Across the Bay

Sunday, November 28, 2004

No Re-Cole-lection

I know I promised to ease the Cole material, but the guy simply refuses to quit feeding my habit (besides, how can I refuse that devastated reader who was practically sobbing at the possibility of a Cole-drought!) Take this post for instance.

I'm not going to address all the nonsense and the usual self-aggrandizing and self-promoting hypocrisies he spit out, but I can't let this section pass:

"As for Wills's argument that academia "has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called "smelly little orthodoxies." Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations -- except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. " -- it is another instance of blaming the victim.

Academia has not marginalized itself. It has
been marginalized. Perfectly reasonable beliefs such as that workers should have a right to explore unionizing without fear of being fired have been redefined by Joe Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife as "out of the mainstream." Thinking that it was a bad idea to invade Iraq (as I said repeatedly in 2002 and early 2003) was defined as out of the mainstream and unpatriotic. Corporate media bring in a parade of so-called "experts" (often lacking credentials and saying ridiculous things) from "think tanks," in Washington and New York instead of letting academics speak. (There are some exceptions, obviously, but I am talking about over-all numbers). Wouldn't you like to hear about Ayman al-Zawahiri from someone who actually had read him in Arabic? The universities have such experts. The think tanks mostly just have smelly little orthodoxies of the Right." (Emphasis added.)

Either Cole has an incredibly bad memory (especially for a historian), or he's a dishonest opportunist (to add to "hypocritical" and "shrill"). Here's why. Here are five posts (in crescendo), all from 2003 (when, according to Cole, he was busy opposing the war on Iraq and letting everyone know it's a bad idea), that put a huge dent in Cole's claim (emphases added):

1- March, 2003:

"My analysis is not meant to support an anti-war or pro-war position. Like most people, I have mixed feelings about all this (I despise the Baath Party)."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this hardly counts as "thinking the war was a bad idea"! At best, this is a neutral position (or perhaps a "marginal" position). It's nowhere near the anti-war activism he's now claiming.

2- April, 2003:

"The Iraq war has resulted in many human casualties that make any humane person want to weep. I hope the human sacrifice will have been worth it; certainly Saddam's regime was virtually genocidal and it is a great good thing that it is gone."

OK, getting warmer! From neutral to at least grateful that Saddam is gone! Still, miles away from "thinking it was a bad idea."

3- February, 2003:

"I am an Arabist and happen to know something serious about Baathist Iraq, which paralyzes me from opposing a war for regime change in that country (Milosevic did not kill nearly as many people). If it is true that Chirac thinks the Baath party can be reformed from without, he is simply wrong."

Mmmmkay, so now he was paralyzed from opposing it! The paralysis must have affected his brain and blocked this out somehow. I mean he even thought Chirac was wrong! Good gawd! Oh, and back then he actually thought Saddam killed more than Milosevic did. Recently, if you recall my first post on Cole's reaction to the Lancet Report ("A.S.S. Cole"), he said that the number of people Saddam killed is "controversial" and that the US (based on the numbers of the Lancet Report) is closing in on Saddam!

4- March, 2003:

"I remain convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides. The rest of us have a responsibility to work to see that the lives lost are redeemed by the building of a genuinely democratic and independent Iraq in the coming years."

WHAAAAAA!? He "Remains convinced" that it's worth the blood that is about to be spilled on all sides!! Doesn't quite sound like a bad idea to him, now does it!?

5- July, 2003:

"I don't think this Iraq war was a last resort, and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the way the war fever was whipped up with very dubious claims by powerful Iraqi expatriates and the right in Washington. However, and this is the big "H," I have lived with Baathist Iraq since I got into the Middle East field, and being a specialist in Shiism and a friend to Iraqi Shiites meant that I knew exactly what the Saddam regime had done to them. So, I refused to come out against the war. I was against the way the war was pursued--the innuendo, the exaggerations, the arrogant unilateralism. But I could not bring myself to be against the removal of that genocidal regime from power."

And the truth comes out, crystal clear. He refused to come out against the war.

And he's complaining that some (not nearly enough) people aren't taking him and his likes seriously!? Maybe this will help: Prof. Cole, your pants are on fire... and so is your credibility.

Update: Cole Responds... sort of. This is how Juan Cole responded to the material laid out against his claim (see also Martin Kramer's Sandbox): he tampered with his original post, adding two links to back up his claim. He also added this qualifier: "...even as I admitted Saddam's atrocities." I.e., his way to counter all his statements about him being "convinced" and happy about the removal of Saddam. But let's take a look at these two links he put up and see whether he actually comes out and says, as he now claims, that he was against the war, and that he stood up and was counted as someone who was totally against it as a "bad idea."

In a piece on H-Net, Cole simply put out a supposed description of the "root causes" of Islamic terrorism; I'm sure you've heard them before: "grievances and (repeat after me) humiliation." Of course that included a litany against Israel (first and foremost) and a little jab at India etc. The cautionary remark was that this might create more Jihadists (including Cole's theory of a "Shiite international": The Shi'a worldwide would go berzerk if the US hit a shrine in Najaf, etc.) He also added some possible scenarios that could happen regionally. Nothing special. Then came the relevant line:

"I will be ecstatic to see Saddam go. But I have a bad feeling about this, as Han Solo once said prophetically." (Emphasis added.)

That's it!? That's the "I said repeatedly in 2002 and 2003 that it was a bad idea"!? Here's how I characterize this line: cautious, but on board. It fits very well with his other remark about having "mixed feelings" about the war, while still thinking that it would be a great thing to see Saddam go. And according to Cole, the latter would make the "sacrificies about to be made on all sides" worth it. But nothing in there comes even close to his claim, even the modified one!

The (only) other link he provided is a variation on the same theme. There Cole laid out the costs and benefits of the war. Under the "risks of peace" (i.e., not going to war) he had this to say:

"The risks of peace therefore include: continued lack of good security in the Persian Gulf region, imperiling both the people who live there and the assured access to energy supplies on the part of the US and its allies; the continued brutalization of the Iraqi population by a totalitarian regime that has conducted virtual genocide against Kurds and Shi'ites; the continued demonization. of the United States in the region and in the Muslim world for the negative effects of the sanctions regime; the possibility that Iraq will develop enough in the way of weapons of mass destruction to break out of containment and to attempt to gain popularity by attacking yet another of its neighbors, perhaps Turkey or Israel. The aggressive, militaristic nature of the Saddam Hussein regime makes such a scenario, however unlikely, at least plausible."

As for the "risks of war," it was the usual stuff: Shiites might turn to Khomeinism, Sunnis might turn to Salafism, and the country's factionalism might impede any effort of building a democratic state. Then Cole lays out some regional scenarios. Of course that has to include the possibility of Israel using the Iraq war to annihilate the Palestinians (or, as the letter circulated by some MESA figures before the war -- and signed by Cole -- had it: the Israeli government might use the Iraq war as a pretext to "ethnically cleanse" the Palestinians). Also, if Israel retaliates for a Scud missile attack, the war could be seen (you got it) as a joint "colonialist and Zionist" effort. Yawn.

But then comes the relevant passage:

"Those who support an Iraq war argue that the potential negative fall-out consists of improbable scenarios that are no more likely to come to fruition than did the dire forecasts about overthrown Arab regimes in 1990. They argue that if we can get a genuinely democratic, modern Iraq out of the war, its beneficial effects will radiate throughout the region. They may be right. But it is worth remembering that we were promised a democratic Kuwait in 1991 and a democratic, stable Afghanistan in 2002, and have yet to see either." (Emphasis added.)

I see. So here are some possible scenarios (most of them of course jabbing at Israel on one end, and somewhat defending Arab nationalism on the other) although the pro-war faction's scenario may be equally right. Now that's conviction! I mean, boy, did he think it was a bad idea! He stood up to be counted! Actually, he simply went along with some reservations (like most of us) conceding the potential benefits of the war, while holding his breath on possible negative fall-outs. This isn't standing up and repeatedly shouting out "this is wrong." At best, this is squirming in your seat a little, and mumbling under your breath: "I hope this works out. It would be nice to see Saddam go." This is as "marginal" as you're going to get.

If I may, I'd like to go on a tangent here. I couldn't help but notice this statement by Cole that I'd like to share with you:

"The final defeat of the Baath Party will be seen as a defeat of its ideals, which include secularism, improved rights for women and high modernism."

