Syria: Alawites, Shiites, Christians, Druse vs 'real Muslims'

What Max Boot Cannot Comprehend

by Hugh Fitzgerald (October 2012)

Max Boot and Matthew Doran proclaim in the New York Times that:

“There are five reasons to bring down President Bashar al-Assad sooner rather than later.”

Here is their Reason #1:

“First, American intervention would diminish Iran’s influence in the Arab world. Iran has showered aid on Syria and even sent advisers from its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to assist Mr. Assad. Iran knows that if his regime fell, it would lose its most important base in the Arab world and a supply line to pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

What exactly is meant by “Iran’s influence in the Arab world”?

Iran has “influence” wherever there are Shi’a, or those who, like the Alawites, would like to pass as real Muslims and so do not object when others carelessly consider them to be Shi’a Muslims; indeed, they were glad to receive that description, some years ago, by an Iranian cleric. And no doubt the Alawites hope that the elements of their faith that are most obviously syncretistic, like the veneration of Mary – you can hardly visit an Alawite village without seeing pictures of Mary everywhere – will not be dwelled upon. That means Iran has influence among the Arab Shi’a in Iraq (though some of those Arab Shi’a are also Arab nationalists and suspicious of the Persian Shi’a), among the los-de-abajo Shi’a underclass that has been engaged in its slow demographic conquest of Lebanon, and among pockets of Shi’a elsewhere. But Sunni Muslims more and more hate and fear the Shi’a, now seen as hostile and treacherous elements claiming to be part of the Camp of Islam. In Egypt, the Ikhwan’s – Muslim Brotherhood’s – animosity is directed at the Shi’a, who are routinely denounced with ferocity.


It is much more likely that hatred toward Iran will grow and grow the longer the Syrian conflict goes on, and the more the evidence of Iran’s involvement is made known by the Sunnis in and out of Syria. The more Iranian money and weaponry and diplomatic support at the U.N. goes to the Assad regime, the more enraged become the Sunni Muslims, in Egypt, in the Gulf, in Pakistan (where Shi’a-bashing or even, when Sipah-e-Sahaba gets its way, Shi’a-murdering, is a Sunni sport and a pastime).

The war in Syria helps to divide and thus demoralize the Camp of Islam. Isn’t that a good thing? Why should the American government wish to bring that to a premature end?

Max Boot, and all those who think like Max Boot – such people as Senator McCain for example – the people who cannot bring themselves to admit what a fiasco the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become because they supported them so stoutly at the outset, and they cannot allow themselves a glimmer of recognition that they were so wrong – have no sense because they do not think in the right terms. They do not think about Islam, the adherents of Islam, as a permanent menace, because they have never stopped to study Islam, its texts, its tenets, its attitudes, its atmospherics. They can’t even begin to recognize the damage being done to the wellbeing of Europeans by a large and growing Muslim population, they can’t allow themselves to understand the implications of the demographic conquest of that continent by Muslims, because that would require them to see, to admit to, the folly of the attempts to bring good government and prosperity to such Muslim states as Iraq and Afghanistan. They had, and have kept to, a policy that could make conceivable sense only if one pretends that Muslims can be won over, that Islam does not inculcate hatred toward Infidels, that Jihad does not mean what it means. They are stuck in the coils of their own nonsense.

We should wish the war in Syria to go on forever, or at least we should not wish to do anything to shorten it, or to prevent Shi’a Iran from further being drained of resources, and earning ever greater hatred from Sunni Muslims.

“Second, a more muscular American policy could keep the conflict from spreading. Syria’s civil war has already exacerbated sectarian strife in Lebanon and Iraq — and the Turkish government has accused Mr. Assad of supporting Kurdish militants in order to inflame tensions between the Kurds and Turkey.”

Why in God’s name would one wish to prevent “the conflict from spreading”? Why, when “Syria’s civil war has already exacerbated sectarian strife in Lebanon and Iraq”? Isn’t that “sectarian strife” pitting one brand of Muslims against another, a Good Thing? Why isn’t it? And if the regime of Erdogan is upset because, in a perfectly sensible strategy, the Assad regime has decided not to waste manpower in suppressing the Kurds in Syria, but allowing them to run their own region and even to worry the Turks so that many of them are now disenchanted with Erdogan’s foreign policy – thus weakening the regime of the PKP, weakening the hideous Erdogan, Gul, and Davutoglu, who just sentenced 300 senior military officers to long sentences, and who have been undercutting as well, by prosecution, and persecution, journalists, university rectors, and other pillars of Kemalism – the secular class without which Turkey would be like any of its Arab neighbors.

We should want the conflict in Syria “to spread” – that is, to have repercussions in Lebanon, with the Sunni Muslims becoming most alarmed about Hezbollah, as an agent of “Shi’a” Syria and Shi’a Iran, and in Iraq, with the Sunnis determined not to allow Maliki, or any other Shi’a, to consolidate power, and in Yemen, with the Sunnis – indeed, the Uber-Sunni Salafis – fighting the Houthis in northwestern Yemen, and in Saudi Arabia, with the government more alarmed about Iranian inroads among the Shi’a in the oil-bearing Eastern Province, and in Bahrain, and in Kuwait, and in…well, you get the idea.

