“Syria-Israel Peace: The Impact on Non-State militias” by Landis

Several weeks ago, I was asked to answer the following four questions about the impact of a Syrian-Israeli peace on terrorism in the region. Here are my answers. Let me make it clear that the following questions are not mine.

Syria & Israel:
Peace Prospects and Consequences for Terrorist Groups

By Joshua Landis
September 2008

1.What levers could Syria use during peace talks to retrieve the Golan Heights?

Syria has cultivated a number of “cards” to play in order to pressure Israel to return the Golan Heights and come to the negotiating table. These cards are ideological, military, and diplomatic.

Ideologically, Syria is the only Arab country that continues to advocate pan-Arab nationalism with any vigor. Pan-Arabism serves to deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the midst of the Arab homeland. Likewise, the Syrian government insists on the notion of “Arab Rights.” By promoting Arab identity, Damascus reminds Middle Easterners that Israel and its western supporters are in violation of the rights of the Arab people through the occupation of their land.

The Syrian government tries to forestall the emergence of local, territory-based, national sentiment for fear that Arabs will forget their struggle against Israel and cease caring about Syria’s fight for the Golan. By preserving a sense of pan-Arab duty in fighting Israel, Damascus undercuts the efforts of America’s “moderate” allies (Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) in turning their citizens against Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. The chief reason Nasrallah remains the most admired leader among Arabs is because he has fought and sacrificed in the struggle for “Arab” rights. Thus, by bolstering the notion of Arab rights and nationalism, Syria undermines efforts to cast Hizbullah and Hamas as “terrorists” rather than as “freedom fighters.”

Bringing peace between Syrian, Lebanon and Israel would help America’s Middle East allies attenuate the anger of their people, who are not happy with the pro-Israel policies of their governments. “Moderate” Arab leaders are concerned that the growing hostility to Israel undermines their domestic situation by exposing their support for President Abbas as tantamount to collaboration with Israel in oppressing Palestinians living in Gaza. As popular Arab hostility towards Israeli actions directed towards Gaza grows, so street anger towards these regimes rises – and the popularity of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah increases: This makes “moderate” leaders feel vulnerable. (“Summary of Salafist web sites” Conflict Forum – September 16, 2008)

Militarily, Syria cultivates a number of allied militias, the most important of which are Hizbullah and Hamas. Because Syria cannot challenge Israel militarily, it must rely on non-state actors to hurt Israel in operations that avoid using a Syrian return address.

Hizbullah is one of the two main reasons that Israel has returned to the negotiating table with Syria. Israel’s failure to destroy Hizbullah in 2006 or to stop its subsequent rearming by Syria and Iran has persuaded Israel to try diplomacy. Likewise, US efforts to take on Hizbullah ended in failure. Washington’s attempt to strengthen the Lebanese government and army in the hope that they could disarm Hizbullah came to a sad end in May 2008, when Shiite militias overran West Beirut, the stronghold of Saad Hariri, America’s ally. The fact that mid-level officers in the Lebanese Army worked hand-in-glove with Hizbullah convinced Israel and European governments alike that Washington could not turn the Lebanese army into a terror fighting machine. It was no coincidence that Israel’s announcement of talks with Syria followed hard on Hizbullah’s success. When all military options to destroy Hizbullah failed, Israel turned to diplomacy. One of the main purposes of Israeli negotiators is to explore the possibility that Syria is capable of convincing Hizbullah to lay down its arms. Conversely, a principal Syrian card in the negotiations will be to keep the Hizbullah threat foremost in Israeli consciousness and to convince Israelis that Syria can and will act decisively to change Hizbullah’s purpose and capabilities.

It is easy to overstate Syria’s military capabilities. Hizbullah has not killed an Israeli for over two years. As a military threat, Hamas is little more than an irritant. This brings us to diplomacy and alliances.

Diplomacy is crucial to Syria. Having allies, such as Russia and Iran, that are seen to be growing stronger rather than weaker can only help Syria in its effort to get back the Golan. They compensate for Syria’s military weakness. (Syria’s negotiations in the 1990s failed in part because of the collapse of the USSR and inability of Syria to find alternate allies. Israel become convinced that time was on its side and the Golan could be absorbed with minimal risk.)

If Hizbullah is one reason Israel has come to the table, Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities and influence in the region is the other. As Israeli Ambassador to Washington Sallai Meridor explained recently: “By far, the first reason to engage with the Syrians is to explore whether there is a chance to [separate them from Iran] and stop their harboring, encouraging and supporting of terror.”

Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities and anti-Israeli rhetoric have rattled Israel. So have prospects that Russia may return to its Cold War policy of arming Syria and Middle Eastern proxies more generally in its revived contest with the US. These dangers provide Damascus with leverage just as they make the notion of “flipping” Syria ever more attractive to Tel Aviv.

2. What are the implications of a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement for regional counterterrorism efforts?

Syria has stated that a full return of the Golan and peace with Israel will “change the strategic environment of the region.” This will have a major impact on counterterrorism efforts.

First and foremost, it would allow the US to resume intelligence sharing with Syria and work closely with Damascus to stop jihadist infiltration into Iraq. Damascus is eager for this cooperation. So is the US military. A year ago, a West Point study based on captured documents estimated that forty or so foreign fighters cross into Iraq from Syria every month. Petraeus has been powerless to resume intelligence sharing with Syria for the purpose of stopping this traffic due to Washington’s ideological priority placed on isolating Syria. A peace agreement that would include the end of isolation and a return of the US ambassador to Damascus would eliminate this obstacle. Fewer American soldiers would be killed in Iraq.

Also, if Anbar province becomes destabilized as a result of the decommissioning of the pro-American, Awakening militias, it will be important for Washington to seal the Syrian border in order to assist the Iraqi government forces in their effort to subdue the region and draw the noose around recalcitrant Sons of Iraq. A friendly Syria can assist US plans for consolidating central control of Iraq and eradicating al-Qaida’s presence there. Syria’s mukhabarat have been good providers of intelligence on al-Qaida suspects in the past. There is no reason to have them as enemies if peace is signed between Israel and Syria.

3. How would any loss of Syrian sponsorship affect Hizballah and the Palestinian rejectionist groups?

Syria has considerable leverage over Hizbullah for a number of reasons, not least of which is that all of Hizbullah’s larger arm supplies must be transported through Syria. Delivery by sea or air leaves them vulnerable to monitoring and interception by Israel and the US.

Syria could persuade Hizbullah to give up its fight against Israel. If Syria made peace with Israel and ended its grievance over the Golan, any ally that sought to undermine the peace and rekindle war between Syria and Israel would become a problem. The community of interest shared between Hizbullah and Syria is too important to be sacrificed over peace with Israel. 

