Sunday, February 20, 2005

I took down my article "Disarray in Syrian Ranks Leads to Crisis" because a number of Syrian friends here said that "everyone was talking about it" including among university political science departments and that it could cause me trouble. More to the point, some friends believe that it could cause them trouble as well, perhaps earning them a visit to ask about their relationship to me. At worst, I would be asked to leave Syria, but even my wife was anxious and pointed out that it could have repercussions for the family.

Anyway, I have taken it down. There is no point in jeopardizing my friendships and family. Using names is not on. That means my commentary will be less sharp. Nevertheless, the red-lines in Syria are much higher than they used to be and one can say most anything so long as powerful individuals are not annoyed. Sorry about that.

Dr. Sami Moubayed has also asked me to take down his article. He wrote:

I am working on a defense, but I am starting to have second thoughts about it because obviously from the insults, the readers are not people to be negotiated with. They have exceeded normal debate and have transformed the dialogue into direct and very rude insults.

I will leave it at that. I am sorry to break with normal blog etiquette by changing things after the fact.

If anything good comes out of this crisis, it will be that Syria leaves Lebanon. It is a difficult thing for Syrians to do, but it is certainly time. As my wife said to me this morning,
If you visit the cemetery where my grandfather is buried in Jable, you will see the graves of many Syrian soldiers who died in Lebanon. Their mothers and wives still visit them and cry. But the Lebanese hate us. I understand it. Still it is difficult. The last time I was in Beirut, I went to shop at ABC. Of course everyone could tell I was Syrian from my accent and they didn't want to serve me. We must leave Lebanon.
No Syrian wants to leave under American pressure, but perhaps it is only with pressure that Syrians will leave.

16 Comments:

At 2/20/2005 03:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that the debate over the article developed into personal insults to Dr. Sami who was merely delivering his political/professional point of view. These are hot topics Joshua, if you want them to be discussed then the forum will need a moderator.

 
At 2/20/2005 04:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

professor landis, you can tell moubayyed that there is no sense in him writing a rebuttal. His initial post was speckled with factual errors, half-truths, and unsubstantiated fanciful claims, to which YOU gave legitimacy afterall. i agree with with some of your readers that this was ultimately of your own making. i'm sorry that some of the replies, some of which were mine, crossed the line and angered a few guilt-ridden syrians. but when a so-called "scholar" starts throwing irresponsible allegations around and intellectualizes vulgar propaganda, s/he shouldn't recoil from criticism and start crying foul. Perhaps in Syria moubayyed is used to obsequious audiences who dare not question his contentions and kowtow to his PhD. But thank god, this is not Syria, and PhD's come a dime a dozen.

 
At 2/20/2005 04:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, this is an example of why forums should be moderated. This fellow has certain problems with the Syrian National Party who could beat him in any debate and probably have many times and now he wants to engage us in this debate using personal attacks and dirty language to turn the whole thing into a mob argument that never ends.

 
At 2/20/2005 06:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to have the email of the gentleman (or lady) who posted his/her comment at 4:17 am. I want to discuss the current events in the Lebanon & Syria with him/her, in a civilized manner, far from insults, and to defend myself against his/her accusations. I take it as my right. If they could post their email, I would be very interested in dialogue.

Regards,
Sami Moubayed

 
At 2/20/2005 07:27:00 AM, Blogger Joshua Landis said...

I was happy to lend "legitimacy" to Sami Moubayed's arguments, even though I do not agree with the notion that Israel was the author of Hariri's murder.

Sami is a good friend, but more importantly his argument that Syria has had a close relationship with Hariri for over a decade is important. It does not mean that Syrians are necessarily innocent, but the Hariri-Syria relationship is important to understanding what is going on.

What is more, I post many opinions that I don't agree with. Being the only blogger who posts on Syrian politics from Damascus, or from just about anywhere, I try to capture as wide an array of local opinions as I can.

Sami articulates the local view in English more eloquently than anyone else I know.
Best, Joshua

 
At 2/20/2005 04:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyway, I have taken it down. There is no point in jeopardizing my friendships and family.Whats a matter Joshua, freedom of speech doesn't exist in the Baathist Utopia of Syria?

