The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t

Stephen Gowans’ outstanding writing on the root causes of the Syrian conflict offers a thorough and timely contribution to understanding that extremely important, dangerous, heart-breaking and horrendous tragedy of humanity.

what's left

October 22, 2016

Apparently, the US Left has yet to figure out that Washington doesn’t try to overthrow neoliberals. If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were a devotee of the Washington Consensus–as Counterpunch’s Eric Draitser seems to believe–the United States government wouldn’t have been calling since 2003 for Assad to step down. Nor would it be overseeing the Islamist guerilla war against his government; it would be protecting him.

By Stephen Gowans

There is a shibboleth in some circles that, as Eric Draitser put it in a recent Counterpunch article, the uprising in Syria “began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality,” and that “the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists.” This theory appears, as far as I can tell, to be based on argument by assertion, not evidence.

Mass demonstration in support of Syria's secular Arab nationalist government, 2011. Mass demonstration in support of…

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4 thoughts on “The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t

  1. Gowans’ article is a breath of fresh air, Jerry. His forthcoming book should be welcomed. As Patrick Cockburn explains on the launch of ‘The Age of Jihad’ ~ much journalistic opinion is baseless; at best third-hand misinformation, while some prevailing narratives are simply derived from unquestioned propaganda reported as fact. He describes the challenges of finding out what is really going on in the Middle-east extremely vividly; while his analysis of US State Dept indifference to cultural context is salient:

    (I also recommended this link on Dandelion Salad recently)


    1. Hello David,
      One can only imagine the level of psychological and spiritual distress experienced by those whose desire for power and wealth pushes them into violent action (war) that causes the death and suffering of millions. There is no anti-depressant, drug or substance strong enough to erase the guilt and remorse intentionally harmful individuals such as these must feel. While it’s a good thing that more men and women of integrity have revealed the true facts behind the world’s most pressing problems, otherwise brilliant analyses too often omit the spiritual dimension, greater unity awareness and/or highest vision for humanity as essential factors for resolving those same problems. These are effective, available remedial tools which become ignored because they are perceived as “beyond the intellect”, therefore impractical, “Utopian” or unworthy, and, unfortunately, left out of most discussions on humanity’s important issues. Yet, higher collective spiritual consciousness is absolutely required for the success of efforts to improve the human condition. Thank you.


      1. So true Jerry.

        Our everyday actions reveal who we are. Deeds are far more powerful than words, yet those words, arcane symbolism, art & metaphysical language, are supreme signifiers of moral meaning. I think we need to find the courage trust our feelings, to engage the higher instincts that I would call spiritual; but to do so effectively we must also utilize cognitive discrimination; in order not to be self-deceived about how to ‘properly’ exercise those ethical faculties.

        This is the basis of all authentic teaching on all planes ~ worth its salt. It’s always gratifying to hear what we want to, that confirms our conditioned desires; but it’s so much harder to challenge our assumptions and (what I call) interrogate our prejudices.

        Recent advances in biology, epigenetics and our understanding of the human microbiome are dramatically re-educating our perceptions of life’s mysteries; the post-Darwinian social engineers who are still grounded in fin-de-siecle psychological theories that have dominated the past century are struggling to come to terms with these unfamiliar territories.

        Despite McLuhan’s sophist ‘zen’ cliches about the medium being the message, I do not see the internet as the global saviour that latter-day cyber prophets claim. Things are not so naively unambiguous as that. Technology is just a tool, an instrument, an artefact, a ‘weapon.’ We could just as well say the metaphor is the message and deify ink. Its a tautological trick.

        We certainly do need poetics, we need Popper’s systemic falsification, we need hermeneutics, aesthetic insight, for any conjectured or adopted praxis is to be worthwhile. The cultivated capacity to distinguish authenticity from delusion or deception, is critical. I am optimistic, but not complacent. Human beings are mighty contrary folk.

        Embedded contexts are definitely what really shape our attitudes, but difficult situations often teach us our toughest lessons. So I don’t believe there are any easy answers. This is what realistic education should be about. Life itself is the truest form of initiation.


        1. David.
          Your comments always leave one with much to ponder. Not sure if you’ve read Ken Carey’s 1991 book of spirituality “The Third Millennium” or if it provides any easy answers, but thought you might be interested. One can easily find the audio-book on YouTube by searching “The Third Millennium Ken Carey”. Some would describe the writings as deep philosophy or spirituality. Perhaps such a genre isn’t your “cup of tea”, but mentioning here in case others who pass this way appreciate spiritual writings. Ken Carey to my knowledge hasn’t published any books since, but after re-reading (listening) over the weekend was once again impressed, after reading multiple times in years past. He predicted these times we are now in were going to be marked by a profound balancing of matter and spirit, and that such a worldly development would result in an astonishingly improved human condition. Peace.


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