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A couple interesting Gay Girl in Damascus posts 
21st-May-2011 12:18 pm
Pol: Kilroy Planet
Amina A. has posted a couple very interesting speculations about what a democratic Syria would look like.

After Assad Goes: 1. Inside Syria tries to answer the question “What do the protesters want?” and comes up with a fairly optimistic answer.

After Assad 2: Beyond our Borders (which I’ve only read about half of and very quickly skimmed the rest, since plumtreeblossom and I are trying to get out the door to get to EarthFest on the Esplanade) talks about how a democratic Syria would look to its neighbours (short answer, “Terrifying!”). This is really interesting, and I think these issues are part of why the U.S. has been (even) slower and more tentative about supporting the Syrian protesters than it was about supporting the Egyptian ones. As important as Egypt is in the region, it’s (very large) influence was fairly simple and straightforward.¹ Syria, though, has complex and far-reaching unpredictable tentacles in all sorts of nearby countries — and moreover, nearby countries have complex and far-reaching and unpredictable tentacles in it, too!
¹ To my untrained, not particularly well informed eye, anyway. Of course Egyptian foreign policy has changed in some important ways since the revolution, too.
21st-May-2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
I don't agree with your assessment. Egypt is pretty much the center of the Arab world, and its tentatcles are the most tentacular. We're seeing that now. Tunisia's protests inspired Egypt's, but it was when the protests got Egypt that the Arab spring really began. If it hadn't been for Egypt, we wouldn't be talking about whether we're gonna see a Democratic Syria anytime soon.

Perhaps one reason why this may be a bit hidden is that Syria, with relatively little influence, relies a lot more on "hard" power - they host and fund various militarist groups around the region, for example. Egypt has a lot more "soft" power, which is both more complicated and more influential, and runs much deeper, along streams of money and trade and family and culture and language and literature and media. But it's also less clear and easier to overlook when one is trying to trace things with precision.

Edited at 2011-05-22 03:34 am (UTC)
22nd-May-2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
Well, I may just be wrong, but also I think I didn’t express myself very clearly. What I meant to say is that it seems to me that Egypt’s influence is more predictable because Egyptian society itself is more unitary — not at all monolithic, certainly, but neither the carefully balanced house of cards made of competing interests that prevails in Syria. So the general outline of what would result from an Egyptian revolution was more or less clear — especially after it became obvious that the army was going to keep a strong rôle and be a force for continuity — while in Syria, it’s not nearly as clear to Western observers what forces are going to be dominant after Assad.

(But of course, I may be wrong. And there certainly were plenty of pundits worried about what would come after Mubarak — and still are, in some circles.)
22nd-May-2011 12:42 pm (UTC)
Oh. I don't think that's true either. Egypt is not any more "unitary" then Syria. If its outcome is in any way more predictable, it would be because Egypt has been a bit less politically repressed than Syria, so its social streams have been somewhat more visible. But both Egypt and Syria have spent decades in artificially imposed political stasis, so neither of them has had the opportunity for things to develop as the ought to, and neither was/is particularly predictable. Egypt also had a *lot* under the surface.

I've been much more hopeful than worried, about all of these countries, ever since this started. Particularly with Syria, where IMO there's nowhere to go but up. I mean, what exactly is there to worry about? That we'll get a new Syria that starts wars, invades neighbors to project power, always rejects peace, meddles in everyone else's affairs to try to prevent them from making peace, and funds terrorist groups all over the region? Oh, wait, that's exactly what we've had for decades now. Really, nowhere to go but up.
22nd-May-2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK. I am certainly not in tune with either Syrian or Egyptian daily life.

I’m a lot more hopeful than worried, too. There’s certainly going to be a big adjustment/learning period for the US and Israel, though. (For China, too.)
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