Michael J. Totten interviews Professor Barry Rubin, author of The Truth About Syria.
Syria is not a radical regime because it has been mistreated by the West or Israel but because the regime needs radicalism to survive. It is a minority dictatorship of a small non-Muslim minority and it offers neither freedoms nor material benefit. It needs demagoguery, the scapegoats of America and Israel, massive loot taken from Lebanon, an Iraq which is either destabilized or a satellite, and so on.
Take the simple issue of the Golan Heights. It is commonplace to say that Syria wants back the Golan Heights. But one need merely ask the simple question: what happens if Syria gets it back? If Syria’s regime made peace with Israel it has no excuse for having a big military, a dictatorship, and a terrible economy. The day after the deal the Syrian people will start demanding change. The regime knows that.
Or economic reform. Again, many in the West take it for granted that the regime wants to take steps to improve the economy. But it would prefer to keep a tight hold on the economy rather than open it up and face enriched Sunni Muslim Arabs who hate the regime both due to their class status and their religious community.
The list goes on.
There's a lot more, including strong indications that the Syrians are behind the troubles in the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon.
Rubin's logic carries force because it relies on the simple, direct logic of survival. Now I'm not entirely sure that the removal of Bashar Assad's regime would be a huge boon to mankind given that it would probably be succeeded by a Sunni religious regime. Nonetheless, we shouldn't kid ourselves about the nature and needs of the tyrants in power there now.