Priceless... Arabism deluxe. And we know that that's exactly what the modernists in Iraq thought, right?! Now that's expertise!

Update 2: It dawned on me while reading the paragraph quoted above under "risks of peace" that before the war, Cole really made a cool-headed, and agreeable analysis based on a mix of "realism" and "idealism" (Wolfowitz, whom Cole attacks with unusual venom, would have been proud of it as it mirrors his own views). The real interesting question is why does he now seek to completely dissociate himself from that serious consideration, claiming that he "repeatedly said it was a bad idea"?

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Michael Young weighs in on the Cole vs. MEMRI joke and Martin Kramer's nailing of Cole's hypocrisy (a characteristic attribute of Cole).

In there Michael calls Cole's infamous website, "overrated!" Indeed, but it's still a gold mine for barbs!

Nevertheless, I'll slow down on the Cole material for a bit to restart the more serious posts. Two are coming up: One dealing with William Dalrymple's review essay ("The Truth about Muslims") in the NY Review of Books (a reader drew my attention to it in the comments) as well as his book From the Holy Mountain. The second will deal with Phoenicianism (it's one that I referred to and had wanted to post earlier but never got a chance). It will be just a little while longer before they're up, as I'm caught up with other work.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Kiss me, I'm a M.E. Liberal!

Lee Smith wrote a terrific piece in Slate on the triangle of the US, Arab regimes, and M.E. pro-democracy reformists and liberals.

Lee does his audience a favor by introducing an important distinction between "regime liberals" and actual independent liberals! Regime liberals are the ones who portray working with the US as "the kiss of death." Meanwhile, real liberals like Syrian Ammar Abdulhamid (check out his "Tharwa Project") has no qualms about receiving help from the US:

[Democratic] institutions can't be built without external pressures, and right now the United States is the only nation capable of exerting enough force to make it happen and willing to do so. "Asking the Arab world to reform," says the Syrian intellectual Ammar Abdulhamid, "is dabbling with its innermost political life." That is to say, any real reform in the Arab world will have to go well beyond cosmetic changes and address the political, economic, and social structures that sustain Arab regimes and preserve the status quo. Clearly, the region's governments won't do that work if they're not compelled to do so.

Already, there have been some positive results. According to Abdulhamid, pressure from the White House—namely the Syria Accountability Act and the U.S.-co-sponsored U.N. resolution on Lebanon—"has created a crisis and loosened the regime's grip. A number of dissidents used the opportunity to raise their voice. When the regime saw this, it tried to engage with some of them. For instance, the new information minister was on Al Jazeera talking to dissidents, which is something that's never happened before. We should not be overly optimistic, but we need to plant seeds now."

As for those in the Middle East who want to distance themselves from U.S. reform plans, Abdulhamid says some of them are "just well-intentioned people who think U.S. support will discredit them. But using the United States is not being pro- or anti-United States; it's being pragmatic. The Great Powers will always have designs and interests in this region. They'll use us, so let's use them. This is a highly politicized environment, so we have to be good politicians. We really have to understand the game; there's no excuse for not understanding."

Lee also articulates for the first time his thoughts on the policy the US should adopt in pushing for reforms and democratization in the M.E.:

In any event, it's time for the policy debate between the neoconservatives and the "realists" to move on. Assuming the administration's policymakers are really serious about reform in the Arab world, we'll need good cops working along with the bad cops. If the White House simply maintains the pressure, the crisis will render the regimes incapable of any reform, and eventually they'll just crack down on real liberals and reformers. U.S. officials have to push hard and at the same time help the regimes enhance their own prestige.

First we must acknowledge that there are very few real reformers in any Middle Eastern regime. There are, however, plenty of pragmatists who can be convinced, through force and blandishments, that their privileged place in the world depends on their ability to cut deals. We need to identify, empower, and threaten these people.

Next, and most important, we need to recognize that, like unhappy families, each regime is different and that each has its own needs, strengths, and weaknesses. There is no one way to peace and prosperity in the Middle East, and neither the road through Jerusalem nor Baghdad will get us there.

Lee Smith, Joshua Landis, and I have been debating this issue and readers can track it down on this blog and on Landis' blog. Joshua was the most ardent supporter of working with the Syrian regime of Bashar Asad based on the same elements raised by Lee in this piece. If you push the regimes too far without tricking them, bribing them, or convincing them, you risk them shutting down any outlet and window for change. After all, they still hold most of the keys. However, Lee has also articulated a point I hinted at repeatedly, and that is the wheels of change might not be fully controllable by the regimes, and that's why the whole business scares them stiff. Which is all the more reason why a complex and clear policy needs to be articulated beyond the Realist bickering against the Neocon views.

But Landis has identified an incredibly complicated problem in Syria, what he called "Asad's Alawi Dilemma." Bashar Asad is part of the Alawi oligarchy that rules a majority-Sunni country. In a sense, while Bashar might be the best hope for Westernization (according to Landis) he is also completely tied down by his status as an Alawi. Landis explains:

"In order to reform and shake the corruption and incompetence out the ministries, Bashar must change the way the administration works. If he makes it more representative and allows for greater democracy, he may be swamped with Islamists and alienate the Alawite support that is the backbone of the regime. The same thing will be true if he really goes after corruption and the mafias in the ministries. He has no constituency save the Alawite generals and old guard that put him into power and maintain him there. If he pushes reform too hard, he will either undermine the generals and Baathists, causing the regime to collapse, or he will be replace by the generals. This is Bashar's Alawi Dilemma. Syria remains a deeply fragmented country, where the religious communities still do not trust each other."

(The post is required reading. See also his latest post after a long absence!)

This gridlocking factor is what keeps Landis very cautious and adoptive of the "incremental changes lead to fundamental changes" approach. While Lee doesn't deal with this issue, his post shows that you can't adopt a single approach. As he put it: "We need to identify, empower, and threaten these people." Soft power cannot work without the backing of "real" force, or else the result would be what happened to Colin Powell (and the UN): become a laughing stock and preserver of the untenable status quo.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Fouad Ajami Talk

Via Martin Kramer comes this link to an excellent talk by Fouad Ajami and Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute.

As usual, Ajami was on his game. Ajami is a master story-teller too, and great at synthesis. I found myself nodding away, saying to myself: "Yes! That's right!"

There are so many great funny lines in there. Take this one for instance:

"The Shia have ten days of self-flagellation, the Ashura, the ten days of mourning for Imam Hussain, but America is very different. America has 365 days of self-flagellation. This is the background to a lot of these public diplomacy concerns."

Or this one that I truly identified with:

"Here are two Arabic newspapers. I usually read them on a daily basis. It's almost like something you do to punish yourself."

This is not to leave out Satloff, whose comments are also very insightful.

Recommended reading.

Disclaimer: It dawned on me last night that there is one thing that Ajami said with which I'm uncomfortable. That is his reference to Atatürk's line on leading "despite the people." I think I know where Ajami is coming from on this, and I sympathize with him on his disappointment with the Arab world. Nevertheless, the notion that people in the ME need to be led despite of themselves sounds too close to what Arab nationalist and Islamist regimes have been saying. In fact, it sounds close to Husri's line about an Arab being an Arab whether he likes it or not! That he needs to be educated to realize his innate Arabness, or if necessary, forced to realize it. This only reinforces the idea that Arab-Muslims are sheep who will only be led by their noses, as my friend Josh Landis put it.

That Ajami is struggling with his disappointments is obvious, as he'd just finished lambasting Arab leaders for their failures and deceit! That alone undermines the universality of Atatürk's dictum. Granted, leadership often entails taking hard decisions that are often unpopular. It's a difficult and thorny issue because sometimes "the masses" are simply wrong or uninformed. Before any Leftists or neo-liberals jump all over me, just remember the civil rights movement! If you had left it to democratic federalism, many southern states wouldn't have accepted desegregation. Also, statist nations are familiar with a variation of leading "despite the people" or "regardless of the people."

It's a very delicate matter, and again I'll dare to say that I understand Ajami's emotions on this. However, to codify that in the person of the leader is dangerous.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Conspiratorial Humor

If there's conspiracy talk, Juan Cole can't be too far away.

