Adam Curtis

Much of the debate about whether to intervene in Syria or not is taking place in a strange ahistorical vacuum. As with so much debate about humanitarian intervention the underlying world view is of a simplified story of bad dictators and good, well intentioned westerners who must somehow intervene to stop him.

But the truth is that America has a very complicated relationship with Syria which stretches back over sixty years.

Back in the 1950s America set out to intervene in Syria, liberate the people from a corrupt elite, and bring about a new democracy. They did this with the best of intentions, but it led to disaster. And out of that disaster the Assad regime rose to power.

America's actions were by no means the only factor that led to the violence and horror. But their unforeseen consequences played an important role in shaping a feverish paranoia in Syria in the late 1950s - which helped Assad, and his Baath Party, come to power.

A while ago I wrote the story of America's strange relationship with Syria and the dark and bloody twists and turns that resulted - from 1947 onwards. I thought it would be good to link to it again because so much of what happened is relevant to today's debate.

You can find the original post on Syria here.

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments.

  • Comment number 14. Posted by Benjamin

    on 21 Oct 2013 18:51

    Hello Adam - you've gone a bit quiet on us. Have you been hanging around the North Kent marshes again?! Not sure what right we readers have to 'demand' content - especially when these pieces clearly need a lot of research. But, hey, its not stopping me adding this comment.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 14: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 14: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 13. Posted by Janos Biro

    on 19 Oct 2013 10:44

    Mr. Curtis, are you familiar with the work of the American historian Morris Berman? If so, what do you think of his idea that America has a negative identity, that is, that it needs an enemy to know who they are?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 13: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 13: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 12. Posted by Mike Leech

    on 14 Oct 2013 02:19

    Great essay as always.

    I thought you might be interested in a book I've been reading called "Everything's Coming Up Profits." It's about American corporations in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s staging elaborate, professionally produced musicals as odes to their products and as a way to motivate employees. Here's a companion website with several bizarre, hilarious, industry-themed show tunes for your listening pleasure...

    http://www.industrialmusicals.com/songs/

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 12: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 12: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 11. Posted by Ame Wood Silver

    on 13 Oct 2013 14:37

    As usual Adam you have had your finger on the pulse before others even knew there was a pulse. Have been watching/reading/listening to you lo these many years and am ever grateful for your insistent presence. Terribly disappointed I missed Massive Attack in NYC. Will it return? Do I need to come to the UK?

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 11: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 11: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 10. Posted by Rustam

    on 6 Oct 2013 05:32

    Excellent article.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 10: 1
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 10: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 9. Posted by Francois

    on 17 Sept 2013 15:29

    Dear Adam, I am a big fan of your work and blog. And so thank you so much first of all for your kind assistance, my post has nothing to do with yours here.

    I simply wanted to get in touch to ask you a little question in relation to one of your amazing documentaries 'Pandoras'Box, the Engineer's Plot' for a personal academic research project of mine. At some point in the documentary you show very revealing dysfunctional outcomes of soviet planning: when the plan measured tonnes carried per kilometers, trains went long distances just to meet the quota, sofas and chandeliers increased in size to meet measurements of material usage.

    I was wondering if you could kindly let me know the bibliographical sources you used in your research to find these anecdotes, where to find similar examples?

    In advance a very big thank you for your kind help on this.

    Francois

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 9: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 9: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 8. Posted by Chris Whitrow

    on 14 Sept 2013 12:36

    It was a fascinating and informative piece but I do find one aspect of it rather strange. You document numerous military coups in the Middle East, manipulated and backed covertly by the US, yet you assume that the Americans' ultimate goal was eventually to bring about democracy. Is it not possible that you may be deluding yourself in this?

    Here's a list of countries - just off the top of my head - where the US has intervened to overthrow or thwart democracy, strangling freedom in its cradle since 1947: Guatemala, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Cambodia, Italy, Australia.

    In the cases of Iran (1954, Operation Ajax) and Chile (1973, Project FUBELT), the CIA engineered military coups against existing liberal, secular, democratically elected, pluralistic, popular governments and replaced them with murderous authoritarian tyrants. I would therefore suggest that perhaps democracy was never really their ultimate aim in Syria.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 8: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 8: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 7. Posted by Entrophy

    on 7 Sept 2013 21:03

    You need to write more stuff my mate Adam. There's nothing on the interenet worth destroying your F5 key like your blog. At least tell us what you're working on! We need it so bad. Good information and enlightened opinion is so hard to get these days, ironically enough.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 7: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 7: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 6. Posted by Benjamin

    on 7 Sept 2013 11:44

    to refer to Adam's blog a little while back about Thatcher's death and her appeal to the myth of this 'great nation' - of course, one step ahead again, now Cameroon has started his own myth making!!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24000421

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 6: 1
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 6: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 5. Posted by theartteacher

    on 4 Sept 2013 22:46

    IF YOU LIKED THAT YOU'LL LOVE THIS

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/03/goodies_and_baddies.html

    ;)

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 5: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 5: 0
    Loading…
More comments

More Posts

Previous

Next