- Series: Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order
- Hardcover: 260 pages
- Publisher: Hoover Institution Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0817915044
- ISBN-13: 978-0817915049
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,259,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Syrian Rebellion 1st Edition
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From the Inside Flap
When the Arab Spring exploded across the Middle East, it was no surprise that the eruption in Syria came after the upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain. The Syrians had taken their time, knowing that they were in for a particularly grim and bloody struggle. But four decades of a brutal dictatorship under the Assad dynasty could not crush their spirit-people were done with the Assad tyranny and ready to pay the ultimate price. The dictatorship alternated savage violence with promises of reform, but the barrier of fear had been broken; its horrific deeds only strengthened the resolve of those who wanted done with that cruel regime.
In The Syrian Rebellion, Fouad Ajami offers a detailed historical perspective on the current rebellion in Syria. Focusing on the similarities and differences in skills between former dictator Hafez al-Assad and his successor son, Bashar, he tells how Syria has overcome decades of repression, numerous coups, and other hardships to arrive at its current state of affairs: a people poised to throw off the yoke of oppression and move forward.
In 1994 Hafez Assad's oldest son, Bassel, whom he had been grooming for succession, was killed in a car accident. Hafez then settled on his other son Bashar, an eye doctor, as his successor. Syrians hoped for the best, thinking that perhaps this gangly youth, with a stint in London behind him, would grant them the freedoms denied by his father. They were wrong. When the political hurricane known as the Arab Spring hit the region, Bashar al-Assad proclaimed his country's immunity to the troubles. He was wrong. As Ajami explains, Bashar, the accidental inheritor of his father's political realm, now had his own war. He had stepped out of his father's shadow only to merge with it. But the house that Hafez Assad built, some four decades ago, is not destined to last.
From the Back Cover
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON? THE LOST BEQUEST OF HAFEZ ASSAD
Arabs are firm believers in nasab, inherited merit passed on from father to son, a nobility of the blood. So what mattered when a rebellion broke out in Syria in 2011 was the insight into the similarities and the differences between Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar. The father had rigged the succession, with fear completing the trick. Although the people fervently hoped that Bashar would open up the prison that Syria had become under his father, it was not to be.
In The Syrian Rebellion, Middle East expert Fouad Ajami explains how an irresistible force clashed with an immovable object: the regime versus a people who conquered fear to challenge a despot of unspeakable cruelty. Offering a detailed historical perspective, he shows how, for four long decades, the Assad dynasty, the intelligence barons, and the brigade commanders had grown accustomed to a culture of quiescence and silence. But Syrians did not want to be ruled by Bashar's children the way they had been ruled by Bashar and their parents had been by Bashar's father. This book tells how a proud people came to demand something more than a despotic regime of dictatorship and plunder.
Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the co-chair of the Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
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It is no surprise to Ajami that viable self-government eludes those nations. He knows the Alawite minority rules the Sunni majority by military coup. He knows there are a dozen other minority sects, including Christians and Kurds. He knows Iraq's Shia-Sunni-Kurd triangle, and Lebanon's Shia-Sunni-Maronite triangle. He knows Syria's Alawite leaders attack Lebanon with covetous eyes on weakened pieces they would like to pick up.
Ajami explains the meaning of Alawite in Syria, at length. Newspapers briefly say Alawites are a Shiite variety, which suggests Sunni-Alawite in Syria would resemble Sunni-Shiite in Iraq. It doesn't. Ajami gives Alawite history in Syria, in which they were poor, isolated, and scorned for strange beliefs. Since the Alawite coup 50 years ago, they have been settling scores by discriminatory laws, practices, prices, and jobs. For me it explains why Alawite leaders attacked protesting Hama in 1982, and why they now appear willing, possibly eager, to attack protesting Syrians as they have since protests began in 2011. It also explains why Alawite leaders attack rich Sunni and Maronite Lebanon.
Ajami makes it clear that pieces are unlikely to be picked up separately in Lebanon and Syria. He knows the tribal pieces that will need to be picked up after what he knows will be an inevitable breakup. It isn't clear to Ajami, or any others I have read, how all those pieces can be picked up. The pieces seem never to have fitted together, for reasons which Ajami makes very clear. In Ajami's descriptions, the people in the various pieces seem fragmented, lacking both size and depth to become self-governing modern nations. Yet they don't accept as rulers the leaders of any other piece.
Ajami discusses and dismisses a separate Alawite state between coast and mountain. He notes the improbable survival so far of 1919 Lebanon and Iraq. He notes the tenuous position of Winston Churchill's post-war Jordan, between desert and Israel, absorbing refugees from Syria while depending on Syria's ports for its commerce.
Ajami's only hopeful note is in closing. Looking back to the years of his childhood before this long Alawite coup, he quotes from exiles who remember loving their cities. They remember prominent city families who governed between the shorter coups of that period. Ajami offers hope that out of such people it will be possible to recover traces of a nostalgic golden age.
My reaction wasn't hopeful. Gilded memories are dreams with coups conveniently forgotten. Coups of any length are undemocratic, and cities are merely pieces of a nation. Ajami is more an observer analyst than a diplomat arranger. He offers no plan for the suffering pieces. The reader is left to think.
As a reader, I felt cities and tribal pieces across the troubled area could govern themselves under some kind of non-tribal internationally acceptable regional government, an umbrella of shared defense, diplomacy, and treasury. Creating umbrellas which local governments accepted, and made work for them, would be diplomatic coups. All other diplomacy seems doomed after reading Ajami's observations and analysis.
Most recent customer reviews
THE ALLUWAYTS. MR. FOUAD AJAMI DID A GREAT RESEARCH TO PRODUCE THIS GOOD BOOK.