Posted by: sean | August 29, 2013

An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists

ImageOn the eve of what seem to be ineluctable strikes on Syria, I’ve been struggling with what my position on Syria should be. Before I get to that though, I should say that while I’m not Syrian, I too have some skin in the game, as it were. On our way to donate blood for a friend’s mother’s surgery last month, my wife got a call from a friend telling us to avoid the neighborhood of Bir al-Abed in Beirut’s southern suburbs, since there had just been a large explosion there. At Bahman Hospital, my wife and baby daughter and I saw ambulances speeding toward us carrying those who had just been wounded. And a few days after I’d left for southern Turkey to conduct interviews with Syrians who had fled the war in their homes, I found out that a car bomb had just gone off a few blocks from my mother in law’s home in the “Hezbollah stronghold” of Rweiss. It kills me that my daughter has heard the sound of a car bomb before her first birthday.

Extended family from Yarmouk, the Palestinian camp outside Damascus, have been displaced and are forced to seek refuge yet again in Lebanon, a country that doesn’t want them. And even now, we’re making plans for what might happen if the impending strikes on Syria fuel an escalation in Lebanon, where living in the southern suburbs can get you killed if there’s a war with Israel. And yet all of this pales in comparison to what my Syrian friends continue to go through on a daily basis.

All that to say that the current conflict in Syria isn’t just of academic interest to me; it’s personal as well. This is partially why I have so little patience for some of the rhetoric I’ve been seeing from Western leftist circles, where this conflict seems like nothing more than a rhetorical bludgeon for scoring ideological points. This has been illustrated by the passing around of an article by Robert Fisk, who asks, “Does Obama know he’s fighting on al-Qa’ida’s side?” This lazy and facile opinion piece assures us that if the US attacks Syria, then “the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.” It is the flip side of the rhetoric that was so evident in the run-up to war in Iraq that equated any opposition to an idiotic war with support for Saddam Hussein. Well, guess what? There are lots of perfectly fine opinions that might put you on the same side as al-Qa’ida. Just to name one: if you’re against drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, as I am, then you’re also “on the same side as al-Qa’ida” according to this logic.

This is the caricature of knee-jerk leftism, where everything is always and everywhere about the United States. The narcissism of such a position boggles the mind. In such an ideological stance it’s not enough to be critical of Washington’s actions and motivations, as well we should be, it is necessary to parrot the talking points of Washington’s enemies. (The same phenomenon can be seen in certain Islamophobic and right-wing circles.) In this narrative, the militarization of the uprising in Syria was an American plan, not a foreseeable reaction to a brutally violent crackdown on a predominately peaceful opposition movement by the security forces of the Ba’ath regime. This conflict is, so the argument goes, a creation of Washington, and perhaps Riyadh, and the opposition is made up of only of blood-thirsty sectarian Islamists who are generally seen as but tools of malicious statecraft. Such a narrative, of course, denies the agency of Syrians, seeing them as so many lifeless puppets waiting for a tug from the imperialist American hand.  

This is why discussions of Syria in such quarters tend not to be discussions of Syria. They’re actually discussions of “American capitalism” or “American imperialism” – take your pick. So let me be clear: if your opinion of Syria is actually an opinion about the United States, I have no interest in hearing it, and it’s probably safe to say that most Syrians (or at least all of the ones I know) who are faced with the business end of the regime’s ordinance don’t either. I can’t think of a single Syrian who’s willing to get killed so you can flaunt your anti-imperialist street cred from the comfort of your local coffee shop.

Lest I be accused of shilling for American intervention here, let me set a few things straight. In addition to endangering my family’s lives, the proposed “punitive strikes” that are all but inevitable probably won’t make anything better on the ground, and may make things worse, which is why I’m against them. My opinion on American intervention in general and in this conflict in particular (about which more in a subsequent post) is that the US is not to be trusted to act in anything but what it sees as its interests, and often a woefully short-sighted understanding of those interests to boot. So no, Washington does not really care about those children killed last week in a chemical attack, just as it didn’t care about the Iranians or Kurds killed in previous ones. Consequently, my feeling is that a vicious, and viciously short-sighted, realpolitik in Washington would probably like nothing better than to let its enemies fight indefinitely in Syria, burning the country to the ground as they do so. 

But please, don’t let the conflict in Syria be about opposing America. Let it be about Syria, and what might actually help Syrians – you know, the actually existing people who are dying by the tens of thousands in this brutal war. But if you can’t do that, then do me a favor, and please shut up.


  1. not defending the Fisk article but Military strikes, or providing arms etc is not the same as an opinion.

  2. Thanks, this is GREAT.

  3. […] […]

  4. I don’t know what “leftists” you’re listening to. Seriously, what are you talking about? The “left” in America post-Iraq is opposed to a military strike in Syria because of the lack of an exit strategy, and the possibility of the US being pulled deeper into a conflict in which American security is not at stake. You’re just setting up nonsensical straw men here.

  5. It’s clear that the US motivation here is not WHAT horrible things Assad is doing to his people, only HOW he is doing it. Which means it’s not a humanitarian mission at all, but a strategic one. Bad guys killing people can be overlooked, but bad guys getting away using WMDs cannot. Then one has to ask, why is it any different?

  6. I don’t have an opinion on Syria. I have an opinion on the use of American ordnance on Syria. As an American citizen, that is definitionally my business and my responsibility. And as it is my informed opinion that the deployment of that ordnance would be a moral, political, and practical atrocity, I am arguing against it. Those are the wages of being a citizen of the hegemon: you are implicated in conflicts which you can’t possibly understand.

    The only way to prevent American citizens from reacting with what you call chauvinism is for America to stop deploying its military at its whim based on bogus assertions of international responsibility. Only nonintervention gets us closer to the world you want.

  7. A load of incoherent babble injected into emotional manipulation.

    Americans don’t want to go to the Middle East and be on the strategic side of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group who is at the center of the very premise to be IN the muslim world.

    That is the only obligation we have, to ourselves, and to our own morality.

    You have problems ? Go cry to your Gulf pimp daddies who are funding the whole thing. America is not the world police, and it’s not an invalid position for Americans to promote international routes to deal with security issues such as this.

