March 15, 2004

Middle East Street

The coverage in the mainstream US press is pretty silent on this, but it's worth noting that Ba'athists and Kurds are clashing in northern Syria. More at the Free Arab Forum, via InstaPundit. Syrian forces have reportedly killed 250 people after a "football riot" turned into more than just that.

Also, a mini-rebellion has broken out in Fereydoon-Kenur, Norther Iran. The winning candidate from the recent elections (who won only after the Mullah's disqualified three ballot boxes) has resigned for fear of his life.

Whether these are encouraging events depend on whether you believe in the neo-conservative domino theory or are worried more about stability in the region. Regardless, I do wish they were given more coverage by the mainstream media. I suppose though that it is hard to get access to the facts in the kinds of regimes that we're talking about.

It is interesting to me that the unrest that has spread to other countries in the Middle East is from pro-democracy groups revolting against autocratic regimes, and not anti-American mobs as was predicted by anti-war groups prior to the war in Iraq.

I hope the people in both countries can achieve their objectives and shake up their oppressive regimes without too much bloodshed.

Update: More on the situation in Syria at Haaretz, including the report that a US team, including intelligence officers, have flown in to northern Syria from Iraq to help relieve tensions between the Syrians and local Kurdish leaders. President Bashar Assad sent his brother and Defense Minister to negotiate.

Posted by richard at March 15, 2004 04:41 PM

One of your most demagogic posts yet:

"It is interesting to me that the unrest that has spread to other countries in the Middle East is from pro-democracy groups revolting against autocratic regimes, and not anti-American mobs as was predicted by anti-war groups prior to the war in Iraq."

Bullshit. This Irnaian unrest spread from the Iraq war?!?! This has been brewing for years and is a direct response to the hardliners crackdown on liberal reformers, who have been taking on the clerics since long before the Iraq war. nice try.

Syria's a real threat, I think. More of a danger to the US and Israel than Iraq ever was, in my opinion. Great to see the Kurds taking it to them. No one ever predicted, however, that the Kurds would would respond to the Iraq war with anti-american protests. Go Kurds, as far as I'm concerned. I hope the Iraq war did encourage them - I just think you're stretching a bit to suggest that the "anti-war group" professes otherwise. If anyone did, stupdi them, I jsut don't remember it.

Finally, there HAS been plenty of anti-American sentiment in the middle east, or haven't you noticed? Anti-American rallies and demonstrations have beens een throughout the middle east since the war began, so what exactly is your point? Except to promote pro-Bush propoganda?

This (your post, not mine) is disappointing.

Posted by: Mike F. at March 15, 2004 10:37 PM

Let's not get into a discussion of who's post is the most disappointing. There may not be a winner. It is not the posts, per se, it is the refusal of people to look at the big picture and recognize that, in trying to do the right thing, some wrong things are going to happen and, even worse, all anybody wants to talk about and point fingers at are the wrong things. I find it hard to believe that micro analysis of when the Kurds got mad, when the Iranians got squashed, when Syria got caught, when Gadhafi was disarmed, etc. is so important that it merits forgetting that the world will be a better place because someone, us, is willing to pay an extremely high short term price for a long term benefit for the world. Is there really any question that the world, and, specifically the Middle East region of the world, is not better off today than two years ago? Is there really any question that this has to be done before we can go after the real problem, i.e. Saudi Arabia?

Posted by: Dick V at March 16, 2004 03:43 PM

Fair enough, but let me address your questions.

"Is there really any question that the world, and, specifically the Middle East region of the world, is not better off today than two years ago?"

Let's see. Israel and the Palestinains are at their worst juncture in over a decade. Iran has cracked down on reformists. This may be good or bad, because it often takes a severe crackdown to launch the revolutionwe all hope for. Iran is still feigning compliance with the UN, but doesn't really seem to have capitulated. A brutal, but weak dictator was replaced with a promise of a better future, but at least the potential for chaos, civil war, and Al Quaeda breeding ground. The Iraq war has refocused arab anger on the US and Israel and away from their repressive rulers.

So, Dick, I'm not really sure on this one.

"Is there really any question that this has to be done before we can go after the real problem, i.e. Saudi Arabia?"

I agree that Saudi Arabia is the real problem. I believe that Syria is the real problem, too. Iran will hopefully (fingers crossed) take care of itself. But do we have plans to go after Saudi Arabia? Please clarify for me how Saudi arabia will follow Iraq? I'd love to see the repressive regimes of Syria and Saudi Arabia fall . . .

Posted by: Mike F. at March 16, 2004 05:26 PM

Mike, the word you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means. It does not mean, "someone who disagrees with Mike".

demagogue n. 1. A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace. 2. A leader of the common people in ancient times.

Leaving aside the fact that I have obtained no power, exactly which part of my post played on the emotions, fears or prejudices of the populace?

