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The Grand Dilemma

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Such a regime would probably undo several of the few positive aspects of Baathist rule, such as (relative) equality of women.

It there is continued chaos and insecurity, either the remnants of the army, or the rebel forces, will be tempted to set up a kind of overt or covert military regime.

HOW DOES all this affect present choices? Both the Americans and the Russians seem to be wavering. Obviously, they don't know what to do.

The Americans cling to their magic word, democracy, written in bold letters, even if it is only a formal democracy, without any real democratic content. But they are mortally afraid of yet another country falling "democratically" into the hands of extreme anti-American Islamists.

The Russians face an even more severe dilemma. Baathist Syria has been their client for generations. Their navy has a base in Tartus. (To me, the very idea of a naval base has an odd, 19th century flavor.) But they must be very afraid of Islamic fanaticism infecting their nearby Muslim provinces.

And the Israelis? Our government and security people are even more perplexed. They bomb arsenals of weapons which may fall into the hands of Hezbollah. They prefer the devil they know to the many devils they don't know. On the whole they wish that Bashar Assad would remain, but fear to interfere too openly.

In the meantime, supporters of both sides are rushing to the scene from all corners of the Muslim world and beyond.

Summary: a kind of fatalism is hovering over the country, everybody is waiting to see what happens on the battlefield.

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THE CASE of Egypt is even more perplexing.


Who is right? Who is wrong? Who deserves my moral support?

On the one side, a democratically elected president and his religious party, evicted from power by a military coup (Putsch in German-Swiss.)

On the other side, the young, progressive, secular people in the cities, who started the revolution and feel that it has been "stolen" from them.

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On yet another side, the army, which had been more or less in power since the 1952 coup against fat King Farouk, and which is loath to lose its immense political and economic privileges.

Who are the true democrats? The elected Muslim Brothers, whose very character is undemocratic? The revolutionaries, who are happy to use a military coup to get the democracy they want? The army, who opened fire on the protesters?

Well, it depends on what one means by democracy.

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