Saturday, April 23, 2011

Syria: The New Romania, Or The New China?

My hero @JaredCohen has been on a tear the last couple days about the violent repression of dissent that's going on in Syria. Here's what I mean:

The dictator #bashar is learning that in an era of technology, if u fire on crowds, it is documented and disseminated #basharcrimes

Keep documenting the #BasharCrimes so he doesn't get away with any more murder in #Syria

Wow, death toll in #Syria today has reached 68 PEOPLE #BasharCrimes

Troops are firing on civilians, and the scene is quite horrible. But I fear that he and other believers in the political uses of new media are going to be disappointed if they think that drawing attention to atrocities via Twitter and Facebook will make a difference.

Call me a cynic, and I will be delighted if events prove me wrong, but I don't see how tweeting about Bashar's crimes will do anything to hold him accountable. We have been in "an era of technology" for quite some time now - it even predates the internet! - but dictators have gotten away with murder all along.

Back in 1989, when @Jared was eight years old, there was a notorious incident of a totalitarian regime violently suppressing peaceful dissent. It was quite well documented in real time by the world's news media:

I don't know what a thousand tweets could have added to the impact of that single 'old media' report. Everybody saw the Tiananmen Square massacre happen, everybody was shocked, but nothing happened to the Chinese leadership as a result.

International Court of Justice? Not interested. An embargo on international trade and economic development assistance? You must be kidding. Diplomatic consequences? Mere hand wringing, and not even much of that. If Chinese relations with the rest of the world suffered in any way, I can't see how. Certainly the U.S. is very friendly with China today.

Two months later, when the State Department assessed the aftermath of the China crisis, it was clear that there would be no lasting consequences either internally or externally.

The current 'Arab Spring' is analogous to the wave of uprisings that passed through Communist states in 1989, and this naturally excites the imagination of well-wishers. But the uprisings of 1989 ended when they hit the wall of a regime confident enough to use whatever force was necessary to maintain its authority and let world opinion make of that what it will.

Maybe Bashar Assad and his lovely wife Asma will turn out to the next Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. That would be okay by me, but I don't think tweeting will make that happen.


Anonymous said...

TSB: I agree about the tweeting. This is an Arab revolution. It will take at least several years. The US and SA are desperately reacting to it. Initially it looks like the dictators we are against will fall (including Assad) but Egypt seems to be the key.
When Egyptians turn against us and Isreal I think the revolution will pick up steam. Keep your gas tank full! The big boys are buying oil contracts. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Re: Arab Spring
Now Ray Davis has the Pakistani women up in arms! I don't think it's smart to provoke the ladies!

Fox News spun this to:This could slow our withdrawal from Afghanistan! Also, looks like Saleh might be packing for Sharm El Sheikh?? gwb

Anonymous said... Stop the presses, literally in Iraq The US military praises Iraqi security forces as they crack down on press freedom. "Conditions on the ground continue to worsen for Iraq's journalists," Sherry Ricchiardi told me. snip

This is backed up by figures released, last month, by the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory which counted more than 160 attacks on reporters, including 33 arrests or detentions and 40 instances of obstruction or the confiscation or damaging of equipment, over just two weeks. TSB: It looks like the military told STATE to stop with the internet freedom crap!? gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I hope USAID didn't pay to dig this tunnel. Now I see why we can't leave for 10 more years. gwb
Hundreds of Taliban members 'escape prison'
Afghan government officials confirm that some 540 Taliban members have escaped from Kandahar prison.

Anonymous said...

An Arab Spring for Women
The Missing Story from the Middle East
By Shahin Cole and Juan Cole
TSB: The Coles point out that without the women the successful Arab revolts might not have been.Made me think of our failures in this regard in Iraq and Afghanistan. gwb