I specifically tried not to overreach, not to claim too much. I went for balance, showing ambivalence over whether it was a good thing or not, wishing for more and better coverage by the mainstream press.

Your comment, on the other hand, rife with emotion, calling my post bullshit and demagogic, and overflowing with your disappointment, was more prone to the label than my post.

A few points about your "rebuttal":

  1. I never claimed that there was no unrest in Iran before the war. Of course there was, there has been a student movement there for many years. It has grown increasing impatient with the promises of Khatami and the reformists over that time. But I do believe that the liberation of Iraq is emboldening the movement, and almost as importantly, is constraining the actions of the Mullahs, making it harder for them to walk the fine line of cracking down hard enough to keep control but not so hard as to foment rebellion. I consider that process "spreading unrest". Feel free to disagree, but it's my opinion, not propaganda.
  2. Many, many anti-war protesters did predict that the Arab Street would explode in anti-American violence. That it would be uncontrollable, a disaster that even our autocratic allies couldn't control. This, like many dire predictions of humanitarians disasters, destruction of oil infrastructure, and hundreds of thousands of casualties, did not occur. Opponents of the war should concede those points and move on where real criticism can be levied against Bush (in the post-war planning and pre-war intelligence). Sure, as you say, there has been "sentiment", and "rallies and demonstrations" but not the kind of violence I was talking about in the post.
  3. Did I ever say that people predicted that the Kurds would be anti-American? Classic straw man. I was talking about the anti-American Arab mobs and violence that everyone predicted. Didn't happen. Pro-democracy Kurdish and Persian ones, intent on toppling their own regimes, did.
Really, Mike, compare the tone, the speciousness of your argument, the ad hominem attacks, the name calling – your overweening desire to find a dragon to slay.

You had it right before you added the aside, it's your post that disappoints.

Posted by: richard at March 17, 2004 05:12 AM

Mike, reading back over my most recent comment, I realized that you might actually have been calling me "a leader of the common people in ancient times". If so, please disregard my previous comment.

Posted by: richard at March 17, 2004 05:15 AM

OK, fine. In fact, you may recall that I admitted the overly hostile nature of my post in an apologetic email afterwards.

But, fisrt of all, I used demagogue in the same context you did when you made your first Freidman post: Good to see someone getting past the demagoguery.

I do not think you are a leader in ancient times, but I do think you are spinning recent events to prove the "anti-war" crowd wrong. No, the most dire predicitons have not come true, but nor have the rosy "pro-war" predictions of Iraqis greeting us as liberators and democracy taking hold in the rest of the Arab world. It's great to see some resistance in Iran and Syria, but it doesn't prove either side right. Some of these things happened before and some are happening after. It's impossible to use that evidence to objectively support one side or the other. To use it to disparage the anti-war crowd's predictions is at least as demagogic as the protectionists using fear of job losses to disparage free trde. That's all.

No, I don't think you are a demogogue, but I do think you take evidence and spin it to support your world view. Now, we all do that, and our world views aren't exactly the same, so it's my job to point out when I think you are spinning things to the right . . .

Posted by: Mike F. at March 17, 2004 08:50 AM

And you get bonus points for the Princess Bride reference.

But now I'm being overly conciliatroy . . .

Posted by: Mike F. at March 17, 2004 09:20 AM

I'm pleased that someone took steps to get a handle on the word demagogue. It was starting to spiral out of control, and I worry that nobody wants to hear from Brad when he plays Word Police. It had got to the point, however, that I really was starting to worry that Richard had power, and I just hadn't yet been clued in, because from the way he's writing these days, GWB . . . CRV3: who could tell the difference?

It's been my custom to misname anyone with whom I disagree a fascist, a term that (1) more directly implies "evil" than, say, demagogue, (2) has a history of broader deployment than its strict dictionary definition guarantees (so you can get away with using it when it does not technically apply), (3) in most cases it pretty much technically applies to the people I disagree with anyway, and (4) it's easy to spell and it rolls off the tongue like a swear word, e.g.,

(a) it starts with that most scornful of consonants, the f, which when properly and vigorously articulated requires the speaker to make an angry in-yer-face face (screwed-up mouth, protruding chin) then
(b) lands hard on a short a vowel that you can exaggerate, Toledo, Ohio-style, into a sort of growl before proceeding to the second syllable — the real kicker — which
(c) starts with every indication that you're saying the word shit, except that it
(d) incorporates a hissing sound with the short i driving into the word's second s.

If you say the word right, you can actually spit twice at the object of your tirade.

So anyway, that's my bid for resorting to the word fascist on this site more regularly.

And as for you, Richard, after reading your meta-metamodeling post and your dictionary consult on demagogue, I can't think of anything better to call you than a PEDagogue.

Well, except maybe fascist, but that's a can of worms for another hundred posts.

Posted by: Brad A. at March 17, 2004 10:08 AM