The problem with liberal imperialism is that it assumes we all subscribe to its supposedly universal concept of power conceived as compelling others to do what they otherwise wouldn’t do, whether by means of reward or punishment; in other words, power defined as control and domination. But the oppressed know that real power lies in resisting that domination and refusing to submit to it. Power for
In the final analysis, the “democracy” that the “Arab Spring” has ushered in has only served Empire’s long-standing stratagem of divide-and-rule. Any democratic reforms which occur in a highly polarized and sectarian environment that has been stripped of all Arab nationalist identity—and with it, the preeminent status the liberation of Palestine once enjoyed— degenerates into the tyranny of imperialist-enabling majorities who win power by default in liberal, though by no means democratic, elections.
What we are witnessing in the Arab world today is the unfolding of liberalism, not of democracy. For at the end of the day, democracy isn’t merely procedural aspects like elections and political reforms, but more substantially, the ability of people enjoying popular sovereignty to shape their own political identity, control their national resources and participate in determining their national destiny. Indeed, the loss of national sovereignty and self-determination in Libya and Syria, coupled with the triumph of narrow sectarian loyalties over Arab national identities, has only resulted in the de-democratization of the region, which is now even more firmly in the Empire’s grip.
They label non-submissive governments as “authoritarian” “regimes” or “dictatorships” but none of these political systems are totalitarian in the same way that liberalism is, particularly its American variant. None of these systems demand inner [cognitive and emotional] conformity from their subjects, only outward conformity in their political behaviour. For what could be more totalitarian than a system which also wants to control our “hearts and minds”? A system which seeks to intellectually and psychologically structure our choices in every aspect of our lives; A system which refuses to acknowledge that it is an ideology at all but pronounces itself a meta-ideology or zero-point from where other ideologies are judged to be left or right, religious or secular, democratic or undemocratic; A system which doesn’t even require overt modes of control or censorship to dominate its subjects because it shapes rationality with its subjects’ consent; A system which is so hegemonic, so naturalized that it passes itself off as common sense and hence distorts our perception of reality itself; a system which is so totalitarian and universalized that even those who resist its more violent manifestations remain blind to the fact that their resistance remains confined within its parameters; What system is anywhere near as totalitarian as liberalism?
A very incisive and well-articulates response by a reader of Sharmine Narwani’s excellent critique of Blumenthal’s theatrics here. Below is the reader’s comment:
I think Blumenthal’s post shows that no amount of intellect can preserve today’s liberal conscience from being defrauded by the control of information in the permanent war zone that has become the new century.
I had to take a screen-shot because I could not believe he would leave such a thing to stand for long. He is self-condemned by the facts, but he will sadly not learn them until Syria is in ruins and the historians have their turn.
Liberals still stand and salute good old liberal words like Opposition, Rebellion, Humanitarianism, and Democracy – without recognition that these labels have been controverted by neocons and their agents to mask covert state-busting strategies, and emptied out of all their dignity.
And how weak to lead off with a quote referencing something Assad’s dead father perpetrated in 1979. Does Mr. Blumenthal know that Hafez is dead since 2000? That Bashar was not even the son he was grooming for succession back in 1979 nor at any time during the 80s? I am not surprised that the Muslim Brotherhood believes it is still 1982 (the year of Hama), but Blumenthal undercuts his creds by trying to equate Bashar with the Syria of Hafez.
Keep up the good work, Sharmine!
The prominent blogger, Qifa Nabki, asked me and some of my friends to join a debate on Syria on his blog (see his post here). Our interlocutors include both liberal interventionist Americans and Syrians as well as an Israeli. Forget the Israeli for a moment, here’s why I reject debate or dialogue in such contexts: I refuse to be part of a debate on my region, my nation (yes I consider myself a Greater Syrian) with Americans who have no RIGHT to that conversation in the first place. Their inclusion, in and of itself, is a license for US intervention; a tacit acknowledgement of the US’ right to pursue its interests on our lands. When the terms of the debate shift from what should BE done about Syria—uttered in the passive narrative voice, with all the liberal imperialist undertones such a question carries—to what do Syrians and their Arab brethren think THEY should do to secure internal peace and stability in Syria on the one hand, and national sovereignty on the other, then you can count me in. Until then, no I don’t believe in dialogue unless we (non-Zionist) Arabs are the ones who define the terms of that dialogue.
I don’t understand why we have to be politically “tolerant’” and endorse political diversity and pluralism. Of course, I am not referring to countries like Lebanon and Syria where even Zionist collaborators and NATO lackeys must be dialogued with to prevent/end civil war which is a far greater evil. But just in the general, theoretical sense.
How does embracing a diversity of views which include support for Israel and Amerika contribute to the justice or freedom of a system?
Western liberal “democracies” don’t tolerate our anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist views. They don’t tolerate our Resistance option, neither in their media nor in their Academy nor in their political system.
