Across the Great Divide..
20 December '16..
It is difficult not to be moved by events in Syria. The images from Aleppo, Syria are heart-breaking. It is also fair to say, most of us in the west, despite vocally shouting that ‘something needs to be done’, haven’t got much idea about exactly what. Syria is a tale of 1000 trenches with 2000 armies.
During the ‘Arab spring’ in 2011, I remember being engaged in debate over events in Libya. As ‘interventionists’ were encountering difficulty coordinating international support for anti-Gaddafi action, I was pointing towards Syria, worried international impotence was signaling to Assad he could act with impunity. Action in Libya was the ‘easy’ choice.
At the time, most commentary over the ‘Arab Spring’ was positive. Thousands of experts, mostly liberal elites listening to the sound of their own echo, applauding the ‘rising up’ of the Arab street. This policy brief from the European Policy Centre discusses how Europe should ‘open up’ to ‘democracies in the making’. Brian Whitaker in the Guardian suggested on 14/3/2011 that “the Arab spring is brighter than ever”.
My pessimism in conversations on the topic was unwelcome. Nobody wanted the input of the doomsayer. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in the Guardian led with a headline “Arabs are democracy’s new pioneers”. They asked “what these new experiments in freedom and democracy will teach the world over the next decade?” It is now 2016, we are half way into that ‘next decade’. This piece is in answer to that puzzle.
In the beginning
To do this I must start this story 20 years earlier. To be precise at 3.30am on 18th January 1991.
At that time, I was huddled inside a ‘sealed room’. In reality this was just a room specially decorated with masking tape and plastic sheeting, designed to increase my chance of surviving a chemical attack. I didn’t speak Hebrew, and the information given on the radio was linguistically out of my reach. One of my neighbours kept their dog leashed outside their house and I’d frequently sneak over to let it run free for a while. So when the sirens came, I first ran to free ‘Lady’ to share my protection against chemical attack. So, there we sat in the sealed room, two loners, taking our chances together.
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