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Syria: The Spanish Civil War All Over Again

May 30th, 2013 - 7:01 am

History may not quite repeat itself, but the war in Syria — invariably, “the Syrian Civil War” — is eerily similar to the “Spanish Civil War” in the mid-1930s. The latter started as an internal conflict, as did Syria, and then sucked in the major powers, including Great Britain, France, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Syrian war features active intervention from Russia and Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar, and increasingly busy action is en route from Great Britain, France, and the United States.

Like the Syrian war, the Spanish Civil War was terribly bloody. As in Syria today, it was sometimes difficult to figure out who was fighting whom, as internal ideological and political divisions were intense (in Spain, these were particularly pronounced on the Left between Communists, Anarchists, and Trotskyites; today in Syria jihadists slaughter each other, boisterously among Sunnis and Shi’ites, and sometimes within the ethnic groups). Weapons, including chemical weapons and new anti-tank guns, were deployed and evaluated. Spain famously provided a testing ground for military tactics and strategy — the Blitzkrieg¬†made its first appearance there. All in all, Spain prefigured the Second World War.

The winners in Spain were Franco, the right-wing Falange Movement of Jose Antonio Primo di Rivera (killed during the war), and their foreign Nazi and fascist allies. The losers were the forces of the Left, and thus Stalin. Both then and now, partisans of the Left have argued that a more vigorous support of their forces could and should have produced a different outcome. That may be true, but things are not so simple. If you read George Orwell’s masterpiece on the war, Homage to Catalonia, you will find that Stalin was not very enthusiastic about a victory by “revolutionaries” who embraced a Communist doctrine quite different from his: “The thing for which the Communists were working was not to postpone the Spanish revolution till a more suitable time, but to make sure it never happened.”

The same counterintuitive divisions exist today within the ranks of the Syrian opposition, with the same deleterious consequences for their “cause.” The Muslim Brothers are, so to speak, the Stalinists of the struggle, and they have taken over political control from the more spontaneous elements that emerged from the fission within the Syrian Army. The Brothers do not want to see their Islamist enemies — the Salafists, for example, or al-Qaeda — win the war and rule Syria. Meanwhile, just as Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were determined to win at all costs, so Putin, Assad, and Khamenei are concerned only with slaughtering everyone on “the other side” and keeping the regime in Damascus in power.

Meanwhile, the free nations of the West that should have been concerned about a Hitler/Mussolini victory in Spain largely stayed out of it. And so Spain truly became a dry run for the bigger war ahead. The French and British dithered, and everyone signed an agreement to stay out, and impose an arms embargo on all fighters. The Germans and Italians quickly entered the fray, but the Brits, French, and Americans honored the agreement.

Hugh Thomas, the author of one of the first scholarly books on the Spanish war, wrote that once the Nazis and fascists were in, “it was very cynical (for Britain) to insist on (maintenance of the non-intervention pact).” Furthermore, the fateful pattern of appeasement had been drawn: “This cynicism brought the British Government as little credit as it did advantage.”

Ditto for “leading with the behind” in Syria.

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Top Rated Comments   
Unless you're trying to say US should support Assad, this analogy doesn't make any sense. When the dust settled, Franco's victory turned out to be victory of the Good. He stayed out of WW2, he turned a blind eye to jews illegally fleeing to Spain (and continuing through the ocean to the USA) from nazi-occupied lands, his economic policies resulted in Spanish Miracle, turning it from the poorest country in the whole Europe into the first world economy. And if you're wondering what would have happened in case of the left's victory, North Korea gives a good impression how small poor marxist countries fare.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are only two choices in Syria.... Assad or Al Qaida. Not a pleasant choice but we can count on Obama to make the wrong one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (51)
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Michael, you misjudge Obama by far. His intent from the beginning has been to erode American power and economy as much as possible and to ally America with Islamic radicals. He is not fighting Al-Qaeda but for appearance sake. In reality he is aligning American power with Islamic terrorism as we just saw in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and everywhere else we had influence in. Our policy is in the hands of America's enemies through an election. There is no digging out of this hole, but there will be a MAJOR WAR in the immediate future regardless of our actions in Syria.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
if there's a parllel to be drawn, it's with the Lebanese civil war of seventies to the nineties, so that's mean that Syrian civil war will last too, until the combattants get worn out.

We can't do nothing, as external players, that would stop people from slaughtering each other, except by invading them, since none wants to, we just have to pray for that the fighters get tired the sooner the better

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_Civil_War
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
parallel
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What is similar is that there are no good guys to back in this war just as there were no good guys in the Spanish Civil War.

