List
A protester at a "Hands Off Syria" march in Manhattan (September 7, 2013)

A protester at a “Hands Off Syria” march in Manhattan (September 7, 2013)

Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a civil war between loyalists of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and an array of loosely affiliated armed rebel groups seeking his ouster. As the death toll in the conflict continued to mount and the Syrian military increasingly relied upon more advanced and heavy weapons to thwart the gains of the rebels, the United States and several of its allies began to arm the rebel groups and warn the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons would result in punitive consequences.

In the aftermath of the August 2013 sarin gas attacks that killed several hundred people in the suburbs of Damascus, the United States led an effort to gain international support for a military strike intended to degrade the offensive capabilities of the Syrian military and punish the Assad regime for its purported use of chemical weapons. While public opinion in the United States generally opposed involvement of the US forces in the Syrian conflict, the prospect of chemical weapons used against Syrian civilians often generated support for US military intervention. However, as the evidence of chemical weapon usage by forces aligned with Assad became more concrete, American public opinion hardened against the military strikes proposed by the Obama administration.

Resultantly, activists and their networks began grassroots efforts to voice opposition to the prospect of American-led strikes against Syria. As with many other events of national and global importance over the past several years, activists used social media outlets and other digital technologies to organize, grow and project their views into the public discourse.

Facebook groups calling for opposition to military strikes were formed. Twitter hashtags such as #NoWarWithSyria#NoWarInSyria#HandsOffSyria#DontAttackSyria and the like flooded the microblog site with anti-war messages. A “We the People” petition demanding that the Obama administration avoid strikes against Syria was initiated and, as of September 16, 2013, garnered the signatures of more than 25,000 people.

In addition, activists also employed more traditional forms of contentious political action. Specifically, many of these anti-war groups called for public demonstrations against military strikes and protests were held in cities large and small across the United States. In BostonNew YorkChicagoLos AngelesWashington, D.C.MinneapolisPortland and San Diego demonstrations were organized and held to express disagreement with the Obama administration’s talk of military action. However, unlike the run up to other military conflicts, each of these demonstrations attracted at most only a few hundred people.

City Date of Demonstration Est. Attendance
Los Angeles August 31, 2013 200
San Diego August 31, 2013 150
Washington, D.C. August 31, 2013 100
Boston September 9, 2013 150
Portland September 9, 2013 50
Chicago September 10, 2013 50
Minneapolis September 14, 2013 150

In the days before the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the 2001 Afghanistan campaign, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the 2011 Libya intervention, large public demonstrations against the use of military power occurred; often attracting thousands or tens of thousands of activists to each event. Yet, while US public opinion is decidedly opposed to striking Syria, analysis by the Gallup organization reveals that public opinion was far more supportive of these earlier military actions. Counter intuitively, the military actions with more public support garnered larger public demonstrations while prospects of military action in Syria, which have greater public opposition, have resulted in smaller public demonstrations to date.

What might explain this phenomenon? A general sense of war fatigue in the United States; an anemic economic recovery that has monopolized public attention; a bitter, partisan political atmosphere that has diminished collective national identity; or simply reluctance of the peace camp to strenuously criticize a center-left administration? Or rather-is it simply as Medea Benjamin – founder of Code Pink – recently observed, that “that the antiwar movement is a shadow of its former self under the Bush years.”

Perhaps Benjamin’s assessment is correct if we only measure the success of the antiwar movement by the size of public demonstrations; however, if we gauge the effectiveness of an antiwar movement by its ability to both shape and reflect a public sentiment opposed to the application of force, then the Syria anti-war effort was quite successful.  The fact remains that activists opposed to military strikes on Syria were able to make their voices heard and, in ways great and small, helped shape public opinion against such action. While massive, on-the-ground demonstrations against war in Syria were mere shadows of their predecessors, online forms of activism were widespread and robust.

Originally published by Anthropology News – Online

By on .

Leave a Reply

  Posts

October 18th, 2015

Mapping the Dead in the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Violence

Basma Atassi at Al-Jazeera has put together a great storymap that explores the latest violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Complete with pictures, text and place location, this resource allows you to get a good sense of where, when and how the violence is occurring. Definitely worth a look.

October 16th, 2015

Netanyahu, Context & Responsibility

At the center of this current iteration of violence in Israel and Palestine stands the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has reacted to this violence as if he was surprised that Palestinians would resort to violence when for decades he has done everything within his power to thwart the establishment and growth of a responsible Palestinian civil society, expanded settlements with the explicit aim of crippling an emerging Palestinian state, and undermining the responsible leadership of Mahmoud Abbas at every possible opportunity.

October 8th, 2015

Abbas, Netanyahu and Responsible Leadership

Abbas is demonstrating his commitment to deescalating tensions and calming the violence that is a direct result of Netanyahu’s persistent efforts to whip Israeli society into a panicked frenzy about an existential threat lurking behind every corner.

June 30th, 2015

Our Dictator in Cairo – Abdel Fatah el-Sisi

So, once again, the foreign policy of the US has chosen perceived immediate stability over the somewhat more bumpy and unpredictable evolution of democracy in the Middle East. It’s not the first time we’ve done this… it’s sort of our thing at this point… we’re pro’s out it.

June 22nd, 2015

The Many Victims at Mother Emmanuel

The problem with Gosnell and others who make these arguments is that they believe intentionality serves as some magical “Get out of Jail Free” card that absolves perpetrators of the violence they commit. Further, and in many ways far more problematic, is the realization that Gosnell and others only want to use this logical canard to absolve themselves or other like them. No such compassion regarding intentionality and the multiplicity of victims derived from violence will ever be used with the families of the 9-11 hijackers. In the end, the fundamental mistake that Gosnell and others make over and over again is that they focus on issues of intentionality rather than on issues of responsibility.

March 4th, 2015

Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Congress

There are two things to never forget when considering Netanyahu’s views of regional threats. First, he is desperately seeking his “Churchill moment”. Second, he has a record of being blinded by his own biases and is never, ever a sober analyst of a situation

February 16th, 2015

Cursed Be The Peacemakers?

This video, produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, has been released as part of the current Israeli political contest where the extreme right wing of Israel is attempting to maintain the rightist complexion of the Israeli government. For me, the truly offensive aspect of this video is how it makes the case that working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians or defending Palestinian and Israeli human rights somehow makes you a threat to the country.

February 14th, 2015

The Danger of Molly White’s Islamophobia

Rep. White is the new poster child for the anti-Muslim bigotry, Islamic hatred and Islamophobia that is so deeply embedded in American society that it can hide in plain sight.

July 15th, 2014

In Focus: The Gaza Strip

As Israeli bombs are dropped throughout the Gaza Strip and Hamas missiles are launched into Israel, the media coverage has focused on discussing Gaza as a known yet ill-defined entity. We are made aware of roughly where it is (next to Israel), who lives there (Hamas) and what happens there (rockets are made and launched). But this reductionist view of Gaza doesn’t provide any insights into the common, everyday lived experience of the 1.8 million Palestinians who live in the 360 sq. km that makes up the Gaza Strip.

July 14th, 2014

Middle East News Review #28

The Middle East was plagued with news of violence this week. In Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Libya, episodes of violence resulted in death and destruction. Iran continued its negotiations with the US and EU this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement over the country’s nuclear program and removing the economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. In Iraq, violence between the militant group ISIS and the Baghdad government reached new heights as 29 people were found massacred in an apartment and Human Rights Watch condemned the government for mass executions carried out earlier this year. The direct physical violence in Iraq was mirrored this week with political turmoil as the government of Nouri al-Maliki erupted into conflict with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government.