Monday, July 11, 2005

this could be an issue

we over here at istisharqiya wonder where the syrian regime finds itself headed after the ba'ath party conference in june and following a number of syrian-attributed bombings in lebanon. will they? won't they?

the new york times magazine runs an excellent, if a bit gossip-raggy, article on the first couple of arab nationalism this week. heavy on personal details and widely known facts (to those of us to who eat, drink, dream and breathe the sharq, at least) and light on analysis, projections, or hard news, the article by james bennet is nonetheless well written and a compelling read. he paints asma al-assad as a reformist firecracker of a woman, sharp, business-like, and sincere. bashar is a bit softer, a reflective young man not altogether convinced power is his main calling.

above all, they come across as the accidental leaders, the ones that you don't necessarily want in power, but aren't so keen on expelling in a bloody coup d'etat either. they politely applaud at a mediocre ballet, they ignore the b'roh, b'dem... chants, they drive off alone in a modest audi sedan. they eschew child-sitters, they work together on projects. ms. assad defends the press. bashar seeks support, he says the sort of dissidents he likes are the ones that complain because it is a better state that they need, rather than those who hate for the sake of hating or simply seek power. convincing words. sincere? tough to tell. in two years, we should know.

the opposition does not come across as the favored alternative in the article. the term 'opposition' is rightfully dismissed, with it's implied organization and articulation. dissidents are instead those who criticize the regime, with the connotations of "moral authority and solitude." it's a preferable term, and accurate. short of the chalabi-esque farid ghadry, syria lacks a clear figure with any substantial international ear. (and calling ghadry a 'figure' is itself generous.) the unfortunate state of the syrian alternative is sadly summed up in this anecdote:
When I asked if he believed that Assad had a clear idea of what he wanted to do, the brazen reformer gave his response in baby talk, and addressed it to the infant son he was cradling in his arms. ''This is a question,'' he told the baby. ''I don't know.''

the article concludes without favoring either the assads or the reformists. it does not conclude the viability of their reign, nor speculate about the future intervention of the US government. it clearly articulates only the position so commonly held amongst syrians and syria-observers alike. the new government is not the old government. if there is something new coming, it will come. there is no policy that the US can persue that will work and avoid another iraq. if anything is to happen, it will come from within, and we can only cross our fingers and hope that bashar and the emminently capable asma are sincere.


At 4:48 AM, Blogger Charles Malik said...

What I find most interesting is that the NYTimes would tackle this issue now, and place it on the cover of the Sunday Magazine.

I didn't like the article much, but I was quite surprised to see it.

That said, it's going to take a lot more than that to get me to believe anything the Syrian government puts out.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger düssy said...

i agree with you that the article wasn't too good. it didn't say much of note, served as a mouthpiece for the assad's, didn't delve too deeply into the heart of syrian politics. it was, as i said in my post, a puff piece. i do think the writing was good though.

i think you'll be seeing a lot more of these preemptive pieces on syria. as the gov't escalates against syria, expect increasing interest in the regime. this article seems to be part of this, and from the source, the slant shouldn't be too terribly surprising. the sense in the (liberal) media is that it would be a terrible, terrible idea to attempt any sort of change of regime right now.

i don't love the assad's. but i don't relish the alternative.

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