Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Pew survey on US public opinion on airstrikes on Syria

by Salman Hameed

As the Obama administration marches towards the inevitable bombing of Syria, it seems that almost half of all Americans oppose this action (see the Pew results here). Now, in theory, a moral argument can always trump public opinion. But in this particular case, it is the preservation of US "credibility" that seems to be driving the push for bombing. In an alternative universe that would play as a black comedy, but here the consequences may include the worsening of humanitarian crisis and a further escalation of sectarian tensions. It is not that Assad is exactly a mushy and nice fellow. But we have to understand the consequences of bombing for the people that we are supposedly trying to save.

Here are two excellent articles on the Syrian situation. The first one is by Hampshire College professor, Omar Dahi, and focuses on how to think about these chemical attacks: Chemical Attacks and Military Interventions:

It is hard to avoid the hopeless feeling that Syrians have lost almost all agency over their collective future. The European Union, Gulf, and the United States may very well increase armaments to the rebels, the United States may launch cruise missiles into Syria, NATO may impose a no-fly zone or invade part or all Syrian territory. But whatever actions take place, continuing to claim them in the interests of the Syrian people is simply an exercise in public relations and deception. 
Both the supporters of the government and the rebels continue to frame the possible outcomes of the conflict as either a victory for the government or the rebels—a way to avoid coming to terms with the third possibility: that both sides have already lost. The only option left for Syrians still interested in stopping the fall further down the abyss is to demand a political settlement and massive aid to help heal the mass humanitarian catastrophe inside Syria and the neighboring countries. It would be the beginning of politics and possibilities—very bleak ones as things stand, but nevetheless ones that do not now exist.

Read this full article here.

And here is one by Vijay Prashad, who is currently the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut: Letter to a Syrian Friend Who Said: ‘Your Opposition to the US Attack on Syria Means You Support the Asad Regime’ (with a little Habib Jalib at the end):

I recognize that you are in the midst of a civil war and that what I propose sounds to you like surrender. You wish to fight on, with the messianic view that eventually you will prevail over the regime of Asad. This might be the case, but the odds are stacked against you as much as they are stacked against the Asad regime that it will have a complete victory. Neither of you are willing to see that the human suffering is not worth the chances of triumph. Empire enjoys watching the two sides battle like caged mice, weakening each other to its advantage.  
Syria deserves better. But now the cord of Syrian nationalism is wrapped around the neck of the Syrian people, asphyxiating your dreams of sovereignty and freedom. A mediated peace alongside a process for genuine democratization guaranteed by your neighboring states would strengthen the chances for the renewal of your national ambitions. Anything else will simply lead to the destruction of your country, its history, and its future. I am not in favor of the gallows of Ba‘th, nor the execution chambers of Jabhat al-Nusra, neither the guns of NATO nor the neoliberal spirits of the Gulf Arab regimes. Humans have complex minds, and even more complex ambitions. It is for us on the Left to foster those desires, and not to fall prey to the choices of the present. Neither this nor that, but only the future.
For you, my friend, a taste of the great Pakistani leftwing poet Habib Jalib, this is the opening of Dastoor, from 1962: 
Deep jis ka sirf mehellaat hi mein jalay,
Chand logon ki khushyon ko lay ker chalay,
Wo jo saye main har maslihat kay palay;
Aisay dastoor ko,
Subh-e-bay noor ko,
Main naheen maanta,
Main naheen jaanta. 
The light that shines alone in palaces,
Steals away the people’s happiness.
Feigns its strength from other’s weakness.
That kind of system,
Dawn without light,
I refuse.
I deny

Read the full article here.

And here is the main Pew Survey of American public opinion on Syrian airstrikes:

And there is opposition from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents:
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among 1,000 adults, finds that Obama has significant ground to make up in his own party. Just 29% of Democrats favor conducting airstrikes against Syria while 48% are opposed. Opinion among independents is similar (29% favor, 50% oppose). Republicans are more divided, with 35% favoring airstrikes and 40% opposed.
And here is how most Americans see the impact of these airstrikes:

Read the full Pew report here. By the way, Obama is currently in Stockholm. Can't the Nobel committee take its 2009 Peace Prize back? 

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