Hafez al-Asad and the Propaganda of Guilt

This week we’re back to my favourite subject: dictatorship, and more specifically, how does it work? I’ve started reading Lisa Wedeen’s excellent book The Ambiguities of Domination, which is based on fieldwork she did during the 80s and 90s in Syria concerning the cult of Hafez al-Asad.  I am about halfway through and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  It is well-written, intelligent, and casually readable as well as academic.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in dictatorship or Syria. Wedeen’s extensive interviews and conversations with Syrians form the basis for her argument, which is that although it would seem … Continue reading Hafez al-Asad and the Propaganda of Guilt

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in Mali (in Algeria)

France has now gone into Mali, or rather over it (edit: no, I was right the first time), Nigeria is preparing to send troops, ECOWAS cannot be far behind, and the US is making noises.  While I cautiously admit that in this case, a solution is likely to be at least partly military, the intervention does raise a few points. (An abbreviation guide and links to other resources are at the end.) 1. It’s quite evident that some countries – particularly France, but also the US – are using the Mali crisis as an excuse to do something in the absence of clear and uncontroversial steps … Continue reading Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in Mali (in Algeria)

Syria’s Chemical Weapons Programme Doesn’t Matter

…and we’re back, only two months later than I expected.  I hate winter. (This is really more a collection of thoughts in some vague order than a coherent argument.  If a coherent argument is made, it is accidental.) I’ve seen quite a lot of low-level panic recently about the Syrian chemical weapons programme.  Since the foreign ministry announced in July that the would only use chemical weapons against foreign forces, the topic has come up regularly.  The US even sent teams to Jordan to prepare to seize whatever distasteful materials they could find whenever the government collapses.  Now that five … Continue reading Syria’s Chemical Weapons Programme Doesn’t Matter