David Bernstein (Volokh Conspiracy) joins in on the fun, commenting on a vintage Cole piece, where the MESA president-elect goes on one of his infamous rants on Israel, "Likudniks" (see this excellent deconstruction of the use of the term), "Neocons" (aka. double agents who cannot be trusted to put America first), ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, yada yada yada... All you need to complete the party is a mention of Halliburton or something of the sort.

All this talk about "ethnic cleansing" reminded me of a recent article by Johann Hari about an actual ethnic cleansing, one that has earned a total of one lame, evasive post (which jumped on the US and the UK and the Iraq war more than anything else) by Juan "I care about human rights" Cole. By that I mean the ongoing nightmare in Darfur, where the Arab government and the Arab Janjaweed militias have murdered tens of thousands of non-Arab Sudanese, and displaced close to two million of them, completely decimating their villages. The savagery is beyond words, and this is not to mention the Sudanese government's previous campaign against the Sudanese Christians and Animists, which, as Hari points out, was stopped in large part not by leftists and human rights activists, but by the now-dreaded Evangelical Christians in the US, whom Cole despises by the way.

Also, if you are interested in "corporation" talk, Hari points out that (European, Russian and Chinese) corporations other than the oft-maligned Halliburton continue to empower the Sudanese government in exchange for Sudan's oil. In fact, it is generally assumed that this is the main reason why China and Russia, for instance, refused to back any UN resolution on Sudan.

But all this matters little for the hypocritical Cole and his likes. For you see, like for all good Arabists, there exists only one sacred cause, the mother of all just causes, the cause of Palestine, on whose altar everything is to be sacrificed. Just so that I'm not misunderstood, this is not meant to diminish any suffering by the Palestinians. It's meant to highlight the disgusting hypocrisy of the poseur activist-academics like our friend Cole here. He jumps over the Lancet report but buries the Darfurians in a tiny useless post long ago. He rants about a fictional ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (which never materialized of course), while keeping silent about an actual one, perpetrated by an Arab Islamic government! Hey, if it has nothing to do with Israel and the US, then Cole wants nothing to do with it!

Cole wrote in that post that if he were a younger man he would have gone to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (in an attempt to show how pro-American he is as opposed to those ghastly treacherous Neocons). Prof. Cole, no one is asking you to go fight. All we're asking is for you to cut the hypocritical drivel. But keep the conspiracy theories coming; those are funny and they give me material for my blog!

Update: Here's a case in point of the exaltation of the Palestinian cause and its elevation over all others, as the most pressing and legitimate of all causes, next to whom all else pales (that this is the central theme of the political ideology of Arab nationalism is not to be forgotten. The concern is not the Palestinians, who suffer just as much in their host neighboring countries. Rather, the point is to keep the focus away from the interior and on Israel as the prime villain in the world and the cause of all the ills of the region.) Cole today dedicates a post to the death (possible murder) of a Palestinan girl. Once again, I must make clear that when I write these things I don't for a second belittle the Palestinian suffering. My concern is with the hypocrite Cole. He dubs this death "a crime against humanity" (not a "war crime" as a reader remarked in the comments). But my problem is that tens of thousands of acts of brutality against children, and men and women have been taking place in Sudan at the hands of an Arab Islamic government and a government-backed Arab militia, and those have not earned a peep from Cole, let alone the characterization as "crimes against humanity." Instead, Pope Juan Cole issued another of his one-line papal decrees that in the case of Darfur, the "ethnic" element wasn't primary. Rather, in this case, "a traditon of provincial autonomy and conflicts between herders and settled farmers are more important." So, it's merely an economic/social dispute, not an asymmetric ethnic conflict. But if something surfaced about Israeli soldiers, Cole is all over it. (With the Israelis and Palestinians, it's not a thorny political conflict, it's "ethnic cleansing.") Again, this doesn't diminish or excuse the crime, if the story turns out to be true. It just points out hypocrisy and political activism on Cole's part. Focusing on Israel (and the US) and burying the Darfur genocide makes Cole the mirror-image of the Arab media: a propagandist outlet that centers on Israel and buries Arab dirty laundry.

Furthermore, and this portrays incredible hypocrisy, it is more than likely that if the story turns out to be true, the Israeli soldier will be investigated and will likely face charges and trial. On the other hand, the entire Arab world, and Cole (who never associates the Janjaweed with the government or with official Arab racism in his short post), have completely exonerated the Sudanese government, and its recent victories in the UN mean that the murderous government and the Janjaweed will basically be left untouched. Yet the funny thing is that Cole and Arabists (and the Arab media) when talking about Sharon's responsibility for the killings of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila, refer to the Israeli legal inquiry into Sharon's involvement!! I.e., they rely on the proper functioning of Israeli society to support their case, and then snicker at the larger society itself (while claiming of course that he's only against the far-right Likud government)! For instance, see the jab in his post on MEMRI: "Israeli military intelligence is used to being able to censor the Israeli press and to intimidate journalists, and it is a bit shocking that Carmon should imagine that such intimidation would work in a free society." (emphasis added). So we crap all over the society and call on that same society's peace movement! Very shady to say the least.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Pressed for Reality

IraqPundit gives the NYT a piece of his mind in a post that relates well to my own on "Romanticism and Fascism."

Sure enough, IraqPundit shatters the romanticism. Here's a quote:

"If the major press has missed the fact that the Anbar has been ruled by psychotics, many citizens of Fallujah have not. The Times of London quotes one of them:

"A man in his sixties, half-naked and his underwear stained with blood from shrapnel wounds from a US munition, cursed the insurgents as he greeted the advancing marines on Saturday night. "I wish the Americans had come here the very first day and not waited eight months," he said, trembling."

Although I'm not sold on Gilles Kepel's thesis, the above squares fine with his theory that the Islamists are alienating the larger Muslim population:

"The crucial issue now is whether Iraq is the new land of jihad or of fitna – a war in the heart of Islam that threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and ruin (my book takes its French title from the term).

The example of Algeria in the 1990s is relevant here. Until 1996, militant Armed Islamic Group (GIA) or Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) movements controlled large parts of Algeria, and the regime seemed doomed; then, for disputed reasons – military security operations, infiltration activities and other provocations, the internal dynamics of the GIA – the Islamists suddenly seemed to have alienated the bulk of the Algerian population. They even lost support among those who had previously voted for them.

Today in Iraq, there are daily images of hostages being beheaded as traitors, of corpses of policemen in the rivers – a spectacle of horror designed to convince that jihad is on the rise and that the US will never prevail. Yet jihadi Islamism in Iraq can draw on only the 17% of the population who are Sunni Arabs. The Iraqi Kurds and Shi’a are beyond their reach.


the Sadrists’ feeble insurgency collapsed when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made a remarkable political move – mobilising all the clerical resources of Shi’ism, and returning to Najaf and Karbala, to compel al–Sadr’s young school dropouts to pay their respects instead to him. As a result, Iraqi Shi’a representatives – Sistani and al–Sadr alike – have now agreed to take part in Iraq’s elections in January 2005.

Why have they agreed – and in a way that runs counter to the wishes of the insurgents in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samarra? Because a large majority of Iraqis killed by car–bombings and assassinations each week are Shi’a, and the perpetrators radical Sunni.

This confirms the fact that the Sunni insurgents can rely only on a limited band of support in Iraq. The daily media diet of beheadings can so easily and wrongly suggest that the American army is being defeated. Terrorism, in order to win, has to gain momentum over time, by making an investment. It is the return on that investment that counts. In Iraq, it may not be in their favour.

Jihad or fitna in Iraq? We are approaching a watershed. If the majority of Iraqis decide that this is fitna and rejects the Iraqi radicals – then they have lost, as they lost in Algeria. But for this to happen, the concerns of the Iraqi population must be heard.

Yet somehow, if you caught him on Lehrer the other night, Mark LeVine was saddened by the fact that there is only a Sunni insurgency in Iraq and not a pan-Arab one, that transcends (to use the recently elected Pope Juan Cole's term) sectarian divisions. He only begrudgingly admitted that to his interviewer, as if it had ruined his wet fantasy. You really needed to see his facial reaction, but his words will suffice:

"MARK LEVINE: Well, I would agree with the general. I think the most important thing that we see from my perspective is the fact that the Shia communities did not show the same solidarity with Fallujah as they did in April.

