, without having well defined in our minds the danger of fascism in its essential elements, this has nothing to do with Internationalism: it’s a supremely parochial practice.

New York, September 4th, 2013.

(co-edited with Federico Campagna)


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