Opinion polls and regional media coverage suggest that the anti-Assad protests are widely backed the citizens of Arab countries, and they might even support an intervention -- though not one by the West
Foreign ministers at the Arab League headquarters on October 16 to discuss suspending Syria from the Arab League / AP
As atrocities in Syria continue, the question is inevitable: is the international community doing enough? Certainly the Syrian regime is, in analyst-speak, "increasingly isolated," but what does that actually mean? There have been the usual condemnations of violence. Individuals like the U.N. high commissioner for human rights have called for the international community to protect Syrian civilians. It's no surprise, of course, that the Western bit of the international community in particular is increasingly irritated, to say the least, with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. But if you're really looking to nail down what kind of "isolation" we're talking about, perhaps the best indicator lies in the attitude of the Arab world.
The big pan-Arab dailies, at least, appear to universally support the anti-Assad protesters. Furthermore, a new public opinion poll out Tuesday suggests this trend extends to ordinary citizens -- in other words, this is not a case of media elite-public divide. On the one hand, this seems obvious: even over the summer, an Arab American Institute poll found that while a plurality of respondents in their "Arab Attitudes" survey thought it was "too early" to call the Arab Spring, the second most popular response was that the uprisings were leaving the Arab world "better off." On the other hand, consider the particulars: many in the Arab world are sensitive to signs of foreign interference, or even foreign judgment and the infiltration of Western values. Many in the Arab world also want leaders who prove themselves against Israel: Assad has unquestionably done that. Neither Israel nor its European and American supporters has been overly fond of the Syrian regime.
But it appears that favorability to the Arab Spring overrides these concerns. An article at the daily Al-Hayat directly addresses some of these issues, for example the fear of foreign interference, also expressed in an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (a notably pro-Palestinian and often anti-Western paper). "What if the people rebel and cannot achieve victory?" the author at Al-Hayat asks. "There must be no foreign interference," runs the refrain. "The problem with this way of thinking," though, the author continues, referring to the hardliners, is that "first, adherents [to this creed] love strategy and geopolitics and their calculations more than they love the people [...] Second, they hate America more than they love the people." Third, the article continues, somewhat redundantly, this view shows insufficient interest in supporting individual Arab communities.
It's interesting to see the pro-Palestinian and generally aggressively anti-Western Al-Quds Al-Arabi also siding with the Syrian people. The paper runs one article questioning dictators' mindsets, another with a Syrian's recollection of his own disillusionment process, and another flatly stating in the first sentence, "It is not correct for one to ignore the great pain of Syria." This last article also talks about "the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who repeats the massacres of his father," comparing those massacres to terrorism. The article argues that the Syrian people "deserve" a chance to build a "modern national democratic Arab state."
Even those articles concerned with regional stability are quick to express horror at Assad's actions. The Egyptian Al Ahram, for example, describes "growing fears that Syria will slide into civil war," but also distastefully refers to the "Syrian regime's excessive use of force" and "opposition leaders who are being murdered in suspicious transactions." Asharq Al-Awsat published an article worrying about regional repercussions, as Syria was once the "corner joint in the relationship between Iran and Turkey." It also dedicates another article almost entirely to expressing skepticism at Assad's feints at reform.
In addition, New York Times readers might note that the Times's Anthony Shadid isn't the only one suggesting Qaddafi's killing might embolden the Syrian opposition. It's also a view widely held in the Arabic-language media: "If there were those who thought that the violent repression of demonstrations would keep Arab rulers from Mubarak's fate," runs an Al-Qudspiece, "the shattered body of Libya's former governor has shown the alternative to the detention cage."
All this isn't to say that the Arab world isn't still highly skeptical of Western attitudes on the Arab Spring -- readers trolling through online articles will come across some pretty aggressive denunciations of NATO's involvement in Libya. But if you're looking for proof of the near universality of support for Syria's protesters, look no further than a report published today by the Arab American Institute.
"The overwhelming majority of Arabs in the six nations covered in the survey side with those Syrians demonstrating against the government (from 83% in Morocco to 100% in Jordan). And when asked whether Bashar Al Assad can continue to govern, the highest affirmative ratings he receives are 15% in Morocco and 14% in Egypt.
Most telling is the scant support the Syrian leader receives in Lebanon. From other results ... we can see that the Lebanese haven't stopped giving Hezbollah a net favorable rating and more than one-half of Lebanese Shia have a favorable view of the role played by Iran in Syria. But in questions dealing with the Syrian leader, it is clear that whatever support he might have commanded in the past is now gone."
So what does that mean for those who'd like to see the international community intervene to stop the slaughter of the opposition? Actually, the poll addresses this, too, and the message is exactly what you'd expect from reading the Arabic-language media on the subject:
"Turkey's interventions with Syria to date have won majority support in every Arab country [...] The country receiving the lowest rating for its role in Syria is the United States, which should serve as a cautionary note for U.S. policy-makers. [...] Syria appears not to be a place where U.S. interference will ultimately be welcomed."