Some Hizbullah leaders might hold out and resist such a shift and insist on continuing the struggle against Israel and to turn against Syria, but they would be in the distinct minority. The notion that if Syria began to shift its strategic interest, Hizbullah would also trim its sails has considerable merit. Hizbullah has coordinated strategy closely with both Syria and Iran.

There can be little doubt that Hizbullah would be sorely divided were Syria and Iran to move in opposite directions. Because of the reluctance of the three allies – Syria, Hizbullah, and Iran – to move, one without the others for fear of being tricked by the US and Israel, Washington would be well advised to engage all three in dialogue. By attempting to bring all three along at once, Washington stands a much greater chance of successfully reducing terrorism in the region than if it attempts to “flip” one in order to destroy the others or to divide and conquer.

This is not to say that Syria would not be tempted to turn without its allies were it given proper guarantees of diplomatic support, security guarantees, and economic assistance, but the likelihood of success would be greatly increased if the West engages in a good faith effort at compromise with all three. If this approach fails, it will have provided Syrians with political cover. Syrian officials take the claim of “Arab rights” seriously and will be reluctant to be seen to sacrifice them without compromises from the US – Israel camp.

As for militant Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, Syria is not wedded to them and can move on its own peace agreement with Israel without waiting on the Palestinian track. Syrian officials have reiterated that Syria’s official Palestinian policy is much like Iran’s and Hezbollah’s. They want a solution that the Palestinians accept, or at least the vast majority of them. When asked if that must include all occupied territory, they that if the Palestinian accept it, we accept it. We do not want to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians. When the Palestinians abandoned their war footing in 1992 in order to pursue the Oslo peace process, they, in essence, gave Syria the right to pursue peace on its own as well.

Unofficially, many, if not most Syrians, have come to the conclusion that the Palestiniansare too weak to stop the loss of their land and rights to Israelis. They also believe that the international community will do little to prevent this. Most Arab governments have abandoned the fight and there is little that Syria can do to reverse this process. Many Syrians are of the opinion that if Syria can get back the Golan, it will be fortunate. Syria has suffered enough in wars against Israel. The government is prepared to exploit this sentiment. It is fully aware of its own weaknesses – both military and economic. In short, Syria wants a deal, and it does not want to allow Palestinian groups veto power over a deal. It does not believe the situation for the Palestinians or the Golan will improve over the long run.

4. How would a peace agreement impact Syria’s domestic security situation?

Peace with Israel would improve regime stability by improving the economy. Presumably Syria would be taken off the terrorist list, US economic sanctions would be dropped, and foreign investment in Syria would rise markedly.

It is common for regime detractors to claim that it would collapse forthwith because war with Israel is its main, if not only, justification. Sunni Syrians, they suggest, would turn against the Alawite dominated regime once peace was signed. This analysis has little if any merit. The same was said about Egypt’s authoritarian regime. It has survived just fine – indeed, it avoided bankruptcy by signing peace with Israel and winning US economic backing.

What is more, the notion that the Syrian leadership derives its legitimacy from fighting Israel is hard to square with reality. Syria has never won a battle against Israel; Syrians are not fools. The legitimacy that the Syrian regime enjoys does not come from fighting Israel. On the contrary, It comes from the stability and security that the leadership provides Syrians. In a region where little stability exists and where regime collapse usually means catastrophic civil war and social break down, security is prized over fighting Israel. No Syrian wants to end up like an Iraqi, Palestinian or Lebanese during that country’s long civil war. More than one out of eight inhabitants of Syria are refugees or have parents who were refugees during the past century. The conservatism of Syrians and value placed on security should not be underestimated.

Consequently, Syrians put up with the government they have. They complain a lot, but protest little. There is no viable or dangerous opposition in Syria. The regime has shown its willingness to act swiftly and brutally to smash opponents before they can organize against it. As in other Arab countries, security forces are able to convince the people not to question government legitimacy.

Syrian leaders and the economic elite in Syria are all expecting a sizeable economic peace dividend. They may be disappointed in this. Although fewer barriers to foreign and local investment will exist in a climate of peace, corruption and the absence of the rule of law will remain primary obstacles to economic growth in Syria.

In the long run, peace may well force the Syrian regime to take more decisive measures to reform and promote economic growth, but this is unlikely to jeopardize the regime’s survival. So long as sectarian mistrust remains high in Syria and in the region more generally, the present leadership will be able to avoid unified popular action against it. Having peace with its strongest neighbor can only add to this stability. Syria’s leadership and people stand to benefit from both the process and the peace. Arguments that Syria only wants the process and not the peace are silly.

Comments (51)


ToddGMoney said:

I really liked your analysis Dr. Landis. I just am worried that there are still plenty of hardliners in Israel who think that if they were just to hit Hezbollah harder and effectively resort to full-scale terrorist tactics (i.e. collective punishment) they could solve all their problems with Hezbollah / Syria without even going to the negotiating table. I don’t think that the statements of General Eisenkot at the beginning of this month (the whole “disproportionate force to destroy Lebanese villages” thing) necessarily represent the view of a majority of the Israeli establishment, but if say Hezbollah attacks a high-profile Israeli target in response to the Mughaniyeh killing it would be easy for Kadima to be swept up in the resuliting clamor for retribution for the fear of appearing weak. To the extent that Syria controls Hezbollah (no revenge operations in the 8-odd months since Mugniyah’s assassination I think are proof of this) I doubt if such an attack will occur, because Syria probably feels it has a decent bargaining position already and is waiting for an Obama administration to push the peace process. But of course wars in such tense situations can begin unintentionally, and who knows, Iran could quickly scrap Damascus’ rapprochement with the West by sparking another conflagration, or certain parties in Israel could again prove Kadima’s fecklessness by embroiling it in another war. And what’s to prevent a false flag operation? A few rockets lobbed over the border by a Salafi organization might be enough to get half of southern Lebanon incinerated. To put it succinctly, there are too many parties that lose if the peace track continues, and that’s what worries me.

October 13th, 2008, 11:28 pm

 

mrrobinson said:

In regards to question 4, I think Dr. Landis ignores a large component of the “regime detractors” argument. The argument isn’t simply that Sunni’s will instantly call to arms if Syria makes peace with Israel. The regime will theoretically be compelled to repeal the state of emergency that has been in effect for the past 45 years. It is under this state of emergency that Asad-ayn have arrested countless political opponents. A peace deal with Israel would force them to either open up politically or find a new excuse for throwing dissenters in jail….