Where are all the enlightened liberals in the world? I know, demostrating against the evil neo-cons...

 
At 2/20/2005 05:33:00 PM, Anonymous Kafka said...

I like the Syrians because they like an alcoholic drink from time to time.
The bottom line however is that it is time that the Syrians leave Lebanon. No amount of talk and blubber will get around this simple truth after so many years of mismanagement of human and financial resources inside Lebanon and perhaps also inside Syria.
The syrian army and its secret service should leave. It will be good for the Lebanese people and I am certain that it will be good for the Syrian people too.
The Syrian government has failed politically in Lebanon, and we can see this all around us. Democracy says that when that happens governments should pay a price. It is time the Syrian governement paid some political price.

 
At 2/20/2005 07:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name calling some people indulge in is infantile, it doesn't contribute to anybody's understanding, and it harms dialogue. Those who call names and engage in ad hominem attacks are part of the problem. AFter 17 years of Lebanese massacring each other over nothing, why do you want to continue with your sectarian, horrible prejudices?

Furthermore, when you use such language, you make it hard for those of us in the middle to credit your arguments. I have no reason to slavishly support Syria on any topic, but the nasty rhetoric of the anti-Syrian voices around here makes me discount their arguments. Argue reasonably and you have a better chance of convincing me. In fact, please argue reasonably, because I really want to hear your side of things. Instead you just call names.

It's possible to be anonymous in other blog comment formats, but Blogger really encourages it. Without a Blogger account, one is automatically anonymous. This adds to the vitriol, IMHO.

I try to include my name and website so people will know who I am. And I am not going to sign up for Blogger because the second thing it asks me to do is set up a blog. I have a blog and don't need another.

signed, Leila Abu-Saba at http://bedouina.typepad.com
Dove's Eye View

 
At 2/20/2005 07:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name calling some people indulge in is infantile, it doesn't contribute to anybody's understanding, and it harms dialogue. Those who call names and engage in ad hominem attacks are part of the problem. AFter 17 years of Lebanese massacring each other over nothing, why do you want to continue with your sectarian, horrible prejudices?

Furthermore, when you use such language, you make it hard for those of us in the middle to credit your arguments. I have no reason to slavishly support Syria on any topic, but the nasty rhetoric of the anti-Syrian voices around here makes me discount their arguments. Argue reasonably and you have a better chance of convincing me. In fact, please argue reasonably, because I really want to hear your side of things. Instead you just call names.

It's possible to be anonymous in other blog comment formats, but Blogger really encourages it. Without a Blogger account, one is automatically anonymous. This adds to the vitriol, IMHO.

I try to include my name and website so people will know who I am. And I am not going to sign up for Blogger because the second thing it asks me to do is set up a blog. I have a blog and don't need another.

signed, Leila Abu-Saba at http://bedouina.typepad.com
Dove's Eye View

 
At 2/20/2005 08:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leila Abu-Saba stated:

Argue reasonably and you have a better chance of convincing me. In fact, please argue reasonably, because I really want to hear your side of things.Leila -

Democracy is what Syria and the rest of the Middle East needs. Any leadership MUST be answerable to the voting citizenry. Otherwise we get governments that support terrorism to the extent that terrorism not only fights the enemy du jour (Israel), but also "the hand that feed them". Right now radical Islamic fundamentalism is eating up the Middle East, including the despots that created this scourge.

Democracy will solve the terrorism problem, the freedom problem, the inclusion problem, and the modernization problem so prevalent in Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

The neo-cons are helping the US AND the Middle East. Let's use this opportunity to the benefit of all freedom loving people.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to vote!

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

 
At 2/21/2005 03:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody anonymous wrote: Democracy will solve the terrorism problem, the freedom problem, the inclusion problem, and the modernization problem so prevalent in Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

The neo-cons are helping the US AND the Middle East. Let's use this opportunity to the benefit of all freedom loving people.
Thank you for that argument. Of course I agree with everything you wrote up until the paragraph beginning "The neo-cons". However I believe reasonable people can disagree on whether the neo-cons are really helping the Middle East, without attacking each other with insults.

