Friday, March 25, 2011

Syria's options

Now that Syria too is facing protests it may be good to review its options.

I think that corruption is a more important issue than democratization in the Arab world. The best thing that the regime could do therefore is to sack a few corrupt officials.

But that would only temporarily stabilize the situation. The regime will have to adopt an ideology of reform and modernization as its new power base. That can only work however when it is prepared to give up on present supporters who are only in for the booty. To achieve such a transition will be a risky balancing act for the regime.

I am pessimistic about democracy in Syria at the moment. Just as in Libya the regime has an ethnic base (the Alawites) and that bodes trouble. I think that it would be much better to strive for a society based on the rule of law - and equality before the law - first. Once such principle is established a transition to rule by other ethnic groups under a democratic system would be much less problematic.

Part of more equality for the law is an open discussion. Occasional public outcries help to make sure that the judicial sense of justice doesn't stray too far from the public sense of justice. This is problematic in the Arab world where few books are read and discussion is tightly controlled. There are rumors that the Syrian government wants soon to abolish the state of emergency. This would be a move in the right direction.

As one can see in East and South East Asia authoritarian regimes can stay quite popular if they manage to keep corruption under control and the economy going. But if the Syrian regime wants to transform itself in such a type of regime it will have to overcome serious resistance from Alawites who have grown accustomed to a privileged position.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I think that corruption is a more important issue than democratization in the Arab world"

Antisemitism is an even bigger issue. Syria is one of the countries hellbent on exterminating the Israelis, as are many other nations in this region. Nations that have implementing genocide as Job 1 of their foreign policy have a major problem and need to reform.