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America and the Solitude of the Syrians, by Fouad Ajami

America and the Solitude of the Syrians, by Fouad Ajami

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Published by Hoover Institution
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal January 6, 2012.
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal January 6, 2012.

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Published by: Hoover Institution on Jan 10, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2014

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Fouad Ajami 
 
 America and the Solitude of the Syrians
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
by Fouad AjamiJanuary 6, 2012Nearly a year into Syria’s agony, the Arab League last week dispatched a small group o monitors headed by a man o the Sudanese security services with a brutal record in thekilling elds o Darur. Gen. Mohammed alDabi, a trusted aide o Sudan’s notorious ruler,Omar alBashir, didn’t see anything “rightening” in the embattled city o Homs, nor did hesee the snipers on the rootops in the southern town o Deraa.A banner in Homs, held up by a group o women protesters, saw into the heart o thematter: “All doors are closed, except yours, Oh God.” Indeed, the solitude o the Syrians,their noble deance o the most entrenched dictatorship in the Arab world, has played outagainst the background o a sterile international diplomacy.Libya had led us all astray. Rescue started or the Libyans weeks into their ordeal. Not soor the Syrians. Don’t look or Bashar alAssad orewarning the subjects o his kingdom—averitable North Korea on the Mediterranean—that his orces are on the way to hunt themdown and slaughter them like rats, as did Moammar Gadha. There is ice in this ruler’s veins. His people are struck down, thousands o them arekidnapped, killed and even tortured in state hospitals i they turn up or care. Children arebrutalized or scribbling grati on the walls. And still the man sits down or an interviewlast month with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters to say these killer orces on the looseare not his.In a revealing slip, the Syrian dictator told Ms. Walters that he didn’t own the country, thathe was merely its president. But the truth is that the House o Assad and the intelligencebarons around them are owners o a tormented country. Haez alAssad, Bashar’s ather,was a wicked genius. He rose rom poverty and destitution through the ranks o the Syrianarmy to absolute power. He took a tumultuous country apart, reduced it to submission,died a natural death in 2000, and bequeathed his son a kingdom in all but name. Thirty years ago, Assad the ather rode out a erocious rebellion by the MuslimBrotherhood, devastated the city o Hama in Syrian’s central plains, and came to rule arightened population that accepted the bargain he oered—political servitude in returnor a drab, cruel stability.Now the son retraces the ather’s arc: Overwhelm the rebellion in Homs, recreate thekingdom o ear, and the world will orgive and make its way back to Damascus.A WALL STREET JOURNAL OP-ED
America and the Solitude of the Syrians
 
Fouad Ajami 
 
 America and the Solitude of the Syrians
2 Hoover Institution
Stanord University
A legend has taken hold regarding the strategic importance o Syria—bordered byLebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq—and the Assad regime has made the besto it. Last October, the Syrian ruler, with a mix o cunning and bluster, played o thistheme: “Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the ault line, and i you play with theground you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Aghanistan, ortens o Aghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. There is no denying the eectiveness o this argument. The two big autocracies inthe world—Russia and China—have given this regime cover and sustenance at theUnited Nations. A toothless resolution brought to the Security Council last Octoberwas turned back, courtesy o these two authoritarian states, and with the aid andacquiescence o Brazil, India and South Arica. (So much or the moral sway o the“emerging” powers.)For its part, the Arab world treated the Syrian despotism rather gingerly. For months,the Arab League ducked or cover and averted its gaze rom the barbarisms.Shamed by the spectacle o the shabiha (the vigilantes o the regime) desecratingmosques, beating and killing worshippers, the Arab League nally suspended Syria’smembership.An Arab League “Peace Plan” was signed on Dec. 19, but still the slaughter continued. The Damascus dictatorship oered the Arab League the concession o allowing ateam o monitors into the country. Bravely, the Syrians came out in large numberslast week to greet them and demonstrate the depth o their opposition to theregime. Some 250,000 people reportedly greeted them in the northern city o Idlib;70,000 deed the regime in Douma, on the outskirts o Damascus. Nevertheless, thekillings went on. The Western democracies have been hoping or deliverance. There is talk in Paris o “humanitarian corridors” to supply the embattled Syrian cities with ood and waterand uel. There has been a muted discussion o the imposition o a nofy zone thatwould embolden and protect the deectors who compose the Free Syrian Army. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a true cynic throughout.An erstwhile ally and patron o Assad, he nally broke with the Syrian ruler last all,saying “You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point.But the help Ankara can give is always a day away. The Syrian exiles and deectorsneed Turkey, and its sanctuary, but they have despaired o the alse promises givenby Mr. Erdogan. The U.S. response has been similarly shameul. From the outset o the Syrianrebellion, the Obama administration has shown remarkable timidity. Ater all, theAssad dictatorship was a regime that President Obama had set out to “engage” (the

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