When Imad Moustapha, the Ambassador from the Syrian regime, came to speak at the Athenaeum, Professor Bassam Frangieh instructed his students to welcome him by singing from the Koran. (You can read The Claremont Independent's description of Moustapha's talk here.)
To his credit, Professor Ed Haley of International Relations has been critical of the Assad regime, but that was the regime headed by the current dictator's father, Hafez al-Assad. On the current dictator, Haley is conspicuously silent given what he has written in the past. Nevertheless, he wrote critically of the first Assad regime. Given that the U.S., the E.U., Israel, and France accuse the current regime of sponsoring Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad and that Professor Haley's colleague, Professor Bassam Frangieh supports Hamas and Hezbollah, it's worth asking why Professor Haley is so silent when he wrote the following about the President Hafez al-Assad, the "Butcher of Hama." (Haley was reviewing Moshe Ma'oz's Asad: The Sphinx of Damascus: A Political Biography.) We find that Assad the father was brutal indeed!
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Ma'oz tells some of what has happened in Syria in the nearly 20 years since Asad seized power but offers little insight into why and how. Like the puppets in an Indonesian shadow play, his contestants for power and glory in Syria remain ghostly figures moved by vague pressures. Ma'oz repeatedly describes Asad as genuinely committed to achieving Arab unity and leading the struggle against Israel, but as acting in such a way as to strengthen himself inside Syria. This is undoubtedly true, but it does not add much to what one already knows intuitively about any successful political leader in a country such as Syria.
The symbolism of the destruction of Hama is unmistakable. Is it possible for Syria (or Lebanon and Iraq) to reconcile its ethnic and religious differences, not to speak of the attraction many of its people feel toward secular government, without massacres or Khomeini-style repression? Skimming along the surface of Syrian life, Ma'oz ignores the broader implications of the Hama massacre and declines to use it as an avenue leading to deeper understanding of Syria and the Arab world. It becomes, instead, a mere epithet for Asad, the "Butcher of Hama."
Ma'oz is a plodding writer, and this adds to his difficulties. His prose is stiff, repetitious, stuffy and crammed with cliches, such as Asad's "nerves of steel." The book comes alive only in one or two tightly written historical summaries and in some startling quotations. One of these stands out. In an interview, Salah al-Din al-Bitar, co-founder of the Ba'th (Resurrection) Party, which Asad has emptied of meaning, told the dictator: "Today Syria is dead. . . . Only political democracy . . . can allow Syria to regain its vitality. . . . The two real bases of the regime are dictatorship and confessionalism." Two weeks later, Bitar was assassinated in Paris, presumably for telling the truth.
Not to be accused of single-minded criticizing Assad, Haley wrote the following about Moammar Kadafi:
[Kadafi] has attacked neighboring friendly governments, notably Tunisia and Egypt; caused the murder of Jews, Israelis, Libyans, Americans, West Europeans, Arabs and Africans; subsidized the most ruthless terrorists in the Middle East and Western Europe; made common cause with the Soviet Union, and turned his country into an arsenal of Soviet military hardware.Something tells me that inviting representatives of terrorist regimes will continue to support terrorism when their leaders are treated so well at American colleges.
Will attacks against Kadafi hurt the terrorists? Terrorists are weak, not strong. They possess no mystical powers. They are hard to destroy because they enjoy the protection of sovereign governments. Libya and Syria are among the worst offenders. Military strikes, economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation are all appropriate exercises of power and influence against Libya.
Terrorists are free to operate out of Tripoli and Lebanon's Bekaa Valley because they serve the foreign-policy interests of Libya and Syria. Terrorists have no addresses, but governments do. When the risks become too high, Libya and Syria will stop the terrorist acts that emanate from their territories. (P. Edward Haley, "The Costs Are Worth It To Curb The Terror," Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1986).