When I was there and the invasion was about to start and afterwards you could see a lot of Shia having sympathy, doing supply caravans. At this point, with this invasion, Sistani has said almost nothing. Even Muqtada al-Sadr has been very quiet, threatened to suspend his participation in the election, which is basically a meaningless statement this far in advance.

If the U.S. and the Allawi government can turn this, as the Gen. said, from an Arab/Iraqi revolt to a Sunni revolt, then that's a very big strategic victory for them.
" (Emphasis added.)

The fool still doesn't realize that it was never anything else, regardless of Juan Cole's useless piece in Le Monde Diplomatique in April, where his ideology (yet again) blinded his analysis driving him to speculate about a "transcendent nationalism" based on Sadr's insurgency!!! This is precisely what LeVine is referring to. The infuriating part is that this ideological romanticist fantasy and irresponsible activism (and that's all it ever was) passes for "expertise."

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Pope Juan Cole I

The Pontiff has spoken, ex cathedra:

"... Nor is the Lancet study as flawed as these authors suggest."

Preparations are being made as we speak for an encyclical, which my sources reveal will be entitled Divina Afflata Lanceti Epistola.

One of the signs that Pope Juan Cole was ready to issue the writ was the remark by papal nuntio Mark Cardinal LeVine on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer the other night, that the number of Iraqi deaths was "upwards of 100,000." This led many to speculate that a papal dictum in favor of the divine inspiration of the Lancet Report was imminent.

Given the strong and uncompromising position of the Pope on the inerrancy of the controversial Lancet Report, sources believe that he will be stern on the enforcement of this encyclical on all believers and MESAns. "Ready yourselves for more TV appearances by Mark Cardinal LeVine to ensure the spread of the papal decree," insiders say. Some even speculate a historic, and transcendent (to use one of the favorite words of the Pontiff himself) cooperation with the schismatic Bishop Patrick Seale, who has shown remarkable conviction on the divine inspiration of the Lancet Report.

The aggressive attitude shown by Pope Juan Cole is set to be further enhanced by a recent confirmation by the MESA Conference of Cardinals, sources say. The exact result of the highly secretive council has not yet been made public, but insiders say it is sure to give full support to the Pontiff and his aggressive position on the Epistola Lanceti. It will ensure that school text-books reflect the papal position in this debate on faith and science.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Lord Cole and the Neocon Ring

Fear not! It's not a MESA-produced sequel to the Lord of the Rings. It's blogger IraqPundit smacking around Juan Cole:

"[H]e [Fred Kaplan] quotes -- of all people -- Juan Cole! Yes! He actually says Cole is an "author of a valuable blog on Iraqi affairs." That's the same Juan Cole who recently wrote a bizarre post claiming that Dan Senor ordered the arrest of Muqtada Al Sadr.

On Nov. 10, Cole wrote in his Informed Comment blog that "I have it it from a source I consider reliable that the order for the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr in early April, 2004, which came as such a surprise and threw the country into chaos for two months, came from Dan Senor. Senor is said to have acted on instructions from Neoconservatives in the Pentagon, and to have kept Paul Bremer, his putative boss, out of the loop. Bremer was presented with a fait accompli."

Dan Senor? Senor was a spokesman in Baghdad. Where did he get the authority to order arrests? Who would have obeyed such an order? Did Senor flash them his secret Neocon ring? Did he give them the secret Neocon handshake? Now you know why some Iraqi readers call Cole's site, "misinformed comment."

I thought the part about the ring was simply priceless! I just had to post it! That's the second of two prominent Iraqi blogs to dis Cole. If you remember a while ago, Ali over at Iraq the Model referred to Cole in the same breath as Michael Moore and Al-Jazeera!

I don't get no respect I tell ya!

Update: Ali of Iraq the Model has done it again! In fact, it's a "buy one, get one free" smack-down of Juan Cole and a demolition of Rashid Khalidi (specifically, his piece that I quoted in my "Romanticism and Fascism" post)! Talk about value for your buck! Money quote:

"After reading the two honored professors’ articles I scratched my head vigorously (I’m sure I looked stupid because I felt so!) trying to remember my country’s history as I read it in school. Well, my memory is not that strong to help me remember all those poets and decorated writings about our ancestor’s bravery that I read in the fifth grade, but I sure do remember the only Iraqi movie that was produced about that rebellion. The director of the movie used a huge budget (Iraqi standards) and hired some British actors including Oliver Reed. He (the director) was rewarded generously by Saddam for showing the truth about that historical event.

In the movie, Shiek Dhari who’s mentioned in Dr. Rasheed’s article was the hero. It seemed that the movie was about him not the “revolution”. So anyway everything looked ok and my mind regained its peace, as everything the two well-informed professors said seemed to match perfectly with what Saddam’s hired director sowed us in his movie! And my face stopped looking stupid anymore!
Anyway, I don’t know which is worse; that the two experts in Arab world didn’t know about Dr. Al Wardi and his writings or that they knew but chose Sadam’s version of Iraq’s history!?

The Frog Prince vs. Wolfowitz

Via Wretchard (Belmont Club) comes this post juxtaposing some of the views of Jacques "le con" Chirac and Paul Wolfowitz.

I'm not going to waste your time with Chirac's drivel, or his hypocrisy, ("the empowerment of the world's new poles by fully and wholly involving them in the decision-making mechanisms" = "I, Jacques Chirac, need to have a say on things, but since France is a nothing country, I need to construct a larger union based on anti-Americanism in order to be semi-relevant") as I'm more interested in turning your attention to Wolfowitz's views, which are almost always misconstrued as some evil plot against Arabs and Muslims in the service of Israel. Just read Juan Cole if you want to see cliché venom against Wolfowitz (peruse my blog, and his, to see several absurd examples). But read what Wolfowitz says, for instance, on Iran and contrast that with Cole's hilarious conspiracy theory accusations about Wolfowitz's barely restrained belligerence towards Iran (of course, in order to protect Israel and allow it to "ethnically cleanse" the Palestinians in peace!):

"One positive thing about Iran is that there's more room for political evolution in that country than in most comparable dictatorships. The trouble is that a few years ago they had an election in which three quarters of the population voted for the opposition candidate, but it turned out that winning the election didn't change the government. It is possible to conceive of Iran going in the direction where they have a government that respects the rights of its people and truly represents them."

This is consistent with his views on ME democratization. On that, the segments quoted by Wretchard are on the money:

"Export of democracy isn't really a good phrase. We're trying to remove the shackles on democracy. What you would hope is that governments can be encouraged on a path of gradual reform because that's the best way to avoid the sort of cataclysm that will come otherwise.  ... We're not trying to graft our system of government on to people who are different from us. We're trying to remove shackles that keep them from having what they want. And it's astonishing how many of them want something that's similar to what we in the west have.


After the second world war and the Korean war, we invested heavily in the defence and economic systems of countries like Japan and Korea - hardly an imperial undertaking. I would submit that we have benefited enormously from their strength and their ability to stand on their own feet. They're now contributing to the rest of the world. We're so much better off with a Japan as a strong trading partner than a Japan as a basket case. If people want to redefine the word "empire" to mean this as an empire, then it's just semantics. We are not trying to control these countries so we can exploit their resources. We're trying to enable these countries to stand on their own feet and our experience says that when they do so, we're better off. It's back to the absurdity of saying we're trying to impose our ideas on other people when we want to help them become democracies. There's more legitimacy to the question of whether we are really prepared to live with what they produce when they become democratic. There's an uncertainty about the democratic process and there's always a danger that bad people will get elected. But it's a funny empire that relies on releasing basic human desires to be free and prosperous and live in peace. One of the things about this moment in history is that nobody really thinks they can produce an army, a navy or an air force that can take on the US. That should channel human competitiveness into more productive and peaceful pursuits.

No wonder Azar Nafisi and other informed liberals in the ME appreciate Wolfowitz. He speaks to their brightest hopes, while Cole and the MESA-ites speak to the ME's darkest pathologies and deadliest romanticisms. I'll end with Wretchard's conclusion:

"History may remember Jacques Chirac as one of the most prolific institution builders of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The European Union and the United Nations are but some of the multilateral projects he sought to strengthen in the belief they would serve as a prototype for the future ordering of the world. Wolfowitz's vision seems altogether more complex. He seems unwilling to speak of institutions outside the context of empowerment, as if to speak of instruments of governance without freedoms was tantamount to prescribing tyranny. Their difference of opinion may be rooted, not so much in an argument over bureaucratic arrangements, but in their view of the nature of man himself."