When in the course of history has anyone advocated unifying one’s enemies, seeing division in the enemy camp as something to be avoided? Oh, that’s easy. When such people as Max Boot are running things, and trying, with great and expensive efforts, to prevent the Sunnis and Shi’a from fighting with each other in Iraq, to prevent the most fanatical Sunni Afghans (the Taliban) from attacking the Shi’a Hazara.

And that’s because Max Boot and those who think like Max Boot cannot see Islam, the Camp of Islam, as the enemy. And that’s what fatally vitiates their self-assured policy prescriptions.

Third, by training and equipping reliable partners within Syria’s internal opposition, America could create a bulwark against extremist groups like Al Qaeda, which are present and are seeking safe havens in ungoverned corners of Syria.

“Could create a bulwark against extremist groups like Al Qaeda”?

Look, Islam, the world of Islam, is full of “extremist groups” and this continued fixation by Max Boot and Matthew Doran on only one among them, and that one predictably Al Qaeda, by no means the most dangerous, but only the most sensational, is at this point tiresome and silly. Think of the names that have passed into your ken over the past decade: Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Sharia, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, Hezbollah, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and so forth and so bloodily forth. I’ve left out dozens; you can google them up yourself from McElligot’s Wikipedia Pool any time you want. And then there are the groupuscules. And then there are the Muslims, raised on the same Qur’an and the same Hadith, who decide to participate directly in violent Jihad themselves, rather than serve as paymasters, or propagandists, or quiet supporters, or as people who, in denying that Islam teaches what it teaches, attempt – out of sinister self-interest or out of filial piety or out of embarrassment, it hardly matters to the poor misinformed Infidels — to discourage intelligent critical scrutiny of Islam.

Where, in what Muslim country, have the “extremists” been thrown into disarray by a “democratic” revolution? In Tunisia, where the Salafists have been smashing art exhibits, and threatening the secular class that formerly dominated in Tunisia? In Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has menaced, and carried out attacks on, Christians and on Muslims it has decided are behaving un-Islamically? In Yemen — is that where Al Qaeda has been roundly or soundly defeated, because Ali Saleh is out of power, or is Yemen the very state where even the American government, even the Obama Administration, now says the greatest threat from Al Qaeda is to be found? Shall I go on? How is Al Qaeda, or how are “extremist groups,” rather — Sunni and Shi’a — doing in Iraq? Has Iraq become a place where Islam is more, or less constrained than it was under Saddam Hussein?

What’s wrong with Max Boot, and all the max-boots?

They don’t want to study. They don’t want to read the dozens of Western scholars who, before the Great Inhibition set in, wrote about Islam. They don’t want to read Goldizher, Zwemer, Schacht, Snouck Hurgronje. Lammens They don’t want to read Dufourcq. Fagnan, Bousquet or Sir William Muir,  K. S. Lal or the works of Bat Ye’or. They can’t sit still long enough – they’ve forgotten how to study – they don’t want to listen to Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Ali Sina. They don’t know the names of the ex-Muslims who signed the St. Petersburg Declaration, and they don’t even know what that St. Petersburg Declaration is. They’re too busy, writing articles for major newspapers, delivering lectures, showing up at meetings of the assorted foreign-affairs groups in major cities. They don’t have time to think. In this regard, they are exactly like the people in high office who, running around all day, having meetings, getting bullet-riddled executive summaries of what’s going on now in this country, and now in that, taking planes, having pictures taken as they smile with some fellow world leader or someone, as the business-speak would have it, “taking a leadership role” – oh, they have no time to study and think.

That’s Max Boot.

That’s dozens of max-boots.

“Fourth, American leadership on Syria could improve relations with key allies like Turkey and Qatar. Both the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Qatari counterpart have criticized the United States for offering only nonlethal support to the rebellion. Both favor establishing a no-fly zone and “safe zones” for civilians in Syrian territory.

Any improvement in relations with Turkey will only come about when those who have been busily dismantling the pillars of Kemalism, and making Turkey look more and more like a police state — and that means Erdogan, his cronies, and his party — have been discredited, have lost support and power and influence. And that will allow the secular class to reassert itself with a resurrected secular officer corps (and with those 300 kangaroo-court-railroaded high officers not only freed, but reinstated in their posts).

In Turkey, right now – which, pace Boot and Dolan, is not one of our “key allies” but, under Erdogan, has become the most worrisome and untrustworthy member of NATO – the public is disenchanted with Erdogan and his party. And the main reason for that is not the outrageous treatment of the officer corps and the threats to journalists, but the situation in Syria. The violence there has consequences for Turkey. There are tens of thousands of Syrians – Sunni Muslims mainly – who have fled to Turkey, and who are a weight on the Turkish economy. They are not grateful, they are not winning friends; they have outstayed their welcome. And the Alevis in Turkey, who have suffered from rough treatment by Sunnis, have been made aware that in Syria the Alawites, who are loosely linked to them, are fighting for their lives against Sunnis. And Kurds in Turkey, more than 15 million of them, have noticed that Kurds in Syria are not joining the insurgency, but are enjoying, instead, their new-found freedom from rule by the Syrian government and, as in northern Iraq, are making use of that semi-autonomy to exploit the pre-existing resentment against Turkish rule among the Kurds in Turkey. Oh, the Syrian situation is a mess for Erdogan, and may help to bring about his downfall. So why would Max Boot urge the American government to do the bidding, not of Turkey, but of Erdogan?

