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Rubin Reports

The Truth About Syria

August 26th, 2013 - 3:23 pm

“It is my pleasure to meet with you in the new Middle East,” said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Syrian Journalists’ Union on August 15, 2006. But Bashar’s new Middle East was neither the one hoped for by many since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s 1991 defeat in Kuwait, nor the one expected when Bashar himself ascended to the throne in 2000.

Actually, it was not even new at all, but rather a reversion — often in remarkable detail — to the Middle East of the 1950s through the 1980s. The Arab world, now accompanied by Iran, was re-embracing an era that was an unmitigated disaster for itself and again extolling the ideas and strategies which had repeatedly led it to catastrophe.

No Arab state has more to do with this important and tragic turnabout than does Syria, this development’s main architect and beneficiary. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab states wanted quiet; Iraq needed peace to rebuild itself. Even Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, pressed by sanctions and scared by his Iraqi counterpart Saddam’s fate, was on good behavior. Only Syria remained as a source of instability and radicalism. Thus, a small state with a modest economy became the fulcrum on which the Middle East shifted, and which in turn shook the globe. Indeed, Bashar’s version of the new Middle East may well persist for an entire generation.

Does this make Bashar a fool or a genius? That cannot be determined directly. What can be said is that his policy is good for the regime, simultaneously brilliant and disastrous for Syria, and just plain disastrous for many others. To understand Syria’s special feature, it is best to heed the all-important insight of Lebanese-American scholar Fouad Ajami:

Syria’s main asset, in contrast to Egypt’s preeminence and Saudi wealth, is its capacity for mischief.

In the final analysis, the aforementioned mischief was in the service of regime maintenance, the all-encompassing cause and goal of the Syrian government’s behavior. Demagoguery, not the delivery of material benefits, is the basis of its power.

Why have those who govern Syria followed such a pattern for more than six decades under almost a dozen different regimes? Precisely because the country is a weak one, in many respects. Aside from lacking Egypt’s power and Saudi Arabia’s money, it also falls short on internal coherence due to its diverse population and minority-dominated regime. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein used repression, ideology, and foreign adventures to hold together a system dominated by Sunni Arab Muslims who were only one-fifth of the population. In Syria, even more intense measures were needed to sustain an Alawite regime that rules based on a community only half as large proportionately.

To survive, the regime needs transcendent slogans and passionate external conflicts that help make its problems disappear. Arabism, and in more recent years Islamism, is its solution. In this light, Syria’s rulers can claim to not be a rather inept, corrupt dictatorship, but the rightful leaders of all Arabs and the champions of all Muslims. Their battle cries are effectively used to justify oppression at home and aggression abroad. No other country in the world throws around the word “imperialism” more in describing foreign adversaries, and yet no other state on the globe follows a more classical imperialist policy.

In broad terms, this approach is followed by most, if not all, Arab governments, but Syria offers the purest example of the system.

As for the consequences, two basic principles are useful to keep in mind:

1. It often seemed as if the worse Syria behaved, the better its regime did. Syrian leaders do not accept the Western view that moderation, compromise, an open economy, and peace are always better. When Syria acts radical, up to a point of course, it maximizes its main asset – causing trouble — which cancels out all its other weaknesses. As a dictatorship, militancy provided an excuse for tight controls and domestic popularity through its demagoguery.

2. Success for the regime and state means disaster for the people, society, and economy. The regime prospers by keeping Syrians believing that the battle against America and Israel, not freedom and prosperity, should be their top priority. External threats are used to justify internal repression. The state’s control over the economy means lower living standards for most while simultaneously preserving a rich ruling elite with lots of money to give to its supporters. Imprisoning or intimidating liberal critics means domestic stability, but without human rights. Nevertheless, the regime survived, its foreign maneuvers worked well much of the time, and Syrian control over Lebanon was a money-maker as well as a source of regional influence.

But what did all of this avail Syria compared to what an emphasis on peace and development might have achieved?

This pattern might be called one of brilliantly successful disaster. The policy works in the sense that the regime survives and the public perceives it as successful. But objectively, the society and economy are damaged, freedom is restricted, and resources are wasted.

Unfortunately, this type of thing is thoroughly typical of Arab politics.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
We Westerners are wasting time using our very different and separate thought processes in trying to reach sensible conclusions on how to "deal" with our Muslim Problem.

Our politically correct "Diversity" and lowest common denominator immigration policies are an obvious disaster. Why do we persist?...is this perpetual "political correctness"?

It's the death of us, and we've brought it upon ourselves.

Practicing Muslims and educated Westerners are simply incompatible.

