Anti-Assad Syria Rally in Chicago July 3

There is a large anti-Assad (Bashar al-Assad to be specific) occurring today in River North in Chicago. The rally is supported by many organizations as detailed here. The plight of civilians in Syria is horrible and the true colors of the Assad regime are unfortunately coming through.

The rally had speakers from the community and people driving by honked their support. If for some reason you aren’t aware of the situation in Syria there is a massive popular revolt and the government is using shocking force on the civilian population, including tanks, artillery, and other heavy weapons on basically an unarmed populace consisting of their own citizens.

Generally when people compare “X” to Hitler the comparisons are over-wrought. In the case of Bashar al-Assad, however, at least you can understand where the protesters are coming from. I also think that the “Hitler” reference is meant to jolt people into at least considering their plight.

The incident with a 13 year old child Hamza is cited on this protest sign; he was apparently tortured to death in a horrible manner that I won’t cite here but you can read anywhere on the internet for more information. One of the Chicago Boyz commenters said “this was bad even for an Arab country”. From my perspective not only was it evil it represented shockingly poor tactics for Bashar; it is incomprehensible what this could accomplish.

Here and at Chicago Boyz we are keen commenters on history so any time you compare someone to Stalin it also gets us interested; I think that the Stalin references are also relevant since Russia is blocking security council action (along with China) on Syria.

Cross posted at LITGM

18 thoughts on “Anti-Assad Syria Rally in Chicago July 3”

  1. When Assad succeeded his father, some of us, the more naive I suspect, had hopes that a London ophthalmologist would be better than a Arab thug. We were disappointed. I have not decided if it is the Arab culture or Islam that is the more destructive of modernist impulses. I s there is little to choose. The Serbs showed us that a lawless society that presses a people into a primitive tribal culture can trump the forces of modernity, but Islam seems to be another order of magnitude of pressure for primitivism.

  2. I wish them well, but the USA should have nothing to do with Syria’s internal problems.

    Our incapacity in Libya, where should also have stayed out entirely, makes any threats against Syria laughable.

    As Bismarck said of the Balkan Christians massacred by the Turks, I will remember them in my prayers, but I cannot make their interests the aim of German policy. A wise attituded we should emulate.

    We have enough problems of our own to pay for at the moment.

  3. Carl:
    From my perspective not only was it evil it represented shockingly poor tactics for Bashar; it is incomprehensible what this could accomplish.

    I respectfully disagree. I think Assad calculated correctly that 1) shocking brutality is the only tactic that can maintain his rule, unless an external power intervenes, and 2) no external power will intervene. Assad wants to end up like Castro or Kim, not like Mubarak or the Shah. He may fall eventually but his use of force is a good bet to postpone the reckoning.

    By making a point of intervening in Libya while not even publicly discussing the possibility of putting real pressure on Syria, Obama signaled unequivocally that Assad has a free hand. This was a major error because while Libya is of marginal strategic importance at best, the Assad regime, like Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, is an important Iranian client. Obama’s blinkered insistence on seeing Syria either in isolation, or mainly as a difficult neighbor to be bought off in the context of Obama’s obsessive quest for an Israeli-Palestinian deal, betrays a profound strategic confusion or personal weakness or both. Arguments for our not taking direct action against Iran’s nuclear program and in response to decades of Iranian attacks against us often come bundled with assertions that we can contain a nuclear Iran. Obama’s behavior makes clear that we will not even try to contain a pre-nuclear Iran, now, when any action we take will be less expensive than it is likely to be in the future.

    Bernard Lewis argued that Arab totalitarianism, which is a modern phenomenon, was modeled on European fascism rather than on Islam or traditional Arab political culture.

  4. In an insane, circular manner, Obama’s refusal to even hold an olive branch to the Syrian opposition benefits us. There is no one that can call the Syrian revolution even remotely part of some sort of “Western conspiracy” and not look like a fool, although Assad does it all the time.

    I wonder what sort of counseling those Syrian soldiers have to go through after they go into a town, full of their own citizens, and just blow up civilians with tank fire and heavy artillery. I read that the first thing they do is sweep the outlying woods with MG fire from their turrets. Glad they have developed tactics for this. Of course I am kidding there is no counseling but it must be insane to get into their minds since it is only a few of the most “elite” Syrian units that do all the killing; they can’t trust their conscripts to do this. Thus the reason they go and smash one town at a time is because they have to transport all their gear and soldiers from place to place and get refueled and prepared and then go into the next city and kill their countrymen.