Suppose two subordinates of Bin Laden and their supporters began fighting over who would lead the evil organization to destroy America. Would we back one side against the other? Are we going to choose sides in the battle between the Crips and the Bloods?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I simply disagree with your analysis...The USA (executive branch under Bush and now Obama) and Russia are masterfully bringing about exactly what they want: "a nice long lasting war and sell lots of weapons"....like in 1973; Israel will again be the testing ground for the latest generation of weapons (you finance both sides of this war every day at the gas pump...a market condition implemented in the 1973 Weapons Deal: aka: "Yom Kippur war") The Commuless Moscow Weapons Company aka Russia, is thrilled to see as many jihadies as possible killed in Syria, but The Commuless Moscow Weapons Company's real goal is to destabilize Turkey and to get rid of Erdogan, who they see as a threat to their free & safe passage through the Bosporus...
That the west does not bury dead the Jihadies in "pig skin" is prima facia that the West has no interest in anything other that "a nice long lasting war and sell lots of weapons"...and certainly no interest in winning...
Brazil is: "ethanol" energy independent...but Americans think "it" is a btu "thang" or maybe Americans are sure that physics are different south of the equator; so while all the cars n Brazil: Toyota, GM, Ford et al all come from the manufacturing plant running on ethanol and all the filling stations sell ethanol with no gas in it...."it" can't be done! all the trucks in the USA run on natural gas and fill up at the thousands of natural gas filling stations, but that would mean the collapse of oil prices and the easily manipulated 7th century ethnic masses would not have oil money to beat us with....so no trucks on natural gas: only possible ti conclude the USA policy is "a nice long lasting war and sell lots of weapons" (c me 1991) and I delivered that exact phrase to every member of congress in 1991 under the heading: "Syrious Business"..."We will have a nice long lasting war and sell lotttssss of weapons"

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Huh? American Ethanol consumes more energy than it produces! And why would Obama want to support the American arms industry? And if you have proof that the US was so smart in 73 (as opposed to the actual idiocy of trying to get Israel to half-lose a war, almost resulting in a second Holocaust), I would like to hear it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Unless you're trying to say US should support Assad, this analogy doesn't make any sense. When the dust settled, Franco's victory turned out to be victory of the Good. He stayed out of WW2, he turned a blind eye to jews illegally fleeing to Spain (and continuing through the ocean to the USA) from nazi-occupied lands, his economic policies resulted in Spanish Miracle, turning it from the poorest country in the whole Europe into the first world economy. And if you're wondering what would have happened in case of the left's victory, North Korea gives a good impression how small poor marxist countries fare.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Quoting the Great Pavan: "Here's my advice to the Obama Administration. Work on a secret agreement with Russia for each Muslim country. The US will arm one side and the Russians will arm the other. Then we all sit back and watch them wipe each other out."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's both very flippant and very dangerous.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Especially if you are sitting within missile range, as I do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Iranian Stink On The Mess In Syria"

And John McCain stink in the mess in Syria as well. A whole lot of stink going on. Maybe it could all be settled by wackobird John McCain and wackobird Mahmoud Ahmadinejad having a dual. Whatever happened, America would be the better for it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are only two choices in Syria.... Assad or Al Qaida. Not a pleasant choice but we can count on Obama to make the wrong one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
John McCain already has.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
At the end of the Spanish Civil War there was still Spain. At the end of the Syrian Civil War there will not be a Syria because there's nothing organic about Syria, it's an Anglo-French construct. It might be in the interest of America - clearly not the same as the interest of Obama - to make sure that a Kurdistan is born out of the shards of Syria. There will also be a sliver along the Mediterranean that will remain Alawite and another sliver that will be a separate Sunni state or a part of whatever becomes of Iraq (another construct that cannot last). But since horrifically Obama is our prez it is best that America stays out.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Syria is actually most of the Biblical Arameas (Aram Tzvah, Aram Damesek (Damascus), etc.). They seem to have split the area among Biblical lines (except that Israel does not own Northern Jordan).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you for an intelligent opinion. Even a stupid Joe Biden saw at one time that Iraq was better off partitioned into its ethnic and tribal regions. The Turks need to be pushed out of Kurdistan just as much as the Iranians and the Syrians. All Muslims being evil anyway, let the Kurds have their own piece of Hell.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right now it's terrorist vs terrorist which is good. The problem is, the terrorists are winning.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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