Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Case for Regime Change in Syria (4)

A point was raised in the Comments Section below to the effect that for every corrupt Alawite in the regime there is at least five corrupt Sunnis. I don’t dispute the veracity of this statement. For indeed it comes as a natural reflection of two facts: 1) demographics, that is, there are simply much more Sunnis in the country than Alawites, and 2) the politics of appeasement and co-optation, that is, if we you want to keep the Sunnis elite on the quiet side and ignore the abnormal fact of Alawite dominance of the military and the decision-making process, you have to ensure that they are corrupt.

It is for this reason that the Assads cannot be true reformers, no matter how hard some wish them to be. Their very interests run contrary to reform. Indeed, the very selection of Bashar for power was meant to preclude the very possibility of reform. Bashar was chosen to preserve the status quo, not challenge it. If Bashar was under the illusion at the beginning of his reign that economic reforms could be enacted without changing the existing structure of the decision-making process in the regime, thus gaining him some popularity and earning him some sorely needed legitimacy, his illusions were soon dispelled, and, to him, this marked the end of all serious consideration of reform. It was back to the haphazard system of handouts and presidential magnanimity.

Ever since, the Assads sought to preserve the existing patronage system, long elaborated by Assad Sr., with some limited modifications meant to empower them even more. For between them, they simply don’t seem to have the necessary brain power to invent and enforce a new one.

For this reason, and this is the essence of contention with all my fellow Syrians and all those foreign policy analysts who still insist on offering advice to the Syrian regime and who still insist on its continued viability, I believe that the problem with the Assads is not related to any lack of conduits of communications between them and the outside world, or growing and “unreasonable” American pressures, or a lack of qualified cadre of advisors and technocrats, or anything of the sorts. Rather, the problem with the Assads lies in their own personal predispositions and limitations as well as in the nature of the system that they have inherited. Both the system and its keepers are obsolete.

This creates a major problem for the international community, especially the US and France, for the choice in front of them is very simple: they can either accept this regime as is, with all the problems that this situation is bound to create for them (for the regime, by virtue of its rigidity and inertia is inherently rigged against their always dynamic and diversifying interests) or they have to work to remove it.

More importantly though, and for the people(s) of Syria, the continuation of the system posses a serious threat to the very viability of the state, for corruption as we have noted above, is at the core of the system and represents a necessary method for keeping the Alawites in general, and the Assads in particular, in power (see the recent entry in Joshua's Blog). This country’s (not to mention Lebanon's) economic and social conditions have grown too fragile to sustain the system for much longer. The breaking point is indeed at hand.
But waiting for it to happen means that we are in effect reconciling ourselves to a total breakdown of existing social arrangements and a complete dissolution of the country, with all the suffering, mayhem and bloodshed that this would entail.

This is why I believe the Assads need to be opposed and removed like the infestation that they are, and they need to be removed now before it is too late.