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Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation

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The historical parallel for Syria today is the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, a dress rehearsal for the building wider conflict, only now with the key players arranged differently and ideology scrambled to account for these differences. Nazism is no longer a factor, its place assigned to America in mobilizing incipient world forces of fascism to confront a Left alternative to counterrevolution and unrestrained capitalism. There is no Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight alongside Republican defenders of democratic government. Obama is Franco, regime change the focus shaping Western alignment (US-EU-NATO) to destroy, not Revolution or Communism per se (both practically nonexistent as Russia evolves through significant mixed and capitalist elements far removed from dynamic socialism), but Russia nonetheless in the cross-hairs still, as, along with China, blocking US unilateral world hegemony as the vanguard for a militarized, advanced-capitalist system founded on the purging of Left social-economic movements and governments. The vision is totalitarian: anything that interferes with domination, pure and simple, of the West, the US as its epicenter, with respect to Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Third World as conveniently defined to include whatever lies outside the boundaries of the West, must be kept in check, ultimately retarded in autonomous development, isolated from each other and sanitized to ensure subordination and servility.

Assad is hardly Fidel or Che in the postmodern world, but Syria’s secularism, by breaking the mold of the Middle East, incites America, like the red cape in the bullfighter’s ring, which finds even ISIS more manageable to deal with, because already a part of the geopolitical landscape, than a state model that rejects religion as the basis for social organization. Secularism has the potential for liberation, perhaps democratization as well, while religion, notwithstanding an extremist expression, as in ISIS, supports a generalized status quo compatible with varying shades of repression, Israel and Saudi Arabia, though among themselves nominally different, archetypal expressions of—from the Western geostrategic standpoint—acceptable modes of said repression. The passionate hatred displaced on Assad, when every tinhorn dictator gets a Washington ovation and get-out-of-jail card free no questions asked, rightly should arouse one’s suspicions. Like pre-World War II Spain, Syria has become the global hot spot, as though now, Assad provides the excuse for going head-to-head with Russia, China in the background as the next adversary to be contained, isolated, if possible, subjugated, like Russia, preferably short of global nuclear conflagration. But who knows, capitalist ideology now so ferociously believed and acted on, that even nuclear annihilation can be stumbled into, if not deliberately headed for, as proof positive of systemic moral virtue.

Putin was not originally cut out for democratic world leadership (the KGB does not deserve a free pass), but as the global dynamics of great-powers confrontation take shape and fall into place, he, almost by default, has already assumed that role and increasingly represents a voice of sanity in arresting the surge of Western (US-led) power toward a bi-level world operationally recapitulating past colonialism harnessed to up-to-date multinational market aggrandizement and accompanying financial ground-rules both supported through control over international organization (a domesticated UN or its equivalent) and parallel institutions (IMF, World Bank, and trade-agreement machinery, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership). This is beginning to look like Lenin’s concept of ultra-imperialism, except that Lenin was no match for our present-day political-military-financial Cold War honchos. I don’t know whether Putin and Xi are, but at least they are free of any illusions that the West seeks a genuine accommodation of peaceful relations, rather than take-no-prisoners conquest. The downing of the Russian jet (no, not the bombing of the passenger jet two weeks ago, but the plane two days ago) is a clear harbinger of things to come: provocation piled on provocation, ISIS not thoroughly vanquished, so as to provide an opportunity for further military expansion and internal police tightening in response until a crisis point is reached and events take over.

The plane downing, I sensed before Putin made the charge, had all the earmarks of having been planned in advance, i.e., the contingency provided for via approval of the US and NATO, and not Erdogan’s decision to be made alone, specifically for the purpose of preventing the unity of response between Russia and the West in the wake of the Paris massacre. Events move fast, but even Paris or similar attack was not unforeseen, so that EU/US rapprochement with Russia had to be avoided at all cost. Obama, no longer Franco, is perhaps von Ribbentrop, coyly biding time as the knife turns. (Putin was not far from the truth when he said that he and Russia were stabbed in the back.) I have said before, counterterrorism is the cosmitized, dressed-up version of anticommunism, through cultural-ideological lag a still useful weapon against both Russia and China abroad, radicals, dissenters, whistleblowers at home. Syria will find its parallel in the South China Sea, whatever it takes to foster xenophobia and false consciousness as preparatory to an aggressive posture in world affairs.

Putin will not abandon Assad. Xi will not accept economic-military encirclement. If I had my druthers, Russia would cut off oil and natural gas shipments to the West until it conceded that Russia had a right to exist free from the NATO menace at its borders, neo-fascist threats from Ukraine, and terrorist attacks from Chechnya, while China would strengthen its economic role in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, tearing apart the fabric of American hegemony and forcing it to live within its means—the best thing that could ever happen to it if a democratic society is to be achieved. Eight hundred military bases (and still counting) under bipartisan dispensation, with the full consent of the American people, will lead to more soup kitchens, cries of neglect and desperation in the streets, deteriorating standards of health and well-being, on one hand, enveloping monopolism, waste, environmental ruin, habituation to intervention, covert action, and regime change, on the other, all as a recipe for societal disaster and impending war.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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