Syria is burning, not because of the Arab Spring or Tyranny or Twitter, or any of the other popular explanations. The fire in Syria is the same firestorm burning in Iraq, in Turkey, in Lebanon and throughout much of the Muslim world. It has nothing to do with human rights or democracy. There is no revolution here. Only the eternal civil war.
Mohammed unleashed a fanatical round of conquests and crusades, he
began by wrecking the cultures and religions of his native region. And
his followers went on to do the same throughout the region and across
Entire peoples lost their history, their
past, their religion and their way of life. This cultural genocide was
worst in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. But the Middle Eastern
peoples lost much of their heritage as well.
Muslim conquerors made a special point of persecuting and exterminating
the native beliefs and indigenous inhabitants they dominated. Israeli
Jews, Assyrian Christians and Persian Zoroastrians faced special
Conquered peoples were expected to become
Muslims. Those who resisted were repressed as Dhimmis. But those who
submitted and became Muslims suffered a much worse fate, losing major
portions of their traditions and history. They were expected to define
themselves as Muslims first and look back to the great day when their
conquerors subjugated them as the beginning of their history. Their
pre-Islamic history faded into the mists of the ignorant past.
Islam did not lead to a unified region, only to a prison of nations.
The Caliphates, like the USSR, held sway over a divided empire through
repression and force. Many of those peoples had lost a clear sense of
themselves, but they still maintained differences that they expressed by
modifying Islam to accommodate their existing beliefs and customs.
authorities viewed this as nothing short of heresy. It was against some
such heresies that the Wahhabi movement was born. But these attempts to
force the peoples of the region into one mold were doomed to fail.
came about to stamp out all differences, to reduce all men to one, to
blend state and mosque into one monstrous law for all. And it did
succeed to some extent. Many cultures and beliefs were driven nearly to
extinction. Jews, Christians and others struggled to survive in the
walls of a hostile civilization. But Islam could not remain united and
the divisions resurfaced in other ways.
did succeed in conquering much of the world in a frenzy of plunder and
death. But they quickly turned on each other. Rather than conquering the
world, they went on to fight over the plunder and the power. Nothing
has really changed since then.
The fall of the Ottoman
Empire brought in the Europeans to reconstruct the Middle East. The
modern states are the work of their hands. A clumsy mismatch of borders
and warring peoples. The USSR came after with its own line of coups and
Arab Socialist dictatorships. Now the third wave of Islamist tyrannies
is on the march. But none of them can solve the basic problems of the
Syria is burning not because of human rights,
but because it's a collection of different peoples with different
variants of Islam who don't get along. A handful are descended from the
original natives. The rest are foreign Arab invaders, some more recent
than others. The story repeats itself across the region. And across the
Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon are just some
examples of countries permanently divided by such a mismatch of peoples.
Agreements and elections come to nothing because no group believes that
they will be treated as equals if they aren't in power. And they're
right. Equality doesn't just come from open elections, but from a
cultural acceptance of differences. This simply does not exist in the
Muslim world where gender differences mean you're a force of corruption
or a slave, ethnic differences mean you are the son of a dog, and
religious differences mean you're an enemy.
the forces of Islam not turned the Middle East upside down, the nation
state might have evolved out of individual cultures, rather than as a
strange hybrid of feudalism and Great Powers colonialism. For all their
bluster and viciousness, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon are
abandoned colonies. The Gulf states are even worse, backward clans of
cutthroat merchants who are parasitically feeding off the West, even as
they try to destroy it.
The rulers invariably marry
Western women or women with a large dose of Western blood. Sadat married
the daughter of an English woman. Mubarak married the daughter of a
Welsh woman. For all that the Hashemites tout their descent from
Mohammed, Queen Noor is more Anglo-Saxon than Arab. And the current
Jordanian King's mother was originally known as Toni Gardner. Even when
they do marry Arab women, they are usually Christian Arabs and British
There's something pathetic about the sight of
the post-colonial Arab leadership trying to gain some psychological
legitimacy by intermarrying with their former rulers. As if pumping
enough English blood into the veins of their offspring will somehow make
them as capable as the Empire that ruled them and then left to attend
to its own affairs.
