Rami G Khouri writes: We have learned many things about Syria during the past year, while some other aspects of the situation there remain unclear.
The most important thing that we have learned is that President Bashar Assad is not the modern, liberal reformer that many had painted him as being during the past decade.
The truth is that nobody really knew the reality of Assad’s personality or political instincts. In the past year, since many of his own people have openly risen up against him and demanded his ouster, he has responded with consistent force and the employment of frequently inhuman tactics, lies, and broken promises.
This has culminated to date in the two recent massacres of helpless villagers in Houla and Qubayr. We now know, without any ambiguity whatsoever, what Assad represents, and what he will do, and it is very ugly indeed.
The Syrian president has pursued a policy that requires the continued use of massive and cruel violence against his own people. Assad’s expectation is that he will terrorize and traumatize the Syrian population into submission. That policy has not worked in the past year. In fact, repression usually does not work for long in any other such authoritarian police state that relies on fear rather than legitimacy as its basis for authority and incumbency.