    You have to build a strawman and say “I can’t think of a single Syrian who’s willing to get killed so you can flaunt your anti-imperialist street cred from the comfort of your local coffee shop.” Ohh woww, so pretentious, so empty, so incoherent. The “flip side” (to use your emotional rhetorical tactics) of that is “I can’t think of a single Syrian who is willing to get killed so you can flaunt your imperialist humanitarian interventionist cred.”

    But no, yet again, the UN doesn’t even come up in these ridiculous analyses. Americans have full right to make this about OURSELVES, not about Syrians. WE do not want to play world police anymore. WE do not want to have endless bombing campaigns and presence in the middle east. It’s absurd that people care laiming that the US has some responsibility to go in halfway across the world to help a bunch of ungrateful assholes who end up hating us later on anyway. GO TO THE UN OR REGIONAL POWERS. As a people, we’re done with this shit.

  8. A great logical peace. Well done.

  9. You are saying the same thing as the people you criticize are sayingL :My opinion on American intervention in general and in this conflict in particular (about which more in a subsequent post) is that the US is not to be trusted to act in anything but what it sees as its interests, and often a woefully short-sighted understanding of those interests to boot.”

    That is exactly what your “narcissists” are saying.

    As for this: “But please, don’t let the conflict in Syria be about opposing America. Let it be about Syria, and what might actually help Syrians” we don’t know what will actually help Syrians. But we do know what won’t help them, based on past history. Most American “interventions” are not interventions at all.

    The earlier part of your post, with all due respect, sounds like not wanting to address the issue of mercenary groups associated with Al Qaeda playing such a large role. And the issue of saying this was an American plan all along. I don’t hear anyone saying that. But I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to assume that America and allies took advantage of those justified peaceful protests since overthrowing the governments of specific countries was a stated goal right after 9/11.

  10. Let us ask some basic and fundamental questions that go back to when the conflict started: who stirred the pot to begin with? Who encouraged, funded, and armed the “Rebels” way back when? This isnt to defend Assad at all. However, let us not pretend that the “Syrian Rebels” are not cut from the same cloth as the “Libya Rebels”…it is the same playbook. And they are playing the same geopolitical chess game designed by Washington. So, yeah, in a way, this is about the United States.

  11. This is the first article I’ve read on Syria because middle eastern foreign policy and its media coverage in America is wash, rinse, repeat — and inevitable.

    Let me say that I couldn’t have picked a better piece with which to dive into the events. I can’t find barely a thing wrong with any of the above.

  12. The author’s assessment that “the US is not to be trusted to act in anything but what it sees as its interests, and often a woefully short-sighted understanding of those interests to boot” is compelling. It also largely coincides with the caricature of a “caricature of knee-jerk leftism” he presents. From the comfort of my local coffee shop, it seems logical that a discussion about one’s country’s involvement in a faraway conflict also include a critical examination of the motives of such involvement – after all, some of us latte sipping lefties are just as aware that “Washington does not really care about those children killed last week in a chemical attack”.

    Perhaps it is the duty of clearly well-informed, caring and skilled writers, like the author himself, to explain to the rest of us what possible solutions to this tragedy there might be, instead of telling us what HE thinks about America and then telling us to please shut up.

  13. Perhaps what would have been best for Syrians would be for the U.S. to have not trained and funded the al-Qaeda rebels as far back as 2011?

    Perhaps it would be best for the Syrians if the U.S. investigated instead of dismissing the many MANY credible reports of the actual usage of chemical weapons by the al-Qaeda rebels. [1] | [2] | [3]

    Perhaps it would be best for Syria if the U.S. wasn’t constantly trying to topple Assad?

    Perhaps you didn’t know that a recent poll published by Qatar (they don’t like Syria) shows that the majority actually support Assad?

    Are there plenty of Syrians that don’t like Assad? Of course. Are there Syrians who believe this is a real revolution? Of course. Is it? No. Your black and white – if you mention al-Qaeda you’re ignoring the Syrians fighting – is bogus.

    The best thing for the Syrians is for the west to leave them alone. Completely. No more funding rebel groups and terrorists (who by the way have been the justification for the “war on terror” for the last decade but are apparently now no longer important or “a threat”).

    Your comparison is invalid, the U.S. is directly supporting al-Qaeda. They created al-Qaeda to fight the Soviets. al-Qaeda was present in Libya as well, gee what a surprise right?

    Many Syrians understand the U.S. is imperialist in nature. – Opposing the U.S. from engaging in any more war with anyone is in everyone’s best interest.

    Maybe things aren’t as they seem. Eh?

  14. Why is it the West fights Al Qaeda in Mali but then funds them in Syria?

  15. syrian civilians need help desperately to stop the horrendous massacres how can we sit back and watch thousands of small children die in horrendous ways let alone the adults. ive been to syria i have many syrian friends . lost some too and a dr and nurse from aid group i belong to were killed when assad bombed a hospital. its got personal to me. ive heard kids screaming as a plane approached and their dad was calling for help .its horrendous.its a massive humanitarian disaster

  16. People, don’t get so pissed. If you take this letter personal, like it was for you, it means that you are doing what the author says. If not, then why so angry? When the discussion is about Washington’s involvement, then you can talk about all you know and rant all you want.

  17. […] blogger Sean Lee—who was unknown to me until today—has a terrific, must read “open letter on Syria to Western narcissists” on his blog, The Human Province. No quotes, just read the whole thing (it’s not long). […]

  18. many incoherent arguments. If the USA are considering an action in Syria, then we have every right to speak about them and their policy. the conflict about Syria is not about monaco, fiji, or ghana, because these people are not supporting the opposition, and are not threatening to bomb.

    should america bomb syria, and all things remain the same, then yes, Fisk would be wrong. but if nothing changes, then why bomb? but if things do change in favor of the opposition, this means that yes, the USA would have given victory to al qaeda. and this is absurd. why? because with the drones the USA are bombing al qaeda. so yes, Fisk is right.

    finally, everyone (Syrian, Russian, French, Lebanese, etc.) seem to debate and include America in their discussions. so why western narcissits???

