Tariq Ali on the Arab Revolutions

Over at Not George Sabra, Malik Little criticises Tariq Ali’s orientalist take on the Arab revolutions.

“What is a revolution?” asks Marxist Tariq Ali in a recent article. He answers, “a transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to fundamental change.”

Ali never gets around to defining what exactly constitutes “fundamental change,” but he knows for sure that whatever “fundamental change” is, there has been none of it in the Arab world since 2011.

Does the end of the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia and the destruction of its secret police count as “fundamental change? For Ali, no. After decades of a life of comfort and privilege in West, it seems Ali has forgotten what it is like to live under the thumb of a police state and murderous military rule. He has forgotten what a “fundamental change it is to be ruled by elected institutions and politicians rather than tyrants and generalissimos.

Since Ben Ali was ousted, there have been two general strikes called by the main union federation.

For Ali, this is no big deal. How do we know? He never mentions Tunisia or its people even once in his half-assed self-serving overview of the Arab Spring’s non-revolutionaryness, a double oversight since Tunisia is why the Arab Spring happened in the first place.

Instead, Ali goes on to ‘analyze’ events in Egypt where the counter-revolution has triumphed. He uses this triumph to deny that a revolution ever happened. Woe to V.I. Lenin who continued to write about the Russian revolution of 1905 even after it was smashed by the Tsar and Karl Marx who continually referred to the lessons he learned in the abortive German revolution of 1848-1849 for failing to match the insightful wisdom of Tariq Ali, a man who knows a revolution is only a revolution when it succeeds!

The next stop on Ali’s “nothing to see here” tour is Libya:

“In Libya, the old state was destroyed by NATO after a six-month bombing spree and armed tribal gangs of one sort or another still roam the country, demanding their share of the loot. Hardly a revolution according to any criteria.”

No mention of course of the General National Congress election of 2012 that went off without a hitch to the immense jubilation of the long-suffering Libyan people. Mentioning inconvenient facts like this might make Westerners sympathetic to the their difficult struggle to build institutions out of the ashes of 42 years of one-man rule by a deranged tyrant. No discussion of what class rules Libya today is necessary. Better to talk up “armed tribal gangs” in true Orientalist fashion. Who better than a brown man to play on the fears peddled by the white man to convince Westerners that there’s no revolution in Libya for them to solidarize with? Ali knows that if there’s anything Westerners love to hate, it’s Muslims.

In tribes.

With guns.

Throwing up gang signs.

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Top Five Worst Arguments Against US Airstrikes in Syria

By Malik Little

People like Robin Yassin-Kassab make good arguments against U.S. airstrikes on the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the problem is that hardly anyone else is making them. Instead, we usually hear some variation of the following five.

5. Hypocrisy.

The U.S. crossed President Obama’s “red line” in the 1980s by aiding and abetting Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980s, first against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and then against Iraq’s restive Kurdish population. The U.S. crossed Obama’s “red line” again during its invasion and occupation of Iraq by using white phosphorus during an assault on rebel-held Fallujah. Before that, the U.S. used Agent Orange, napalm, and white phosphorus in Viet Nam. Based on this extremely brief history of U.S. chemical weapons usage, the U.S. is in no position morally to punish the Syrian regime for crossing a “red line” although it is in this position militarily.

Anti-interventionists who build their case on U.S. hypocrisy operate under the illusion that non-hypocritical military powers exist or that wars are exercises in morality. They don’t and they aren’t.

Waiting for a militarily powerful state founded and led by Santa Claus or a modern-day Gandhi to arise is not an acceptable course of action in the face of the clear and present danger of continued chemical weapons use by the Assad regime.

4. Non-violent alternatives, non-military options.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow talked up sanctions, negotiations, arms embargos, war crimes tribunals, stepped up humanitarian aid to refugees, and all manner of embarrassingly ineffectual schemes given that the Syrian people exhausted non-military options over two years ago. For those that don’t know, their peaceful protests were met with gunfire, the torture and mutilation of children, rape on a mass scale, shelling, airstrikes, Scud missiles, and sarin gas attacks by the Assad regime that have killed over 100,000 people, forced two million to flee to neighboring countries, displaced five million internally, and led seven million to need humanitarian assistance – all in a country of a little more than 20 million.

There simply is no non-violent way to stop such a heinously violent regime.

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