    I guess I understand how killing children can scare the populace but it also eliminates a lot of Assad’s options to ever personally escape this quagmire with his own hide intact, which frankly would be his #2 goal, after running all of Syria as his personal fiefdom.

  5. Assad is not going to leave, so opinion about him is irrelevant.

    I have no reason to think the troops would have any sentimentality about the people they are shooting. If the rebels succeed they and their families will be massacred in turn. Just like Assad himself.

    It is business as usual in that region. When the Ottomans ruled it they would do the occasional exemplary massacre to show everyone who is boss.

    In another century or two or whatever it will be the same there, most likely.

    It is a good place to stay out of, much like, say, the Congo.

  6. The Baath Party which controlled Syria, Iraq, Egypt(under another name) and played a major role in Jordan is a direct linear descendent of the Nazi party. It was established back in the late 1930s by Arabs who had spent time in Germany. Their goal was create a Fascist Arabic state modeled on Nazi Germany.

    So a sign that says that “Assad==Hitler” is literally true.

  7. The killers probably have no qualms. They are likely to be members of the ruling Alawite minority who would be victimized if the regime fell, or perhaps Persians.

    Syria is not like the Congo. The Congo fell apart after the imperialists left. Syria has gone from being the client of one imperial power, the USSR, to another, Iran. Popular unrest against the Syrian dictatorship gives us some low-risk leverage there if we want to use it. Apparently we don’t, as we didn’t against Iran in 2009. By throwing away these opportunities we increased the odds that these regimes will kill more Americans in the future.

    Our staying out will be interpreted as approval by our enemies and abandonment by our allies. Such a situation is not in our interest.

  8. I wonder what sort of counseling those Syrian soldiers have to go through after they go into a town

    I have read that there are many Iranian “special tasks” personnel in Syria.

  9. Syria is irrelevant to the USA. Israel can flatten the place if it ever has to. The protesters are not our “allies” of the USA. Most likely they will establish an even more hostile Islamist state, if they can even make a state at all. The secular Baathist regime in place is probably the best one for US interests. There is no basis to think otherwise. I remember similar sentiments about the fall of the Shah in 1979, and what we got was a lot worse. We should stay out and let these people sort out their own problems. Syria is exactly like the Congo in several respects: no matter how many peoria die there it will have zero effect on Americans who simply change the TV channel, any involvement by us will be blood and and money pissed down the drain for zero benefit to us with all kinds of unnecessary unforeseeable costs and risks, if we get involved at all we will immediately get all the burden and blame for whatever happens. Stay the He’ll out.

  10. It is not all or nothing. There are options besides invasion and inaction.

    Syria is relevant to us because it is an ally of our enemy and an enemy of our ally and has been working against our interests. It is a delusion for us to assume that we can be hands-off and not also transmit the message that there will be no price to be paid for screwing us. That is a message that leads to war, no matter how invincible we appear on paper.

    Obama, in his dealings with Syria, has been a chump. Now would be a good time for him to use his speechmaking talents to support the Syrian opposition, imperfect though they undoubtedly are. A few Predators interdicting Iranian military traffic through Syria wouldn’t hurt either.

    Our actions/inactions in Syria as in Libya show a dangerous lack of understanding and resolve. It will not have “zero effect on Americans” once Iran and some more ME countries get nuclear weapons, or if Pakistan’s nukes come under Islamist control. At that point it will be very important that potential aggressors be scared of us. So far they are not.

  11. It isn’t in America’s interest to have countries that are dictatorships that are willing to use heavy weapons on their own people no matter how you slice it. The current countries in the Middle East are often strange cobbled together creatures that have survived over the decades and the people have finally run out of patience with them.

    It is true that the future in Syria is unknown; but as Americans it is in our best interests to try to side with the forces of freedom where we can find it. Unlike in 1979 Iran the people have already seen what a theocracy looks like; they aren’t very excited about being part of another one. Also unlike 1979 the US plays no role in Syria; we are pretty much irrelevant.

    To quote Joe Strummer “The Future is Unwritten” but in the medium and long term the US is better off giving the people a try than hoping that evil dictators we are familiar with stay in power indefinitely.

    Also – the mantra of blaming everything on the US and Israel is running out of steam pretty fast; the people on the street know who is doing the clubbing and the torturing and it ain’t us.

  12. There is no basis whatsoever to say the Syrian resistance = the forces of freedom. The resistance is likely Islamist in nature.

