Sunday, August 28, 2011

What Will Happen in Syria?

I was glad to learn that my colleague, economist Omar Dahi, returned safely from a visit to his native Syria this summer. When it comes to Middle Eastern politics, we agree on some things and disagree on others, but we are always friendly. The conversation is civil. This is exactly what I have been talking about in these pages when I point to the lack of honest dialogue and civility in campus life: We can help to change that situation by showing students that it is possible to disagree, even sharply, but analytically and without rancor.

As the revolt in Libya winds down, attention turns to Syria, thus far the second-bloodiest scene of the "Arab Spring."

A couple of weeks ago, Omar wrote a substantial piece on the current unrest for Joshua Landis's Syria Comment blog, "A Syrian Drama: A Taxonomy of a Revolution."  It begins:
The Syrian regime is in big trouble. Absent an economic collapse, its downfall may not be imminent, but Most indicators lead to the conclusion that the regime is effectively done, and the only remaining questions are how bloody the transition will be and what type of Syria will emerge. 
Particularly interesting is the attempt at a differentiated analysis of the protests and protesters, which, he maintains, cannot be contained within such standardized categories as "region" and "class." Equally compelling is the analysis of the other side. Omar notes that relatively few people are diehard supporters of the regime as an objective good. However, those who support it or decline to break with it are not just its opportunistic creatures, either. Many people effect a hostile or strongly skeptical stance toward the protests or revolt, and for a variety of reasons. Some were predisposed at the outset to accept the official line about the character of the opposition. Some fear loss of national unity or territorial integrity. Some fear persecution of minorities under any new regime. Still others simply fear the unknown and prefer the devil the know to the one they don't know.

Provocative reading. (read the rest)

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