And, let's not waste further time mentioning "stuff" like our superficially and mutually agreed upon Trade Agreements; they're merely pragmatic temporary exchanges of money for some product, no more, no less. They don't solve the basic intellectual incompitability of our two cultures....they're wobbly bridges only.

That's the fact that needs urgently to be "dealt" with.

The area from Morocco eastwards to and including Bangladesh, that basket case of an "entity", ought to be quarantined and carefully watched for their next attack upon our Civilization. They're constantly reminding us of their being at war with us infidels; why don't we act accordingly as a nation at war and under attack?

This continual seeking of a "peace" between Israel and their surrounding enemy is a waste of time........Muslims have no credibility except when they remind us of their being at war with our civilization. Israel's Wall is sensible, very sensible.

Hillary and Kerry - and of course that empty suit Obama - are the personification of shallow amateur Folly.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'll keep saying it, because nobody else wants to. What the hell is Obama doing in Syria?

http://nyyrc.com/blog/2013/08/what-the-hell-is-going-on-in-syria/

In summary, the conflict in Syria has four distinct strands:

1. Secularism (strongmen like Gaddafi, Mubarak, and Assad) vs. Sharia (Muslim Brotherhood)
2. Christianity vs. Islam (on a superficial level, anyway)
3. Russian Organized Crime (PKK) & North Korea vs. Qatari Organized Crime (al Qaeda)
4. U.S.A. vs. Russia (in an apparent continuation of the Cold War, with our new ally being the Muslim Brotherhood [??])

Bonus-
5. Throw in Obama vs. Putin (Alex Dugin) in the struggle for LGBT equality, and you have a decent picture of the world today.

Finally, consider the anecdote that Hezbollah and Israel are actually on the same side – supporting Assad – and we’re against them both. Israel, it seems, has defected to Russia. Could this get any WORSE?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (29)
All Comments   (29)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
IF ASSAD IS BEING WRONGFULLY BLAMED FOR GASSING HIS PEOPLE AFTER KILLING THEM EN MASSE SO MUCH THE BETTER.

His fall will be a mighty blow to Iran and Hezbollah-the two worst actors in the region followed by their Sunni counterparts. I pray that Obama (following Bush and Blair) does a Saddam on Assad and brings down his regime even if it means the Brotherhood replacing him-the lesser of two evils (but not for Syrian Christians, Alowites and women). And if the venture goes awry Obama will be blamed, with the left tearing him apart like vicious wolves branding him George Bush and Cheney II. What a spectacle that would be. And what a boon for Conservatives and the GOP.

http://apollospaeks.blogtownhall.com/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The conflict in Syria presented huge opportunities for both the United States and Israel yet neither country was able to exploit them.
The choice was always between a state ruled by Assad and a state ruled by Al Qaida. The least noxious, for both the wider world and the Syrians themselves, is Assad.
Israel could have debilitated Hizbullah and diplomatically solidified control of The Golan. The United States could have blocked Soviet expansion and retained it's influence over the Saudis.
Like most of Obamas policies his Syria policy is doomed to fail.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Has anyone considered the possibility that Obama will start a war involving Russia that he has no intention of winning ?

Alot of people talk about how he is deliberately wrecking our country, but what better way to do it than this ?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We Westerners are wasting time using our very different and separate thought processes in trying to reach sensible conclusions on how to "deal" with our Muslim Problem.

Our politically correct "Diversity" and lowest common denominator immigration policies are an obvious disaster. Why do we persist?...is this perpetual "political correctness"?

It's the death of us, and we've brought it upon ourselves.

Practicing Muslims and educated Westerners are simply incompatible.

And, let's not waste further time mentioning "stuff" like our superficially and mutually agreed upon Trade Agreements; they're merely pragmatic temporary exchanges of money for some product, no more, no less. They don't solve the basic intellectual incompitability of our two cultures....they're wobbly bridges only.

That's the fact that needs urgently to be "dealt" with.

The area from Morocco eastwards to and including Bangladesh, that basket case of an "entity", ought to be quarantined and carefully watched for their next attack upon our Civilization. They're constantly reminding us of their being at war with us infidels; why don't we act accordingly as a nation at war and under attack?

This continual seeking of a "peace" between Israel and their surrounding enemy is a waste of time........Muslims have no credibility except when they remind us of their being at war with our civilization. Israel's Wall is sensible, very sensible.

Hillary and Kerry - and of course that empty suit Obama - are the personification of shallow amateur Folly.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You nailed it as well as any one I have seen. I just don't understand why our elites are oblivious to reality.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
They're not "oblivious to reality", they are traitors.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
'Regime maintenance is the all-encompassing cause and goal
of the Syrian government’s behavior.'

