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Another very complex issue (Syria, 2015)

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  • Another very complex issue (Syria, 2015)

    This is not a political forum nor should it be, but this brand has a global reach, and by far the largest proportion of our business is exported overseas. From time to time we feel that it's necessary to step up and explain some of the issues that our company - indeed; our country - face. Such will be the one our MPs vote on in a few moments this evening.

    Attached is an article from the iNewspaper of last week. You can read it for yourself. My attention is drawn to one word, repeated in this article: moderate. Are these 'moderate' forces clearly identifiable and reliable and see the world through our western eyes?

    I'm not proposing to discuss this in detail here - time will tell - but to put down a marker.
    Attached Files
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    Moderate is a relative term.

    Comment


    • #3
      Moderation?

      Mark Steel is somewhere between Trotsky and Stalin, but not as funny as Marx.

      It doesn't pay to be moderate in the Middle East. The old saying in Israel is you only need two politicians to have three points of view.

      Comment


      • #4
        A terrible mess

        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
        Are these 'moderate' forces clearly identifiable and reliable and see the world through our western eyes?
        I think it may be worth remembering that "the West" broadly speaking - Great Britain and France in particular - bear some historical responsibility for the chaos that is the modern Middle East.

        I just finished re-reading an excellent recent biography of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence in Arabia, by Scott Anderson) and was struck by how the seeds of the present situation were so clearly sown in World War I and its immediate aftermath, and we have come from there to the present mess. This passage from the last chapter I find powerful:
        "By the 1960s, with the era of European imperialism drawing to its unceremonious close, the Middle East resembled the shambles the colonial powers were leaving behind in other parts of the globe, but with one crucial difference: because of oil, the region had now become the most strategically vital corner on earth, and the West couldn't walk away from the mess it had helped create there even if it wanted to.

        What has transpired there over the past half-century is, of course, familiar to all: four wars between the Arabs and Israelis; a ten-year civil war in Lebanon and a twenty-year one in Yemen; the slaughter of ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq; four decades of state-sponsored terrorism; convulsions of religious extremism; four major American military interventions and a host of smaller ones; and for the Arab people, until very recently, a virtually unbroken string of cruel and/or kleptocratic dictatorships stretching from Tunisia to Iraq that left the great majority impoverished and disenfranchised.

        "Certainly, blame for all this doesn't rest solely on the terrible decisions that were made at the end of World War I, but it was then that one particularly toxic seed was planted. Ever since, Arab society has tended to define itself less by what it aspires to become than by what it is opposed to: colonialism, Zionism, Western imperialism in its many forms. This culture of opposition has been manipulated - indeed, feverishly nurtured - by generations of Arab dictators intent on channeling their people's anger away from their own misrule in favour of the external threat, whether it is 'the Great Satan' or the 'illegitimate Zionist entity' or Western music playing on the streets of Cairo."

        I think that the 'moderates' in an environment like that probably have to become very good at keeping their heads down in order to survive. But that doesn't mean they don't exist, and while I agree with the need for caution, I also think that being unwilling to recognize that there are such things as moderate Arabs at all only contributes to perpetuating the current awful situation.

        Comment


        • #5
          Newton's law, modified

          It is only in physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

          History shows that this isn't usually the case in human affairs, where actions end up with magnified reactions and this reverberates back and forth over time. A lot of what is happening in Europe and the Middle East can be traced back to the Crusades via intermediate events like the War on Terror, the events of 1948 leading to the reestablishment of Israel, WW2/The Holocaust, etc., over the intervening years. The Crusades in turn had their roots in the actions of Islam ascendant. Which in turn arose out of....and so on.

          Knowing this doesn't stop people anywhere from rushing to react in a manner where immediate effects will be uncertain, but reactions will be inevitable.

          Humanity has paid a very high price for the benefits that organised religion have brought to it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Tribalism and extreme complexity

            Eric makes a very good point. There is no irony lost in the fact that the acronym "Hamas" means "Islamic Resistance". It cannot reconcile with peace because it's whole raison d'etre is based on a reactionary mentality.

            The main problem is that the West just don't understand the tribalism that defines the Middle East, with Zionism added to the pot. Rule is by absolute power and patronage and democracy is a totally alien concept paid lip service at best. It's only a shame we want to drive and fly around all the time and they have lots of oil. What gets me is the number of commentators that have never been there.