October 14th, 2008, 12:33 am

 

norman said:

Dear Joshua ,

The only thing I disagree with is the notion that Syria will abandon the Palestinians for a unilateral peace deal.
Syria will lose all credibility if she does that ,

The only way for peace is a comprehensive peace between Israel on one side and the Palestinians , Syrians , Lebanese and the Iranians on the other side , The rest of the Arabs are already paid for.

October 14th, 2008, 2:01 am

 

phil cattar said:

The problem with your answers is I do not see what is in it for the two strongest parties,Iran and Israel.I do not believe Israel will ever give the Golan unless Syria severs ties with Iran and Hizbullah .This is the sine qua non of the negotiation.

October 14th, 2008, 2:26 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

A few rockets lobbed over the border by a Salafi organization…

ToddGMoney –

I didn’t know Hezbollah was “a Salafi organization”. Or did you mean something else?

October 14th, 2008, 2:34 am

 

ToddGMoney said:

Akbar Palace –

Well, I was talking about the potential for a “false flag” operation, meaning that some party other than Hezbollah (for example, one of the Sunni extremist groups in Lebanon) might stage an attack on Israel hoping that Hezbollah would get blamed for it, triggering a repeat of the 2006 war. Here are some possible motives for your average Sunni jihadi group, and possibly by extension their paymasters in SA.

1. Making Hezbollah the target of Israeli aggression, which would probably be much more intense than in it was in 2006, if we are to believe the threats coming out of Israel. If the various Sunni extremist groups ever want to have a chance of achieving real power in Lebanon, Hezbollah will have to be severely weakened and its monopoly over the “resistance” broken. What better way to try do this than pitting their two arch-enemies against each other? Of course, Israel didn’t exactly destroy Hezbollah in 06, but again, it could still shred the 4th Geneva Convention a little more by completely turning Shi’a areas of Lebanon into rubble. For a lot of Salafis, seeing large numbers of Shiites die would be an end in itself.

2. Likewise seeing the heretical states of Syria / Iran attacked.

3 . Further damaging public opinion of Hezbollah in Lebanon amongst the Christians and Sunnis for bringing another war upon their heads, especially if the Israelis target Lebanese infrastructure to an even greater degree than they did in the last war.

4. This might not apply to all the Salafists, but I’m sure a lot would like to see the disillusion of the Lebanese state and another civil war. Failed states are havens for these people. Remember their strategy in Iraq. Just because the government is Beirut is led by a Sunni coalition doesn’t mean it’s where their loyalty lies.

The tough part is to make an attack look convincingly like it was the work of Hezbollah. There were small scale rocket attacks (2 rockets per time) on Israel from Lebanon in June of 07 and Jan. of this year. Israel thankfully declined to respond. It’s obviously difficult to do anything on a large scale with the significant Hezbollah and UN presence in southern Lebanon. But there are always assassinations and attacks on embassies to resort to, which is exactly what the Israelis are expecting to comprise a “Hezbollah” revenge attack.

October 14th, 2008, 3:27 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Joshua,

Great analysis… I hope this is read widely.

October 14th, 2008, 3:38 am

 

Joshua Landis said:

Dear Mr. Robinson, You write:

“I think Dr. Landis ignores a large component of the “regime detractors” argument. The argument isn’t simply that Sunni’s will instantly call to arms if Syria makes peace with Israel. The regime will theoretically be compelled to repeal the state of emergency that has been in effect for the past 45 years.”

Why would the government have to lift emergency laws? I don’t understand. Egypt didn’t. Emergency law is not contingent on Israel. Emergency law was imposed in 1963 when the Baath took over and sought to stabilize the new government, not because Israel was Syria’s enemy.

Dear Todd, I do not think that Syria “controls” Hizbullah, but they are close allies. Yes there are many small actors that will try to scuttle peace – all the more reason that the US should engage as many of the major powers in the area as possible in the negotiations so people are not excluded.

Dear Phil, You write that Israel will not give back the Golan unless it cuts all ties with Hizb and Iran.

I think this is a negotiating position and the demand of some who perhaps do not want to see the negotiations succeed. I think many Israelis probably understand what Olmert explained so belatedly — that Israel will never have peace unless it gives back occupied land.

But you might be correct if you argue that Israel does not need peace with Syria, Iran, or Hizbullah because they are too weak to do real harm to Israel. They are also deterable — at least for the time being.

October 14th, 2008, 4:32 am

 

Josh Landis on Syria-Israel Peace; Amnesty on Saudi Executions « Middle East News and Comment said:

[…] 14, 2008 by js3262 Professor Landis gives his take on Syria-Israel talks: Syrian leaders and the economic elite in Syria are all expecting a sizeable […]

October 14th, 2008, 4:47 am

 

Joshua Landis said:

Dear Norman and QN, thanks for your kind words. Norman, perhaps I am too direct in claiming that Syria will look after its own interests first. There is a limit to Syria’s ability to go it alone.

There will have to be a Palestinian track advancing for Syria to conclude a deal.

However, let me ask you this. If in 1999 and 2000, Ehud Barak had been willing to close a deal with Syria and give back all the Golan that Hafiz was demanding, do you think Syria would have refused to close the deal in order to wait until the Palestinian track had been successfully completed?

There must be a limit to Syria’s willingness to say goodbye to the Golan?

October 14th, 2008, 4:53 am

 

Alex said:

Joshua, Norman

I think that we need to recognize the changes that took place between 1999 and 2009 (when direct negotiations could realistically be underway).

When Hafez Assad was negotiating for the Golan, the whole Golan and nothing but the Golan, the Palestinians did not need Syria’s help.

Besides, they had Yasser Arafat … he was very allergic to Hafez Assad … he wanted the powerful Assad to stay away and leave him alone. He wanted his independence from “Syrian hegemony”

So … Hafez Assad was “doing the right thing” when he stuck to the Syrian track and did not negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians… you could say it was similar to the past three years (2005-2008) when every other country was demanding that the Syrians do not interfere in Lebanese affairs.

Similarly, in the 90’s everyone asked Syria to not interfere in Palestinian affairs.

Also, at that time the Palestinians felt that President Clinton was committed enough to a solution .. they felt that the whole world is on the same page … Europe… the “moderate Arab states” … Israeli labor leaders who were in power …

The Palestinians did not 1) want or 2) need Syria.

Between 1999 and 2009, things changed:

1) Israel moved to the extreme right (then to the center-right).

2) The second Intifada made peace prospects with the Palestinians not as popular in Israel as it used to be in 1999 … There was no effective and desirable Palestinian partner anymore … after Arafat the choices were Abbas who can not deliver and Hamas that officially refuses to recognize Israel.