But not nearly as pathetic as half
of them claiming descent from Mohammed. Both reveal the underlying
historical instability of their rule. These aren't nation states,
they're hopelessly dysfunctional geographical divisions bristling with
Western weapons and money, with interpretations of the Koran and texts
on Arab Socialism, where everyone is a philosopher and a scholar-- but
no government lasts longer than it takes to overthrow it.
colonel and general dreams of empire, and every cleric in his flea
ridden robes theorizes on the Islamic state, but none of them can do
anything but act out the same murderous dramas. Building their house of
cards and then watching it tumble down.
shenanigans not raised the price of bread, while providing support to
local leftists from wealthy families, the Arab Spring would not exist.
Now that it has, it's only another excuse for locals to fight their
civil wars and then erect another ramshackle regime on the ruins of the
This isn't 1848 as some have theorized. It's 848, over and over again. Worse still, it's 748.
you don't have a nation, but you do have an army, then what you have is
not a state, but a Shawarma Republic. To keep the army from
overthrowing the leader, he must find internal or external enemies. When
a downturn occurs, and the mobs gather, either the army massacres the
mob or overthrows the ruler. Or the rebels cut a deal with some internal
elements and wipe out the loyalists.
This is an old
regional narrative that has nothing to do with democracy, human rights,
Twitter or any of the other nonsense flowing through New York Times
columns faster than the sewers of Cairo.
Shawarma Republic has some royal or military ruler at the top who
receives money from the West or from its enemies to hold up his end of
the bargain. Which to him means stowing the money into foreign bank
accounts, sending his trophy wife on shopping trips to Paris and
striking a fine balancing between wiping out his enemies and buying them
Naturally he carries on the ritualistic chant of
"Death to Israel", and if Israel ever looks weak enough, or his new
Chinese or Iranian allies kick in the money for a full fledged invasion,
he may even take a whack at it. But mostly the chants of "Death to
Israel" are a convenient way of executing his enemies for collaborating
In Syria, Assad's Shawarma Republic
(officially the Syrian Arab Republic, formerly the United Arab Republic,
after a bunch of coups and one kingdom, the privately owned fiefdom of
the dumbest scion of the clan) is on fire. Because the enemies of the
regime, and some of its former allies, got around to exploiting Bashar
For now Assad's armies backed by his
Iranian allies are in control of the Shawarma Republic of Syria but that
might change. Especially now that Turkey and much of the Arab world
have stepped into the anti-Assad camp. And when the fireworks die down,
and the corpses are cleaned up off the streets, there will be another
Shawarma Republic. This one may not be run by the Alawites. But it will
be run by someone, and it won't be the people.
irony is that after turning Lebanon into its puppet, Syria got the same
treatment from Iran. And if a revolt succeeds, then it might get the
same treatment from Turkey. The big dog bites the little dog, and the
bigger dog bites it.
was a brief window after the war when the exit of empires and the
presence of a large Western educated class seemed as if they might lead
to working societies. Instead they led to the pathetic imitations of the
worst of the West, dress up generals and scholars cranking out
monographs explaining how everything could be made right with their
theory. Now it's leading back to Islamism and the bloody clashes in the
desert that originated this permanent state of dysfunction.
Islamic Caliphate as a panacea for the problems caused by Islamic
caliphates is about as good an idea as pouring gasoline on a fire. Which
is exactly what the Islamists financed by Gulf royals, who can't help
cutting throats even when it's their own, are doing.
can't build a country out of armies and billions of dollars. The reason
that Israel works and the Arab world doesn't is very simple. The Jews
retained their identity. The perpetrators and victims of Islam who
surround them have no roots. Only the sword in their hand and the
shifting sands under their feet.