By killing so many Syrians, President Bashar al-Assad also killed the dream of democracy, as well as for plenty of people elsewhere in the Arab world, notes Kamel Daoud, the author of “The Meursault Investigation.” They can see that a revolutionary often ends up a martyr, a tortured prisoner, a militiaman in the pay of foreign forces or an unwelcome refugee. And so here is the first Assad effect: The perception that democracy is costly — perhaps too costly, he writes for The New York Times:
Curiously, the elites who reject intervention from the West close their eyes to an obvious fact: the threat of intervention from elsewhere. It’s a typical pitfall of the intellectual left in the Arab world to think that colonization is always Western, never Russian or Iranian. ….Hence the second conclusion that’s being drawn from Syria’s experience: Democracy is the Trojan horse of Western neocolonialism….And here, six years after Ben Ali fled Tunisia, is a third Assad effect: the idea that if democracy leads not to liberty but to Islamism, one might as well hold on to the stability of a repressive regime.
Of course not. It is dictators who, through repression, produce Islamists and jihadists, who threaten stability, which justifies authoritarian rule. Dictatorship creates a self-serving vicious circle. Momentarily, that is. For the process can only escalate: In order to stay in power, authoritarian regimes become more and more repressive, disgruntling more and more people, who can then be co-opted by Islamists.
Assad has won, but he has only won time.