The best we can do right now with respect to Syria and various other world-historical phenomena is predict likely outcomes, since we have no ability to meaningfully alter the course of events. Except, of course, if we’re prepared to figure out what it would take to assert and exercise real agency in history, something which is much harder than just shouting antiwar or humanitarian interventionist platitudes. It involves identifying the forces within society that could bend the blind happenstance of the market and the clumsy intrigues of state powers to its will. Position-taking and sloganeering are meaningless and vain in the absence of effective revolutionary practice.
For the time being, however, it has very been entertaining to see Richard Spencer and his “Alt-Right” allies lose their collective shit over Trump’s sudden 180° with respect to Syria. Almost on cue and all at once, 4chan’s /pol/ seemed to suffer an aneurysm. Some of its members complained that this would mean more Muslim immigrants the West. Others called upon the anonymous hordes to form a bloc with Putin and wage holy war against the Jews. Meanwhile, Steve Bannon has fallen out of favor in the White House, cucked by the “globalist” New Jersey Democrat Jared Kushner. With this development, liberals might have finally gotten their wish. Because if Ivanka is now the one really pulling the strings, to stick with the puppet-master metaphor, then it’s as if Hillary Clinton got elected after all.
Liberals’ main objection to Trump has always been aesthetic, rather than principled or substantive. They miss the smooth, well-spoken, at times inspirational rhetoric of someone like Obama to the bizarre toilet bowl of free association that comes out of Trump’s mouth. At the level of policy the two could be completely identical, but no one would care so long as everything was delivered with the right presidential packaging. Comrade Emmet Penney conveys this grim truth rather well:
So after running a candidate downloaded from the uncanny valley — who didn’t believe in or stand for anything, really — and moneyballing their way to defeat against a gold-plated, syphilitic sociopath, I’m seeing all these members of the Democratic “#Resistance” come out in full support of the Syria strikes like the battalion of overpaid cowards they’ve always been.
It’ll be tite af when they reinstitute conscription and make you use an app structured like Obamacare where you pick from competing providers to get body armor and bullets before shipping out to go die alone screaming for your family while their lobbyist military contractor buddies stuff their pockets by the fistful. The future the Democrats want is just a gamified version of with the Republicans want, with maybe Beyoncé playing in the background and a subscription to The New Yorker.
Nevertheless, it could well be that Trump’s sheer unpredictability actually reduces the chances of WW3. Putin was willing to play chicken over Syria with Obama, because he knew Obama is a rational guy who knows when to hit the brakes. He’s not going to play that game with someone who would just as soon set himself on fire or drive the car off a bridge for ratings.
All the same, with mobilization against US military intervention into Syria ramping up, it’s more important than ever that communists be able to stake out a position that opposes interventionist wars while also refusing any support for bourgeois nationalists and tin-pot dictators like Assad. Over the past fifty years, anti-imperialists have opportunistically made common cause with anyone and everyone who declare themselves to be “anti-American.” This has discredited legitimate efforts to oppose foreign wars. Marxists should reject such coalitions and organize on an independent and internationalist basis, excluding nationalists of all stripes. But I’m not holding my breath.
It is in this dispiriting mood that I’m sharing a reflection submitted by Comrade Hegel Damascene, remembering the quiet dignity of libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Johnson remains a beacon of bygone normie-dom in a batshit age.
Normie prophet in an apocalyptic age
April 8, 2017
The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
Sitting on an overpass over I-95, watching cars come onto and off of the George Washington Bridge, I was overcome with the feeling of being trapped in the belly of a horrible machine. And the machine is bleeding to death. I always used to stare at the overpasses near the Garden State Mall, the artificial marketplace where highways meet, and think about what a Great Civilization (both words capitalized) America was. But I saw the cracks back then, too, I just didn’t think they would open up so quickly.
Sitting on that underpass, I half expected the offices of Kim & Bae, PC to grow legs and start lobbing missiles at Bashar Assad’s palace. Maybe the Port Authority Police building was a factory producing mechanical cops, who would march out to restore order in the new Salafist principality — and detain any big beautiful babies who wanted to leave their young utopia for America, where they could be a security risk.
Syria is both a source and microcosm of the slow collapse. Continue reading