3) Prime minister Sharon in 2004/2005 defeated the Palestinians and was able to severely limit their ability to attack Israel. At the same time, the Americans wee able to destroy Saddam Hussein’s army and to enter Baghdad with ease.

Israelis felt that they really do not need to NEGOTIATE anymore .. the Palestinians were considered both evil and weak … and so were the Syrians.

That’ when Israelis were thinking of unilateral limited withdrawals … settling the conflicts according to Israel’s conditions … imposing the settlement on the Arabs .. and if they don’t like it .. let them go to hell… there is nothing they can do to hurt Israel .. we can take Damascus in a day just like the Americans took Baghdad.

Arabs were demoralized.

For example, read this piece by Dr. Murhaf Jouejati just before the 2006 Lebanon war:

http://www.creativesyria.com/discussion/topicpost.php?TopicAuthorID=24&TopicID=32

At this point, many Palestinians realized if they are to have any chance to get anything reasonable out of a future settlement with Israel, they had to go back to Syria … and its other allies in Hizbollah/Lebanon.

Khaled Mahsaal became the clear top leader of Hamas … and Syria became the planner for the Palestinians’ peace strategy.

Egypt was not eligible to advise and coordinate with the Palestinians any more .. because it became clear that Mubarak is “America’s puppet” .. The Palestinians could not expect anything useful from him.

Syria committed to the Palestinian cause again .. because the Palestinians committed to Syria’s needs as well.

So … Can Syria today “stab them in the back”?

I doubt it… today is different from 1999.

In addition, the 2006 “victory” by Hizbollah modified another belief … the Arabs by now do not believe that all is lost …

Add to it the way “The Iraqi resistance” reminded America’s mighty army of Vietnam …

Things changed … both in reality, and emotionally.

Therefore, I disagree with the notion that Syria (and its Lebanese and Palestinian allies) is “weak” … it might be too weak to attack Israel, but it is confident enough to “resist” and to stick to its long-held conditions of comprehensive peace based on UN resolutions 242 and 338

To conclude … Syria will probably be obliged to ask Israel to reach a settlement with the Palestinians.

That settlement can be conducted with President Abbas, not necessarily through negotiations with Syria or its other Palestinian allies (Hamas etc) … Egypt could play the visible role in mediating on the Arab side, and Syria can deliver Hamas and the “Palestinian rejectionists”

If not .. if Israel wants a cold peace … then Syria will gladly take back the Golan, but there will be no friendship with Israel … only a cold peace treaty.

I don’t see why Israel would be interested in such a settlement … If I were an Israeli I would go for a comprehensive settlement that opens up the whole Middle East to Israeli people and Israeli businesses …

October 14th, 2008, 5:40 am

 

norman said:

Syria establishes diplomatic ties with Lebanon
Syria’s official news agency says the nation will open an embassy in Lebanon for the first time since the two countries gained independence in the 1940s.

DAMASCUS, Syria —
Syria’s official news agency says the nation will open an embassy in Lebanon for the first time since the two countries gained independence in the 1940s.

The agency, SANA, says Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree Tuesday establishing diplomatic relations with Lebanon.

The decree does not say when the embassy will be opened or give further details.

Lebanon and Syria agreed to establish diplomatic relations during an official visit by the Lebanese president to Damascus in April.

The West and Lebanese anti-Syrian politicians have long demanded Syria recognize Lebanon’s sovereignty by establishing official ties.

October 14th, 2008, 9:07 am

 

Jad/2 said:

Prof Landis

If a peace is concluded without Syria’s allies, could it mean a share of Lebanon between Israel and Syria ?

Thank you

October 14th, 2008, 9:40 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Well, I was talking about the potential for a “false flag” operation, meaning that some party other than Hezbollah (for example, one of the Sunni extremist groups in Lebanon) might stage an attack on Israel hoping that Hezbollah would get blamed for it, triggering a repeat of the 2006 war. Here are some possible motives for your average Sunni jihadi group, and possibly by extension their paymasters in SA.

ToddGMoney –

cc: Professor Josh

The beauty in promoting a terrorist state like Syria, Lebanon, etc is the ability for “plausible deniability”: shrugging one’s shoulders and claiming “we have no control”, blah, blah, blah (while working with these terrorists under the table).

Hezbollah is in COMPLETE CONTROL of Southern Lebanon. No “salafi” or “party other than Hezbollah” is going to make a chirp without Hezbollah’s approval or assistance.

Now, if you have information disputing that, feel free to present it. I don’t buy it one bit. Your assertion is another in a long list of Arab conspiracy theories.

October 14th, 2008, 11:19 am

 

norman said:

Alex,

i agree with you in the year 1999- 2000 , The Israeli / Palestinian peace deal seemed imminent and Syria was not needed to balance the Israeli power. Now it is different , without Syria the Palestinians will be thrown in the desert.

October 14th, 2008, 12:34 pm

 

norman said:

As long as Israel is in the Golan , Israel is a thief and Syria has the right to do everything it can to get back what belongs to Syria.You can call it any thing you want .

October 14th, 2008, 12:42 pm

 

idaf said:

Sami Moubayed has an enlightening article on the historical roots of anti-Americanism in Syria:

..
..
Sadly, however, archiving is poor in the Arab world, and those who are now banking on a McCain victory fail to read his comments and career before running for the 2008 presidential elections. In 1992, McCain appeared on Larry King Live and gave two reasons why the US should involve itself militarily in the Middle East. One was because America was a “Judeo-Christian nation” (which, to the Muslim world, sounds like the Crusades).

The other was, “so long as the world’s energy resources came from that part of the world”. Justice, peace, stability and human rights were not mentioned by the congressman from Arizona. In 1991, also with Larry King, he argued against a military invasion of Iraq, so as not to turn Saddam Hussein into a hero and because it couldn’t be done with air power alone and would require the commitment of ground troops.

He also said that decision-makers in the US could not tell a Sunni from a Shi’ite – meaning they were uninformed of the Arab and Muslim world – and cited human casualties in Baghdad that the US should avoid. McCain said, “I don’t think you could do it with air power. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, we tried bombing. We weren’t trying to kill him, but we were just trying to bomb every place we thought he might be or could possibly be. I’m not sure that if we did go in on the ground we could tell a Shi’ite from a Sunni, even from a Kurd. And who is it that we’d be fighting and battling against on the streets of Baghdad? And, if we got into Baghdad, we would lose all of our military supremacy and we would take casualties …”

These are all wrong answers, as far as Arabs are concerned. And if these two examples weren’t enough to remind the Muslim world of McCain’s policies, a similar dialogue took place last week, when he was approached by one of his supporters who said, “I don’t trust Obama. He’s an Arab.” Instead of saying, “There is nothing wrong with being an Arab”, McCain said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.”

