The pressure that the Arabic countries and the international community have exerted on the Syrian regime last week is the precursor of a continuously mounting pressure that we will culminate shortly by UN Security Council decision declaring that the regime has committed crime against humanity and submitting an indictment of its leaders to the International Criminal Court, and thus leading to the regime’s downfall. These developments indicate that Bashar lacks completely the sense of the reality, the resilience and the shrewdness.
Although I did not agree with the way with which Hafez Assad governed Syria, I found that his survival instinct is better than that his son has. This survival instinct was not possible without having some kind of sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness.
When Salah Jedid was irritating Israel by firing artilleries from the Golan Heights onto the Galilee Valley, which was one of the reasons for 1976 war, Hafez Assad understood that was a dangerous strategy. Hafez Assad stopped these immature acts.
When Turkey put >30000 soldiers on the Syrian border in 1998, Hafez Assad did not move any. He did not panic. However, he understood that he should hand over Ojlan. As can be seen from both examples, Hafez Assad had certain sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness.
On the other hand, Hafez al-Assad showed a deficient vision for Syria. He viewed Syria as a means for his vain glory. He viewed Syria as a regional power not for the sake of Syria and its people, but for the sake of his own self-image. Indeed, he destroyed the Syrian economy and social cohesiveness in order to consolidate his power internally and achieve the image that he conceived for himself externally. What Hafez Assad did not understand was that no regional or international power can be real or persists for long time with getting its strategic depth from the creativity of its individuals, the cohesiveness of its society and the strength of its economy.
Needless to say that Bashar does not only lack all kind of vision, but also all qualities required for survival. Indeed, he has no sense of the reality; he does not know his strengths and weaknesses; he does not know what provokes other people's anger; he does not understand what could be done what could not. He did not understand that his strength was the educated-man image that he tried to bestow upon himself early on in his presidency. Instead, he transformed himself into ruthless ruler persecuting his political opponents and killing his own people, which revolted claiming dignity and freedom. He did not know that killing unarmed demonstrators would bring upon him the indignation of the international community.
He did not know that killing people in the month of Ramadan will take all the cover that the Arabic governments has provided to him till now. Further, Bashar has no resilience: once he takes a line of action he is too stiff; he is not able to change or retreat in the right moment; his discourse is always the same; if people do not respond favorably to his words, it means for him that they are the ones who do not understand (not his words are not the right words). When the regime decided to give the Syrian people a lesson by blockading and ransacking Dara’a, the Syrian people did not kneel. Instead of changing this failing policy, Bashar continued to bombard and seize more cities. When he described the demonstrators as infiltrators in his first speech, the Syrian people mocked of that description. Instead of changing that repulsive language, Bashar ended in his third speech by describing the Syrians as microbes.
Indeed, for all the reasons mentioned above, Bashar lacks the social intelligence and the shrewdness; in other words, he does not understand the signs of the times. Therefore, he interprets wrongly the meaning of the explicit and implicit messages that he receive and the significance of historical events that he experiences, making him, unlike his father, completely deficient of the survival instinct and leading him to utter political and personal failures, thus putting in danger not only his presidency but also his life as a free man and the future of his kids, who do not merit to be named the children of a criminal.
Haytham Khoury is a physician and researcher, and works at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, ON, Canada. He is also a political writer with an interest in Syrian affairs.
Image Courtesy of DayLife - Syrian supporters of Syria President Bashar al-Assad clash with anti-Assad protesters at Tahrir square in Cairo November 20, 2011. - Reuters Pictures