Gowans provides a reasoned, at times quite partisan, defense of the pan-Arabism project that once represented the hopes of millions across the Middle East. As his history tells it, it was a project founded on principles that included anti-imperialism, the ownership of the region’s resources by the people of the region and the fair distribution of those resources amongst all the people, and a secular approach in the realm of politics. As Gowans also points out, the desires embodied in this project were counter to the designs of Washington and its allies in Europe and the Middle East (esp. Saudi Arabia). Consequently, it was doomed to be in the bombsights of those governments almost since it began. Syria remains the only nation left of the original nations that made up the pan-Arabist project. This explains why the Syrians who support Assad’s defense of his regime against Islamist and imperial enemies are so adamant in that defense. They know that if he loses, their fate will be as bad, if not worse than, that endured by the people of Egypt and Iraq.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up