Update: Martin Kramer, in a piece dealing with MESA, articulates the above-stated contrast between hope and pathological romanticism. This passage says it perfectly:

"[T]he Middle East has languished in the shadow of despotic regimes, intolerant nationalists, and religious extremists for as long as MESA has been in the business. Regrettably, none of this ever troubled MESAns to the point of bringing them out into the street. When they weren't looking away, they were explaining away, claiming that the benighted state of their region was really the fault of the West. In a profound sense, then, the entire guild of Middle Eastern studies has been gullible—an easily-manipulated fifth column for the most retrograde forces in the Middle East. That's also why the guild has been stuck in an epistemological median strip. The MESA presidential address that will bear these tidings won't be delivered tonight."

Update 2: Mr. Chirac would do well to read this Foreign Policy essay by Niall Ferguson. Ferguson counters "multipolarity" with "apolarity" and discusses such a scenario and its possible consequences. A very good read. Here's a sample:

"Those who dream the EU might become a counterweight to the U.S. hyperpower should continue slumbering. Impressive though the EU's enlargement this year has been—not to mention the achievement of 12-country monetary union—the reality is that demography likely condemns the EU to decline in international influence and importance. With fertility rates dropping and life expectancies rising, West European societies may, within fewer than 50 years, display median ages in the upper 40s. Europe's “dependency ratio” (the number of non-working-age citizens for every working-age citizen) is set to become cripplingly high. Indeed, Old Europe will soon be truly old. By 2050, one in every three Italians, Spaniards, and Greeks is expected to be 65 or older, even allowing for ongoing immigration. Europeans therefore face an agonizing choice between Americanizing their economies, i.e., opening their borders to much more immigration, with the cultural changes that would entail, or transforming their union into a fortified retirement community. Meanwhile, the EU's stalled institutional reforms mean that individual European nation-states will continue exercising considerable autonomy outside the economic sphere, particularly in foreign and security policy.


For all these reasons, the prospect of an apolar world should frighten us today a great deal more than it frightened the heirs of Charlemagne. If the United States retreats from global hegemony—its fragile self-image dented by minor setbacks on the imperial frontier—its critics at home and abroad must not pretend that they are ushering in a new era of multipolar harmony, or even a return to the good old balance of power.

Be careful what you wish for. The alternative to unipolarity would not be multipolarity at all. It would be apolarity—a global vacuum of power. And far more dangerous forces than rival great powers would benefit from such a not-so-new world disorder.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Center vs. Periphery

Via Greg Djerejian (Belgravia Dispatch) comes this interesting post and this link to an ICG paper on central government and local governance in Iraq. Here's the quote highlighted by Greg:

"Local government is no substitute for central government, and there is a great need to recreate a sense of national identity. But in the context of rising violence, a growing sectarian and ethnic divide, and doubts on the feasibility and impact of national elections, the best way for now to protect the centre from centrifugal tendencies is, paradoxical as this may seem, to strengthen government at the various local levels. This means not only electing local governments but effectively empowering them, particularly on budgetary matters, and improving communication between national ministries and local councils. Without such steps, the isolated central state and the neglected local councils will both lose relevance and be unable to hold a fragile country together."

This might ring a bell to some readers who followed the discussion started by Joshua Landis on his site, Syria Comment, on za'imism in Lebanon (see the comments section for the replies, including mine).

This remains the greatest challenge for the ME, especially if we're seeking to establish political and cultural pluralism in the region (especially the highly multiethnic countries): how to balance the central state and the various peripheries? It will be impossible to achieve if Arab nationalism remains the dominant ideology. This has been the center of my discussions with Joshua Landis and in my arguments on the blog. The upside I always saw was the fostering of pluralistic politics, which counter dictatorship. The possible shortcomings that I concede to Josh are the risks of anti-individualism and nepotism (which leads to an anti-merit system).

Kanan Makiya presented his views on federalism in Iraq in an article in the Journal of Democracy (14.3 [2003] 5-12) entitled "A Model for Post-Saddam Iraq" (see also this interview). I would paste it all for you, but it's restricted access, and I don't want to get in trouble over copy rights! But I will paste his section on Ethnicity and Statehood right below:

Ethnicity and Statehood

The logical corollary of territoriality as a basis for federalism is that the new Iraqi state cannot be thought of in any politically meaningful sense of the term as an
Arab entity. This is a novel idea for the region but it follows inexorably from a territorial definition of regions as opposed to an ethnic one.

Israel is today a Jewish state in which a substantial number of Arab Palestinians—more than a million—have Israeli citizenship but are not and cannot in principle ever be full-fledged citizens of the state of Israel. The fact that they live in better conditions than their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza, or those in refugee camps all over the Arab world, is not an argument for second-class citizenship. In principle, because they are in a religiously or ethnically defined state, they are second-class citizens and one day in the future, it seems to me, the two principles upon which the state of Israel was created—ethnicity and democracy—are probably going to come into conflict with one another.

We should not want such a formula for Iraq. Iraqis deserve to live in an Iraq in which a Kurd or a Chaldean or an Assyrian or a Turkoman, be they male or female, can in principle all be elected to the highest offices of the land. That means that even though the Arabs form a majority in the country, their majority status should not put them in a position to exclude anyone else from positions of power and influence as was the case in the old regime, led as it was by a party that called itself the Arab Ba'ath Socialist party. A democratic Iraq will be one that by definition exists for all its citizens equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. And that means an Iraq that will not imagine itself as an
Arab nation. p. 9.

On the thorny subject of ethnic groups and the state, see, for the ME, the volume edited by Milton Esman and Itamar Rabinovich entitled Ethnicity, Pluralism, and the State in the Middle East (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). In particular see the essay by Gabriel Ben-Dor on Ethnopolitics and ME states. The essays by Kemal Karpat and P. J. Vatikiotis are also important. See also Ethnic Groups and the State ed., P. Brass (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books, 1985) -- esp. Kemal Karpat's essay -- and Donald Horowitz's Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). Also of interest is the volume edited by Philip Khoury and Joseph Kostiner, Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991). Tribes of course are the other crucial loci of identity and socio-political organization in the ME that have been in competition with the Arab nationalist state.

Addendum: Here's a relevant quote from Gabriel Ben-Dor's essay in the Esman & Rabinovich volume mentioned above:

"Federal thinking, however, is geared toward the sharing of sovereignty by states and other political forces in an institutionalized structural arrangement. It is the devolution of some state power to political subcommunities. But state power, in order to be devolved, is first to be had -- and it is not yet available in the necessary quantity -- or quality. For the sharing of sovereignty between the state and the subcommunities, the state must first acquire institutionalized strength to be able to deal with sovereignty in the first place, and such strength is still in short supply (though it has recently been growing). If some other regions of the world have fared better in dealing with ethnic problems, it is not because they have had easier problems but because they have had stronger solutions, or at least frameworks for solutions. The trouble in the relationship between ethnopolitics and the Middle Eastern state is not too much ethnicity, but too little stateness." (p. 92). 

Monday, November 15, 2004

On Romanticism and Fascism (Lite!)

A discussion has been taking place over at the H-Levant Discussion Log (here and here. The relevant threads are "Non-Iraqi Arabs in Rashid Ali's Wartime Baghdad" and "De-Baathification, Nazism, and history") that touches on the relation between the Baath and Nazism and Fascism.

The threads were started by Keith Watenpaugh, your average post-colonial Arabist/Third-Worldist; an academic totally smitten by Arab nationalist romanticism, and a prime apologist on its behalf. Those two elements, romanticism and apologetics, are painfully obvious in his posts. Here's a sample:

"Following the Rashid Ali al-Gaylani coup in Iraq during WWII, large numbers of young Arab nationalists gravitated to Baghdad from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. For a brief period Iraq was the only "liberated" Arab state. Within a few months, Rashid Ali's government would collapse in the face of a British re-invasion of the country.

I am trying to compile a list of Arabs who went to Iraq at that time. I already know of several, including Baathists al-Arsuzi and Aflaq, however if list members are aware of other cases, please let me know on or off list.