    Foreign countries that use tanks against civilians include our biggest trading partner and creditor, China. Wisely, in 1989, we remained quiet about that and continued as if nothing had happened.

    Foreign countries that oppress their domestic populations are commonplace. Unless they present some overt and tangible threat to the USA we should ignore them.

    Syria has even less to do with us than most foreign tyrannies, and presents no significant threat to the USA.

    If it is a threat to Israel, let them deal with it.

    If we get involved we will be held responsible for the place.

    We have already wasted a trillion dollars rebuilding Iraq.

    Not one cent for Syria.

  13. China did not use the military for large scale terrorization of the populace in 1989 like Syria and Libya are doing today. They did not install snipers on buildings to randomly shoot passerbys nor launch grad rockets at their own cities.

    The US doesn’t have to intervene militarily everywhere but if we are to have any foreign policy whatsoever it ought to be based on free determination and supporting those sorts of rights. In the end the countries that are likeliest so side with us if the crap really hits the fan are those that are democracies.

    There is a large scale shift going on by the populace in these countries demanding freedom; looking solely at the short term calculus isn’t telling the whole story.

    What is actually likely to happen is a few things

    – instead of ethnic cleansing you will get secretarian cleansing. You will have “final” outcomes like we recently had with Sri Lanka where the Tamil rebels’ leadership were slaughtered to the last man (although this was more ethnic than secretarian)
    – sooner or later the borders will be changed on the model of Sudan or the Ethiopia conflict with Eritrea
    – fights over water and oil / natural gas will be to the death
    – once the current dictatorships fall, it will be a long time before the “replacement” ones will be able to hold their people under the same dominion; remember it took the Assad’s 40 years to build up their “criminally insane” security forces

    These countries will focus inward and the battles will be long and hard in the entrenched ones (like Syria and Libya) and the chaos will begin earlier in the others (like Egypt). The remaining monarchies and dictatorships like Morocco and Algeria and others will also feel the fire because they lack legitimacy.

    For ones like Saudi Arabia, they would be fine if it was just their internal tensions, but will not do well if they start expanding their dominion and getting into the fights of others.

    True that our commitment today to Afghanistan is way out of whack to that country’s current importance, but that was all done in the context of pre-Jasmine revolution. It is like looking at our security posture in Europe before and after the fall of the USSR; it no longer made sense.

    Not saying that we should intervene everywhere. Also saying we likely should pull back from some of the places where we are intervening.

    But if we don’t have a foreign policy that supports freedom and free determination we ought not have a foreign policy at all.

  14. I agree with Carl that it’s generally in our interest to support freedom in other countries.

    I also think it’s a good idea for us to punish our enemies and reward our allies.

    We have been inconsistent on all points, and this inconsistency is a source of many of our current problems.

  15. “… support freedom in other countries.”

    Like every good thing we want the government to do, it is a question of costs, benefits and unintended consequences.

    Generally, not getting involved in other people’s problems reduces costs and unintended consequences, and the cost in foregone, dubious benefits is minimal.

    “… punish our enemies and reward our allies.”

    The protesters in Syria are not our allies. They are nothing to us one way or the other. They look good on TV. As far as I know, they will be at least as hostile as Assad if they take over. And Syria is not much of an enemy to the USA. We can safely ignore it. It is Israel’s enemy, and Israel can deal with them just fine.

    “… inconsistency is a source of many of our current problems.”

    We should consistently stay the Hell out of other peoples’ countries unless there is tangible, serious threat to the USA. With the Cold War over, there is no need to treat the world as a chess board, and the existence of bad regimes in other places is a sad but inevitable fact. Trying to shoot our way into foreign countries supposedly to improve them is the most egregious example of government meddling imaginable, and is totally inconsistent with a basically libertarian orientation.

    I cheered when George Bush, in the debate with Al Gore, said “no nation building.” He was correct then and he should have stuck with it. We’d all be way better off.

  16. The Assad regime cooperates closely with Hezbollah and Iran, both of which have killed many Americans. Iran continues to kill Americans by aiding our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why is it not in the US interest to impose costs on Assad?

    For a while after 2003 Kaddafi cooperated with us on WMD and we rewarded him by relaxing trade and other restrictions on Libya. That was the right thing for us to do. I can see our leaving Assad alone if he did things to help us as Kaddafi did. But he doesn’t, he has done nothing that we wanted him to do and helps our enemies. Why should he get a pass?

    We may be sick of war, but averting our eyes from Iran/Syria/Hezbollah now seems likely to get more Americans killed in the future.

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