Sunday, July 22, 2012
Syria, China, Russia, Reset, Magnitsky
Sunday, July 22:
The forces of Syrian dictator Basher Assad shell rebel-occupied neighborhoods of Damascus. Four young female members of a punk rock band begin their fifth month in a Moscow jail. Somewhere in China a local party boss meets with disaffected factory workers. In Washington, the full house prepares to vote on visa restriction for Russian officials for human rights abuses. These disparate events are part of a larger mosaic, which begins in Syria.
Basher Assad, like his father before him, symbolizes unconstrained dictators prepared to do anything, no matter how odious, to stay in power. Unconstrained dictators use their secret police, militias, and armies to arrest, torture, and kill opponents. They raze whole towns. They kill innocent women and children to send a message. They are indifferent to world outrage. If Assad falls, it will not be for lack of brutality and atrocity. He may resort to chemical weapons as a last resort.
Constrained dictators, such as Mubarak, Pinochet, and the Shah, face limits imposed by moral qualms or the international community. Small protests swell, and momentum for regime change builds. Failure to use overwhelming force and efforts to compromise only embolden protesters, and eventually the constrained dictator resigns either to flee the country or to face local justice.
Two other constrained dictatorships, Russia and China, want to keep Assad in power. Both shudder at a fellow totalitarian regime falling to a disorganized opposition. They will abandon him (with great fanfare) only when it is clear that he has lost. China and Russia have their own disaffected minorities, disgruntled workers, and ideological opponents. Their one-party states lack legitimacy, and they know it. They consider themselves under constant threat, fearing the single spark that brings millions to the streets. They must snuff out any spark — a lone barefoot lawyer or an 18 year old girl throwing a rock at security forces – that could conceivably ignite a Tahrir Square.
Russia and China’s one-party dictatorships face different threats. China’s Communist Party (CPC) must firefight grievance demonstrations. Putin, on the other hand, must confront direct challenges to his legitimacy.
go to forbes.com