Is Syria the place where the countries of the Middle East will finally start policing themselves, calling repressive regimes on their games -- at least the worst of them? Hard to know what CIA analysts would say to that right now, but the public opinion and media message is clear: it's not as far-out a suggestion as you might think.
Why Nixon's former lawyer John Dean worries Trump could be one of the most corrupt presidents ever—and get away with it
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Few people are more intimately acquainted than Dean with the consequences of an American presidency gone awry. As White House counsel under President Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973, he was a key figure in the Watergate saga—participating in, and then helping to expose, the most iconic political scandal in modern U.S. history. In the decades since then, Dean has parlayed that resume line into something of a franchise, penning several books and countless columns on the theme of presidential abuses of power.
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In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp. It was late October, Friday the 21st, and the president had spent many of the previous weeks, as he would spend the two subsequent weeks, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Things were looking up. Polls in the crucial states of Virginia and Pennsylvania showed Clinton with solid advantages. The formidable GOP strongholds of Georgia and Texas were said to be under threat. The moment seemed to buoy Obama. He had been light on his feet in these last few weeks, cracking jokes at the expense of Republican opponents and laughing off hecklers. At a rally in Orlando on October 28, he greeted a student who would be introducing him by dancing toward her and then noting that the song playing over the loudspeakers—the Gap Band’s “Outstanding”—was older than she was.
The Michigan billionaire’s confirmation hearing was heavy on partisanship and light on substance.
Donald Trump advocated on the campaign trail for a $20 billion federal school-voucher program. But during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening, Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s choice to lead the U.S. Education Department, said school choice should be a state decision. She framed school choice as a right for students and families. And she said during the hearing that she was committed to strengthening public education for all students.
While the Michigan billionaire has backed charter schools and vouchers, which let families use public money to pay for private schools, DeVos would not, she said, try to force states to embrace school choice. But a number of organizations, largely Democratic, that had raised questions about DeVos’s commitment to expanding charters and vouchers and about her family’s financial holdings and religious causes were unlikely to find much more of the hearing reassuring.
Betsy DeVos, the nominee for education secretary, and Ryan Zinke, the nominee for interior secretary, will testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Senate confirmation hearings continue this week, as Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches.
On Tuesday, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, the nominee for interior secretary, will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hear from Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education.
We’ll bring you the latest updates from Capitol Hill as events unfold. Also see our continuing coverage:
The president-elect has yet to name a secretary of agriculture, a delay that has caused controversy and illustrated the difficulties governing will pose.
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But what does it mean to “go high” in a campaign against a man like Donald Trump, whose xenophobic rhetoric and casual calls to violence represent a notable low-point in American politics?
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Is there room in the movement for people who morally object to abortion?
Updated on Monday, January 16 at 4:05 p.m.
Pro-life women are headed to D.C. Yes, they’ll turn out for the annual March for Life, which is coming up on January 27. But one week earlier, as many as a few hundred pro-lifers are planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington, which has been billed as feminist counterprogramming to the inauguration.
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In its fourth season the BBC show turned its main character into a superhero, and lost everything that made it special in the process.
This story contains spoilers through the most recent episode of Sherlock.
Christopher Nolan is a truly brilliant British creative talent, which makes it all the more ironic that his work seems to have (at least temporarily) unmoored two of that nation’s greatest fictional heroes. In dampening the palette and tone of superhero movies so spectacularly with his trilogy of Batman movies, Nolan created a domino effect that stretched all the way across the ocean, transforming James Bond from a louche, debonair intelligence agent into a tortured, self-medicating hitman, compelled by the death of his parents to hunt down a series of increasingly psychopathic villains. And, as “The Final Problem” revealed on Sunday, Nolan’s influence has similarly transformed Sherlock. A wry detective drama with a twist has turned into a superhero origin story, complete with agonizing childhood trauma, terrifying antagonists with improbable powers, and a final showdown in an ancestral home burned to the ground.
“Trump’s wall is already under construction,” Wole Soyinka says. “Walls are built in the mind.”
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Back in the 1960s, jailed for alleged associations with rebels amid the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War, Soyinka composed protest poems on toilet paper in solitary confinement. “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny,” Soyinka wrote in the collection of prison notes he later published. In the 1990s, the Nigerian strongman Sani Abacha confiscated Soyinka’s passport after the playwright urged Nigerians to stop paying taxes in defiance of military rule in the country. Soyinka managed to sneak out of his homeland and take refuge in the United States—a period he described to me as his “political sabbatical, because I never accepted, really, that I was in exile.”Abacha sentenced Soyinka to death in absentia. Soyinka’s crime was said to be treason.
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