As for the urgings of the waddling emir of Qatar, he’s been making grand pronouncements all over the place. Despite all the publicity given – simply by putting its picture on every airport wall, and on many television stations – this thing called “the Qatar Foundation” is simply designed to make us forget that Qatar is a place, with 200,00 Qataris and 1.6 million others to wait, hand and foot, on those spoiled-beyond-belief Qataris who, furthermore, have done not a thing to deserve their riches. And we are expected to think highly of Qatar – but why? The “Qatar Foundation” plays the same role, in publicizing what is really, civilisationally,  a permanent Empty Quarter (“Money can buy everything — except civilisation” said my Parisian acquaintance after spending a few years in Saudi Arabia as an architect of military cities) as do those omnipresent tee-shirts that read “Emirates” – an ad for the airline, an ad for the country.

Does Max Boot think that the Americans have won favor in Qatar by intervening in Libya, for example? What kind of favor? And where such favor to be found, what would it matter? Has Qatar done anything, can Qatar do anything, for the West? And what about Erdogan’s Turkey? Has he been less inclined to create a police-state where Islam is fully unconstrained, instead it is Kemalism that is constrained, because he’s so grateful that the Americans and other NATO forces flew 5,000 sorties over Libya? No, he isn’t.

Why, given what a more powerful Sunni Islam in Syria would mean within that country, for its Christians, Druse, and Kurds, and how it would help resurrect Erdogan’s fortunes and domestic appeal, should the American government wish to follow what Turkey and Qatar want, in a vain attempt to “win” favor from the rulers and regimes of those countries? Why should the Americans be doing anything to help Sunni Muslims establish themselves in Syria, where they will ultimately only be a danger to the West (and of course to Israel as the most obvious part of, representative of, that non-Muslim West).

We want Erdogan to fail, or should. And therefore we should want the Syrian conflict to go on for as long as possible, and ideally, in the end, with the Alawites prevailing – but only just, so that they have their hands full in maintaining control of Syria, and have no time for helping Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even may find that their connection to Iran – which may in any case get sick of the drain on its resources supporting the Alawites – is not worth continuing if the West will, in an unstated understanding, refuse to act against the Alawites as long as the Alawites no longer act as an ally of Iran. An Alawite regime concentrated solely on maintaining itself in power – that would be the ideal outcome for Syria. Ideal, that is, for the West.

And isn’t the wellbeing of the West what should matter to the West?

“Finally, American action could end a terrible human-rights disaster within Syria and stop the exodus of refugees, which is creating a burden on neighboring states. Mr. Obama pledged earlier this year to strengthen the government’s ability “to foresee, prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.”

What “terrible human-rights disaster”? Why are the Sunni Muslims who decided to flee to Turkey and Jordan more worthy of our sympathy and concern than the millions of refugees all over sub-Saharan Africa? Do the Syrian refugees in Turkey not live much better, from a material standpoint, even as refugees, than most people who are not refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, India, the Philippines, and in many other places? I never saw a single word, not in the last ten years, written by that great enthusiast for the Iraqi venture, Max Boot, about the Christian refugees who had to flee Iraq. Why not? Because even to mention them would be to start to question the rightness of that venture, and Max Boot doesn’t want to consider that the wellbeing of non-Muslims in Muslim lands ought to be the first priority for the West. Are the Copts in Egypt, more than ten million of them, better off under the Ikhwan rule of Mohammed Morsi, or were they better off under Mubarak? Are the Christians in a Syria under Alawite control better off, or worse, than under rule by Sunni Muslims? This is something Max Boot doesn’t want to touch. And he doesn’t want to touch it because his mindless enthusiasm for the ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the initial support for a quick operation to smash Al Qaeda bases in one country, and to destroy or remove weapons of mass destruction (which turned out not to be found) in the other, has nothing to do with supporting another decade of expensive and vain attempts to make Afghanistan, to make Iraq, better places – which can’t be done until more people in those countries are forced to recognize, as Ataturk and those who supported him did, that Islam was the problem, Islam explained the many failures of their peoples and polities.

That’s not something Max Boot can comprehend — not now, and very likely, not ever.

One thought on “Syria: Alawites, Shiites, Christians, Druse vs 'real Muslims'”

  1. A great article. The author sees it as it is. In a nutshell, if not “divide
    and rule”, then “let divide and let rule”. Islam is at war with the West.
    If the moslems are ripping themselves apart, we should be sitting on
    the sideline rubbing our hands in mischievous glee (Schadenfreude).

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