Although it's likely related to a paper of his (“The Generation of 1900 in Rashid Ali al-Kaylani’s Baghdad (1940-1941): Reassessing the Iraqi Interregnum and Early Pan-Arabist Thought,” Iraq: Notions of Self and the Other since the Late-Ottoman Era, Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS) Amman, Jordan, 1/7/2005), I'll go out on a limb and guess another reason why he's interested. The common exercise of all these MESA types is to draw parallels between the current US presence in Iraq to British colonialism. Hence "luminary" Rashid Khalidi's recent article, and in fact, his latest book (see his older talk at UCLA for a repetition of the same points). Here's the main point:

"The United States is perceived as stepping into the boots of Western colonial occupiers, still bitterly remembered from Morocco to Iran.
By invading, occupying and imposing a new regime on Iraq, the United States may be following, intentionally or not, in the footsteps of the old Western colonial powers—and doing so in a region that within living memory ended a lengthy struggle to expel colonial occupations. They fought from 1830 to 1962 to kick out the French from Algeria. From 1882 to 1956 they fought to get the British out of Egypt. That’s within the lifetime of every person over 45 in the Middle East. Foreign troops on their soil against their will is deeply familiar.

So I have a feeling that Watenpaugh's interest in the "Rashid Ali Model" is actually meant to first paint an idealized picture of non-Iraqi young Arabs heeding the call of Arab nationalism and flocking to Iraq to defeat British colonialism. Then, a parallel is to be drawn to non-Iraqi young Arabs flocking to Iraq today to defeat the new colonialism of the US, as defined by Khalidi above. The catchy title of this paper by Watenpaugh says it all: "The Guiding Principles and the U.S. 'Mandate' for Iraq: 20th Century Colonialism and America’s New Empire."

This type of romanticism has been echoed by Juan Cole, if you remember his piece in Le Monde Diplomatique that I referred to a few times on the blog, where he jumped on Sadr's insurgency and talked of a reemerging nationalism, "which we thought was dead," that transcends Sunni-Shiite divisions, etc. He still makes hints at it at every chance he gets on his blog. See also this horrible piece by the attention-hungry, and incredibly stupid upstart, Mark "Indiana Jones" LeVine. (LeVine looks in his crystal ball, recycles Cole and Khalidi, and echoes Watenpaugh's fantasy in this statement: "Iraqi public opinion might be inflamed to the point of sparking a more general Sunni or yet more significantly Sunni-Shi'i revolt. This actually happened in 1920..."). This is the bug of Arab nationalism/Third-Worldism that makes all these MESA folks high, and, to be frank, quite hilarious. That's the "expertise" you see: dig the past for romanticized episodes, then look in the crystal ball and project them into the future.

Enter Joshua Landis to break up the party:

"Dear Keith,
I believe only a few Syrians went to Iraq at the time of the Kaylani

Zaki al-Arsuzi (the Alawi leader) did not go to Iraq. In fact he
counseled his followers against it. He likened Kaylani to a donkey who
had fallen in line with British plans. Kaylani did send a relative to
make contact with Arsuzi in mid-March 1941, a few weeks before the coup
took place, but Arsuzi refused to be drawn into his plans. He explained
to his followers that it was a trap, that Kaylani didn't have a prayer
of success and would only compromise the nationalists. Why? He explained
that the British were too strong and would crush the revolt and arrest
anyone who joined it. Because of this, he ordered his followers to
remain neutral. He turned out to be right. (See Sami al-Jundi al-Baath,
p. 28-29.

Michel Aflaq did support the coup. He formed student committees in
support of Rashid Ali and launched a "Victory in Iraq" movement. "It was
an opportunity to bring home to our young followers the significance of
our Party's basic doctrine of Arab unity." Michel Aflaq told Patrick
Seale. (see Struggle for Syria, p. 10)

Seale does not say that Aflaq went to Iraq and he interviewed him on the

The Syrian that did go was Akram al-Hawrani along with a "few junior
officers," according to Seale. Jamal al-Atasi, who joined the Aflaq wing
of the Baath, says that Hawrani, Afif al-Bizri, and he went to Iraq and
were briefly arrested by the French when they fled back into Syria when
the coup failed.

Shukri al-Quwwatli headed a committee to raise funds for Rashid Ali.

Although the Rashid Ali movement clearly inspired enthusiasm among young
Syrian nationalists, there is not much indication that more than a
handful actually went to Iraq.

Oh Josh, you're such a party pooper! You just ruined their wet fantasy!

Watenpaugh replies:

"Thanks for the responses and the corrections. My sources, do place
al-Arsuzi in Baghdad 1939-1941 teaching after the loss of the Province
of Alexandretta, the source is Maqdisi's intro to the Complete Works -
Jundi is a very problematic source, and as I argue in my book, has the
texture of hagiography. It is quite probable that he left shortly before or
shortly after the coup and I am conflating his experience with someone else.

That said, my initial query was on "young men:" under 40 who may have
gone, and from anecdotal conversations with Syrians of that generation still
alive, it seems many did go "under the radar." The numbers of "Com. in
Support" of the nationalist government that arose in Damascus and
elsewhere at the time, and the later links between the Syrian Baath and the Iraqi
Baath all lead me to suspect that the degree of exchange between Syria
and Iraq at that time was more profound than we currently know.

I think the next step would be to check arrest/deportation orders in the
PRO and at Nantes.

Geoff's other query is well-placed. Italian and to a lesser extent
French fascism exerted a tremendous magnetic attraction on inter-war Arab
nationalists, and while Arab students studying in Germany often returned
with a glowing appraisal of Hitler's Germany, it just didn't have as
much appeal. What this points to is a need to more broadly approach the
study of fascism in the Middle East in the pre-war period in a way that is not
linked to post-war struggles between Palestinians and Israelis, or now clumsy
efforts at De-Baathification.

Josh pushes on and puts this poseur in his place, as he's clearly misread the sources:

"Dear Keith,

I am a bit surprised that you find Jundi's memoirs "problematic" because they have the "texture of hagiography" and thus prefer Maqdisi's short biographic sketch.

I would argue quite the opposite. Jundi is critical of Arsuzi (though he admired him and was his student), whereas, Maqdisi is the hagiographer.

A few examples:
Maqdisi consistently makes the argument that Arsuzi was a "saint" and pushes the notion that he was a prophet of his age who was in direct communication with the creator. He takes Arsuzi at his word that by the tender age of seven, Arsuzi had "memorized the Qur'an" and that as a child he was able to engage the Alawite religious shaykhs, who "flocked to his parents' house," on questions of "fate, eternity, and the divine spirit." They were "dazzled" by his brilliance and special religious insight. According to Antun Maqdisi, the Alawite shaykhs believed he was divinely inspired and a saint. (Complete Works, vol. 1: p. 14-16.)

Maqdisi relates how throughout his life Arsuzi had frequent spiritual experiences in which he went into trances, felt "strong reverberations overtake his entire being, and... a totalizing light transform him and all existing things in a metaphysical light... [and] divine transfiguration." (Ibid., 8.) He also had dreams in which Khidr, one of the many Alawite emanations of the Divine, appeared to him and gave him signs. Maqdisi sprinkles these divine revelations throughout his account of Arsuzi's life, reinforcing the notion that at major turning points the saint-like Arsuzi was inspired by direct communication with the creator.

Jundi, an Ismaili, is skeptical of Arsuzi's formal religious knowledge. He writes that during the early 1940s "I discovered from our conversations that at that time Arsuzi had not read the Quran seriously and if he did later on, he would have had to change many of his ideas. Many people don't know that Arsuzi began to study Arabic in 1940. Before that time, he preferred conversation in French." (p. 28)

This is not to say that Arsuzi was not deeply spiritual, as Maqdisi suggests. Jundi quotes Arsuzi telling him that "Revolution itself is a Sufi faith." Indeed, Arsuzi thought of their small party as a Sufi order more than anything else. Jundi explains how these were among his happiest days because they were filled with study and translation of the small library of books that the students were able to acquire.

As for the question of whether the early Ba`thists looked to Italian Fascism as their true model rather than German National Socialism, Jundi is quite frank about the influence of Nazi theories on the young party. I have never run across a Ba`thi who said that their primary fascist influence was Italian, but it is possible I have missed something. I don't know how many Italians were translated or if many Syrians knew Italian. If you and Geoff can demonstrate that the Ba`thists looked to Mussolini rather than Hitler for inspiration and found their intellectual guidance in Italian rather than German thinkers, you will certainly have overturned conventional wisdom as well as the assertions of many early Ba`thists.

