My recent Jacobin article has elicited a robust response, mostly positive. The negative crit from the right I’ll ignore, but some on the left have raised worthy objections.
People have objected this graf (and with good reason).
What happened to the Syrian revolution — if, indeed, that term even applies — is disputed. We should be able to agree, however, that a progressive uprising of indeterminate size gave way to a large reactionary one as the Syrian government cracked down on leftists and foreign-backed extremists rushed in.
It’s a fact that progressives were involved in the protest movement in the winter and spring of but to call it progressive in totality is inaccurate and reductive. I also shouldn’t have left doubt about whether we should call it a revolution; I don’t believe the term applies. (Nor, I suspect, do the editors at Jacobin.) And while it’s a fact that Assad cracked down on protests I’m not sure we can draw a causal link between that and the dominant role of foreign-backed jihadists.
Some things in that graf run counter to other things I’ve written/said about Syria. I wrote them in a hasty response to a perceived request from Jacobin editors — and in a misguided effort to FINISH THE DAMN PIECE — but having reviewed the process, I see they requested neither those words nor that sentiment. I regret leaving doubt on Twitter about the process. The Jacobin editors, while suggesting a fair amount of changes, didn’t soften the stance or make it less “left.” They overall sharpened it.
It pains me that having written and thought about this stuff I lot, I have words in a widely read piece that I don’t agree with, but the fault is mine.
Also Phil Greaves — whose extensive criticism I appreciate (seriously!) — and a few others have objected to my entertaining the notion that torture and other abuses committed by Arab govs against “terrorists” intensify their violence. Greaves and co see a contradiction between saying jihadism is a spawn of US imperialism on the one hand and saying actions by Arab govs exacerbate it on the other. But there’s really no contradiction because the Arab govs doing the torturing are mostly US clients, and in any case, I don’t subscribe to the notion that no factors beyond imperialism play into jihadist violence.
Last, some leftists have objected to my accepting that both the Libya and Syria uprisings were at all indigenous as opposed to CIA-produced. But I don’t think we know exactly what went down, and as I said in the piece “the two things can coexist, and often do.”