  19. Reblogged this on Femina Invicta.

  20. I have seen the phenomena the author refers to among my progressive circles, and I really appreciated this post.

    A couple of commenters have suggested that the post contradicts itself when, on the one hand it calls upon the American left not to let the conflict in Syria be about opposing America; but then also claims that “the US is not to be trusted to act in anything but what it sees as its interests[.]” I can appreciate the criticism, but I’m not sure it follows. An American who says “I shall form my opinion Syria based on how I style myself as an anti-imperial radical, thus giving my confirmation bias free rein! Watch, now, as I blurt my uninformed ad hoc reckons* to the delight of my fellow blurters!” is saying something very different than an American who says “Wow, the evidence shows that the United States has a terrible track record in situations like these, and that, plus what the Obama administration is saying about the specifics of the proposed strikes, causes me to think that a strike would not help Syrians.”

    If you’re doing the latter, but not the former, then I don’t read this post as being about you. And if you don’t know any left-leaning folks who are doing the former, then may I trade Facebook and Twitter feeds with you?

    *-From here, if you don’t catch the reference:

  21. Rhetoric thrown about by Americans in America doesn’t “deny Syrian agency”. You know what would? American bombs falling on their heads and American contractors “rebuilding” their country.

    “Oh but I don’t care if your point might actually sway Americans and stop the bombs! I don’t like its /style/!”

    Go be liberal somewhere else.

  22. Is it narcissistic to value the lives of one’s own troops? Or the futures of young Americans growing up in a bankrupt nation saddled with debt? Add to that the wisdom of knowing that Washington’s decision making is never humanitarian, after seeing the US ignore many such similar atrocities across the globe. I get where the author is coming from. It must be difficult to hear westerners hem and haw about whether or not we should or shouldn’t get involved. What he should understand is that when conversations come up it is because “leftists” ARE considering the needs of the Syrians. Whether or not they are valuing them more than their own needs is the question. Call me a Western narcissist, but I believe Americans can have opinions on how America uses its resources and the many lives that compose its military. I do feel for the Syrians. One can clearly see in Assad’s dead eyes that he is a sociopath. And if there is a way to help that doesn’t involve fucking our own future, I’m all for it. But as far as I am concerned, America’s “Big Stick” days are done.

  23. You cannot talk about Syria, Libya and Iraq without mentioning the Petro Dollar and the Central Banking Cartel that are the primary motivations be all of this. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  24. As a narcissist who lives in the West I don’t like being lumped in with all the rest. I swear allegiance to no nation. I resent all who try to grab more of the world’s bounty than they really need to live comfortably. There’s enough for everyone to indulge the inner narcissist in us all.

  25. NARCISSISM IS A SYMPTOM OF A STRUCTURAL SOLIPSISM. This is an excellent piece because it addresses the topic of the “Impotence” of US anti-imperialist strategies. That said, this piece works for me and it doesn’t… I agree with the author that a sole emphasis on US imperialism breeds narcissism–but to me that’s a symptom of a larger structural solipsism. Anti-imperial discourse reveals an unwillingness to engage details, regional dynamics, internal issues–a kind of cynical detachment while we heavily sigh and start planning what to have for dinner… (It can have the same political effects as conspiracy theories, which also simplify, foster a woe-is-us narcissism, and strips actors of their agency.) I want to take it further and suggest that Empire has US anti- imperialists locked into a structural solipsism that is not all of our own design by any means, but we can certainly thematize it and figure out how to try to get past it. For me, the remedy to “shut up” leaves US anti-imperialist activists in an awkward position regarding how to resist this latest round of bomb dropping. We are always fielding new activists who enter anti-imperialist struggles (even if they always seem to be arriving late!) How do we draw people in and encourage more reflection and detail beyond the readily available quick fix negation of Empire? There needs to be new discourses and strategies here in the US on so many fronts… we lose more ground every day… heavy sigh… I’m hungry.

  26. The strike itself isn’t about Syrians, it’s about America. Those who oppose it on an ideological basis are not (necessarily) “narcissists” or “uncaring” about the plight of Syrians – these positions may be a recognition that US imperial ventures in fact DO NOT help those in need.

  27. you attack “leftists” for an opinion where “everything is always about the US”. but for an American, any talk of taking position IS about US interests, is it not? you cannot disregard American interests if you’re an American. just like Russians will care about Russian interests. and religious extremists will care more about furthering their cause than about the safety of civilians.

    sincerely, a non-American

  28. […] An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists. […]

  29. I am a Syrian , thank you writer for this peace. I just want to say that we were asking to be armed for three years now only to be able to defend our people and children from being killed by the madness of our tyrant, but the answer was always the same( we are afraid that the weapons will reach the wrong hands) because of this Bashar Al Assad realized that he can even kill us with chemical weapons without any reaction to his crimes, we are left to our destiny alone. We were under this regime for 50 years now , we are poor, we are illiterate , there is nothing we have to defend ourselves from him. You do not want to send us weapons, you do not want to interfere to prevent this tyrant from killing our children with weapons of mass destruction, ( although it is your government who forced this tyrant apon us) any ways, I just want to remind you of karma, dear friends , if there was anything in your hand to do to stop even one person from being injusted , and you did not do li for any reason, please keep in mind that the day will come when you need someone to help you when you are badly injured, I hope that you will find someone to help you, because, it really sucks to be left alone helpless

  30. Very interesting and thought provoking piece, however I must admit I am not buying into your “let’s not make this about the Americans” considering your article reads to that effect (in my eyes anyway). I sense and understand your frustration and fear it is preventing you from delivering a coherent and clear message.

  31. THANK YOU!

  32. If you’ve ever said, “We should xyz because [“Iraq” – not the country, but, the way many Americans mean it when they say that word – the American experience of invading it], or because [any other historical event America has involved itself in that is not the one currently unfolding],” he’s talking about you

  33. I’m an American and I think the Government is hoping for another Libya in Syria and not another Iraq. The American point of view is flawed and even extremely messed up but when you look at other points of view when it comes to “helping” other countries they are just as bad or worse. I trust Obama and I don’t trust any other country’s interests in Syria. America might have some messed up things about it but even a modicum of what we experience and have is great.

  34. The game is to throw a revolution in the name of democracy and count on American aid, which is a boon for politicians who are in the pockets of AIPAC and the Military Industrial Complex who once again profit when victorious rebels turn on their handlers–and then profit again under capitalism in the guise of “normalization”–and on the graves of millions.