McCain and Syria
In 1984, McCain visited Syria with a congressional delegation and met with president Hafez al-Assad. He described the 75-minute interview in an article in the Arizona Republic (April 3, 1984), saying that Assad was an “outwardly attractive man” who “projected an aura of confidence and the satisfaction of a general who had just achieved a decisive victory”.

Earlier, in 1974, a striking description of the Syrian leader had been made by president Richard Nixon, who said in his memoirs that Assad was a “tough negotiator (who has) a great deal of mystique, tremendous stamina, and a lot of charm. All in all, he is a man of substance, and at his age [then 44], he will be a leader to be reckoned with in this part of the world. This man really has elements of genius – without any question!”

When Jimmy Carter visited Syria, he wrote, “Little was known about his [Assad’s] personal or family life, but former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and others who knew Assad had described him to me as very intelligent, eloquent and frank in discussing the most sensitive issues. I invited the Syrian leader to come and visit me in Washington, but he replied that he had no desire ever to visit the United States. Despite this firm but polite rebuff, I learned what I could about him and his nation before meeting him.”

Carter then added, “During subsequent trips to Syria, I spent hours debating with Assad and listening to his analysis of events in the Middle East … he seemed to speak like a modern Saladin – as though it was his obligation to rid the region of foreign presence while preserving Damascus as the focal point of modern Arab unity.”

When Bill Clinton met Assad in 1994, he added, “I was impressed by his [Assad’s] intelligence and almost total recall for detailed events going back more than 20 years.” Ambassador Edward Djerejian recalled a similar story, when he was notified that he had become US ambassador to Syria in 1989, and happened to be in Israel. He informed prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who said, “You will be dealing with the smartest man in the Middle East.” Rabin then warned against what he called a “loophole” in what the Americans were offering to Syria, because if there were any, “Hafez al-Assad will drive a truck through it”.

Was Syria anti-American to start with? That is the question Syrians should explain to McCain when and if he becomes president. Only briefly, in 1963-1970, could the Syrian government be described as anti-American. After a tug-of-war between the US and Great Britain in 1949-1954, carried out by proxy through allies like Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Syria began charting its own course, with real democracy, in 1954.

During the elections of 1955, the ballots brought a communist into the Syrian parliament. Terror overtook the US State Department. It expressed fear “at the drift towards a leftist, anti-US position in Syria”. The US ambassador to Syria added, “If the present trend continues, there is strong possibility that a communist-dominated Syria will emerge, threatening the peace and stability of the area, and endangering the achievement of our objectives in the Near East.”

The US began talking of regime change in Damascus, and even financed two failed coups in the late 1950s, prompting the Syrians to expel a number of US diplomats. The US responded by expelling Syrian ambassador Farid Zayn al-Din from Washington. As a result, anti-Americanism soured and demonstrators stormed the US Embassy and the home of the ambassador.

Why would Syria – in the 1950s and today – support a superpower that was relentlessly trying to bring down its government? On the other hand, why would it turn down the friendship of another superpower – the USSR in the 1950s and Iran today – that was expressing unconditional military, political and economic support to the Syrians?

As early as 1956, the USSR gave Syria 400 million Syrian pounds (US$8 million) for oil extraction, and oversaw the supply of arms worth 20 million British pounds ($34 million), through Egypt. Trade with the Eastern bloc back then was at $19 million per year.

The US commented, after watching Syria snuggle up to the Russians, “Internal medicine will not do; surgery is required for the cancerous growth [of communism] in Syria.”

The US began to accuse Syria of meddling in the affairs of its neighbors, and destabilizing Lebanon. The parallel between 1955-1958 and 2005-2008 is haunting; bombs would explode in Beirut, and everybody would blame it on the Syrians. The US encouraged its regional allies to take action against Syria, saying that it would support any covert or overt anti-Syrian activity under Article 51 of the UN charter: self-defense.

Turkey moved its troops to the Syrian border, with US encouragement, and repeatedly violated Syrian airspace. The result, instead of a u-turn, was more Syrian-Soviet friendship. The formal US policy became to minimize contact with the Syrian government, now that the US ambassador was out of Damascus, and to support and fund the Syrian opposition. Records from the US put the amount paid to ambitious officers wanting to overthrow the regime at $3 million.

The Aleppo deputy in parliament, and former prime minister Maarouf al-Dawalibi, threatened to hold a plebiscite in Syria to show the US that the Russians were more popular than the Americans, because the latter were held responsible “for the Palestine tragedy”. The New York Times retaliated by describing him as “the most outspoken anti-American leader in the Arab world”.

At this stage, president Shukri al-Quwatli came out, for the first time in Syrian history, and described the US as “an enemy”, in July 1957. It was the Americans who had removed him from office in 1949, promoting, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Egypt in 2005, “stability over democracy”.

What else could Quwatli do? The Americans were financing revolution in Syria. They were calling on Syria’s neighbors to invade and topple the regime. They were levying accusations of regional adventurism against the Syrians. All of this was being done to a country that was never – in principal – anti-American.

Concerning the dilemma in Syrian-US relations, former secretary of state John Foster Dulles wrote in late 1957: “Efforts to persuade moderate Arab leaders to take an overt hard line towards Syria have failed. What alternatives do we have? Force is ruled out. Clandestine activity would not succeed. A hard line from the West would only drive Syria closer to the Soviet bloc.”

McCain was in his 20s then, studying at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He was busy practicing as a lightweight boxer, earning a reputation as someone who loved history and literature, hated mathematics, and more importantly, stood up for people who were bullied.

Syria was bulled in 1955-1958, but it is doubtful if McCain was overly concerned with the small Mediterranean country then. Given all of the above, McCain should visit Damascus again with an open mind, as he did in 1984, to see that both good things and bad things don’t change that quickly in the Middle East.
..
..
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JJ15Ak03.html

October 14th, 2008, 12:59 pm

 

Landis & Abbas Go Head to Head « Qifa Nabki said:

[…] Landis over at Syria Comment has an excellent position paper entitled “Syria-Israel Peace: The Impact on Non-State Militias“. In it, he argues: “Syria has suffered enough in wars against Israel. The government […]

October 14th, 2008, 1:36 pm

 

sam said:

Great post, like you mentiond the Oslo accord is what seperated the 2 peace tracks. Do you think had Oslo not occurred, would there have been peace based off the Madrid peace conference? Hafiz warned Arafat not go alone, and stay united. He didn’t listen. With Bush 1 and his regime they would have made it happen. The stage was set at Madrid for a comprehensive peace.

