Friday, March 2, 2012


The Syrian tragedy is confronting us again with a philosophical dilemma. Let us not dwell on the atrocities which leave us silent while we watch one horror story after another. Sometimes I hear the question of how it can be possible that Bashar al-Assad, who has been exposed to Western influence while living in London, could resort to such crimes against humanity. The list goes on. The knowledge of the elementary rules of Habeas corpus does not equal the application thereof. The non-Western world is ruled by some “upstairs/ downstairs” syndrome which allows the leaders to invite BeyoncĂ© upstairs while playing for the gallery downstairs. Nero, too, looked on while Rome was in flames and left the city to its own devices.

By the way, it is not always that easy to claim a monopoly over the rule of law, as the West does, while a decade ago Christian Serbs considered Sarajevo a shooting gallery. I do not want to go back to the most horrendous mass-murder of all times, which was again the achievement of a shifted Christian regime. The denials of Ayatollah Ali Khameenei and of President Ahmadinejad make them only de facto part of the gang which stood trial at Nurenberg. On the other side of the spectrum there is a country like Ruanda which is clawing itself out of the genocidal nightmare of 1994. President Paul Kagame is lifting his country out of a repeat of the Cambodian killing fields.

The world might be more and more globalised--is that necessarily good?--and the social media have already trivialized borders and political talk, which belong more to the Congress of Vienna than to contemporary reality. Our Western “aristo” approach to the rest of the world is biased and self-defeating. There is a need to reach out so that unavoidable outcomes are shared by most rather than bungled by a few. If Iran were to be so politically colorblind and go nuclear it is imperative that the retaliation is fine-tuned and, if possible, agreed upon by most, the neighboring countries particularly. The coalition was in Afghanistan for specific reasons, which are no longer valid. The Taliban is not a pleasant lot, but it is at the end of the day their turf and we should have gotten out after the Tora Bora debacle. Countries have sometimes to exorcise the devils in their midst. We can be seen as humanitarian, rather than as crusaders.

It is time to let clichĂ©s run their cycle rather than to feed them, as we do too often, by our own mistakes. Samuel Huntington was right to come up with the concept of “clash of civilizations” but it is wrong to consider opposing (?) ideologies as separated by some Curzon line redux. We live in a galaxy of good and evil and the malignant tumors have to be isolated. This can be done better by more sophisticated means, since most of the contentious areas are not homogeneous. There is no such thing as an Arab world and there is less and less a Western world. The EU financial crisis has opened a Pandora box wherein rather perverse memories and prejudices lay dormant.

The Syrian dictator in Western clothes is no different than his already forgotten Libyan counterpart. A Sandhurst education might lead to a gentleman’s behavior a la carte but the devil does not mind striped suits or English uniforms, quite the contrary. In this contemporary world privilege rules unmatched. Democracies have become messy while the Chinese & Co. play their own version of some political Downton Abbey. I am sure that Bashar dines well, so did Milosevic. Only Hitler was vegetarian. War criminals come in all forms!

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