Another country in the Middle East seems to be rapidly descending into bloody chaos. This time, it’s Syria.
In the last month, protests have escalated and spread across the country. In the past week, “President” Bashar al-Assad — in reality, an autocrat who succeeded his father and exercises close to absolute power — rescinded the 48-year-old “emergency law” that allowed the state to exercise broad security powers, apparently in hopes of stemming the protests. Then, when the unrest continued, the security forces began firing upon protesters. On Friday, at least 100 people were killed. Yesterday, Syrian troops shot a number of people who protested during the mourning processions for those killed the day before.
Assad was a doctor at one point in his life, practicing in London, England. When he assumed control of Syria after his father’s death in 2000, many observers expected (or at least hoped) that he would liberalize Syrian society and politics. Unfortunately, Bashar al-Assad has proven himself to be as inflexible and murderous as his father; with bloody hands, he will try to hold on to power. His reign as the head of Syrian teaches a lesson that we would do well to remember — the fact that the undisputed leaders of undemocratic countries once lived or studied in the West does not automatically mean that they have adopted the peaceful cultural and political mores of western society.