LEBANONESQUE

Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

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.

5 Comments:

  • At 11/20/05, 9:24 PM, Blogger Unfrozen Caveman Linguist said…

    Have you seen
    this?

     
  • At 11/21/05, 7:51 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Yes Caveman,

    I have. All the more reason for drastic change.

     
  • At 11/22/05, 1:16 PM, Anonymous vox p said…

    "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."

    Let's try this experiment: if the Bekaa and South Lebanon feel that they are more Syrians than Lebanese, the rest of Lebanon shoul let them hold a referendum in order to join the Syrian paradise. Let's see if they'll be able to rant against the state and the electricity cuts after their dream comes true.

    Of course this will only apply to these regions, not to all of Lebanon. Once they realize that the paradise wasn't what they expected, they could hold a new referendum to come back to Lebanon... if their new masters allows them to do so.

     
  • At 11/22/05, 2:05 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Yes Vox,

    I think one has to find a way to use this political argument (versus HA and others). It is very tricky though.

    I think the vote will be NO first time around, BTW.

    Did you know that in the old days, Hafez el Assad's father (or grand-father, not sure) asked the French to cut the Alawi/North part of Syria and put it in Lebanon?

     
  • At 11/22/05, 9:27 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said…

    I also think that they would vote no, because, deep inside and despite the official Hezbollah rhetoric and the arab fraternity and blah blah blah, the Shias know that Syria is a fucked up state.

    So why do they vote for parties that want Lebanon to look more like Syria? It's a mystery to me.

     

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