  35. I both agree and disagree with this article. There is NOTHING wrong with opposing US imperialism and militarization. In fact, doing so is all about making sure Syria doesn’t end up another Iraq or Afghanistan. Arguing that US imperialism is a non-issue for Syrians on the ground is delusional (the US economy may be weakened but it’s military might is stronger than ever or have you not heard?). Telling non-interventionists to “STFU” makes the author sound like a pro-interventionist which I don’t think is the author’s intention. Or is it?!?!

    On the other hand, I agree that as always, the so-called “Left” (who are they? where do they meet?…let’s be real about this: only a weak “Left” exists in the Global North) does need to get their facts straight instead of expressing a meaningless solidarity with the Syrian people. If the so-called “Left” is advancing an argument that US military intervention will only bring more devastation to the Syrian people, however, then I agree with them 100%. Regardless of whether we are card-carrying members of the so-called “Left” or not, we should stand against this latest round of deadly strikes. Or would you agree that those actively protesting the war in Vietnam, including well-known radical leftists like Martin Luther King Jr., should have “minded their own business” and “STFU”?

  36. It isn’t just among U.S. leftists that opposing U.S. and other Western intervention is central in discussing Syria. I’m sure you’ll find that same focus among leftists in Latin America, and probably in other parts of the neo-colonized world. It’s an internationalist position, not an ‘American’ one, that results from seeing that, for the imperialists — and therefore for their enemies — the world is the battlefield.

    And, quite frankly, if I thought U.S. intervention would draw the U.S. into another ‘quagmire’, I might secretly hope for such intervention.

  37. […] There is the real world, and Sean Lee, a blogger living in Lebanon who’s skeptical of intervention, says he doesn’t have much patience with moralists on the left: […]

  38. So the author is upset that Americans don’t want to bomb him and demands Americans to shut up and bomb him immediately. Gotcha.

    Thanks for the perfect illustration why Arab world is in such deep bacon fat.

  39. My opinion is , beyong the narcissism and chauvinism that you said In your letter, which is meanningfull, what we have to do? Focusing on syrian motivation, don t you think they deeply want someone stop Assad unless they approuve him?

  40. exact, there is a massive war there and no one do nothing exept accusing imperialism. Hardly i can find an article for solutions.Its a catastofy if we say that let the islamic world alone. First every one is human! and second from the experienc if there were no NATO the Kosovar people would have disapear.The left people were with nacionalist Serbia goverment.If there were no Russia and America we would not exist of the fashism.And then as you know the Amarican army arrived so late but it was so important.So human first and after the ideology. Congratioulation for the article

  41. Though I think the author of this letter makes some legitimate points, he fails to take into consideration what Americans can do realistically. They really only have three options: (1) influence the American government’s response to the atrocities in Syria; (2) influence the way the US government tries to involve other countries in responding to the situation in Syria; (3) nothing. But for Americans to do anything worthwhile at all, Americans have to know what Syrians want and what would benefit the majority of people in Syria. Americans don’t know that — and from my (admittedly limited) knowledge about Syria, it seems there is no majority opinion in Syria about what its citizens want. Given that, Americans have little choice but to react to Washington’s declarations of intent in terms of how American actions will affect them — in the near and long term. I am of the opinion that Obama’s intention to “punish” the regime in Damascus is not only pointless, but ultimately damaging both to Syrians and Americans. I also of the opinion that if there were to be a “responsibility to protect’ (a UN doctrine that the UN hasn’t been able to agree to), this needed to have happened years ago and in various places of great suffering that the US and the West have considered too insignificant to warrant an intervention. I don’t see any country, whether the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or any other responding to Syria on the basis of anything other than their perceived parochial interests. I know that my friends and colleagues aren’t involved in this to score political/ideological points with anyone. We’re concerned about the state of the world and how to change it for the better. So, rather than pillorying this body of well-intentioned strangers for acting out of self-interest, I would urge the author — and everyone else who’s able — to educate the rest of us about Syria’s true needs and how those needs could realistically be met. Then we’ll have something to argue about.

  42. Richard Fantin, you sayed it all very well, but I can´t open your link [2]

  43. […] has written a great “open letter on Syria to Western narcissists” over at his blog, The Human Province, later picked up by The Huffington Post. He scratches an itch that’s been bugging me for […]

  44. So let me get this straight. “Leftists” (whatever they are anymore) in the United States have made the US into a giant imperialist boogieman that militarily intervenes in Middle Eastern Countries – you don’t want to hear that interpretation because it’s “all about the United States.”

    Your response to that – the thing that we should all think about the intervention – is as follows: “My opinion on American intervention in general and in this conflict in particular (about which more in a subsequent post) is that the US is not to be trusted to act in anything but what it sees as its interests”

    Can you please explain the difference between “Leftists” and your opinion? Because they seem the same to me – the US intervenes and makes things worse, and that’s why the US shouldn’t get involved.

  45. Let’s then talk about the Syrians – what can help stop this brutality? How do they feel about a chemical weapons attack? Is it a significant development that they feel requires a significant response (perhaps from the international community?) to help prevent it from happening again? Is it simply yet another piece of brutality that is nothing really so significant in the scheme of things since losing a relative be it a civilian or a fighter is brutal regardless of whether it is the result of a summary execution, a battle wound or a chemical weapons attack? I don’t know the answer to this – one thing that is clear is that the brutality began when Assad started killing peaceful protesters and I fear Syrian realpolitik today would require a truce with this same savage that would let him go unpunished for that act.
    Any credibility of anyone in terms of helping the Syrian people was lost when the international community failed to support the clear and visible aspirations of people on the streets of Deraa.

  46. Your point about Western narcissism might be better directed at the tight and incestuous Washington elites of humanitarian imperialists on one hand (mostly Democrats) and muscular neo-cons on the other (almost exclusively Republicans). Polls make very clear most ordinary Americans are opposed to Syrian intervention, surgical or beyond. It’s probably true their reasons are different from yours–most just do not care that much about what’s going on in Syria, and have had intervention in the Middle East up to their chins. But I ask you a serious question: if, instead of announcing a surgical strike, President Obama called for an international conference of all the parties of interest (including Iran), what would you say to that sort of “interference.” Do you think the large powers have no role in this at all? Aren’t many outside players already making Syria one vast battlefield? Can there really be a political settlement here without outside pressure?

