Rami G. Khouri: Syria Marks the End of Colonialism





Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by The Daily Star.

The accelerating pace of events inside Syria has raised expectations that Bashar Assad’s regime is on the verge of collapsing, though nobody seems to know when and how this will happen, or how the post-Assad transition will play out. The regime is fatally injured, because it is losing control of strategic patches of territory to the rebels, and it is losing credibility and confidence with those who have supported and served it for decades, especially security agency personnel.
 
This week’s fighting in Damascus and the bombing of the national security council meeting indicate that if the regime cannot protect its top military officers, whom can it protect? That is the question certainly being asked by thousands of Syrians who now serve in the regime’s military and political organizations. If Bashar and Maher Assad cannot protect their brother-in-law and chief muscle man and enforcer Assef Shawkat, how can they possibly protect lowly foot soldiers, senior officers, Shabbiha gangs, and the three-dozen remaining Baath Party faithful in the country? The consequences of such hesitation and questioning by regime loyalists and apparatchiks when it comes to the regime’s will determine the pace of the regime’s collapse.
 
Trying to predict how and when the Assad regime will fall is fascinating, but an inexact science. All we can say for sure now is that the regime is moving down that fateful path that has been traveled by all other such militarily strong regimes that eventually collapse when they lose the single most important ingredient for their incumbency: public confidence that the regime and the single top leader can stay in power and provide the combination of protection, patronage and privilege that are the glue of such regimes.
 
This was the case with the shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, Suharto in Indonesia, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, and dozens of other collapsed autocracies around the world. Assad, like them, is strong in military terms, but weak and vulnerable by any other standard, and totally lacking in legitimacy and respect in the eyes of the majority of his own people – the ultimate criteria that determine the fate of a regime...


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