At the end of the day, democracy means popular sovereignty; a people’s right to determine their own destiny. How can that be safeguarded when some people are allowed to challenge this right and even win public office and usurp it? How can we allow an oppressed people— who are subjected to daily mainstream propaganda— to colonize themselves? How is that even considered a “right” that needs to be protected? How is tolerating and encouraging their self-colonization and subjugation conducive to their freedom?
Just as freedom of speech in the West is confined within clearly demarcated liberal parameters, which ensure the continuity of the imperialist world order, we should confine freedom of expression within resistance parameters: all political debate must be governed by two constants—a rejection of Israel’s right to exist and a rejection of western imperialism. That is the only way of guaranteeing democracy as we define it.
While I have no illusions about the extent of political pluralism in Syria under the new reforms, does AFP really have to use quotation marks around the word “multiparty” in is latest report on the parliamentary elections? Is the US bipartisan system or Great Britain’s “two-plus” system any more pluralistic? Is there any real difference in strategic vision or ideology between left and right? Are there drastically different domestic and foreign policies even? And if not, then doesn’t that suggest there is no genuine political competition which is the cornerstone of “representative democracies” (regardless of what an oxymoron this term is)? Faced with very similar party agendas, does the western voter really have a genuine CHOICE to make? And if he/she doesn’t have real alternatives to choose from, how can we call that “freedom of choice”?
Isn’t that one of the principal causes of increasingly low voter turnouts in western countries? Isn’t the line that separates voter apathy in the West from the boycotting of elections by the opposition in Syria, really a very fine one between those who are conscious of the system’s lack of legitimacy and those who have lost faith in it without being conscious of the reasons why?
Do anti-system parties even see the light of day in the US and Europe? Do these liberal democracies really tolerate, let alone encourage the growth of parties which seek to subvert liberalism and institute alternative regime-types in its place? Would the American government which enjoys no more popular support than its opposite number in Syria, really allow enemy-funded parties that seek to overthrow it , a place in the political system?
If the Syrian opposition discredits the elections as little more than a “sham” designed to “preserve” Assad ‘s “autocratic rule” as AP, AFP and other mainstream media are reporting, is that really any different from the general purpose of elections in the west which are designed to merely recirculate the same class of capitalist-liberal elites?
Given that this is what two-party and multi-party politics has come to mean, doesn’t that give the Syrian political system every much as right as its western counterparts to call itself a multi-party system minus the quotation marks?
Written 5 years before Arab “Spring” and US foreign policy thereafter: “What is really being promoted is “procedural” or “low-intensity democracy”, which serves to actually “suppress aspirations for substantive democratisation” by “focus[ing] on aspects of democracy which are congruent with capitalism (i.e. individual and contract rights) to the detriment of its participatory and social aspects.” Thus although it is correct to say that the US is “promoting democracy” of sorts, it would be more accurate to refer to these efforts as “promoting polyarchy”…The promotion of “low-intensity democracy” is aimed not only at mitigating the social and political tensions produced by elite-based and undemocratic status quos, but also at suppressing popular and mass aspirations for more thoroughgoing democratisation of social life in the twenty-first century international order.”
Source: Michael Barker, “Promoting polyarchy in Serbia,” Znet, 29 October, 2006
Further proof of how liberals and progressives fall within Empire’s parameters of acceptable critical discourse and hence serve to legitimize imperialism and Zionism with their policy-confined critiques:
“The Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank with connections to the Israeli government, recommends in one of its reports: “Broadening the tent to include liberal and progressive circles: Reut maintains that in order to effectively challenge delegitimization [of Israel], the pro-Israel community must broaden its base by increasing its tolerance for legitimate criticism of the country’s policies and seeking the support of progressive and liberal circles….
Reut contends that broadening the tent is the pro-Israel camp’s opportunity to drive a wedge between those whose ultimate goal is Israel’s demise and those who principally support the legitimacy of its existence regardless of policy disagreements. In this context, we specifically emphasized the need to harness the support of liberal and progressive circles. Their denunciation of delegitimization is particularly potent because they hold the banner of universal values and human rights –the same tenets that delegitimizers falsely claim to defend.
Critically, a broad tent is not an open tent. There are boundaries between legitimate criticism and acts of delegitimization. For this reason, becoming part of the tent should require a commitment to an acceptable code of conduct regarding discourse on Israel, delineated by ‘red lines.’ “
“Totalitarian regimes of the 20th century showed that control of the language is one element in maintaining control over the people. Deprived of an adequate complement of words, the people are unable to express thoughts contrary to the standards imposed on them and become helpless and easily managed. Even if they are unhappy or dissatisfied with conditions, they are unable to put that discontent into words, much less actions. Control is more easily maintained at the linguistic level than through police repression and brute force…In British writer George Orwell’s anti-Utopian book “1984,” this new language was called Newspeak. Fortunately, much has changed since 1984. The Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes are gone, but not the totalitarian methods of exercising control over the people.”