Friday, March 25, 2011

Syria: A Possibility of Some Things We May Not Like Developing

I'm getting caught up on the situation in Syria right now, I may have some more things to say about it later.

But I just came across this on al Jazeera's live blog.

Protesters in Deraa are shouting slogans denouncing Maher al-Assad, brother of the Syrian president and head of the Republican Guard, a witness tells Reuters. As they headed to the main square in the city after the funeral of at least five protesters killed by security forces this week, thousands chanted:
Maher you coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan
 Israel captured the Golan Heights in a 1967 war.

Something to remember about democracy is that a lot of early pushes for democracy have involved revanchist claims.  While I think in the longer run developments in the Mid-East will be good for the international system, including western interests, there are likely to be some challenges arising out of it in the short term.  Democracy is great, but don't forget the actual course France followed, or Italian reunification, or even territorial claims of the early United States.  While some of the more recent waves of democratization have been generally peaceful, these transitions weren't accompanied by the kind of wide ranging social and cultural change that is occurring in the Mid-East, most of these transitions involved states that had already developed a stable national identity.  These identities are still being formed in most Middle Eastern countries, it would be unsurprising if they made similar claims to the early European democratizers whose transition happened in the midst of socio-cultural change as well.  Tensions with Israel may be the least of it.

Also, specific to Israel, if a democratic Syrian state starts making claims against Israel, where do we stand on this?  Much of our support for Israel (or at least the stated reason for it) owes to their status as the only democracy currently in the Mid-East.  If the Arab states around them become democratic and start making territorial claims, similar to claims that Israel makes in the West Bank, what will our position be on this?  It's a much different situation when claims on democratic legitimacy and other rationalizations of our position are no longer different between Israel and its neighbors.  This is something that deserves some serious thought sooner rather than later.

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