Destroy the Regime and the (next) government will behave better ?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
After the latest round of diplomatic exchanges between the US and Russia, the situation with Syria is obviously spinning out of control. The Chinese owned media has offered the US a few 'diplomatic' warnings, as well.

A quick cultural and political history of Syria is relevant and timely. Perhaps Mr. Rubin might spend some time looking into these diplomatic exchanges and share a few thoughts about the short and long term implications of such strongly worded letters and phone calls between the governments involved.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is good no one can call them hot heads ,instead Israel a cute little lamb in a guarded gated little land and from a distance the sheep look white as snow so big guns can do their business
"Ten top national commanders meet in Amman on Syria intervention
DEBKAfile August 26, 2013, 3:01 PM (GMT+02:00)

The ten military chiefs began a two-day conference in Amman Monday to discuss joint action in the emergency posed by the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian wary. The meeting is co-hosted by US chief of staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Jordan’s top soldier Meshaal Mohamed al-Zaban. Present too are the top commanders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada,
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's one heckuva coalition! Unleash them and it will be the end of Syrian and Iranian political leaders. Yeah baby yeah!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Puleeeze.............let them murder each other.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let Hezbollah and Al Quaeda murder each other.

Then figure out how to get both sides in Iran to use chemical weapons.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Don't we have Hezbollah vs Al Qaeda here? Let's hold their coats.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Miley Cyrus only used the TWERKING positions approved and used exclusively by the Obama Administration.
If she'd used the TWERKING the main stream media employs, you'd have to be a paid subscriber to the WSJ, NYT, LA Times, Huff Post, or at the highest ranking porn site.
Were We a great country, or what?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Her daddy must be proud....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Syria- both its government (Assadites) and the Foreign Jihadist Terrorists (from EU-Maghreb-Americas-even Talibani are on their way to Peace through Cemetary (one EU FM). When Pres.Obama established diplomatic relations with Syria - it should have hinged on Bashar Al-Assad ceding chemical weapons (Russia is not the only country which furnished Assad's Syria). Then came 'red lines' - then Turkey's manauvers to cause an incident. When Syria was finally ready to be indicted for Lebanon's Hariri murder- US gave a leeway for Assad to establish diplomatic relations . When one stirs a hornet's nest- one should be ready to make sure all the hornets will be gone. Syria and Assad have been given so much extra time to prepare- the Foreign Jihadists will have their own agenda- Syria backers Hizbollah will be fighting in Lebanon- Iran is ready to attack Israel- Russia says will not take part in any war- but they wont stop Assad in trying to shoot missiles to Israel. Israel must be ready to defend itself since any air-war against Syria might have missiles raining in Israel - or bombs- since an error by one of the partaking countries must be figured in.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Iran is not going to attack Israel - why would they, now? Iran is bankrupt and terrified of the Muslim Brotherhood revolutions all around them. No, Iran is now with Israel, and Russia, and Assad, and trying to stem the advance of the nut job narco-caliphate of al Qaeda, Qatar, and Dawood Ibrahim.
http://nyyrc.com/blog/2013/08/waking-up-to-the-war-were-in/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I do not agree exactly.

Syria threatened today to attack Israel with theater weapons (they have those) if attacked by the US. I do not think that Israel can take that lightly. They made that mistake in 1973 and nearly lost.

Syria thus far against Israeli attacks against it's own red lines has not responded, not only that the attacks were so well executed that the Syrians never saw it coming.

The US has only one option. To keep to the red line of no chemical weapons allowed. We cannot change the balance and have no national interest to do so. We do have a national interest to uphold the principle of no WMD, despite our shortcoming when it was Iraq doing the gassing against Iran and Kurds.

All we need to do is hit targets inside Syria. Just enough to send strongly the message that this will not be be tolerated in the international community.

c'mon. How many times has Israel hit Syria with effect in the last decade and how much whiny hand wringinging from big **s USA over this decision?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, the military genius who was agitating for taking sides against the Turks for Cypriot, Israeli and Greek(!?) mineral rights a week ago thinks we have only one option in Syria. Ain't that predictable? Which one will "spindok" be agitating for war with next week? Jordan? They look guilty!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, the military genius who was agitating for taking sides against the Turks for Cypriot, Israeli and Greek(!?) mineral rights a week ago thinks we have only one option in Syria. Ain't that predictable? Which one will "spindok" be agitating for war with next week? Jordan? They look guilty!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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