Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Syria and Assad

Almost everyone wants Assad out of Syria.  Resign, they say, just resign and get out.  It isn’t going to happen.  He’s reasonably literate.  He can read.  He can see what happens to ex-dictators guilty of heinous crimes.  Taylor, Mubarak, Milosevic, Qaddafi, and, of course, the ever popular Saddam Hussein, just to name a few.  There is no such thing as resigning and getting out.  There is only death or life in prison accompanied by world wide public scorn.
That isn’t always true.  Idi Amin pulled off life in the prison of his own choice: Saudi Arabia.  Assad might be able to do the same by claiming refuge in Russia, but I don’t imagine that a lifetime under close supervision in Moscow holds much allure. 
So, what’s the alternative?  Becoming a nice guy working toward a more open and “democratic” society is one, but highly unlikely.  It’s not in his genes.  The other is to squash all opposition by whatever means possible, the more horrendous the better, and remain tyrant for life, deluded into believing that his people love him, and that he, above all others, is the very symbol of what it means to be a Syrian.  Getting away with thumbing his nose at the West, and especially at the U.S. is just an added benefit.
It’s not an Assad thing.  It’s the way of all tyrannical dictators, and has been for thousands of years.  In the end, as I hope we have learned, it is up to the Syrians themselves to do something about it.  They have to decide what kind of society they want to live in.  No one else can do it for them.  See Iraq and Afghanistan for more on this point.  It’s hard to know what the rest of the world can do that might help while causing the least additional harm.  Maybe something like the Libya operation, but it would have to be led by Arab nations if it was to have any credibility.  How likely is that, considering that most of them are led by dictatorial, albeit not altogether tyrannical, rulers?
My own guess is this, provided that American war hawks don’t mess it up.  Egypt settles down after the election to become more Islamist, but moderately so, state.  Together with Jordan and Turkey they figure out a way to underwrite the Syrian opposition without too much publicity about it.  Assad eventually goes the way of all such as he.  Syrians struggle for a decade or so trying to figure out who they want to be.  In the meantime, Lebanon gets to mature into permanent civility without Syrian interference, and a new Mideast bloc emerges that is more comfortable in its own skin, and with its global neighbors.  


Anonymous said...

In the late 6th century BCE, Greece was suffering economic hardship and social unrest, so in 594 BCE the city-state of Athens elected a respected citizen and popular poet, Solon,as archon,and gave him unlimited power to form a new constitution and try to solve their chronic economic and social problems. Solon, as thesmothete,lawgiver,made a new constitution which limited the power of the aristocracy (his own class)and gave the common people an assembly (ecclesia) with archons (executives) chosen by lottery (!)from all classes but with limited powers,leaving the democratic assembly with most final power. His immediate economic reform was the immediate cancellation of all debts (!!). He was so popular as a result that many urged him to make himself dictator (in Greek, tyrant)forlife. Solon replied,"A tyranny is a fine, high place, but there is no safe way down from it!" So he went into a voluntary exile for several years, making the people promise to give the new constitution a chance to work and not make any changes in it until he returned. Then he visited Egypt and other places. So "Solon" became a name for a statesman, and his name was joined with other famed lawgivers: Lycurgus of Sparta, Moses of Israel,Numa of Rome, Confucius of China, Hammurabi of Babylon, and the Federalists of the American constitution. Solon's economic reforms, however, did not have a lasting effect on the economy of Greece! Dr B

Anonymous said...

One of the things that most of the students in my classes on the ancient world found surprising was to learn that most tyrants actually came into power from democracies which could not deliver what the people wanted. Solon's nephew, Peisistratus courted the new democracy and came into power as tyrant by support of the mass of common people. So did Mussolini in Italy in 1922, Peron in Argentina in 1945, and even Hitler did not seize power by force, but the Nazi Party got 44% of the vote in 1932, and was offered the post of Chancellor legally in 1933. Dr B