October 14th, 2008, 2:05 pm

 

qunfuz said:

Good analysis from Joshua.

If Syria is to make peace, it must start supporting a one-state solution to Palestine-Israel. The Palestinian problem, especially if the Palestinians are left alone, will never go away, not in the unworkable two-state solution.

If peace is made with Syria Israel will have no excuse for its paranoia about the uncountable Arabs. It will have a domestic problem of civil rights and apartheid. Syria should press Hamas now to remove the Protocols of the Elders of Zion rhetoric from its constitution. Syria should also, with or without peace, allow a civil society to thrive. This can only help the transition to a one-state post-Zionist mindset in Palestine-Israel. It should help to defuse sectarianism, which is the main obstacle to a stable future. Allowing civil society to thrive is not the same as a hasty transition to a form of democracy that would not work in Syria.

October 14th, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear Joshua,

Fantastic analysis, as usual. You said: “…you might be correct if you argue that Israel does not need peace with Syria, Iran, or Hizbullah because they are too weak to do real harm to Israel.“. From what I know of fellow Israelis, extreme right to extreme left, they all want peace. It is always a question of price, and recognition in our share in the 60 year-old conflict. Even if no Hezbollah or Hamas existed, Israelis would still want peace with Syria. But indeed most Israelis (apparently 70%, though I haven’t seen polls taken recently, following the 4 rounds of indirect talks) have not come to terms with the price they’ll have to pay. But their reluctance to give up the Golan stems not from a belief that this territory should be returned only if Syria posed a serious enough threat, but rather from an honest belief that the Golan is theirs (whether due to some historic connection of sorts, or because Syria “lost it” fairly). It is the same situation that was encountered with the Sinai, with about the same 70% of the population refusing to give it back, even in return for peace with (an obviously stronger) Egypt.

October 14th, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

Alex said:

Mr. Qifa Nabki had a very deep, intellectual conversation with his sidekick Abbas 🙂

http://qifanabki.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/abbas-landis/

October 14th, 2008, 3:48 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki and Nour,

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1028635.html

Today there was part one of the “good news” announcements I wrote about yesterday:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=1080&cp=2#comment-219210

There will hopefully be one or two similar announcements in the region within the coming weeks.

I told you, it will be not dramatic news, but a few improvements in relations between a few pairs.

October 14th, 2008, 4:05 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Mr. Qifa Nabki had a very deep, intellectual conversation with his sidekick Abbas 🙂

http://qifanabki.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/abbas-landis/

Alex, he is not my sidekick. I am his fig leaf.

October 14th, 2008, 4:39 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,

The next good news is the lifting of the American sanction on Syria , at least partially.

October 14th, 2008, 5:02 pm

 

Alex said:

Norman, the next good news is part of a group of small agreements … either they all take place, or none of them will.

Here is Syria’s position on the Acre clashes (source: Haaretz)

Meanwhile, the Syrian government on Tuesday condemned Israel over the clashes, saying the violence was an Israeli attempt to drive the Arabs out of the mixed city.

The official newspaper of the Syrian government Tishrin published a notice Tuesday, saying “Israel is trying to frighten the Arabs in efforts to drive them out.”

“This is additional proof that Israel hates Arabs and wants to ‘purify’ its territory from all Arab presence,” the newspaper argued.

In addition to the notice, the newspaper, which reflects the platform of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, published a column Tuesday attacking Israel over its role in the riots. “The events in Acre underscore the spreading of racism on Israel’s streets, and they refute any claim that Israel is the cradle of democracy,” senior columnist Omar Jaftaly wrote.

October 14th, 2008, 8:54 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

“… and they refute any claim that Israel is the cradle of democracy,” senior columnist Omar Jaftaly wrote.”

Has anyone made the claim that Israel is “the cradle of democracy”?

October 14th, 2008, 9:48 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Alex:

Should I be planning my trip to Beirut and Damascus next year after my self-imposed exile from the region since I left in 1974 as a five year old?

Is there a real optimism that there will be a peace? (what inside information do you have?)

I am starting to believe that Bashar has had his road to Damascus moment, but the cards are still in his hands.

Shai:

That might have been a typo: They probably meant “Cradle of Democracy in the Middle East”

The real cradle was Athens and the storming of the Agora and the Citadel post 700-650 BC (thats a given).

October 15th, 2008, 12:43 am

 

norman said:

Enlighted one, Shai,

Probably AIG thinks so.

October 15th, 2008, 1:04 am

 

Alex said:

Shai,

I think they are mixing the expression Cradle of civilization which is sometimes used in reference to Syria, and the other popular expression the only democracy in the Middle East, which is used in reference to Israel.

My friend Enlightened,

You will inshallah enjoy your trip to the Middle East next year 🙂

October 15th, 2008, 1:22 am

 

Alex said:

This is educational : )

October 15th, 2008, 1:48 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Enlightened,

You should come this year. Next year looks terrible.

October 15th, 2008, 3:43 am

 

Shai said:

Enlightened,

Another thing we have in common – I was also 5 years old in 1974 (I always generated some bizarre pride from saying “I was born in the 60’s…”)

If you come to this region, will you consider a stopover in the Holy Land? 🙂

QN,

What’s supposed to happen next year? (Besides war, that is…)

October 15th, 2008, 4:38 am

 

Shai said:

Latest poll showing Obama ahead by 14 points: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/14/opinion/polls/main4522273.shtml. It’s exactly these types of announcements that worry me… They “numb” one side, and may cause a lot of lazy people not to vote on election day, assuming Obama is so far ahead, that he’ll certainly win. I’ve seen this happen time and again in Israel, with polls predicting huge advantage to a particular side, and in the end, the result is either very close, or even a complete turnaround! Obama supporters, stay awake! 🙂

October 15th, 2008, 5:30 am

 

Rumyal said:

AP,

Hezbollah is in COMPLETE CONTROL of Southern Lebanon. No “salafi” or “party other than Hezbollah” is going to make a chirp without Hezbollah’s approval or assistance.
Now, if you have information disputing that, feel free to present it. I don’t buy it one bit. Your assertion is another in a long list of Arab conspiracy theories.

Is this example convincing enough to the contrary?

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/871969.html

There was a similar incident this summer.

October 15th, 2008, 6:53 am

 
 

Shai said:

Alex,

Out of fairness, I just want to point out that not ALL Jews have grandparents in Florida, and not ALL Jews have long noses. However, I am impressed by the lady’s differentiation between Barack (Lightning) and John (Toilet). I never really thought of it that way… 🙂 Hilarious clip.

