Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fin de regime in Damascus?

Syria: It's all over, but it could be messy - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune

It bears recalling that predictions were made in the early 1980s, and the regime confounded the prognosticators. At that point, it was expected that the regime would fall to Islamist adversaries, inspired by the fall of the Shah in Iran. Now there is really no credible domestic force that has real roots in society. It is possible, as Perthes argues, that the military might mount a coup to topple the ineffectual Bashar al-Asad, but then what? Perthes suggests on a democratic project would be credible, but to propose that the military will be the bearer of democracy is a bit credulous. Of course, they might use democratic rhetoric, but the substance is another matter. There are important disincentives to democratization, not least the unease of the entrepreneurial class and the educated middle class about democratic empowerment of the peasantry and the urban lower class. More likely, the outcome would be limited liberalization, not much different than what Syrians encounter right now.

My sense is that the fragility of the regime is being exaggerated. Notwithstanding its manifest failures, the prospect of changing Bashar for a man on horseback does not generate much confusion.

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