SYRIA: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ASSAD By David W. Lesch
Reviewed by Steven R. Maher
“[British Prime Minister David] Cameron indicated within hours of Obama’s victory that he was eager to sit down with the American president to address the civil war in Syria. ‘One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try to solve this crisis.’” – Newsweek, November 19, 2012.
David W. Lesch has written a timely book about a little understood civil war in his 2012 “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad”. It is an excellent book, well written, well documented, and an easy read.
There is a paucity of books about Syria. About a month ago, as the civil war raged, this writer went to the Worcester Library to find a book on the country that would broaden one’s understanding of the Syrian situation. The most recent book was a 2006 publication by an Israeli think tank. It provided an interesting perspective.
Dictator Bashar al-Assad was then at the height of his power. Syria was actively supporting insurgents who were killing Americans in Iraq and sparking a gruesome war between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The more Assad misbehaved, the greater were his rewards: popularity at home, pleas for “understanding” by the soft-headed useful idiots, and petrodollars from the Persian Gulf sheikdoms.
Fighting for his life
Today Bashar al-Assad is fighting for his life. What happened in the last six years to put the Syrian tyrant in such a situation? It can be summed up in two words: the Internet.
Lesch said he met Assad before he came dictator of Syria, and, like many others, had high hopes that when Assad succeeded his father Hafiz Assad in 2000, he would bring democracy to Syria. He describes how Assad, an ophthalmologist by training, was corrupted by the near absolute power he held.
When the “Arab spring” materialized after the overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes. Assad drew the wrong lessons from history. He believed that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions took place because their governments did not respond with force when peaceful protests occurred.
When peaceful protests began in Syria, Assad sent in his military with orders to bloodily suppress the demonstrators. But instead of quickly making the problem disappear, the response spread civil disorder around the country.
“Dissidents used popular media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to organize opposition activity,” writes Lesch. “A number of social media websites, such as ‘Syrian Revolution 2011’ and ‘Syrian Revolution News Round-ups’ were created to coordinate protests throughout the country and to act as clearing-houses for information and updates on the uprising. In a way, the social media have allowed ordinary citizens to counter the decades of censorship in Syria, inspiring an attitude of defiance among tech-savvy youths that will most likely be impossible to rein in again. The social media have allowed people to escape the culture of fear…a rebel’s computer and tech knowledge may be as or more important than his or her weapons.”
In 2007 Syria banned Facebook and imported from Iranian cyber tools to hunt down dissidents. The Obama administration has begun to train Syrian dissidents in computer encryption, circumvention of government firewalls, and secure use of mobile phones.
Lesch believes that the problem of Islamo-fascists taking control of the Syrian revolt is much overblown. There are Al-Qaeda elements among the rebels. Many of them are the same thugs Assad helped to infiltrate Iraq to kill Americans. Maybe it’s karma, but Assad’s use of extremists is coming back at him like a boomerang. The suicide bombers Assad sent into Iraq to kill Americans are now “martyring” themselves in Damascus, blowing themselves up and taking Assad’s supporters along with them.
The fall of Bashar Assad is inevitable. This is something all Americans should welcome. It will weaken Iran, cut off Hizbullah from its suppliers in Tehran, and free the Syrian people from a totalitarian tyranny. In today’s global village, the Internet makes it impossible for the Gaddafis and Assads to maintain their praetorian regimes.