  47. Should the United Nations allow Syria to murder its people using Chemical weapons, then there is nothing to stop any nation using an atomic bomb to conquer its enemy. Is the world ready to accept this? it appears Great Britain and Russia are, but President Obama is not.

  48. […] Lebanon, Sean Lee, of The Human Province, pens a letter to Western narcissists on […]

  49. The writer himself seems to be the embodiment of a perfectly western narcissist. I tried finding some logic in this piece, unfortunately: none. Very typical of Western narcissist, this War suddenly becomes about them, you know, them and their immidaiate families. Not the hundreds of thousands who have been terrorized by Western-backed terrorist groups erroneously called “revolutionaries”. Your logic reads as follows: strike Syria even if the outcome is bringing Middle-ages terrorist groups into power who will continue murdering people who do not back them right inside their homes, destroy cities, impose al-Qaida Wahhabist laws, bring the whole countries back to the stone age (like it was the case in Afghanistan, exactly the way things happened) endanger their lives AND the lives of people in the West, or Western-influenced governments, you know, strike a bad regime with an even worst enemy, then keep that enemy in power. 30 years later keep on wondering what went wrong in Syria? F&#%er it ain’t about you or your kids, this is a whole country being destroyed by evil governments in the West out their to impose their imperialist agendas on an entire region.

  50. there*

  51. […] Lebanon, Sean Lee, of The Human Province, pens a letter to Western narcissists on […]

  52. I don’t know if anyone is reading these comments any more. I want to ask a sincere question. I see a lot of young Americans who are talking, not about Syria, but about the US response. In other words they are discussing and debating the role of the US in the world, the ethics of military intervention and humanitarian/human rights law abroad. This is a generation of people who came of age after the Iraq war, who have inherited the ugly legacy of American power. Refusing to address these questions isn’t going to make them go away: American power exists and at some point young Americans are going to have to come to a position on these issues. Isn’t it better that they begin to engage with “anti-imperialism,” to engage with America’s engagement vis-a-vis the world by considering the impact of American actions abroad? I’m not trying to refute what you’re saying here, but I actually see a hell of a lot of value in Americans (esp. young Americans) who will finally take a protracted look at the consequences of their actions (ie. who they support, who they kill, who they watch die on cable TV)?

  53. People who rule America are a bunch of arrogant fat fuck morons. Simple people here hate them. They are just too afraid to do anything about it. Arrogant, greedy fucktards. I am so ashamed of being ugh-merican. Like every empire, USA is not forever. You can’t be a tough guy when you are bankrupt, both fiscally and morally. Imagine, if you live here in the US, the Chinese guys start bombing us because they don’t like how deal with our internal problems. Odd, right? I mean I feel oppressed. What if I reach out to Chinese or Russians, and ask for support. WTF? No, really, WTF??? Get your fat fucking hands off of Syria, ya morons. You have destroyed the USA enough already. My great grandchildren are bankrupt, you greedy fuckers. Fuck you, USA politics!

  54. Very little about the Syrian people here. If they really wanted a revolution they would close their shops,schools and other pursuits, put down their weapons and march en mass to Damascus. No government survives without the complicity of its people.
    The response to the chemical weapons use is about finally standing up to a family of murderers. There is no benefit in Syria for the US. The world has ignored previous atrocities in Syria. We finally have a president who says this is wrong. I don’t see a single suggestion here to address any of the real problems. The debate provoked by the president is more important than any other result. Do you stop a bully or do you stand back and shake your finger? We could all list 20th century examples of atrocities ignored. When and who should stand up for what is right?

  55. Phenomenal post. Thank you for this.

  56. With due respect to the plight of the Syrian people, whether our countries bomb a sovereign state, intervene in a civil war in said state, or provide logistical support in said intervention, is a matter we non-Syrians can and ought to have an opinion on. If US attacks, then, yes, American imperialism IS indeed on the agenda.

  57. Oh look it’s a Beirut based hipster lecturing some imagined leftist hipsters in the West.
    Robert Fisk a man who speaks fluent Arabic and has lived in the region for almost 40 years and has been on the ground where ever the shit went down since then must not be relinked?
    Good to know that the author is so much cooler than Rober Fisk and those that read him.

    Do you also have a real point apart from setting up this contrarian rant in hopes of getting linkes?

  58. […] “But please, don’t let the conflict in Syria be about opposing America. Let it be about Syria, and what might actually help Syrians – you know, the actually existing people who are dying by the tens of thousands in this brutal war. But if you can’t do that, then do me a favor, and please shut up.” […]

  59. Great article. Nothing else to say.

  60. One thing that is clear is that usually, in discussions of international politics, the views of those directly impacted by particular actions and policies are rarely heard. Those in Syria who have battled Assad’s repression for a long time are lumped together into an amorphous mass with opportunistic regional forces who have no interest in having the Syrian masses empowered.

    Even those who are opposed to horrific/repressive conditions in other countries take on a “missionary” role viewing those in other countries as having no agency in their own affairs and operating from the view that it is up to us to save them (or not). This is not unlike domestic policies in the US on a local, state and national level – those most impacted by cuts in services for example are never heard – it’s always the “experts” and pundits.

    Our best strategy is to make sure that those independent voices within Syria are heard. We live in the belly of the beast and in situations such as the increasing repression in Syria we must demand that the US is not allowed to commit atrocities in our name, not just in Syria but around the world – and we must tie our nation’s foreign policy to its impact on human rights and human needs in this country. By doing that we can gain some clarity on what we should be doing at this time. Until we change the overall role the US has played in the world until this point, we have little to no moral credibility to engage others on their actions.

  61. […] Israel. This is priority number one and they really aren’t bothered how many Syrians (Lebanese and Iraqis) […]

  62. […] [7] The Human Province An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists: […]

  63. You are right. Who cares what the US is or how it thinks – if you thought US intervention was going to help save lives, you’d support it, if you didn’t, you’d want it to stop. Unless you were so protected and precious that ideas and the opinions of others mattered more to you.

