Monday, January 22, 2007

a Pyrrhic Peace...

Syria makes overture to the United States, while at the same time stoking trouble in Lebanon. Many otherwise smart Americans, obsessed with getting out of Iraq, are making fools of themselves. Whatever it can deliver, the Alawite regime of Syria can only deliver a temporary respite, and displace the terror, but I cannot deliver peace

How to Engage the Syrians

The Alawites are smart, but they are “street-smart”. This was a sweeping sectarian statement, but the point behind it remains valid; the gang of thugs who is in power in Syria understands only force. They can exert it, as in Hama, or submit to it, as when Turkey threatened war.

Once they understand their limitations, the regime can behave really nicely, as demonstrated by the enduring peace of sorts along the Golan. But this peace comes at a price, since the Alawite military regime’s hold on power is internally weak, continuously challenged by the country’s merchant class, which happens to be the Sunni majority.

So the regime is in a quandary; now that it has achieved a peace of sorts with Israel, how can it continue its hold on power?

Should it cut military budgets, and therefore reform the economy? But this will reinforce the merchant class, in which the Alawites are under-represented. Reforms are therefore out the question, since any reforms will weaken their hand, and fortify their enemies.

Can it go to war with Israel? That’s what the huge GDP share of the military is for, after all. But all out war is out the question; without Egypt, Syria cannot afford it. Even with Egypt and much Soviet support, it could only afford to lose. And besides, in a defeat, the Alawites could lose their Army, and therefore their powerbase.

Poor Man’s Orwellian Dynamic

The regime has a third option; a poor man’s Orwellian dynamic of exporting the tensions it is storing internally, without completely destroying its neighbours. Much like a Pyromaniac Fireman...

In Syria and the Arab world, this means controlling the past. It is a past where lies and deceptions are hammered as absolute, inalienable truths. The modern world may have succumbed to Orwell’s implied “doublespeak", but the Syrian regime has long been a master of the technique, with its own “newspeak” and “doublethink

Instead of Orwell’s “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace”, Syria can only afford “sustained terrorisms for a perpetual cease-fire”.

At the smaller scale of the Middle East, the changing alliances between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia described in 1984 are similar to the game between Syria, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and the Arabs.

But in this dynamic, Bachar’s Syria made a mistake that Hafez was always careful to avoid; it had succumbed to the facility of a long term commitment with Iran. With a millenarian cult in charge of Iran, the situation is confusing even to the Iranians, and Syria’s commitment is fast turning into entanglement, and its allies in Lebanon are struggling to keep up.

Then again, even Iran itself may not be able to stay the course...

With this in mind, Israel’s Bitkhonim obsession drove it to a costly peace with Syria. Quiet in the Golan comes at the price of civil war in Lebanon, terror in the Arab world, and terror in the West Bank and Gaza (this one comes thanks to a large helping of Israeli hubris).

Peace with Syria? A very Pyrrhic peace indeed.


Anonymous said...

The syrian can return to golan only with war...the israeli public, after Labanon and Gaza, won't give back on territory again, only if some war with syria start like 73 war...
only 40% of the israeli want to give back the Golan heights. in the past, before the other withdrawals, it was 65%...
the syrian can't defeat israel with their army, so they ask help from hezbolla. they think it will be like october war, but they wrong...the israeli only become more rightists and nationalistic, the war proved that the left wrong, and the arabs understand only now the syrian try to insinuate peace messages to the israelis, but Olmert who consider lefty, and big group of the left against it...even Peres.

so build the shelters, this summer was only the preview...

Amir in Tel Aviv said...

Pyrrhic INDEED.!
1984 is come-backing in 2007..ironic.?
On the other hand, I believe there are maneuvers going on, that we don't (yet) know about: How come in one week, 2 of Am'rica's "puppets" (Talabani and Abu-Mazen) go to meet with the 'supposed to be' isolated ?
Both suppose to know that visiting Asad wont be favorable in Am'rica; Mish'al Abu Mazen could have met in Cairo.
So we have to read MSM with caution and suspicion, and remember that we know only what "they" want us to know.

BTW, Jeha, will it be rude to ask you if you're in Lebanon?

ghassan karam said...

There is no doubt that the stability of the status quo on the Golan heights has provided the Boy King with an opportunity to allocate the limited resources of the country to continue the authoritarian dictatorial Baath rule. In a diabolical way Israel , by keeping the peace on the Golan, has inhibited the rise of enlightened more democratic parties in Syria and has contributed to the exploitation and the misery inflicted on the Lebanese.

As much as many of us loathe the above reality I am not sure that we have any right to expect a radical transformation of the Syrian society into a democratic one. Paradigm shifts do not take place when a few individuals feel the need, or even the necessity for such changes. Actually, most attempts at paradigm shifts fail because the population is not ready. Democracy is a very demanding concept. It will not work unless the masses are totally convinced of the values that it carries and unless they are willing to act responsibly and take action to protect these rights. I submit that neither Syria nor Iraq or Lebanon are ready for a true functional democracy. I believe that as a result our land will remain a fertile one for those that want to exploit us and rule through fear and intimidation.

The Syrian Baath is not likely to become more democratic when the Golan issue is settled , it will become more authoritarian. The Bashars of the world will not relinquish power if they do not have to and they will not as long as we are intimidated by them. In the final analysis it is all up to us. We get the government that we deserve.Israel could become an agent of change if it refuses to cooperate with Bashar no matter what he offers them because he will never be able to deliver that which he doesn't have, a responsible, free and democratic society. Democracy will not be nurtured by a Boy King whose regime is at "peace" but it will get a boost once the regime is forced to reveal its internal contradictions.

The Raccoon said...

Ghassan -

Absolutely correct. But, alas, the current Israeli government is comprised of fools and pathetic populists. I fear that these cretins will clutch at even the most rotten straws, as long as these will keep them in their chairs for a day longer.

Syria needs a good shaking, I think. The up-and-coming implosion of Iran, along with the new Shia-Sunni war is sure to provide it. If every rational actor in the area plays their cards right, Syria can be castrated, neutralized, and left to simmer in its own juice until Syrian people get wise.

But this sort of thing never happens without some serious blood-letting, doesn't it.