Archive for March 12, 2012
Great things were once expected of Bashar al-Assad. When he took power in Syria in 2000, he was seen as a young reformer who had absorbed Western values and would lead Syria out of his father’s dark shadow and into an era of liberal democracy. Unfortunately, all these dictators’ sons have gotten pretty good at fooling gullible Westerners (see Saif Gaddafi’s PhD thesis on the “legitimate democratic aspirations of the Libyan people”) and the crackdown in Syria slammed down all of a year after Bashar took power in 2000. So much for great things.
Then the September 11 attacks happened, and Bashar al-Assad’s sins were suddenly the least important policy issue in the Middle East. He wasn’t an Islamist and his régime was pretty far down the neoconservative hit list. The Syrian régime made a show of cooperating with the War on Terror while serving as an Iranian proxy against the United States and Israel, and we ultimately had bigger things to worry about than al-Assad’s duplicity. And so things went for a while. Bashar al-Assad flew under the world’s radar for a decade, entrenching himself as the Middle East’s most boring autocrat, until the Arab Spring came along in 2011 and upended the order of the Middle East. (more…)