Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma has a post on his blog from a Syrian friend that summarizes nicely the situation faced not only by Syrians, but most of the populations in authoritarian states in the Middle East. Here are the key points Dr. Landis’ friend makes:
– Syrians need to “proceed with caution because Syria is not ready for democracy”.
– Syria is a very weak country with many enemies.
– [T]he current regime does have considerable legitimacy with the millions of ignorant citizens who are scraping by and the dependent class of citizenry.
– [O]ne cannot rush into fast and radical reforms in a society that is so illiberal…. We suffer from a profound lack of mutual trust, without which civil society cannot take root.
– [I]f Syria is to implement a solution for its shocking economical problems today, it will be too late. A solution to have any affect today should have been implemented 20 years ago.
– Syria’s political system under the Ba’ath is of a piece and hopelessly unable to reform itself. It is not the top guy, it is not the middle guy, and it is not the bottom guy that needs to go. They all, collectively and individually, must depart.
Read the whole thing, then keep the points in the back of your mind when evaluating the simple solutions offered by pundits and policy makers when speaking on Libya, Egypt, Yemen and other centers of unrest in the region.