            The situation in Syria is, however, quite remarkable in its complexity, given the Alawite issue on top of the normal Sunni-Shia conflict. I read in the papers this morning that the UK/US are engaged in supporting the anti-Alawite Syrian Free Army, but now have to co-ordinate with the pro-Alawite Russians to bomb Daesh. You couldn't make it up and it seems to be a long road to hell.

            Bear in mind the 1980 Iran-Iraq war lasted 10 years and cost 1 million lives.

            Comment


            • #7
              What have we learned?

              In India, we have experienced our own share of extremist acts. Some of these have been inspired by (misguided) religious ideology, some economic ideology, some sectarian, while some by people who have felt disenfranchised for some reason or others (e.g. Tribal people who lost their traditional livelihood due to urbanisation or industrialisation)....all shades. what have we learnt from them?

              A. There is absolutely no doubt that in a civil society there is NO place for acts of mindless violence designed to create terror. There is (and cannot be) no argument on that.

              B. There is a problem with words like "moderate". Conventional wisdom identifies "moderation" by looking at the actions. So, a person is "moderate" until his/her actions prove otherwise.

              C. However, the mental model that leads to the heinous acts of extremism stem from deep "hatred and resentment" that lives in the minds of people. Knowing who or where to strike is not as easy as it seems and the most difficult thing about hatred and/or resentment is that they are not limited by physical boundaries. (Example - some separatist ideologies (that Indians consider as extremist) that have no support left in India continue to find expression and thrive in the West)

              Going back to India - all successful counter-action by civil society and Governments have included winning hearts and minds. "Thought" is a resource that is difficult to act against with force alone, regardless of the might behind the action - it can only be won over. But that's a lengthy and difficult process.

              Comment


              • #8
                'Moderate'

                "Moderate", as a term, seems to be an umbrella under which many views dwell. However, I suspect that more often than not it is a curtain behind which the real truth hides.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by asaph View Post
                  "Moderate", as a term, seems to be an umbrella under which many views dwell. However, I suspect that more often than not it is a curtain behind which the real truth hides.
                  I feel that the essence of our seeking-out 'moderates' is that of identifying individuals and groups who have an agenda beyond individual will and self-interest and a sense of social cohesion and the good for society at large.

                  With a hundred or so disparate groups across Syria, comprising (apparently) hundred to thousands of members, one does wonder how much 'moderate' common ground will be found. If these groups cannot or will not sit around the table to discuss in a moderate way what is good for millions of ordinary civilians then the outcome will be failure.
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Question marks and long standing issues

                    Thank you Gentlemen for your opinions from so different places and points of view ....
                    My one is also different as a citizen of the nation which constituted a part of the Commonwealth boarding with Ottoman Empire for long ages.

                    Would be marvellous to know what common, moderate citizens of this area think about what is happening now there, extremism will lead to nothing as it has done up to now for the last century ....

                    Here's the famous, "fortunately retrieved", map prepared by T.H. Lawrence for the Eastern Committee of the British Empire War Cabinet in November 1918. I especially looked for the copy his comments could be read.
                    All the questions marks remain still the questions marks but the "violet" area .....



                    Are we in 1918 or 2015?

                    Then the petroleum came, now "very complex issue" spread from "local" (read of an area bigger than Europe, Russian part included) to the global one I'd say...
                    It is prognosed by ~2030 (i.e. in 15 years) Northern America (USA and Canada) will be practically independent in regard to the sources of energy, probably with some substantial surplus, what then?

                    P.S. Mr Steel has very peculiar approach to Cornwall and Cornish people, purebred political observer .....
                    Last edited by pkwba; 03-12-2015, 06:31 PM. Reason: Correction of the data.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Parallel universe?

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      I feel that the essence of our seeking-out 'moderates' is that of identifying individuals and groups who have an agenda beyond individual will and self-interest and a sense of social cohesion and the good for society at large.

                      With a hundred or so disparate groups across Syria, comprising (apparently) hundred to thousands of members, one does wonder how much 'moderate' common ground will be found. If these groups cannot or will not sit around the table to discuss in a moderate way what is good for millions of ordinary civilians then the outcome will be failure.
                      I regret that you may be living in Corbyn's parallel universe that exists somewhere in the back of a wardrobe.

