June 21, 2005


A hint of glasnost for Syria (Sami Moubayed , 6/22/05, Asia Times)

[M]any are starting to draw a parallel between the Ba'ath Party conference of 2005 and the Communist Party conference in the USSR in 1986. Syria must read the details of Mikhail Gorbachev's 1986 conference because they were the cornerstone that created the new Russia that exists today.

Gorbachev attacked the recent past, pointing out that mistakes had been made, but individuals were responsible for them, and not the Communist Party. The Soviet conference called for a more flexible system of economic management, the loosening of outdated bureaucratic laws, encouraging greater openness, less interaction between Soviet citizens and the secret police, and more publicity about the shortcomings of the regime. This was called glasnost. It unwillingly exposed the weakness of the Soviet system and the much-needed reforms in all sectors of life. Censorship eroded, taboos were lifted, banned works were published, and writers were permitted to explore forbidden themes. Through glasnost, Gorbachev attempted to mobilize the intelligentsia to his side, in addition to the Soviet youth, something that Assad has been trying to do since 2000.

The Soviet press became more transparent, and people were allowed to learn of the mistakes of the past. When the reality of failure became so clear to everyone, Gorbachev abolished high school exams in 1988. History books in the USSR had been used to glorify the Communist Party and its role in Russian history. It was pointless to maintain these exams in 1988, since so many of these myths had been challenged or destroyed completely by the openness and transparency of glasnost. Will this take place in Syria? [...]

As the press became more open in the USSR, the Soviets, just like the Syrians today, began to understand why the truth had been kept away from them for so long. The truth is that the USSR was in a mess, and for the first time since 1917, the people were demanding answers to the question: what went wrong, and why? The same mood prevails in Damascus today: Syria is in a mess, and the people want answers.

Recall how Gorbachev ended up...

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 21, 2005 10:09 AM

With a nice cushy job with a "Peace Institute" based in San Francisco?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 21, 2005 12:47 PM

Assad will get no cushy Peace Institute job. He is far more likely to end up dead if it all falls apart.

Posted by: Bartelson at June 21, 2005 12:50 PM

It's more than just Assad. If his regime fell, it would be pretty much open season on the Alawites, about 15% of the country, who have been lording it over everyone else under his rule.

However the regime ends, it won't be pretty.

Posted by: bart at June 21, 2005 1:19 PM

Oh, it WILL be very pretty - I can't wait for justice to be served.

Posted by: obc at June 21, 2005 10:02 PM