Bashar al-Assad has played an instrumental role in the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians and in making close to a third of the country’s population homeless, but despite this and despite his lack of charisma, in many Western eyes he seems to retain a stubborn charm.
In his well-tailored suits, the fair-skinned, green-eyed Syrian leader, has a regal manner polished by British culture. He is, in a word, far too respectable to be effectively tarnished by the caricatures of a tyrant and butcher.
Thus the ease with which he is afforded the status of a statesman — a role after all which derives as much from style as anything else.
How easy it is for the West to project dignity on a man for no better reason than his willingness to wear a necktie and a suit. Add to that Assad’s fluent English and it sometimes seems that he might be able to get away with anything.
And then there is the fact that he has paid close attention to the ease with which the American mindset can be manipulated and it’s no wonder that his regime has been so willing to abandon chemical weapons.
It retains the unfettered use of a much more effective weapon which it deploys with minimal effort, since that weapon is nothing more than a word — a word that can render the average American brain-dead from a range of 10,000 miles. The word of course is terrorism.
From day one, Assad has insisted his opponents are terrorists. At first it was a claim dismissed as cynical propaganda and yet as the months have passed and the scale of destruction become massive, the terrorism meme has spread in the war-weary West. Here, any narrative will be given consideration if it leads to this conclusion: don’t venture there.
In this context, Scott Lucas offers a reality check on the latest developments in Syria.