October 30, 2011

Clearly, it ain't easy in the Middle East

The president got it really wrong on Iran. He has it wrong on the pullout in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He messed up on Egypt and appeared pretty muddled and reactive on Libya.  He's managed to overlook Syria during some brutal repression.  Pressure might mount for him to do something.  The problem is, it probably won't be something very forward looking.  He's got no credibility on foreign affairs aside from some credit for getting Bin Laden and his computer files - which wasn't really him so much as it was the government apparatus that he doesn't like - the military, the CIA etc.  Foreign affairs isn't a matter of capturing terrorists anyway.

But the president can really mess up on Syria if he chooses the wrong course.  Buried in this NYT article about saber rattling from Bashar al-Assad, is the following cocktail recipe for intricacy and confusion that would result from the wrong action;
President Assad said: "The pace of reform is not too slow. The vision needs to be mature. It would take only 15 seconds to sign a law, but if it doesn't fit your society, you'll have division … It's a very complicated society."

He described the uprising as a "struggle between Islamism and pan-Arabism [secularism], adding: "We've been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s and we are still fighting with them."

In interviews in Damascus, some without government minders, secular Syrians and members of the country's substantial Christian and Alawite minorities said they supported the Assad regime for fear of their positions under a new government. Those attending a large demonstration in support of the regime last Wednesday did not appear to be coerced, according to independent observers.

However, interviews, even some with minders present, revealed widespread and vocal discontent over corruption and living standards.
(emphasis added)

It isn't a simple problem

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