Roll the dice, wear a veil or ask the oracle – what to do?


There are a few ways to know you are over your head;  I am sure I am over my head when I haven’t a clue what things mean.  So here are two bits from Syria to illustrate my point.  Neither makes any sense to me in the context of current events in Syria.  There is increased pressure on the government from protesters to reform the government and allow for more political and economic freedom.  The government has been heavy handed in its treatment of public protests on more than occasion the army has opened fire on the demonstrators.  In that context, can you explain the actions of the president? The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, rescinded a recent ruling; teachers wearing niqab are again allowed in the classroom, something that was recently forbidden.  The commentators are saying it is a strategy to get the more conservative religious groups to support the government against those calling for reform.  The second non sequitur for me is the casino.  For the last few months, Syria has had a casino.  The casino was said to illegal the day it opened, it was predicted to be closed immediately; some how it did not close, the government ignored it until today.   I guess it became important politically – proving that a secular leader could be trusted to protect the believers among his his supporters – or something.

Assad is the second generation of his family to rule Syria; it was not his choice, his older brother was in training to succeed his father, but unfortunately he was killed while Bashar was in England studying ophthalmology.  The family business called him home – he went immediately into the army to prepare of the throne; he learned his lessons well and has maintained power virtually unchallenged.  Assad had now been in power for 11 years, safely it seemed until the Burning Man phenomenon started in North Africa.  Never a gentle ruler, Assad has shown a chink in his armor before.  However, he apparently has been confused lately and is uncertain what course of action to follow.  One day he promises to make reforms, calls for his prime minister to form a new cabinet and the next day orders the army to fire on demonstrators.  Today he is neither reforming or firing, instead he is closing casinos and permitting veils – go figure.


There might be on take away from this; the movement sweeping the Arab world has caught everyone off guard; no one expected it and no one, including the heads-of-state, have any idea what to do next.   Reform the constitution, leave the country – shoot the demonstrators, protect the demonstrators of harassment – give all the government workers a raise, fire all of the heads of departments – close the casino, wear a veil.  Pick a card, roll the dice – how about asking the oracle, what is a president to do?


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April 2011
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