October 15th, 2008, 7:37 am

 

ToddGMoney said:

Akbar Palace,

Remember that there are a number of Palestinian camps in both Sidon and Sour, notably Ein-al-Helweh, a bastion of Sunni radicalism. And again note that a rocket attack is not the only way to get at Israel in this situation.

And I’m not sure why Hezbollah would want to attack Israel and then deny responsibility. Syria and Iran want some level of “plausible deniability” but the whole goal here is applying pressure on Israel to achieve political ends (such as pushing it to the negotiating table), which is impossible unless one of their proxies takes credit for what they do. I don’t think any reasonable politician in Syria actually thinks they are fooling anyone when they say they are not arming Hezbollah, just as reasonable person in Israel thinks they are fooling anyone when they say they don’t possess nukes. The Syrians might officially deny responsibility so as not to give cover for an Israeli attack, but random firings of rockets with no known source do not serve them at all.

You should be careful with what you label “Arab conspiracy theories”. The Israelis themselves tried a nice false-flag operation in 1954 in Operation Susannah / The Lavon Affair when Israeli agents bombed American and British targets in an attempt to change American policy towards Egypt. Subterfuge is the norm rather than the exception in the Middle East.

October 15th, 2008, 8:43 am

 

What would Syria-Israeli peace mean? « said:

[…] Posted on October 15, 2008 by Rob Readers should check out a long must-read analytical post  from Syria Comment called “Syrian-Israeli Peace: The Impact on Non-State […]

October 15th, 2008, 10:19 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Shai
Sarah Silverman is an outstanding comedian in the tradition of the simpsons but more like the family guy. She represents a new face of the well known, much liked and admired New York Yeidish comedy tradition, which produced many beloved comedians. She is provocative, a little on the edge in her language, but she is very very smart. I like some of her sketches but mostly short ones as it can get a little tiring sometimes.

Over all, I rate her highly on the comedy circles. Her Great Schlep plan is paying a little. So far only one hundred made schlep physically, but a large number have been calling their parents and grand parents in Florida (i.e. electronic schlep). Jews and Gentiles a like. 🙂

October 15th, 2008, 2:23 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
Fully agree with your comment on polling. You argument was echoed yesterday by a very bright young African American professor in Princeton, who said that high poll number may lead some people to confuse polling with elections and to assume that with such a hogh lead, Obama does not really need their vote.

It is now the job of Obama’s campaign to make sure that polls translate into actual vote. If he does very well in today’s debate, he should refocus his adds on getting the votes out.

Obama has purchased 1/2 hour blocks on several networks for the Wednesday before election. I think and hope that he will bring up the issue of voting during that 1/2 hour. He may also bring up the issue of voter intimidation and suppression, (i.e., challenges issued at the voting place) and warn against scare tactics. If he does that well, he will gain not only the 1/2 hour slot, but a couple of critical news cycles afterward.

He seems to be aware of that. When some of his supporters tried to boo Mccain during a rally, he stopped them and said, we do not need that, we need to vote.

The democrats should do whatever it takes to make ensure the largest possible turn out during election day. America is more progressive than the images coming from the Palin-McCain rallies portray of us. Those racists flocking to these rallies are hopefully that last of a breed. They are losing and they are panicking big time. This is clearly showing in their manners and language.

It also seems that what I have called for is beginning to happen. I may be very progressive, but I have for long, admired some of the true conservatives. Recent incidents point to the republican party as being less than tolerant of true conservatives who can see the damage to the conservative movement come one like populist Palin can do. These are being chided and silenced in rather militant ways. I foresee some mass defection not necessarily during election, but afterwards. The split between neo-conservative Christian fundamentalist alliance and real conservatives is going to happen sooner than later. Palin herself is acting as a catalyst for such split. The party will eventually have to decide whether it will allow the fringe to control it or whether it will go back to its traditional, highly educated fiscal conservatism and abandon the social conservatism of ignorant Christian fundamentalists with its flavor of fascist populism.

October 15th, 2008, 2:48 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

ToddGMoney –

Thanks for the response. You made some good points, but, I still think Hezbollah is pretty well on top of things in Southern Lebanon. In the past, isolated cases of “rogue” missile firings haven’t produced responses like the one we saw in 2006.

BTW – For those of you who may be wondering how Syria defines “terrorism”, there’s a rare clue this morning…

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081015/wl_nm/us_syria_lebanon_5

October 15th, 2008, 2:50 pm

 

Shai said:

OTW,

Thank you for the great analysis. But a question – is there any likelihood that any split within the Republican party (if indeed anything like that occurs after the elections) will result in the creation of a third party? It is still quite unlikely that true conservatives will join the Democratic party, isn’t it?

I like the e-schlep idea… But I wouldn’t want to be a Florida-Jew right now. Too much pressure… (probably getting rained on by all sides with a thousand reasons for voting this way or the other). I heard Fox News is considering temporarily renaming its channel “Fox Jews”, hoping to win over some Jewish votes… 🙂

October 15th, 2008, 4:46 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The party will eventually have to decide whether it will allow the fringe to control it or whether it will go back to its traditional, highly educated fiscal conservatism and abandon the social conservatism of ignorant Christian fundamentalists with its flavor of fascist populism.

OTW –

Define “fringe” in this sense. BTW, what in heaven’s name are you talking about? “Traditional, highly educated fiscal conservatism”? “Ignorant Christian fundamentalists”? “Fascist populism”??

Huh?

October 15th, 2008, 7:07 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
After our discussion a while back about multi-party system in the US, I have been thinking about that issue. As I see it, our system is not multi-party friendly system. However, the system has enough flexibility, at the candidate level, to allow for candidates to run against their own ideological party. Some candidates, who may be trounced in primaries, can easily run as independent, and do occasionally win (e.g. Goe Lieberman). But that requires the support of the other party, unprecedented popularity and loyalty to the candidate or a significant level of dissatisfaction with the two major parties for it to succeed.

The two parties have enough ideological flexibility within them to welcome the extremes in their ranks. On the democratic side, the extreme point find it hard to gain significant power, and the party leadership has been shifting towards the center since Clinton, which in fact has allowed some creative, more societally acceptable proposals such as the health care plan of Obama to develop aside from the ideologically rigid single payer system. On the republican side, the opposite has happened since Reagan. The Party’s whole focus has been on reducing taxes, especially those levied from the wealthy and on de-regulation, which is another form of tax reduction to the wealthy as regulations requires financial resources to comply with on the business side, and government investment in enforcement. Ideologically, the right wing Christian fundamentalists gained power beyond their actual numbers and their primary unifying issues included the overturning of women right to chose (i.e., Roe vs Wade), and the imposition of their ideological system of thoughts on the rest of the country. This required de-emphasizing if not delegitimizing critical thinking, hence the notion of populist (can drink bear with, Joe six packs, some-sports-mom, and non-elitist) as a valid alternative to well educated, thoughtful, deliberate candidates (e.g., Palin and Bush). Never mind that a large portion of republicans in the senate and the house are well educated and some belong to of have strong ties toe the economical elites (same as democrats), these notions took hold and have been center-stage for quite few election cycles.

