Monday, April 18, 2011


My comment from April 15:

Bashar al-Asad and many Syria watchers share a fixed notion : Syrians prefer order to chaos and the strong arm of the regime has a firm grip on Syrian society.

There are elements of truth to this notion; however, the currents of change roiling the region are proving irresistible.  Dignity (karama) and freedom (hurriya) have been denied for years in Syria, as in so many other Arab states, and now it both in sight.  Equally important, the regime may have drawn blood but now people see in Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi that change is truly possible.

The 'Alawi who hold the reins of power in Syria may account for 10 or 11 percent of the population (and there are divisions within the 'Alawi community as well), so the challenge is for the regime to build alliances in wider society and to do that there much be compromise and change.  Will the regime succeed in loosening its grip yet keeping the reins?  We'll see.

As in so many Arab states, toppling the sitting regime may be more feasible than quickly constructing a participant, peaceful society.  We should not presume that places like Syria are simmering cauldrons of inter-sectarian hatred, but much depends on how the process of change is managed and how wise the ruling autocrats can be.  If they are certifiably stupid, as we are seeing in Bahrain, then hold on to your seats, but the Syrian may prove less bent on instilling hatred than their Gulf colleagues.

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