                      If you want an example of peaceful co-existence over the ages, read the history of a famous little town called Safed, a centre of rabbinic learning for about 800 years, a large Arab community and the birthplace of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah. It is just up the road from Capernaum, where J Christ grew up, and a village called Rosh Pinah, where I like to go on holiday.

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safed

                      Once you have digested that, give me the odds of the Middle East turning in to a warmer version of West Sussex where all issues are resolved over a pint in the pub.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Oil, energy and climate

                        I do not want to go off topic, but I believe that this subject lead us to another very important issue, which is energy and the security of its supply, namely of oil and gas, and its efficient use.

                        The fight for the control of the Middle East has been going on since oil was found in that part of the globe and the former Ottoman and Russian empires began extracting and selling it, in the 19th century. Most, if not all, of the countries in that region seem to be “artificial” and its current boundaries do not reflect the different ethnic groups present there. The instability it generates has always been explored by western countries.

                        Anyway, these days a model for more sustainable development patterns is (again) being discussed at the COP 21, in Paris. In all fairness, it must be recongnized that the more developed economies, especially in Europe, but also Japan, have reached very interesting levels of efficiency in the use of energy and in the adoption of renewable energy sources, which is a very important step towards the energy transition for a low carbon economy.

                        However, the World is much larger than Europe and the growing population in the rest of the Planet aims at achieving the comfort levels of the more developed economies, which is very legitimate. But this needs to be supported by energy and the increase in fossil fuels use will have serious consequences for our climate, as scientific evidence points out. Comfort and quality of life are not incompatible with efficient use of energy. What we need is a shift of paradigm.

                        Without meaning to appear simplistic, the events we are witnessing in the Middle East or in Northern Africa are also related to the control of the oil and gas reserves and its revenues, which can generate significant revenues, due to the very low costs of oil extraction in the region and its (still) vast reserves.

                        The Stone Age did not end because the Earth ran out of stones. I sincerely hope that the oil age we are living ends well before the exhaustion of the Planet's oil reserves.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ssfas View Post
                          I regret that you may be living in Corbyn's parallel universe that exists somewhere in the back of a wardrobe..
                          Nonsense. My position appears to be the opposite of the one you seem to have attributed me to.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Social cohesion - 2

                            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                            I feel that the essence of our seeking-out 'moderates' is that of identifying individuals and groups who have an agenda beyond individual will and self-interest and a sense of social cohesion and the good for society at large.

                            ...
                            Indeed. I'm not expert on the region, but it seems to me that a fundamental problem is that there is no "society at large" in the Middle East generally or even in most if not all the individual countries that make it up. That reality is exacerbated by the fact that these countries are in fact artificial creations.

                            I suspect that many in the West make the assumption that a nation-state, whatever its internal divisions and disagreements, must have some sort of overriding unity and cohesion to make it work. And that's true - but that doesn't seem to be the case in the Middle East (Israel excepted, I suppose - I know the internal political disagreements there are powerful too, but there at least seems to be agreement internally that Israel should be a state, which is essential. And Tunisia, if you want to count it as well, even though it's in Africa.). And when some movement toward democracy threatens to break out - as in the Arab Spring, say - it's soon suppressed again.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Social cohesion -2

                              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                              Nonsense. My position appears to be the opposite of the one you seem to have attributed me to.
                              I thought you were suggesting that the Syrian factions would sit down over tea and biscuits and voluntarily agree upon a constitutional democracy. That is less likely than Corbyn voting to cut tax credits. I understand the Vienna plan is to enforce a leadership and constitution on Syria. The idea of a "moderate" working with a "sense of social cohesion and the good for society at large" requires the concepts of altruism and a nation state. That is what I would consider only likely to exist at the back of the wardrobe. From what I know, the only time Ottoman Syria was relatively peaceful (and it then went from Kurdistan to Gaza) was when the different ethic groups were left to mostly self-govern.

                              Modern politically repressed police states can work fairly well. Iraq did, although unfortunately it was run by a family of homicidal maniacs. I was in Tunis when the Arab Spring started. Before then, everyone got on with their lives quite happily. We even had a young female Tunisian tour guide taking us around the country, but when I mentioned politics to her she went deaf and dumb.

                              Comment

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