  64. I’m sorry, but Syrians have had enough time to sort their differences out. Instead it seems they have been trying to involve their neighbours (remember the attacks on Turkish soil first and the continuing bomb attacks in Lebanon?). Been so close to Israel and Iran what do you expect it was going to happen? Of course America would tray to intervene and of course, many westerners would be against (as many wont). But that’s no reason enough to use terminology like “knee-jerk leftism” to address those opposing to america’s intervention…would you say that about Russia and China too? Sadly “your conflict” is no longer about the future of Syria anymore and that is why the rest of the world would have something to say about it, wether you like it or not.

  65. […] […]

  66. […] Oorspronkelijk gepubliceerd op: […]

  67. Sorry, a truly bizarre and conflicted article. First, and foremost, the debate has been and was for the whole year now how to help the people suffering in Syria.

    Everyone….Everyone in both the conservative and liberal camps in Washington and about everywhere (excepting the truly uninformed) understands that this is not a cut and dry scenario. Ousting Assad or assisting enemies of Assad arms terrorists and allies of terrorists and allies of terrorist organizations and empowers those that would be otherwise a enemies of the state, YET, the current asshole is a current day Hitler or Milosevic.

    So when the writer chastises the US for making this about America and not about Syria, perhaps he needs to broaden his own limited little view and see the big picture: there is no right answer, and by the way, we help and we’re screwed, and we don’t, and we’re screwed, so to the author I say “who the hell are you to lecture us or anyone on our action or inaction in a nation (Syria) that has been under sovereign rule since 1928?”

    Our liberal mindset might color our judgement but its our judgement pal, not yours. It might be personal to you, but we have lots at stake too. I would remind the wrier that it is his people that don’t have their house in order in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and frankly in the entire region.

    Go pound salt, pal.

  68. […] Update 1: This is good, An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists. […]

  69. Life Choices by Marie H Curran

    A man stands queued in Galway
    Deciding which sandwich to pick,
    He scratches his ear and worries
    Which flavour his tongue will enjoy,

    While he’s making his choices
    Children are snatching some light
    Choosing to play in the street,
    Just as their backs are turning
    A hand deciding their fate,

    As the man chews down his lunch
    His nose turns up and skews,
    Cursing the world and choices
    He pushes the sandwich aside,

    While on that street in Syria
    Children lie dead at his feet
    Calling on him and the world
    To choice them dignity, peace.

    From my blog:

  70. I’m also of the opinion that intervening in Syria militarily will probably do more harm than good. There are other ways to go about protecting Syrians and deposing Assad, but some missiles won’t help anything! I wish it would, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything other nations can do at the moment that’ll make the situation any easier at this moment. I hope the President realizes this before he does something he may regret in the future.

  71. I think people are a little harsh when it comes to the position of the USA. The States have an image of being somewhat of a world police. I’m sure the US are not exactly happy with this image but they have to react because that’s what people expect.

    I think what happened in Syria cannot be ignored and something has to happen. Innocent people are dying because of chemical weapons. What’s next? Maybe soon weapons like that will be used on other countries. Obama has a point that an act like that cannot be tolerated. I’m against war but sometimes you just have to act before things get even worse.

  72. Reblogged this on Dak's Bays and commented:
    An interesting post on what most people view as the inevitable US strike on Syria, from a gentleman living in Lebanon. Whether you support the strikes or are opposed to them, you should read this.

  73. If you and the rest of your neighbors could look past religion for once, perhaps you could all stop this yourselves. What a concept! This whole mess is like having a group of people from all different tribes/religions, look on at two people killing each other. However, none of them will intervene or team up with another to intervene, simply because of their own self-interests. Because of this, they start calling for a police officer that is thousands of miles away from their neighborhood. No need to preach to us, we have enough blood on our hands. If everyone in your neighborhood is concerned about the innocent human lives being lost, stop standing around with narrow minds and act. I really get tired of certain parts of the world calling on the US to help, when that part of the world is perfectly equipped to help themselves if they were all able to look past their own noses.

  74. To the writer: What do you think should be done about the narcissism? You have designated this as the problem.

  75. Reblogged this on 50 Plus, Health, Beauty, Family… and commented:
    I have very mixed emotion right now. War is evil… Pray for peace

  76. Amazing article. Thank you so much for the read! It is so very important to hear from the view of someone who has been there, done that, so to say . . . you have put much thought and passion into this issue.

  77. […] dem Libanon schreibt Sean Lee in seinem Blog “The Human Province” einen Brief [en] über Syrien an Narzissten im […]

  78. In America we are scared shitless of chemical attacks . . . so we want to stop them before they gain popularity. . . it’s that simple.

    bombs, guns and grenades? That’s OK.

    We don’t know our asses from a hole in the ground when it comes to Syria or any other country in that region . . . we can hardly take care of ourselves truth be known. . . .

  79. It appears to be if the United States acts it will be damned and if it does not act it will be damned. The only thing I see is a no win scenario. The kicker is most people do not like the killing of children in their papers, on the news and find that they are condemned to do nothing appears to pull at their heart strings. Yet to do something without a heavy commitment would be catastrophic. In America we suffered the same problems with the Indians in the 1800’s and the Black’s and now the Mexican’s. We want to help or at most of us do, but how is the problem. There are backdrops to doing things that we are not even aware of and so the killing goes on and the crazies do rule the roost.

  80. I don’t think the UN should have any say in this. It’s up to the Syrians.

  81. Yours is the first post I have read on this subject that mirrored my own thoughts. I am an American woman and yet I think we are one of the most egotistical countries on the planet. I have been saying since the beginning that unless the people of Syria want us there, we have no business going. How are our bombs going to be any different or help in any possible way? There has got to be another way to help the people of Syria without more bloodshed. That is the last thing we should be thinking at this point and the last thing Syrians need at the moment. Thank you for the very enlightening post.

