Since news broke of a possible US strike on Syria the overwhelming mood in the region has been an escalation of fear. Thousands of Syrians fled towards the Lebanese border, while in Lebanon people were preparing for the worst.
The vision of a US strike on Syria as a liberatory breath probably only occurred to a tiny minority of people. It could only appeal to people who can easily escape the repercussions or who are so desperate that they welcome any change.
First an attack will be disastrous for the people of Syria. It undermines the development of the revolution that offers real hope. There is no such thing as a “surgical strike”. The US administration’s claim that it will punish the regime without also hurting millions of people in Syria and across the region is a fiction.
In reality a US strike is most likely to strengthen Assad. Alternatively, if the West is determined to bring him down, it will have to destroy most of Syria.
In the first scenario, Assad would be able to continue his murderous actions against the Syrian population while posing as an anti-imperialist hero. This would further isolate the Syrian Revolution. Already some people who supported the revolution are turning back to the regime under the pretext that it must be defended from the US.
We have seen what it means when the US decides to “depose a dictator” in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Libya.
Even if the Americans succeed, they will also have destroyed all the structures and the networks built by the Syrian revolutionaries during their struggle against the regime. All the experience of self-organisation, all the democratic processes put in place by the active masses, all the political developments within them—all of these will be destroyed.
That will leave an empty space for opportunist forces, the proxies of Al Qaida and the regressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to take on the leading role.
In both scenarios, the US attack will first and foremost damage the Syrian Revolution. Moreover it will be a pretext for the regime’s allies in the region to rescue it by widening the circle of war.
Lebanon’s leaders could submerge it in yet another war to escape the rising popular resentment against Hizbollah sending fighters to bolster Assad in Syria.
It would silence local support for the Syrian Revolution under the slogan of “national discipline” against imperialism. Already the violence is spreading. Just last week Lebanon witnessed car bombs in densely populated neighbourhoods of both Beirut and Tripoli.
The idea that revolutions are won by some swift action that disposes of a regime and builds another, is a fiction.
Regimes are not simply structures balanced somewhere in some capital, that can be simply got rid of or taken over. They are a complex web of relations of interests among those on the top of society. They continuously adapt their roles and the agencies of economy and thought and politics to benefit changing situations. And they have the money and the knowledge to do so.
That is why revolutions are not about simply deposing a dictator or a military council or a corrupt president, however integral and necessary those actions may be. They are also about sparking a process of mass transformation and of self-education and confidence within the masses.
This develops through their continuous movement and struggle for change. It emerges from the factory of ideas set up by the revolutionary process, as alternative structures and agencies of resistance and of self-organisation are erected.
In time this process forms the dual power that can truly defy the existing order. That is when the system can be brought down to open the space for a true mass transformation of society towards a better future.
These processes must take place, even with dangerous setbacks. As has happened in Egypt such setbacks can be an important space to polarise people to a revolutionary position. They can filter out those elements who are willing to compromise with the ruling order at the first opportunity.
Moreover, observers often exaggerate the depth of these setbacks. The roots of the revolutions we are seeing are not simply a result of political conflict.
At their base are contradictions between the immense socio-economic developments happening at the base of Arab society and the existing superstructure and the political order.
These contradictions are far from disappearing. In Egypt, Syria, Bahrain or wherever, revolutionaries remind people of these contradictions and the necessity to push the revolutionary process forward.
They argue for the importance of giving time for these agencies and structures of resistance to develop and to support them. They can never, never fall to despair and call for foreign intervention or to side with one side of the ruling class against the other.
The first and foremost task is to support the masses as they develop their own potential to achieve change through their own collective action.
This can never be achieved by substituting for their movement with some surgical actions, whether a coup or a swift strike.