The common ground is our desire to see democracy and self-determination in Syria, Lebanon (and Palestine too, right?). The areas of difference lie in how best to achieve that. I personally am willing for history to prove me wrong. If Bush and the neo-cons can really create a better society in Iraq, then I am happy to be proven wrong in my doubts about their policies.

So far they've caused a great deal of death and destruction. The price in human life doesn't seem worth it to me, no matter how bad I think Saddam was (and I think he was a monster).

I am a woman, I am a mother of sons, and I am a daughter of Lebanon who watched Israelis bomb the refugee camps near our village when I was 12. I cannot accept that killing people to impose democracy is worth it. I could not accept either that killing people to win back a homeland is worth it (that means Palestinian attacks). The means do not justify the ends, they actually spoil the ends.

This is a simple version of my position. The overall point is that we can be in favor of democracy and not agree on the neo-cons and Bush foreign policy.

Thanks again for posting your argument in such reasonable language. I don't know who you are, but if I did, I would visit your blog so I could get better informed about your point of view.

Leila at Dove's Eye View

 
At 2/21/2005 06:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for that argument.You're welcome.


However I believe reasonable people can disagree on whether the neo-cons are really helping the Middle East, without attacking each other with insults.Yes.

The common ground is our desire to see democracy and self-determination in Syria, Lebanon (and Palestine too, right?). The areas of difference lie in how best to achieve that.Why not?

I personally am willing for history to prove me wrong. If Bush and the neo-cons can really create a better society in Iraq, then I am happy to be proven wrong in my doubts about their policies.I believe Bush and the neo-cons have already proven most people to be wrong. Democracy CAN work in the Middle East. Middle Easterners want the same thing everybody else wants: Freedom.

So far they've caused a great deal of death and destruction.Unfortunately, there are a lot of radical Islamic Fundamentalists that fear democracy. They want you and the rest of the Middle East to bow down to their version of Islam and continue their war against the West and the rest of the infidel world.

The price in human life doesn't seem worth it to me, no matter how bad I think Saddam was (and I think he was a monster).This is your opinion and I respect that. I'm not Iraqi, however, seeing what Saddam did to his country and the order of magnitude more death and destruction he caused, unfortunately, I think the price IS worth it. Freedom does not come without a price. As an American, I think I say so.

I am a woman, I am a mother of sons, and I am a daughter of Lebanon who watched Israelis bomb the refugee camps near our village when I was 12.I am sorry for any suffering you may have experienced in the context of the Arab-Israelis dispute. Fortunately, there is peace between Jordan and Eygpt, and I hope one day, also between Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. At this point, there is officially a State of War with the remaining 3 countries.

I cannot accept that killing people to impose democracy is worth it.Then I suppose having a "leader" like "President for Life" Saddam is acceptable to you.

I could not accept either that killing people to win back a homeland is worth it (that means Palestinian attacks).Every situation has to be analyzed at that moment under different circumstances. Fightning against Baathist dictators is fruitless when these people have a strangle-hold over their people. When opportunities for freedom and democracy are in sight, when the leader of the free world is not afraid to help those yearning for freedom, now is the time to act.

The means do not justify the ends, they actually spoil the ends.This depends on the circumstances.

This is a simple version of my position. The overall point is that we can be in favor of democracy and not agree on the neo-cons and Bush foreign policy.OK, however, without Bush, there would not be one democracy in the Middle East today (sans Israel).

Thanks again for posting your argument in such reasonable language. I don't know who you are, but if I did, I would visit your blog so I could get better informed about your point of view.Again, you are welcome. I have no blog, but I participate on one. However this blog has been hacked and is not currently on-line. I'll let this blog know about it later.

Joe

Leila at Dove's Eye View

 
At 2/21/2005 08:44:00 AM, Anonymous Ibrahim said...

Leila,

Your comment on Lebanese "slaughtering" each others for 17 years is an insult in itself. What adds more to it is your Lebanese citizenship. This is not a way to present ourselves to the World. It is true that militias and armed groups fought many wars in Lebanon, but the majority of people and civilians did not want war, did not want to kill the "other". Put that in your head and we will move forward, in fact we already did. The fact that you do not agree with the other or that you care for the interests of your own community over the others does not mean that you are ready to slaughter the other. This happens all over the world... people want their own benfit over the others, with varying degrees in different countries. To accuse the Lebanese of killing each others is wrong, we did NOT kill each others, I am not also blaming other countries or factions... all I am saying is NOT to simplify things and let people picture us as blood thirsty barbarians with an ax and a sword on the ready.

