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Friday, November 6

Not only doesn't the Obama regime understand Syria, it doesn't even understand France

A soldier of the French foreign legion wearing a skeleton mask stands next to an armored vehicule in a street in Niono, Mali on January 20, 2013

Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/GETTY

Within two years of rejoining NATO the French government was charging into Libya, Syria, and Mali. This prompted a bizarre laudatory editorial in the American publication Newseek, France: Leader of the Free World. Actually the French government was abusing its NATO membership to pursue old interests in MENA.

So it's not only Obama's crew and Congress that are clueless about country situations east of the English Channel. 

As I recounted earlier I've resisted delving into the history of Syria but finally I caved and while dawdling on my way to Wikipedia, found an article that might be more to the point than a Wiki history lesson. It's a study published by the journal of the Middle Eastern Policy Council, a U.S. think tank that is not without some funding controversy, at least a few years back -- although to complain about a Washington-based foreign policy institute accepting a $1 million donation from a Saudi prince is like complaining about a squirrel accepting peanuts from park visitors.

Note the year the essay was published.
The Troubles in Syria: Spawned by French Divide and Rule
By Ayse Tekdal FildisWinter 2011, Volume XVIII, Number 4
Dr. Fildis is a tutor at ACRES Beacon College in the UK. She holds a Ph.D in Middle East politics from the University of Sussex.
The writing, which is six 'internet pages' with another page of footnotes, is addressed to the general reader; e.g., aides to Members of Congress who couldn't have found Syria on a map if you paid them. 

The purpose of the writing:
This study will focus on the establishment of the French mandate, its implementation, and the partition process in Greater Syria. It will also review France's responsibilities under the Mandate Act of the League Nations.
Now comes the decision as to how much I'm going to republish of Fildis' essay. To take bits and pieces from it would be to interrupt the flow of events she describes, and it's the flow that needs to be understood. So I'll be a plot spoiler and just publish her conclusion and the passages immediately preceding it, with my preface:
  
There are huge, and I mean huge, problems in "Latin" America and the Caribbean. The number of displaced persons in several countries south of the U.S. border is mind-bending. What if anything can the USA do to help alleviate the situation?  We won't know unless Congress and the Obama regime stop mucking around in far-flung regions of the world they understand not at all, and focus attention on what's happening right next door. 

I know this is unwelcome advice for American manufacturers of big-ticket defense hardware, but their lobbyists couldn't find Syria on a map, either. The industry is supposed to make defense equipment, not U.S. defense policy. 

We can't extricate ourselves from Afghanistan and Iraq at this point, but if we won't let Russia lead we need to pull back from our Syrian adventure, which already has "disaster" written all over it. Countries are not a souffle; they're not something you keep re-doing until you get it right.  

And if by the end of the author's conclusion you're thinking that Syria and Lebanon might actually be one country, you would be right in a manner of speaking. As Fildis explains, for centuries "Syria" was simply a name for a large region.        
 [...] 
Critics (mainly colonialists) claimed that France's abdication from the "Orient" had begun with the establishment of a Syrian Constituent Assembly that was determined to elude the "imperative character of France's international obligations."36 The High Commissioner was accused of bargaining away what France had secured with its own "sweat and blood."36
A year later, France imposed its own constitution on Syria; it upheld France's role as mandate authority, thus preventing Syria from adopting any measures that might intrude on French mandatory privileges. In the coming years, France held the power to veto legislation proposed by Syrian presidents and prime ministers and legislatures aided by this constitution. France's power to veto legislation made "a charade out of Syrian political life and lent it an aura of unreality."38
During the mandate period, France ruled Syria through French administrators and advisers as effectively as any colony; no significant decision could be taken at any level without French approval. After nearly 20 years of the mandate, Syria remained without independence, without institutions of self-government and without territorial unity.
CONCLUSION
The political arrangements imposed by the French under the mandate went wrong from the start. The policy of division was integral to the original French approach to the mandate. France was there for her own strategic, economic and ideological purposes. The French made very few attempts to promote or expedite the formal independence of either Syria or Lebanon. Rather, they haggled for decades over the terms of an independence treaty and eventually had to be forced by the British to evacuate without a treaty in 1946. They did little to train indigenous officials with the subsidiary charges and imposed an artificial and unrealistic division between the different components of Syria and Lebanon.
They failed to give Syria proper instruction in responsible self-government. The numerous divisions and re-divisions of Syria over a quarter century obstructed the development of a unified administrative elite.
The outcome was that Syria emerged after 1945 as a unitary state with very little experience of unity. A fundamental social and political reconstruction that might, in the longer term, have generated a democratic and stable society was not part of the French plan. The process of political radicalization was initiated during the era of the French mandate, the legacy of which was almost a guarantee of Syria's political instability.
The creation of Greater Lebanon condemned the Lebanese to an unstable political system based on sectarian rivalries. Lebanon's uncertain relationship with its Arab neighbors was not the only source of communal tension within the new state. The geographical distribution of the various religious communities posed problems for the creation of a cohesive national system of government. The separation of the Muslim coastal areas as part of Lebanon has proven to be a major mistake that led to much bloodshed in the 1970s and 1980s, as various groups attacked the leadership role of the Maronite minority in what became a predominantly Muslim country.
[END]
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