"Nobody is reading this but still, without Aarowatch this had to go somewhere. Nick Cohen's piece today is also the least functional article ever written.
Apparently Syria is exactly like the Spanish Civil War because it's, um, fascists vs left-wingers, um no actually they're fascists but hey, and we should be happy, oh no wait upset, about the modern-day international brigade (who are actually Islamists) going over there to fight Assad since they'll come back over here and wreak the same kind of carnage as the International Brigade did, um wait that's not right, or something. "*
I read Aaronovitch Watch** the the last couple of years of its existence (2009-2011), and it provided excellent criticism of the pro-Iraq War arguments. It intelligently dissected the lack of logic that the war's proponents surrounded their arguments, exposed their promises that the finding of WMD would change everything, that the Americans would be greeted as liberators, that an invasion would be better than allowing another minute of Saddam's rule. They ate people like Nick Cohen for breakfast. Now with the Syrian revolution, they just repeat the same arguments without acknowledging any change in the facts. And put their assumptions into the arguments of their opponents, and think that the garbage that results proves Cohen rather than them a fool. Here's what Cohen actually says,
"In the Spanish Civil War, Britain and France's refusal to help the legitimate government in Madrid repel the attack by General Franco produced the result they most feared. It was not just that Hitler and Mussolini had no qualms about "illiberal intervention" in Spain, any more than Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia have qualms about illiberal intervention in Syria today. The fascist forces were strengthened for the wider conflict of the Second World War, but so too were the communists. Britain would not intervene in Spain in the 1930s because it did not want to help Stalin. Its very inaction helped him. The fact communists were willing to go to Spain and fight bolstered the prestige of communism. At least they preferred fighting to running away, people said.
I do not know what would have happened if western powers had imposed no-fly zones and safe havens three years ago. But I know al-Qaida is back from the dead and militant Islamists from Britain and across Europe have gone to Syria, as the International Brigades went to Spain, and we will have to have them back one day."
This seems like an eminently sensible analogy. OC's first substitution, "um no actually they're fascists", seems to apply to all those fighting Assad, and goes without saying is a libel. The second point about International Brigades is a sensible analogy, if the West doesn't help, people they don't like will fill the gap, and OC goes, Islamists aren't Communists exactly, yah boo sucks.
I think there are problems with the specific military strategy that Cohen proposes. I think there is a wider problem with appealing to Europe or America or the United Nations to bring an end to Assad, only because it is not going to happen. I was thinking today about the lack of specificity with which Cameron and Obama went to their legislatures for support. That wasn't to spring a surprise on Assad, that was to make the votes easy to lose. But still Cohen seems like much more of a friend to Syrians than the leftists who drone on about the dangers of American intervention, when it is clear there is no invasion on the agenda.
And won't be at this current level of violence. But there is no way for Assad to regain the consent to govern from the vast majority of Syrians, and so his military strategy is to bomb and starve as many of them into death or exile as he can. That is why Syria is a growing source of instability in the region. With the economy on the rocks, with no prospect of anything more than temporary victories, the régime grows more desperate, and the massacres escalate. When there are half a million dead and ten million refugees, maybe the Americans will be forced to do something, though I strongly doubt they will ever risk their own troops in combat in Syria. But even if that proved a bloody mess, the anti-war argument would have been discredited by the carnage that had preceded it. If the argument that the FSA needs to be armed, above all with anti-aircraft weapons to stop the bombing, were put more widely, then we wouldn't face a situation where the socialist movement's international policy is likely to be discredited by its inaction over Syria.