This has put pragmatic republicans in awkward position. But the fact that local popularity matters has allowed several of them to still make it into the senate and much less into the house.

Chalmer Johnson recently wrote an article that describes the significance of this election. He argues that there are strong regional tendencies in modern American politics, the article is available on
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174987
and is a worth reading article as Johnson is a keen observer of our modern history.

AP
Fringe: A vocal and occasionally militant minority at the extreme end of the political and ideological spectrum

Traditional highly educated: Example Justice Scalia, With whom I disagree passionately on many issues, but i would sit and listen to him speak for hours with interest. The late William Buckley, is another one. George Will, Chuck Hagel. Can you compare Palin to these giants. I disagree with all of them, but I have tremendous respect for their intellectual underpinning. These people have a long-term vision of conservatism, not an expedient populist view. For them, the more you know, the better because they believed in the intellectual merit of their position, although their point of view is deeply rooted in religious thoughts and highly emphasize tradition, which to some of them is frozen in the past. A good example is Winston Churchill.

Ignorant Christian Fundamentalists: Armageddon folks

Fascist Populism: Think Palin, think of those who shout American Exceptionalism without even knowing the meaning of the phrase. Those who rely on the lowest instincts of fear and hate to gain power. Populism is willing to accept that seeing russia from you back yard (which is not even true) is a foreign policy experience. Populists would have us believe that winking is a substitute for thinking and that there is only one way to see “merica”. Populists would have us replace arguments with “ya battcha” and would like us to believe that unless we drink six beer cans each night, we are not authentic “mericans”, which is the real meaning of Joe Six Pack, an alcoholic. What an insult to hard working folks.

Poor McCain. I have a tremendous respect for him. I lived in Arizona for 17 years, and he was much better than the suite of corrupt democrats we had. I like him personally and I think that he is a true conservative and a well meaning guy. He is a hostage to his campaign.

October 16th, 2008, 2:45 pm

 

Shai said:

OTW,

Many thanks for the great response. I haven’t had time yet to read the article, but I will. It’s always a pleasure reading your answers, because I know I’m always going to learn something new. Btw, I managed to hear Joe-the-plumber’s interview on ABC. Seems like a good guy, who’s going to vote McCain… 🙁

October 16th, 2008, 7:51 pm

 

norman said:

Otw,

I agree with what you said above , actually i had the same opinion previously and that is why i like the American system of two parties with people elected on the local level from the place they live in and people who know them and like them for who they are not for their religious or ethnic association.

October 17th, 2008, 1:13 am

 

Off the Wall said:

NORMAN
It was your argument that sent me looking for the reason why the two party system has survived so long. You argued then and now that the root of our system is at local level, and you were right. I still would like to see bigger presence of a third party, but the you were right in arguing that the flexibility of the two parties themselves somehow compensates for that. My question is, if the republicans suffer a big defeat in this election cycle, where will the party head. Would moderate republicans end the dominance of the fringes or would they head towards democrats and leave the party to be the smaller party comprised primarily of ideologues. Or would they re-assert their power in the party and force the fringes out into a third party. I believe that fundamentalists will continue to have power through the house as it is more representative of local level thinking, but they are probably going to lose big in the senate, which will probably retain them in the party but reduce their power at state and national level elections. I may be a dreamer of a better future, but I can, with nudges from people like you still see reality and appreciate what it offers for now. Thanks for making me think beyond the humanist dreams.

It seems that we go through 40 years cycles. The current “republican” dominate cycle resulted in demolishing much of
new deal. Some paleo-conservatives argue that Bush has ended this cycle by getting the country busy in two wars to a point that the republicans were unable to push for the two primary goals: (1) privatization of the social security and (b) overturning Roe vs Wade. Both of which are long-term fundamental conservative issues. The scary thing is that they are right at least on one issue. When the bush presidency started, the public opinion was tilting towards privatization of the social security. Had we not been busy with the wars, it could have happened within three years of his first term. Can you imagine the ramification with the current stock market collapse, especially since the next target would have been medicare. I know as a physician you may have some misgivings about medicare and I would agree that it needs some reform. But I would not go with the republican hatchet approach.

October 17th, 2008, 2:30 pm

 

norman said:

OTW ,

i actually like medicare.

The people who were in power in the last 8 years are not representative of the Republican principles of low taxes small government and abstaining from nation building , the prescription plan is a sham and should be canceled ,

I like privatization of SS as long as it is done on new money while leaving what is there alone , i actually support forcing people to put the maximum in their 401 plan as some people do not know how to save then we have to save them when they are old.

I think that the Republican party will go back to it’s principles and rebuild , many of the people who are disgusted with what happened in the last 8 years including I can not wait to get rid of the old and start fresh .

October 17th, 2008, 4:10 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear NORMAN

I am glad that you like medicare. And fully agree with you that the neo-cons who ruled over the past 8 years do not represent the true conservative nature of the country,

On the one hand, I disagree with the notion of privitizing Social Security, but I would strongly support mandatory 401k style supplement to the program. I agree that the minimum retirement saving limits are very low and should be raised up. But this would be considered as taxes to many even if it goes into private accounts.

I am hoping that the republican party gets back to its principles, I may disagree with much of these principled programs, but I would know that they can be discussed in good faith. I am tired of proposals that are nothing but political gimmicks with no relationship to either progressive or conservative thoughts. Politics would become exciting again.

October 17th, 2008, 9:25 pm

 

Maria said:

ARABISM = RACISM! http://therealityshow.blogtownhall.com/2008/09/28/arabism_=_racism!.thtml

‘Arabism Equals Racism’, in an elaborated article, Gerald A. Honigman writes on the “acceptance of anyone else’s political rights in a multi-ethnic region that most Arabs see exclusively as “purely Arab patrimony.” That’s the Arab-Israel conflict in a nutshell; but it is also the core of the Arab-Berber, Arab-Kurd, Arab-Black African, Arab-Copt, Arab-Assyrian, Arab-non-Arab Lebanese conflicts, as well, among others. The Arabs’ Anfal Campaign against the Kurds and their actions in Darfur and the rest of the southern Sudan are just a few of many examples of Arab genocidal actions against all who might disagree.”

November 17th, 2008, 7:25 pm

 

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