For example Jundi writes:

"We were racists who admired the Nazis. We read their books and the sources of their thought." (p. 27)

He mentions the works of Nietzsche (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 1883-85 and The Birth of Tragedy, 1872), Fichte (Addresses to the German Nation), and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Anglo-German racial theorist who argued that the German nation was the best nation (Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts or The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 1899.) The book's central idea is that Western civilization's moral, cultural, scientific, and technological superiority comes largely from the positive influence of the "Germanic" race.) He also mentions someone whose name I don't recognize (Darah, who wrote (Race or al-`arq) and insists, "We were the first to have the idea of translating Hitler's Mein Kampf."

He adds: "Those who lived this period in Damascus can appreciate the tendency of the Arab people to sympathize with Nazism. It was the power that took revenge for them. Losers naturally like winners. But we (the Ba`thists) were of a different school." (27)What he means here is that the Bathists were not like ordinary Syrians who just wanted revenge. Rather, they were deeply interested in Nazi thought and nationalist theories.

Jundi describes how on 29 November 1940, Arsuzi founded a party named al-Ba`th al-`Arabi (the Arab Resurrection or Renaissance), which originally consisted of six students. It was at the apartment of Abd al-Halim Qadur, a law student. Arsuzi gave a four-hour lecture on the occasion which dealt with "democracy, communism, and Nazism."

Arsuzi did not think much of communism or Western-style democracy during the 1940s and early 1950s and tried to warn against them. Jundi explains that Arsuzi's beliefs were "aristocratic" rather than socialist. He believed that a "Za`im" was needed to lead the nationalist revolution, destroy the old order, and guide the masses out of their ignorance and lack of self-awareness and national consciousness.

Jalal al-Sayyid, one of the four original founders of the official Ba`th when it registered for party status in 1947 and a Sunni from Dayr al-Zur in the Jazira, disliked Arsuzi intensely and blamed him and his "wing" of Alawite supporters for introducing the "hatred" of the Alawites for Sunnis and Islam into the party. In his book Hizb al-Ba`th al-`Arabi (1972) he reiterates Jundi's assertions about Arsuzi's dislike of socialism. He writes:

"Arsuzi did not include socialism in his political philosophy. His philosophy was closer to Nazi thought, or actually, closer to the thought of the Romans in dividing people into slaves and masters. He divided people into two classes: the nobles and the peons... He called the mass of people "lache" in French (cowards). In short, he was aristocratic in his thought and looked at the people from on high, whereas, we (the Aflaq and Bitar Ba`thists) looked at the people from their level and as being among them." (P. 19)

Also, I didn't find Jundi and Maqdisi in contradiction about Arsuzi's dates. Both write that Arsuzi went to Iraq to teach for a year after Iskandarun was annexed to Turkey in 1939. Jundi writes that Arsuzi was in Iraq for a bit less than a year. I think we can accept this because the academic calendar doesn't include the summer months. Moreover, I think we can rely on Jundi as a source of Arsuzi's whereabouts during this period because he was in constant contact with him in Damascus and describes their activities in some detail. In fact, Jundi's account, published in 1969, has been accepted by subsequent writers as definitive. Some of these also claimed to be there and to know Arsuzi during these early years. For example Zuhayr al-Mardini, who claimed to know Arsuzi and Aflaq at this time, copies large chunks from Jundi's *al-Ba`th* verbatim in his book, *al-Ustadh,*.

Other works that accept the primary influence of German thinkers on Arsuzi's and Ba`thist thought include:

Antoine Audo, Zaki al-Arsouzi, un arabe face á la modernité (Liban: Dar el-Machreq, 1988); Salim Barakat, al-Fikr al-Qawmi wa Ususuhu al-Falsafiyya `inda Zaki al-Arsuzi (Dimashq: Dar Dimashq lil- Tiba`a wa-al-Nashr, 1979); Nafidh Suwayd, Zaki al-Arsuzi, al-Ab al-Ruhi lil-Hizb al-Ba`th al-`Arabi al-Ishtiraki (Damascus, 1992); Ahmad Sarim, al-Tarbiyya al-Qawmiyya fi Nitaj Zaki al-Arsuzi (Damascus: Dar Hattin lil-Dirasat wa-al-Tarjama wa-al-Nashr, 1993); `Isam Nur al-Din, Hayat Zaki Najib al-Arsuzi wa-Ara'uhu fi al-Siyasa wa-al-Lugha (Beirut : Dar al-Sadaqa al-Arabiyya, 1996); Saleh Omar, "Philosophical Origins of the Arab Ba`th Party: The Work of Zaki al-Arsuzi," Arab Studies Quarterly 18 (Spring 1996): 23-37. (NB: You can read the article online, here. T.) Ismâ`il Fâ`iz, Ma` bidâyât al-ba`th (With the Beginning of the Ba`th), Damascus: Dar Tlâs, 2nd printing. 1989.

I find your argument that "Italian and to a lesser extent French fascism exerted a tremendous magnetic attraction on inter-war Arab nationalists,...[whereas] Hitler's Germany just didn't have as much appeal," intriguing. Nevertheless, I am not sure which sources you are referring to. I would be interested in checking them out.

Josh's post drew a venomous reply from Watenpaugh, who clearly was made to eat humble pie:

" I wish to acknowledge Josh's lengthy post, and as this is incredibly
interesting to about four of us in the entire world, I'll take some of
our exchange of this off list and keep my foot from going further down
my throat. I've been living in the 20s and 30s for the past few years
and only now have returned to the 40s and my control of some of these
sources is rusty at best.

For those of you interested in this moment, please see Josh's
award-winning doctoral dissertation on the late 1940s in Syria, which he
is too modest to mention.

1) In a rush, I confused my Jundis - Adham rather than Sami. Mea culpa.
I even quote the better Jundi in my own article, "'Creating Phantoms:'
Zaki al-Arsuzi, The Alexandretta Crisis and the Formation of Modern Arab
Nationalism in Syria," in The International Journal of Middle East
Studies, 28 (1996), 363-389, which is now on j-stor.

2) The Nazi racialist vector is there. Batatu makes this very apparent
in his discussions of al-Arsuzi and observes that this tendency in his
thought gained him few followers and "left him bitter." Audo, whom I met
in Aleppo several years ago, thought this as well. Consequently, and as
I argued in '96, al-Arsuzi only has relevance in the context of Alawite
ascendance and has almost no real ideological value in the politics of
Baathism - beyond absorbing a tactical understanding of how Republican
Turks Turkified the Hatay.

But Geoff's, Peter's, Josh's and my posts about fascism and Nazism in
the Arab Middle East can be distilled into X areas

First: What time is this Fascism?

It strikes me that when one became a fascist - before the outbreak of
WWII and the Fall of France, perhaps even before the Spanish Civil War -
matters. Hence as I argue in my "Steel Shirts, White Badges and the last
Qabaday: Fascist Forms and the Transformation of Urban Violence in
French Mandate Syria" in France, Syrie et Liban, 1918-1846 - les
dynamiques et les ambiguites de la relation mandataire, Nadine M*ouchy,
ed., (Damascus: Institut Francais d'etudes Arabes de Damas Press, 2003)
325-347, if we consider INTERWAR "fascist-type" movements, the Steel
Shirts, the White Badge, the Phalange, the blue, green, fill in the
blank shirts, what was important were the aesthetics and styles of
organization of a generic Mediterranean, for lack of a better word,
fascism: the overt militarization of relationships of men and boys, the
pretty uniforms, the sense of power and dignity derived from being part
of a mass movement. There was also the basic question of language:
facility in French and Italian was more wide-spread; and travel to
Germany for college and post-graduate training while increasing in the
late 1930s, was still relatively rare and miniscule when compared to the
numbers going to France. The mandate archives in Nantes are filled with
paranoid French secret police reports about the Italians seeking
influence and worry about subterranean French fascism. Among the most
colorful, is one describing how the Banco di Roma rented a theater in
Aleppo, showed American movies and Italian newsreels and distributed
alcohol for free in an effort to seek influence. What is missing is any
credible evidence that Nazism per se was part of the picture in the 30s
and here I must underline 30s.

