A few bright spots?

With the fall of Qusayr to Hezbollah and Syrian government military forces the tide seems to have turned against the military forces that are allied against the Assad dictatorship in Syria. With Assad solidly allied with Hezbollah, which has one of the best militaries in the Mideast, and with Iran and Russia its appears that the regime will win against its enemies. Syria will remain an enslaved nation.

However there are a few bright spots on the horizon. The appointment by the Obama administration this week of Susan Rice as National Security Advisor and of Samantha Power as US Representative to the United Nations is definitely good news. Samantha Powers has been the foremost spokesperson in the cause of fighting genocides and other crimes against humanity for over a decade now. Both she and Susan Rice were very influential in the decision by the Obama administration to create a no fly zone in Libya in 2011. And Rice herself has been a strong backer of the idea that nation states can not simply be permitted to slaughter their own peoples in a civilized world.

Another promising development has been in the nature of the support that Syrian opposition forces are receiving from the Arab world. Recently Qatar which has been a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a major and in the West unacceptable player in the Syrian opposition, has been almost completely replaced by Saudi Arabia which is now the chief supplier of military aid to rebel forces. Given the conservative nature of the Saudi state one would think that they would support the most reactionary of the revolutionary forces in Syria. But on the contrary Saudi Arabia has in general supported the most moderate forces led by General Salim Idriss in opposition to the dictatorship. These forces within the Syrian Free Army are forces that the United States should be able to support if it cares at all.

The significance of President Obama’s recent appointment of Rice and Power and of the fact that moderate forces within the Syrian opposition may now begin to receive at least some of the aid they need from Saudi Arabia makes it quite possible that the Obama team will decide hopefully soon to begin to support the Syrian opposition forces with strong imputes of military aid and training. While this in itself may not be able to turn the tide against Assad, it will at least give the Syrian people some possibility of long term victory against the regime. It may give them at least a fighting chance and perhaps possibly redeem part of American honor which has been lost by its unwillingness to give meaningful support to the Syrian people in this conflict.

Glenn King

Syria is not Iraq

While the Social Democrats USA does not have a position regarding the quality of the Obama Administration’s performance  in regard to ongoing war in Syria, I do. I believe that the administration’s commitment not to intervene under any circumstances is morally bankrupted.

Enclosed is a link to “Syria Is Not Iraq” an article published in the Atlantic Magazine by Shadi Hamid, the director of research,  for the Brookings Institute Doha Center. The article explains extremely well some of the reasons why I believe what I do about this subject.

“Syria is Not Iraq”  link – http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/syria-is-not-iraq/272815/

 

Glenn King

Thoughts on the Syrian Civil War

On May 19, 2011 the National Committee of the Social Democrats USA passed a resolution in support of President Obama’s no fly zone over Libya. However since that time the Social Democrats USA has passed no resolutions regarding the brutal suppression of the people of Syria by the Assad government. Why the strong reaction by the SD against the Qaddafi regime’s suppression of the people of Libya and the lack of response to the suppression of the Syrian people by Assad?

The difference in response was not caused by indifference to the situation in Syrian by the membership of the SD. Many in the SD have watched the conflict in Syria which has killed at least 15,000 people with an agonized concern. The difference has instead been based on a real confusion regarding what the US role should be in the conflict. The fact is that the answers to what the correct US policy should be toward the Libyan conflict in early 2011 seemed to be much more obvious than have been the answers to the Syrian conflict.

In the case of Libya we had the example of a very small, ethnically and religiously homogeneous nation of about 6 million persons in an armed rebellion to overthrow an obviously brutal regime with a very weak military. No doubt because of these factors, an international consensus developed  led by Great Britain, France, and the Arab League that some sort of military action in support of the people of Libya was both possible and desirable. When the Obama administration joined the consensus the no fly zone was implemented and Quaddafy was overthrown

However the situation in Syria is quite different from that of Libya. For one thing Syrian is an ethically and religiously diverse nation of over 22 million led by the Assad dictatorship which bases its power both on a  united military and the Alawite sect, an ethnic, religious minority which represents about 12% of the population of Syria. The Alawites a people who have been oppressed for most of their history have every reason to worry about their future if the Assad regime falls. Because of these factors the difficulties in determining how to respond to the Syrian conflict has led to a very weak response by an international community unsure and unwilling to take any bold actions in defense of a revolution which easily go wrong in many ways.

Thus if any international consensus has developed it is that NATO and the international community should not intervene as it did in the situation of Libya. Furthermore Russia and China clearly would veto such an action as they have already vetoed a three Security Council resolutions which suggested the possibility of sanctions against the Assad government. Given this situation the Obama administration clearly has been hesitant to “lead from the front” as has been recommended by leaders such as Senator John McCain.

Another fact of course in the Obama’s decision to not take a Libyan style intervention policy toward Syria is no doubt political. The reality is that the American people are tired of US military interventions, and the liberal wing of the Democratic party has an abhorrence of them. It is very probable that a Obama decision to support a full US intervention in Syria in the same manner as was done in Libya would certainly cost Obama the presidential election this coming November.

