September 29, 2003


As reform falters, Syrian elite tighten grip: Confidence in President Bashar al-Assad has dropped as familiar players amass more power (Nicholas Blanford, 9/30/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

When Mohammed Naji al-Otari was sentenced to several months in prison for corruption in the mid-1980s, most residents of this city in northern Syria assumed that his political career was over.

They were wrong. Last week, Mr. Otari was appointed prime minister of a new government in Damascus, pledging to stamp out the rampant corruption that continues to stifle economic growth and hamper much sought-after political reforms.

Otari's appointment and the composition of his 31-member cabinet - which proportionately contains more members of the ruling Baath Party than the previous government - has come as a blow to reformers and Syrian human rights activists as well as ordinary Syrians. There is a palpable sense of disillusionment here as hopes of tangible political and economic reform fail to materialize. Faith in Bashar al-Assad, Syria's youthful president, is being replaced by a sullen resentment at his apparent inability to curb the excesses of the powerful and super-rich clique of regime leaders.

Although there is little prospect of significant domestic instability in the near future, cracks in the 40-year-old Baathist edifice are beginning to appear. And analysts, economists, and diplomats believe that unless a concerted effort is made to usher in a genuine and effective reform program, the country could be heading for serious trouble in the long run.

Now would be an excellent time to challenge Baby Assad so forcefully over Syria's role in Lebanon and supporting terror that he either has to back down and be so humiliated as to be quite possibly fatally weakened or else respond and provide us with a pretext for regime change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2003 7:08 PM

What are we going to do, pretend that all of a sudden we realized they are occupying Lebanon and supporting Hezbollah? Americans won't even get riled up by the fact they had those spies in our armed forces in Gitmo.

Posted by: Matt C at September 29, 2003 10:17 PM

We have done something important in Iraq. We have proven that we do have the balls to take on such regimes, on the ground, to follow through, and, I believe, to create something better. We have also proven, given the fact that the an Al Queada / Iraq link is probable but still tenuous, we have shown, in a strange way, that we can be as “irrational” as our enemies. Are you an enemy of the US? Then you’d better pray someone else even doesn’t hit us, ‘cause we might come after your ass just for kicks. Cynical, and a healthy belief to foster out there in the jungle.

That being said, and Dick Morris agrees about turning the high beams onto someone else (Iran), guess what? We DON’T have the balls or political support to do that. We don’t. Congress won’t sign off, and much of the world would oppose it even more strongly, and successfully. And it won’t happen, absent another 9/11. If we did target such countries, we could bring a large measure of peace and security to this planet. But we can’t do it alone. And the West, here and abroad, is filled to the brim with craven cowards and sanctimonious scumbags who will not only not stop us from doing it, but will stand with terrorists and tyrants until the end of time.

I believe we will give Iraq our best shot, and there is a good chance of success. That being said, I believe in the end we cannot stop WMD. If we shut down Iran, NoKo, etc. I have no doubt that many who are opposed to us will be supplied with them by others who are ticked off at us for shutting them down to start with.

We cannot wage this alone…. and we ARE alone, essentially. That is reality. And the end-result will be an isolationism on our part that will set back our economy…. and devasatate much of the world, which will now live under the cloud of death on a heretofore unimagined scale as well. Of course, the French, the Germans, the UN, and all those college professors and street activists who will successfully oppose our new targeting have already thought this out, so I’m sure they’ll be fine. I’m not sure how, but they are so much smarter than me or Mr. Bush, I have no doubt they have it all figured out. I wish them well.

As Bill Bennet says, “Ideas do matter”. Big. And millions will stand with their ideas…. and fall with them. Millons will live with their ideas….. and die with them. That’s the deal.

Pessimistic? Yeah. What’s your point?

Posted by: Andrew X at September 30, 2003 12:43 PM