  82. Is it logical to attack a country without physical evidence of WMD’s then those that dance to the beat of the war drum are as gullible as those that supported the Iraq war only to regret it later. Is it morally right for Obama to send American soldiers to there deaths fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan only then to support the same Al-Qaeda in Syria ? What a stab in the back for the US military soldiers and families that have lost loved ones on the battlefield. The illusion of a US global safety net for the so called free world is a fraud beyond belief. If you look at American history going back to the ethnic cleansing of native Americans, the slave trade, Vietnam, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the bay of pigs where we came to within minutes of nuclear war, the Iraq war and now Syria ….if this is our safety net then I don’t know how we all sleep at night! With the expansion of worlds media offering different perspectives and coverage of world events as they happen it is becoming increasingly hard for those that seek to control us by such means and therefor you can be assured that attempts to restrict and control the internet will be made by the elite. The world is on a very dangerous path and once you let go of the fear the only option is to fight and resist against those who control the money ,the media and the minds of the worlds population. In the past week I have heard four of the worlds largest nuclear powers all somewhat flippantly state that the leader of all of those countries has the executive power to overrule any democratic process of decision making with regards to military action. So lets get this clear, if congress, parliament etc come to a decision that a specific military act could be detrimental to global peace and proceed to rule against any act, then just ONE person has the right to press the button overriding any consensus or collective decision of our representatives based on public opinion. Are we insane to not challenge such a executive right ? The sands of time do not stop and If you look back through history and at some of the egocentric leaders that we have let lead us then the law of average states that we or a future generation could witness the apocalypse triggered by one mans belief that he was doing the ‘right thing’ or by a leader who quite simply was too arrogant or ignorant to back track on an ideological or strategic path that has led to such a decision having be made……and I can think of one such leader sitting in the Whitehouse as we speak.
    One thing that we should all remember is that if the Soviet Union didn’t back down over the Cuban missile crises we all may not be having this conversation now ! The similarities of then are now should be duly noted because we are all on the potential precipice of a global conflict and the unthinkable.
    Clive Griffin

  83. This is a great letter and I’m definitely on board with approaching action in the Syrian conflict under the mindset of “does this actually help Syrians.” But I also think it’s perfectly fair and just for Americans to take into potential effects and consequences of action or inaction on its own interests. If America intervenes it will be condemned and if it doesn’t intervene it will be condemned. I honestly don’t see how a cost-benefit analysis if combined with a dose of healthy moralism to determine American action is wrong. Why should the US be expected to act against its own interests? Would other nations do so on behalf of the US?

  84. Armchair Generals. Yep its hard not to have an opinion when the news carries Syria as headline each evening. That the UN have taken boxes of evidence from the Damascus suburb to analyse suggests the evidence is not conclusive. All reports use the word alleged in reference to a chemical attack. The reports referred to intelligence sources in Israel. The picture is not crystal clear so any action taken by the US and France is based on this incomplete evidence. Any attack will have human casualties which will include civilians and further poison the rhetoric from all sides. The real question in all this is who has supplied the arms to sustain this conflict over two and a half years? The answer we already know but the beneficiaries no doubt are investors in stocks and shares in the Arms Industry. We have a distance to go us Human Beings.

  85. A self-avowed US leftist, I feel very lost lately in the ridiculous rhetoric spewing from all sides. I have followed the war in Syria from the very beginning, and feel as though everyone in the US feels they have a right to talk about the situation even if they couldn’t point to Syria on a map until two weeks ago (and still can’t, in many cases). It’s so frustrating to watch and gives me very little faith in my own people.

    I’m sorry that this is happening. I wish the knee-jerk reactions and the incredible amount of misinformation being passed around would just stop. I don’t pretend to have anywhere near the level of understanding that you do about this, but I am trying my best to affect those around me locally to step back and consider this from points of view like yours.

    Thank you for this article. There are some of us who are trying our best not to be narcissists/imperialists and who feel powerless in the face of what this debate has become all over the world. Be safe.

  86. […] Recently, my friend Arni Zachariassen – a man I respect immensely, and whose opinions have guided my own thought processes over the past two years such that I’m pleased he’s willing to host this on his own incredible blog – turned me on to an article titled “An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists.” […]

  87. Well said. I wish you, your family and friends, and all Syrians peace and safety. Take care.

  88. Some of us are just sick of seeing us kill and/or die for Jews. We aren’t narcissists. We’ve just got Zion fatigue.

  89. I absolutely agree with you.

  90. Er, I absolutely agree with poster “jjwalters” above. I clicked his name to reply but my post joined the rest of the comments. I guess this theme isn’t Yahoo. Sorry :)

  91. I read your points but don’t get the reasoning behind them? Shouldn’t America be interested in what’s best for it and its people? Is there any country or people anywhere who do things that aren’t in their interest especially when it comes to sacrificing the lives of their citizens?

    Isn’t that what the Syrians want? If they didn’t, wouldn’t they say, let us go through this and don’t come over or we won’t cross the border but stay inside the country?

  92. This world is so torn. It depresses me to no end to think about how men can kill men :-(

  93. Please do not assume that each American citizen is on board with Washington. That does not go to say that we are anti-American. We are allowed the freedom to express ourselves, a right protected under our Constitution.
    I take offense that ANY human being viewing the slaughter of innocent children is not affected. Only a madman sociopath could walk away from viewing that without feeling outrage.
    Specifically, what is it that you want to say, not to Washington, and the politicians, but to the everyday citizen, the average Joe on the street?
    Let me express my personal feelings, those of a 61 year old woman: I want Peace throughout the World. I want every human being to have their voice heard and I want each of us to learn from one another, not from sticks and stone throwing or empty rhetoric. I want us to stand as equals and to learn to respect each others differences.
    Is this Idealistic? Yes. Does that mean I am a fool? No. It means I value and respect you and ask the same in return.
    I do not want war. Not for me. Not for you.

  94. I am genuinely curious. What do you think would help the Syrians?

  95. Reblogged this on My life and getting a ponto pro and commented:
    This is so true

  96. Amen!

  97. Reblogged this on CoffeeGrounded's Blog.

  98. Reblogged this on hemantborar2201.

  99. While the narrative of the caricature “knee jerk leftism” seems to deny the agency of Syrians, it is would also be wrong to deny that with US intervention this becomes much bigger than just Syria. With its allies and varied motivations it is difficult to not view the conflict in Syria as a means of furthering the economic interests of a few countries and re-assertion of political dominance in the area. Like you said, the discussion about Syria needs to be about Syria and not opposing America but sadly, I think it has become much bigger and no longer be constrained within those boundaries.