So the questions for members of the SDUSA who have been following the situation in Syria have been complex. We in common with most of the American left want to see an Obama victory in November. Yet simultaneously we have an activist view of American foreign policy which believes that the United States should strongly oppose governments which brutally kill their own peoples. We are willing to call for international interventions in support peoples who are struggling to throw off the chains of their oppression. On the other hand we value a pragmatism that does not take actions that would seriously damage the national interests of the United States or which have only symbolic but not real value. All of these impulses seem to be at war with each other in the case of Syria.

How then do we resolve these seemingly conflicting inner directives. Well first the SDUSA can not just jettison some of its principles so that others can be realized. The SDUSA does want the Obama administration to be re-elected this November. Therefore we are not going to ask the Obama administration to make decisions on US foreign policy which would probably insure a Romney victory. SD pragmatism and its sense of reality should not be sacrificed. We will not support unilateral efforts by the Obama administration to intervene in the Syrian conflict.

However does this mean that in the name of political realism that the Obama administration should do nothing to support the Syrian people? Fortunately other options exist. The other best option I believe was recently articulated quite well by Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Enquirer.

In her article “Annan’s plan for Syria is dead; Washington needs a Plan B” Rubin argued that while the US should not attempt to unilaterally enforce a no fly zone over Syria, we could play a much more significant role in supporting the Syrian rebels against the regime than we are now. If the forces of the decentralized Syrian rebel forces are to defeat the Assad regime they will need much more effective weapons than they are currently receiving. They “will need help with intelligence and communications, along with antitank and antiaircraft weapons.” Furthermore the United States should take a strong role to insure that the most responsible and potentially democratic forces against the Assad regime are strengthened and unified and that the most reactionary are diminished. This means that US military, intelligence, financial and diplomatic resources do need to be invested in the revolutionary movement against the regime.

The advantages of such a policy would be numerous. If as is probable, the Syrian revolution with US help, triumphs the United States will be in the role of a strong  supporter of the new revolutionary regime. We would be in a situation in which we could help it move toward liberal democratic directions that we advocate. We will simultaneously be able to help marginalize the potential Islamic and other anti western forces that are also in revolt against the Assad dictatorship.

The negatives? Of Course many will call even such a policy “imperialistic” as they do all US foreign policy initiatives. Furthermore the policy also does not guarantee the defeat of the Assad regime as would the more activist policy recommended by John McCain. However at least we will have made a serious effort to aid the Syrian people in the time of their need. We will have done what we realistically can do. That would be at least be a moral achievement. If however we do nothing and simply allow the Assad regime escalate its violence to the degree that it overwhelms the democratic forces in blood than we will earn nothing but shame.

The link to Trudy Rubin’s article is http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/trudy_rubin/20120624_Annan_s_plan_for_Syria_is_dea d__Washington_needs_a_Plan_B.html

Glenn King

Interview with the Social Democrats USA

Earlier this year I was asked by Chairman Rick D’loss to contact Roland Dodds, publisher of the blog “But I am a Liberal: Words From A Wandering Internationalist” so that he could conducted an interview with me regarding the current Social Democrats USA. The following links are to the two parts of the interview that we did in March of this year. Of course I am aware that no one can summarize the nature of any organization particularly one such as the SDUSA with out ones own personal point of view from intruding. However I did attempt to be as objective as possible during the interview.

The link to Part 1 of  the interview is http://www.butiamaliberal.com/2012/03/interview-with-social-democrats-usa.html The link to part two is  http://www.butiamaliberal.com/2012/03/interview-with-social-democrats-usa_16.html

Glenn King

On Race and Class

The enclosed article “On Race and Class” is by Herb Engstrom who has been a member of the SDUSA since 2010. In the article I believe that Mr. Engstrom makes a good argument for extending the role of government in the educational lifes of poor children without simultaneously getting into the idea that race is the central dynamic of American society, an idea which has dominated much of the rhetoric of the American left for decades.

Mr Engstrom has a Ph.D in Physics and is a member of the Executive Board of the State Democratic Party of California. He is also a member of the Central Committee of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. The link to his website is http://hengstrom.net/

Glenn

 

On Race and Class

By Herb Engstrom

17 May 2012

There is a substantial correlation between race and class. The average income in the U.S. of Caucasians and South and East Asians is considerably higher than that of African-Americans and Latinos.

There is also great correlation between poverty and crime for reasons that are obvious: poor people need food and shelter as do the non-poor, and when the poor lack the resources to obtain these necessities, many turn to crime in desperation. Consequently, Blacks and Latinos are greatly over-represented in California’s prison population.

Many observers blame this disparity on racial discrimination, but overt racism is not the whole story or even most of the reason for the perpetual poverty of those groups. Many immigrant groups suffered outright discrimination: the gold rush Chinese; Irish, Italian, and Polish Catholics; and Eastern European Jews. Yet all of these, despite differences from mainstream America in race or religion, have pretty much overcome discrimination. What, then, accounts for hundreds of years of the disparity in economic success between those groups on one hand and Blacks and Latinos on the other?

The answer is, unfortunately, bound to create controversy and even denial. But if we are to solve the problem of the relative poverty of Blacks and Latinos we need to muster the courage to face the problem honestly.

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