Syria's Deadly "Stability"
You bet that the fall of the House of Assad would create a period of turmoil in Syria. But there are various kinds of instability — the murderous sort Syria exports to its neighbors, and the kind that gives people a chance at a better future.
Syria isn't an oasis of stability. It's an exporter of death and subversion.
These are two quotes from a recent piece by Ralph Peters, which is worth reading. Peters argues forcefully against the proponents of the status quo for Syria's regime. He thinks the regime should be pressured and squeezed to death.
Peters even boldly suggests redrawing the Sykes-Picot borders:
The present frontiers of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon aren't about local affinities, but about bygone French and British spheres of influence. Those borders kill.
I haven't thought enough about new borders, and some readers will howl (ironically those most critical of Sykes-Picot). However, given the catastrophe we have on our hands in the region, it might be something to think about. You can read the piece and make up your own mind.
The point I want to emphasize and that is often lost in the current debate(s) is about the options facing the region. The two options are NOT: "stability" versus "chaos" in some generic loose undefined sense, as the Baath and lazy thinkers would have you believe.
The options are:
With the current Assad regime: you get "stability" inside Syria and instability in Lebanon, Iraq, and for the Palestinians. Furthermore I think that "stability" is bound to be temporary for Syria. And the vast majority of Syrians get nothing out of it, other than more years of Baath failures.
Without the current regime: "stability" or at least more of it for Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinians. And Syria gets temporary instability, which is necessary to open the door for change over there.
I am simplifying. However, the choices are broadly along those lines. The vengeful could say: isn't it time the roles were reversed? The positive-realist would say: without the Baath in Syria, everybody gets a chance to do better and improve quickly, while the Baathist presence in Damascus means: no solution in sight for Syria and obstacles for Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinians (reduced support to the radicals).
A similar fallacy is/was seen in the Iraq debate. I do not wish to open up the Iraq war issue here. However the choice there was/is not between "perfection then" and "chaos now". It was/is and between the temporary ugliness and hope seen there today, versus another 10-20 years Saddam/Uday/Qusay horror show. "Chaos with hope" versus "certain certified horror".
Other than regime apparatchiks, those arguing to wait and postpone the demise of the Baath/Assad regime have nothing to offer. They are saying Syria may know some uncertain times. Big deal. Peters puts it better than I can:
The problem isn't what might happen to Syria tomorrow, but the damage Syria is doing to the region today. It's easy to imagine noisier regimes in Damascus, but not more vicious and subversive ones.
Turning a blind eye to Assad Junior's mix of malevolence and incompetence — as our deep thinkers recommend — would only prolong the current instability in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. If an interval of disorder in Syria is the price of increased stability in every neighboring state, that sounds like a bargain.