The Syrian civil war has not only been catastrophic for the people of Syria but has been the source of major divisions within progressive movements. These are divisions, by the way, even between old friends and comrades.
The divisions first became evident by the initial silence by many progressives in the face of massive, popular demonstrations against the Assad regime in 2011. This was in the context of the Arab democratic uprisings (the “Arab Spring”). It was really odd to watch. When demonstrators overthrew dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, progressives in the global North (including but not limited to the USA) cheered. When demonstrations and, later, uprisings began against dictatorships in Libya and Syria, there was the silence of the cemetery. Perhaps because Qaddafi and Assad were masterful in using the language of “anti-imperialism” many progressives assumed that the uprisings in Libya and Syria had to have been a simple project of global capitalism. Regardless, there was a turning of a blind-eye to the obvious atrocities of these respective regimes. Worse, there were/are many progressives who have looked at the Assad regime as the barrier to the religio-fascism of Al Qaeda and Daesh (the so-called Islamic State), rather than, itself, a representation of pro-neo-liberal authoritarianism, including the use of barbaric repression and ethnic manipulation.
Into this Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has submitted a strong and compelling analysis of the situation. The piece begins by taking a look at the ignominious role of the USA in the Middle East. He then turns to Syria. While his examination of the USA’s role in the region is overall pointed and useful, when he examines Syria bells start ringing, and i don’t mean bells of celebration. In effect, Kennedy falls into the trap of viewing the Syrian civil war (revolution) through a lens that suggests that the causes have little to do with the internal situation in Syria and the multiple decades of oppression and repression that the Syrian people have suffered under the Assad dynasty, but, instead, it all has to do with outsiders.
Clay Claiborne, a long-time leftist writer and activist who is no stranger to controversy, chose to issue a response to RFK, Jr. This is a hard-hitting critique of Kennedy and one that is worth reading and discussing. To borrow from one of my favorite commentators, the late Rod Serling, I submit this for your consideration.