From the November-December 2019 issue of News & Letters
by Gerry Emmett
Trump’s deliberately misnamed “withdrawal” of U.S. troops in Syria has drastically changed the situation on the ground. The revolutionaries in Idlib are even more threatened than before, and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) government has seen its tenuous autonomy slip away.
The genocidal Assad regime, Russia’s Putin, and Turkey’s Erdoğan have been strengthened.
But the Syrian Revolution is not dead. It lives in the solidarity the steadfast activists in Idlib and elsewhere have shown with revolutionary struggles in Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon. It lives in the rejection expressed by Arabs and Kurds to the return of Assad’s genocidal regime to eastern Syria, invited by a collapsing PYD government.
The Revolution also lives in the horror and disgust felt by its theoreticians at the coopting of its symbols by reactionary state power—as has been done by Erdoğan’s Turkey. In fact, revolution only exists through human solidarity and critical self-comprehension. This dire moment is not the end of a discussion, but the beginning.
THE DEVIL IN HIS OWN WORDS
Trump’s Oct. 23 speech on Syria lays out his counter-revolutionary vision of a changed world. As in the Indian occupation of Kashmir, where he offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, Trump posits the U.S., and even more himself, as the central factor in world politics: “This was an outcome created by us…and nobody else, no other nation.”
He intends to reorient the U.S.’s PYD allies in line with world capitalism: “We’ve secured the [Syrian] oil…and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.” He feels free to do this because of the weakness of the PYD’s position: “The war [with Turkey] was going to be vicious and probably not very long.”
He reduces the Syrian Revolution, with its creativity and heroism, to “ancient sectarian and tribal conflicts.” In this, he builds on the Obama administration’s betrayals of the Syrian Revolution, and the failure of bourgeois ideology going back to the Bosnian genocide, even as he cynically cites “President Obama’s ill-fated push at regime change.”
Most telling are Trump’s two “never befores”: “We are now an economic powerhouse like never before…We are building up America’s military might like never before.” Here’s the tail of the dragon.
This, at least, is a clear articulation of pure imperialism. As the false idea that the Syrian Revolution has been finally defeated is promoted, the curtain is pulled away.