 
At 2/21/2005 11:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ibrahim said to Leila:

Your comment on Lebanese "slaughtering" each others for 17 years is an insult in itself.But it's the truth. The real insult is the wanton murder funded, promoted and employed by the Baathist dictators-for-life.

This is not a way to present ourselves to the World.Ibrahim - The Middle East has already "presented" itself to the world. You're a bit too late to repair the damage.

It is true that militias and armed groups fought many wars in Lebanon...Yup.

... but the majority of people and civilians did not want war, did not want to kill the "other".Since when does "the majority of people and civilians" matter to "presidents-for-life"?

Let's count all the "presidents-for-life in the Middle East:

Assad, Mubarak, Saud, Arafat (now Abbas), Kadafi, Abdullah, Kings of the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and the Theocrats in Iran.

Put that in your head and we will move forward, in fact we already did.The only way to move forward is by employing freedom, democracy, and getting rid of the "presidents-for-life".

To accuse the Lebanese of killing each others is wrong, we did NOT kill each others...Let's face reality.

...all I am saying is NOT to simplify things and let people picture us as blood thirsty barbarians with an ax and a sword on the ready.Unfortunately your words do not match reality. From the fundamentalists in Algeria, to al-Queda, to Lebanon, to Hama, to the Iran-Iraq War to Saddam, to Halabja, to the Occupied Terrortories, all the way to Hariri's motorcade and the decapitations in Fallujah.

All I'm saying is that it is about time to try democracy and freedom as an alternative to continued violence, powerlessness, and oppression (using Hanan Ashwari's favorite words).

We may get a spineless liberal in 4 years. I suggest embracing the "Bush Doctrine" before time runs out.

 
At 2/21/2005 12:39:00 PM, Anonymous Ibrahim said...

I'm with you.

But I was focusing on our image, on the style rather than the substance.

Please do not link the name of Lebanon with killings and savagery, we've had enough of bad reputation.

For the past 15 years, Lebanon has been calm 90% of the time, and this is what we should portray to the West (while correcting our mistakes)... Our Economy needs it.

 
At 2/23/2005 01:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dr. Sami Moubayed has also asked me to take down his article."

Hat tip, professor. Nice cover up! That Syrian Orwellian space must be infectious. A guy posts erroneous information on your blog, in the guise of scholarship (his and your claim, not mine), and what do you do when he's exposed? You remove the article to conceal its falsity and protect your friend's pseudo-scholarship, and your own collusion, from what what was promising to be a devastating critique. Classic Syrian M.O., if you ask me! But kudos to you, to the good Dr., and to both your kind of integrity.

"He [Dr. Moubayed] wrote:


'I am working on a defense, but I am starting to have second thoughts about it because obviously from the insults, the readers are not people to be negotiated with. They have exceeded normal debate and have transformed the dialogue into direct and very rude insults'."

Good call, Dr.! That's the way to do it! That is one slick way to muddle your incompetence! First denigrate your critics for the holes they have punched in your rickety and irresponsible claims, then protest their discourteous response to your barefaced lies!? Classic propagandist move! When faced with the damaging truth about your specious and deceptive research and writing practices, withdraw the guilty "article", claim to be mounting a defense, and then quickly retract with ad hominem and condescending remarks against those who threw light on your silly hoax. Lucky for you, a bunch of us got ahold of (and will be saving for posterity) your initial asinine post AND the demoralizing responses that it generated. Not only has your idiotic post been debunked, Dr., but so has your self-ascribed/professed scholarship been discredited.


"I will leave it at that [says professor Landis]. I am sorry to break with normal blog etiquette by changing things after the fact."


Don't worry about it, professor! We all falsify reality and stifle the painful truth in Syria. We love raining our sanctimonious reprimand on our adversaries when it suits our party line... but when it comes to self-reflection and recognition of our own deficiencies, god forbid should we admit to our flaws. We all know that family comes first, professor! At least no one can impugn your tribal loyalty.

 

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