  100. thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanx

  101. I wish I had some idea of your position in this whole thing, but I don’t. I thought I might gain some insight into the real situation in Syria, but I didn’t. I just wasted the time it took to read the article.

    Bemoan American intervention if you must, but please give some idea of the real situation to those of us who really want to know.

  102. Krystilynk: Strangely enough, the solution lies with the author of this blog.

    I ask him, “What does he want America to do about its ‘narcissism’ ? ” as he has called it.

    His elucidation of his bold blog title will sort out everything. One should state suggestions or remedies along with accusations or complaints. If a neighbor’s tree falls in your yard, you don’t go next door and say, “Your tree fell in my yard…” period. You have to add what you want done about it. This could be anything from keeping the wood yourself, getting him to clear it away, or leaving it lying across the broken fence as you carve a canoe out of it for the next 20 years. Why would this be a guessing game? Accusations should not be blank checks.

    I have asked him to model this for us here but he hasn’t taken up the task. It is a very valuable one. Crucial in fact. If he cannot say what he wants us to do, then he should change the title of his blog. It does nothing but cause more unrest.

  103. Syria conflict caused many thing and involve many interest. Maybe involve us too. The things interested becomes wild thing complicated in Syria.

  104. The author is right. The debate is not about America. It is about America, and Russia, and Israel, and Saudi and everyone else implicated in this game who could have either prevented the crisis or could resolve it easily if they truly put humanitarian considerations first rather than self-interest. The issue is not Syria, but what others are doing to and about Syria.

  105. […] τον Λίβανο, ο Sean Lee του Human Province, συντάσσει ένα γράμμα [en] στους ναρκισσιστής της Δύσης για τη […]

  106. […] Libano, Sean Lee, di The Human Province, scrive una lettera [en] agli occidentali “narcisisti” sulla […]

  107. […] to understand whats afoot, here’s what a person from the Middle East says about us: “Washington does not really care about those children killed last week in a chemical […]

  108. […] of Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance, or of the show Girls, or Sean Lee’s recent piece on Western “narcissists” re: Syria, to name only a few recent examples).  The attention to the machinery of power in these […]

  109. […] Lee’s open letter on Syria to Western narcissists was another post to watch, picked up by Andrew Sullivan at The Dish. Sean’s letter was […]

  110. With all the documentaries, mocumentaries and media which many people assure us is not to be trusted, I really don’t know what to believe any more

    But they reality of thousands if not more families living in striking distance of utmost danger needs no debate

    A very well written piece

  111. Please don’t put all the Americans in your “narcissist left” column. I abhor the politics involved when it comes to helping other nations in times like these. One thing is for certain…”we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t”….and that it the sum of it all. One thing you have not done is offer a solution.

  112. I think people are loosing sight of what needs to be done. human rights are being violated. noncombatants are being killed and chemical weapons are being used. and if America does not act now, then other countries will get bright ideas and decide to rock the boat and attack Allies and American interests. it will be a message on top of halting such tasteless activities being taken by both the rebels and the regime

  113. So anyone who isn’t on the same page of your personal misery needs to “shut up”?

  114. I’m too fucking stoned to read it all perhaps you can make an outline

  115. I am not sure if I qualify as a narcissist, but I do know that the vast majority of Americans are against military intervention in Syria right now.

    You can counter the political push for war by countering and detailing why military intervention would be counter productive to US interests as well as the fallacy of how ‘punishing Assad’ would be humanitarian.

    One of the key arguments supporters of the request for authorization (often stated by the more partisan on both sides of the aisle) is that we can’t let a chemical attack go unanswered or other rogue regimes will see this as a green light to use WMD. There are good arguments against them but hearing others’ perspectives build a stronger case.

  116. […] Lee’s open minute on Syria to Western narcissists was another post to watch, picked adult by Andrew Sullivan during The Dish. Sean’s minute was […]

  117. Hopefully conflict in Syria coming to an end, so that people there can feel peace again

  118. I’m not interested in participating in foreign wars.

  119. Obama’s ego got in the way of any rational thought on US intervention in Syria. Please don’t confuse what the American people want and what this administration wants.

    The Syrian Civil War is horrible and also none of our business. Going in and knocking down some buildings is foolhardy and will stir up hornet’s nests in Syria, Iran, Russia, etc.

    Right now it looks like Putin has come to Obama’s rescue with a proposal to have Syria surrender its chemical weapons to the international community. Whatever that means.

    It is Western Hubris that thinks we can solve problems that have been going on in the Middle East for thousands of years. Drill for our own oil and leave them alone.

  120. I appreciate your bravery. Surely there are other ways of handling thing. Call me naive, but I wish we could negotiate ways of opening borders to the people who wish to escape. With no people it’s difficult to be a dictator.

  121. […] not you, it’s me” approach to other people and their wars has been correctly described as narcissistic, as if America’s national mirror is the right tool for reflecting on Syria and what to do about […]

  122. […] to understand whats afoot, here’s what a person from the Middle East says about us: “Washington does not really care about those children killed last week in a chemical attack, […]

  123. Reblogged this on murnmaryld and commented:
    Worth reading to get another point of view…

  124. […] Second one is interesting letter to Westies: […]

  125. This is nicely written, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

  126. Aw, this was an extremely good post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a good article… but what cann I say… I hesitate
    a lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

  127. Reblogged this on donatelloturtle.

  128. Wow. Great post and many interesting comments. I lost hope for a peaceful Middle East when Tony Blair was sent there to help. I almost died laughing. What did we imagine was the purpose of this? Peace? Local self-rule? The end of western support for terrorists? Stable governments in control of their own natural resources? Or exactly the situation we see? .

  129. Reblogged this on Chris Stacey`s internet in the diamonds.

  130. […] لبنان، شون لي، من مقاطعة الإنسان، كتب رسالة إلى النرجسيين الغربيين حول […]

  131. […] Líbano, Sean Lee, da província Humano, escreveu [en] uma carta para os narcisistas ocidentais sobre a […]

  132. […] The Human Province, un bloguero que se identifica sólo como “Sean” y que al parecer escribe desde Beirut, ofrece […]

  133. […] ‘left’ British/Western chauvinism in which all conflicts around the globe are really about us and not them, about the West and who it backs among the belligerents and not the actual […]

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