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February 24, 2005



"International ANSWER types are going to have their work cut out for them defending this particular regime"

I have no sympathy for ANSWER types but I think a regime-change war against Syria is extremely unwise. Syria is an Alawi dominated secular arab-nationalist regime (and indeed, arab nationalism tends to be rather stalinist). The majority of the population is Sunni. If the Iraq war is any indication, you're going to end up with lots of people pissed off over getting liberated by bombing, and the regime will most likely be replaced by an AQ or a Muslim Brotherhood democratically elected government.

Abiola Lapite

I'm not saying that a war with Syria would be wise; all I'm saying is that if one intends to argue against such a conflict, it will have to be on some basis other than the usual "Fascist Neocons Bullying Innocent Arab Governments" nonsense. Realpolitik-based arguments don't lend themselves well to painting the American right as a bunch of bloodthirsty Arab-haters.


"If you intend to remain in power," he says, "you must make others afraid."

Elias Canetti pointed out years ago that it is a dictator who wants to remain in power who is the one who has to be afraid. Bashar may have his heart in the right place, and he may know the trap he is in by having succeeded his father. And he may have a chance for a while to engineer a transition. He may not survive it any better than Gorbachev survived his transition, but that is till better than what happened in Romania, or right next door.

The surest way to screw it up is to bust in there ourselves. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't kick away any French, German or Russian props under the regime that we may find.


But that assumes that Bashar actually wants to make a transistion. He's been in power for four years and he hasn't done much about it for that time, I see no reason for him to spontaneously start now.

But still I would think that a war against Syria is a bad idea, for much the same reasons as I thought Iraq was bad. While I favour an aggressive stance towards democracy promotion, I also believe that having a war is the worst ways of achieving it, it is far better to go the way of asian and eastern europe nations, although I admit I have no great idea of how to artifically provoke the enviroment which propelled democracy in those nations. (with eastern europe it was the desire to be 'European', with South Korea and Taiwan it was likely strongly influeneced by aggressive neighbours and the US presence, but why is almost every SE Asian country democratic?)
Also I, and this is my major beef with Iraq, think that an occupier has the benefit of the country it is occuping as a secondary priority to it's own interests, and thus almost certainly produce a crappy form of governance.


(oh and I also thought that the US would have thrown out some sham elections and installed it's own preferred leaders by now. That seemed to be the plan at the start of the occupation, but the insugency I think discredited those the USG liked, and plan B ended up being doing what they should have been doing in the first place. So for now, it seems to be going well)



I think you are right about Bashar. Too bad for him.

"That seemed to be the plan at the start of the occupation, but the insugency I ...." Never impute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. They didn't bother to plan even that far because they had this fond small-government (Ha!)belief that everything good would happen on its own.

Wars to bring democracry basically work against their aims, don't they? But sometimes you have to make an intervention because the better methods don't apply, just like when the @sshole next door keeps beating on his wife and it has become obvious she can't do anything about it. Democracy had to imposed in Germany because thier whole culture and political tradition is collectivist and authoritarina. This is not some genetoic thing with Germans; they do fine in the US in a democracy - once they drop these dysfunctional aspects of their Germanness. It took the same effort in Japan. Poland and Hunagray and the Philipines are turning out to be differnet. Good. It's a lot less for us to do.

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