In Syria, the Wars after the War Have Begun

Feb. 13 2018

On Wednesday, forces fighting for the Syria-Russia-Iran alliance deliberately opened fire with tanks and artillery on U.S.-backed forces, crossing the “deconfliction” line established to separate the two parties. The U.S. responded forcefully, killing some 100 of Bashar al-Assad’s troops. On Saturday, Israel shot down an Iranian drone in its airspace and subsequently lost an F-16 during a retaliatory raid. In turn, Jerusalem responded with intensive airstrikes that reportedly destroyed nearly half of Syria’s air defenses. All of these events represent serious escalations of Syria-related turmoil, which, far from winding down with the collapse of Islamic State (IS) and the major territorial losses suffered by anti-Assad opposition, may be expanding. Christopher Kozak writes:

Israel and the Russo-Iranian coalition are poised for future conflict over the Golan Heights. Iran and Lebanese Hizballah have entrenched a network of foreign and domestic proxies across Syria under the umbrella of Russian armed forces. Iran and Hizballah have also exploited the terms of the de-escalation zone brokered by Russia, Jordan, and the U.S. in southern Syria to develop further their military infrastructure along the Golan. Israel and the U.S. have failed meaningfully to constrain or reverse this trend. . . .

The Syrian civil war is not over. The wars after IS have begun. Syria remains a dangerous nexus for overlapping regional conflicts and great-power struggle despite the claimed defeat of Islamic State in eastern Syria. The confrontation between Iran and Israel in Syria is only one of the fissures that will fuel the next stage of the Syrian civil war. Turkey opened its direct conflict against the Syrian-Kurdish YPG with its military intervention into the majority-Kurdish Afrin canton in northern Syria on January 20. Turkey, Iran, and Russia are also engaged in a three-way struggle over the long-term future of the opposition-held Idlib province that resulted in the downing of a Russian Su-25 [plane] on February 3. . . .

The increasing tempo of these incidents is not a coincidence but rather the predictable outcome [of everything that has happened until now]. The U.S. has long attempted to distance the anti-IS campaign from the wider context of the Syrian civil war. This artificial division is not—and was not—sustainable. The U.S. must craft a coherent strategy to meet this new reality lest it find itself reactively mired in the next phase of the Syrian civil war.

Read more at Institute for the Study of War

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Iran, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy


Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals