Turning Syria: Lessons from Libya

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bashar al-assad.jpg
Hisham Matar has an interesting piece in today’s New York Times, “Seeing What We Want to See in Qaddafi.”
The writer suggests that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi continues to rule Libya as a tyrant, disappearing his critics, and cultivating a climate of fear — particularly among those who might engage in public dissent.
But the writer also has real insight into what drove the Bush administration and Qaddafi to become partners:

Colonel Qaddafi deserves sole credit for Libya’s foreign policy U-turn. He has never found it necessary to devote himself to a single political ideology; his only consistent policy has been to guard his personal political survival. The United States and Britain understand this, but have only exploited it for their own myopic objectives. . .

I want Libya to reform — but that is not the highest priority in today’s climate.
Turning Syria is.
Bashar al-Assad and the clique of nine who surround him and are the real decision-makers inside Syria are also self-preservationist/realists. Some in this clique are modernist reformers and others are nefarious thugs, but they are all ultra-rational.
James Baker said in Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony a week ago that the single biggest failing of Bush’s current foreign policy strategy is a failure to deal with Syria and to draw that country away from Iran.
Reform should always be on the table of American negotiators — though NGOs are better at it than government administrators — but there are things that we can offer al-Assad and his backers to move them on a Libya-like course.
We need to drop our counter-productive obsessions with regime change and do a deal that offers Syria’s rationalists an arrangement that meets their needs and begins to turn our fortunes a more positive direction in the Middle East.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

7 comments on “Turning Syria: Lessons from Libya

  1. albertchampion says:

    what bullshit. gaddafi has always been our boy. just like saddam. we created him.
    it was his/our libya where we trained terrorists. the ira, et alia.
    the mission was run out of houston. EATSCO. THE EGYPTIAN AIR TRANSPORT SERVICE COMPANY. ed wilson, frank terpil. what was the mission number, ONI 497?
    and anyone who tries to tell you that gaddafi wasn’t/isn’t our boy, is an outfit asset.

    Reply

  2. Finest says:

    Reality in the News (aka March of the Truth, previously known as The Abrogator):
    ‘Colonel Qaddafi deserves sole credit for Libya’s foreign policy U-turn. He has never found it necessary to devote himself to a single political ideology…’
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!
    (Let me compose myself). Sometimes the world just
    needs to reinvent itself and buy itself a new history! This sorry excuse for a tinpot loser saw the light. And the light was good and just and came in the form of laser guided munitions. And he doth see the light (minus one child) and the light came from Lockerbie, and a nightclub in Berlin, and the U.S. Air Force, and the resolve came from……Ronald R. Reagan.

    Reply

  3. Finest says:

    Reality in the News (aka March of the Truth, previously known as The Abrogator):
    ‘Colonel Qaddafi deserves sole credit for Libya’s foreign policy U-turn. He has never found it necessary to devote himself to a single political ideology…’
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!
    (Let me compose myself). Sometimes the world just
    reinvents itself and buys itself a new history! This sorry excuse for a tinpot loser saw the light. And the light was good and just and came in the form of laser guided munitions. And he doth see the light (minus one child) and the light came from the U.S. Air Force and the resolve came from……Ronald R. Reagan.

    Reply

  4. Easy E says:

    SEEN THROUGH A SYRIAN LENS, ‘UNKNOWN AMERICANS’ ARE PROVOKING CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ
    “….The Americans, my interlocutor suspected, are trying to provoke an Iraqi civil war so that Sunni Muslim insurgents spend their energies killing their Shia co-religionists rather than soldiers of the Western occupation forces….”
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/article360624.ece
    Could it be that America’s private armies (Blackwater, etc.) are the real culprits in covertly supporting the insurgency so Iraqis kill themselves. Divide and conquer…..

    Reply

  5. km4 says:

    Joshua Landis SyriaComment.com
    http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/
    Excerpts:
    Another reason for the refugee policy reversal is Syrian peevishness at being continually isolated by the US and Saudi Arabia. It is tired of being blamed for the lamentable level of violence in Iraq. Syria does not believe it is responsible for the steady deterioration of Iraq, rather, it sees itself as the victim of others misguided policies.
    It would seem that Damascus now believes that Iraq is headed for a meltdown. This is why it has begun to restrict refugees.
    Syria’s recent policy shift toward Iraq underlines how futile and self-destructive Washington’s policy of excluding Syria has become. US prospects of stabilizing the situation in Iraq are not good, but without cooperating from Syria, they are surely worse than they have to be. Syria shares many of Washington’s objectives in Iraq – not all, to be sure, but enough to make cooperation the only wise policy.

    Reply

  6. JohnStuart says:

    Défaire un empereur que pour en faire un autre ?
    Victor Hugo’s cautionary suggestion captures why Steve is right in suggesting that for the next 20 years or so America will be better served by finding ways to align some Syrian and American national interests without obsessing too much over the temperament of the clique that currently runs the Syrian state.
    In principle, this should work better in Syria than in Libya. Relative to Libya, Syria is more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan and has a considerable stake in remaining attached to the global mechanics of financial and logistical intercourse. Syria is also a very secular place – which makes it easier for the regime to manage international affairs in ways that align (some of the time) with American or “Western” interests.
    This is not a panacea for every issue that stands between the US and Syria, but it is a great deal more satisfactory than trying to bring the current regime to an end – with the near certainty that its successor will be something not too different.
    JohnStuart

    Reply

  7. JohnStuart says:

    Défaire un empereur que pour en faire un autre ?
    Victor Hugo’s cautionary suggestion captures why Steve is right in suggesting that for the next 20 years or so America will be better served by finding ways to align some Syrian and American national interests without great regard for the temperament of the clique that runs the Syrian state.
    In principle, this should work better in Syria than in Libya. Relative to Libya, Syria is more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan and has a considerable stake in remaining attached to the global mechanics of financial and logistical intercourse. Syria is also a very secular place – which makes it easier for the regime to manage international affairs in ways that align (some of the time) with American or “Western” interests.
    This is not a panacea for every issue that stands between the US and Syria, but it is a great deal more satisfactory than trying to bring the current regime to an end – with the near certainty that its successor will be something not too different.
    JohnStuart

    Reply

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