Second: What can one point to as Nazism in the political discourse of
the period?

Again, timing is everything here. As a subsidiary issue: is there
something coherent in Nazism that could actually be drawn upon? Sure,
al-Arsuzi read Fichte, as I note in IJMES, he translated the Reden, no
less, but never published it (?); he and others also read many of those
whom the Nazis retroactively adopted as their "thinkers." Last time I
checked, Nazism like nationalism is a vacuous ideology, with the
exception of "scientific racism" and the role of anti-Semitism, which
students of fascism often use to distinguish fascism from Nazism.
However this racialism, like anti-Semitism, was not unique to Nazism and
was in fact, quasi-dominant in European intellectual circles, left,
right and center. Remember: Eugenics was a viable and legitimate science
up to and including the time of WWII.

What is perplexing therefore is what ideas of the Nazis those in
question integrated into their thought and ideology? This isn't a
rhetorical question. My sense is that there is of course the revenge
motive - the enemy of my enemy - but that's not ideology. What I argue,
instead, in very broad terms is that fascism in the colonial non-West
should be seen as a loss of faith in liberal-nationalism, a turn away
from the Wilsonian moment: and that this loss of faith was increasingly
wide-spread by the mid-1930s - fascism, like communism, filled the
resulting void. Can we point to something and say "that's Nazi" rather
than "that's derivative of generic fascism?"

Third: How tied up in the Palestine-Israel conflict are questions of
fascism and Nazism (and now DeBaathification)?

This is where this discussion began.

There is a certain utility to labeling movements in the Arab world Nazi
or Nazi-influenced. In current thinking it's a conversation stopper, it
delegitimizes ones opponent and consequently, closes down critical
inquiry. This is the seeming undercurrent in Jankowski's Egypt's Young
Rebels (1975): Pan-Arabism is linked to fascism, especially through the
persons of Gamal Abd al-Nasser and Anwar al-Saddat. It creates a
metahistory that can cohere the Jewish Holocaust, Arab opposition to the
formation of Israel and continued Arab rejection.

Just imagine what kind of trouble one could get in were one to question
if interwar Zionist movements were influenced by fascism, where we quite
easily seek the fascist impulses in other colonial-settler movements?

Before we can proceed, we need to uncover what was understood as the
tenets of these ideologies and movements - how did interwar young Arabs
"see" fascism and Nazism? These question must remain in their proper
context: this is Peter's central demand: we must understand what
Phillipe Burrin calls fascism's magnetic attraction as it occurs in a
manner that recovers its local meaning, while not losing sight of linked
international components and strains of thought.

Yeah yeah yeah... Those of you not familiar with academic jabs, the reference to Landis' dissertation wasn't really a compliment. When you refer to someone's dissertation, you're highlighting the fact that it's not published into a book. That's Watenpaugh being unable to publicly admit that he has no clue what he's talking about, despite all the posturing. He tries the lame excuse of the difference between the 20s and 30s vs. the 40s, but to no avail! But it gets even more malicious. In the end, like all Arabists, Watenpaugh cannot help but bring in the Zionists. Besides the usual function of this trope, it's actually meant to draw out a reaction from Landis. Where do you stand on the Zionists, Josh!? That's the point! That way, he can discredit him by association. That's MESA at its best. That's High Priest Edward Said's legacy.

Which leads us to the second thread about Nazism, and the feverish apologia that ensues. For instance, take Geoff Shad, who wants to join in on the action:

"The article Keith forwarded to the list raises important
issues concerning the political process now underway in Iraq, the
character of Ba`thism, and how one should understand the Rashid
`Ali junta.
It is no surprise that the current "reeducation" program in
Iraq should compare the Ba`th and earlier Iraqi nationalists to
the Nazis. On one hand, the CPA appears to have modeled its "de-
Ba`thification" policies on post-World War II denazification in
Germany, as partial and as compromised as that process was, and
certainly Wolfowitz et al equated Saddam with Hitler and the
Ba`th with the Nazis. Moreover, it has been an article of faith
among anti-Ba`th Iraqi exiles that the Ba`th was essentially a
fascist movement if not fully Nazi. Kanan Makiya's _Republic of
Fear_, the ur-text of this train of thought, appears to lay the
blame for the Saddamist cult of personality and all that went
with it not so much on Saddam Husayn and his needs for total
control as on Ba`thism as such, arguing that the
authoritarian/totalitarian tendencies of the post-1968 Iraqi
regime were inherent in the original Ba`thist ideology as
articulated by Bitar, `Arsuzi, and especially `Aflaq.
Is this a correct reading of the early Ba`th? I don't have
my copy of Batatu in front of me, but weren't the Ba`th's
founders more influenced by Marxism and by French rather than
German forms of romantic nationalism than by fascism and Nazism?
Certainly, the Ba`th constitution posits a view of the "Arab
nation" rooted more in culture, language, and a positive sense of
belonging to it as opposed to a racialist vision (which was held
by some liberal Arab nationalists, such as Edmond Rabbath).
Beyond that, the program of the Ba`th can be read as compatible
with the ideals of European social-democratic parties. Arguably,
what made Ba`thist regimes repressive was not the original
ideological program but rather the decision to seek power through
alliances with military cliques rather than democracy, as Bitar
himself admitted shortly before his assassination.
The problem of the junta that backed Rashid `Ali al-Gaylani
is somewhat different. Gaylani himself may well have been
motivated by little more than personal ambition and an Iraqi Arab
nationalism that saw Britain as the main impediment, hence the
alliance of convenience with Italy and Germany. But the officers
of the "Golden Square" who had backed him were products of a
system of political socialization that was at the very least
xenophobic in outlook. We cannot forget that Bakr al-Sidqi,
whose 1936 coup prefigured that of 1941, had won his spurs by
means of a (very popular) pogrom against the Assyrians in 1933,
and that his outlook was shared by many field-grade Iraqi
officers. These same individuals engineered the 1941 coup and
the alliance with Italy and Germany. That the restoration of the
monarchy at end May/beginning June 1941 was followed by the
_farhud_ (pogrom) against Baghdad's Jewish population was
probably no accident. It is probably a stretch to claim that
1941's leaders were "Nazis," as the current "reeducation" program
insists, but pro-Nazi they certainly were at least in a tactical
sense, and xenophobic and exterminationist patterns of thought
were certainly current in Iraqi elite circles during the late
1930s and early 1940s.

So they're not Nazi fascists, they're Nazi-lite, low carb fascists! As Watenpaugh put it:

"[H]ow did interwar young Arabs "see" fascism and Nazism? These question must remain in their proper context: this is Peter's central demand: we must understand what Phillipe Burrin calls fascism's magnetic attraction as it occurs in a manner that recovers its local meaning, while not losing sight of linked international components and strains of thought."

Ridiculous. It's very easy to find out how they "saw" it. Read the sources, namely Husri! There's no escaping the conclusion, as Landis and Hazem Saghieh for instance, make it perfectly clear, that the Baathists/Arab nationalists were racialist fascists, period. (See my posts dealing with Liberalism and Arabism.)

But that's the point, they don't read the sources. Notice how Geoff's first impulse is not to check the primary sources, but to check Batatu's work! How about Aflaq and Husri's own writings!? But Joshua shut them up pretty well, as evidenced by the reply he drew from both Schad and Watenpaugh. For more, read Kanan Makiya's Republic of Fear. He lays out the infatuation with Nazism and European fascism very convincingly. Speaking of which, Makiya points out (p. 168) that Rashid Ali, the post-colonialists' hero, was also behind the pogrom against the Assyrians, and not just Sidqi, as Schad implied. But this shows the bankruptcy of these types, and of the new-Left, who are willing to bestow legitimacy on such figures as Rashid Ali, or Muqtada Sadr, or the Fallujah terrorists, in the name of a romanticized anti-colonialism. As Paul Berman once put it:

"[A] lot of people suppose that any sort of anticolonial movement must be admirable or, at least, acceptable. Or they think that, at minimum, we shouldn't do more than tut-tut-even in the case of a movement that, like the Baath Party, was founded under a Nazi influence. In 1943, no less!"

Thank God for Joshua Landis and his (restrained) smack-down!