Syria: Page 1 | Page 2

One of the highlights of my time in Syria was my trip to the Syrian part of the Golan Heights, specifically, the town of Quneitra which is located in the UN buffer zone between Israel and Syria.

A wall inside the old hospital.

UN headquarters in a ghost town.

I saw two families squatting in the rubble of the city, these children must have belonged to one of them. They seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear into nowhere. The only thing moving in Quneitra is an occasional soldier repositioning his head on the barrel of his AK47, trying to go back to sleep.

What's left of a Greek Orthodox Church.

Krak de Chevaliers, the finest castle in the world, located a bit north of Lebanon.

A shepherd whose family was squatting in the abandoned Byzantine ruins of Serjilla, in the middle of nowhere in northern Syria.

Serjilla, a Byzantine town abandoned for reasons unknown. It lies in a rather remote area, is not kept up and is visited by few.

My time in Syria taught me a great deal. Syria remains largely outside the sphere of western influence and has the necessary poverty to prove it. Most of the vehicles are running on their last legs, houses remain dilapadated, many new buildings remain unfinished or their modern facilities unworking. Unemployment is high and there seems to be a great deal of dissatisfaction with the reforms which Assad has never delivered. In the wake of the Hariri assassination and Mehlis investigation, Assad has been backed into a corner with nowhere to go. Though he is a comparatively mild dictator, overthrowing the government may not be as profitable as the US or France seems to think. While regime change would likely not be too difficult, the Mehlis investigation has already served to drum up support for the government. As many people told me, we hate Assad, but we hate the American government more. Don't misunderstand that to include American people, Syrians were almost friendly to a fault. However, forcing change from within will be the key to a safer Syria.

Tel Aviv to Tripoli in northern Lebanon is one giant coastal megalopolis. One day, the uninterrupted development could indeed extend northwards to Tartus and Lattakia and when that day comes, so too will the final days of the Assad regime. Syria is rife for economic development. The entire country is so dilapadated and outdated that, were the country made a reliable place to invest, money would flood in. The ball is already rolling as I write this as investors from Dubai are working on huge planned communities outside Damascus. Syria is not only a low hanging fruit for regime change, but also for investment. With investment and development, we'll likely see somewhat of a backlash against modernity but the Syrians aren't dumb. They travel freely to Lebanon and Jordan and are quite aware of what they are missing out on. The only card left for Assad is nationalism and thus the United States must decide whether its goal is the Syrian government's demise, or the development of Syria leading to more connectivity with the world and internal and regional stability. Syria has long lived in isolation and a little more pinch is unlikely to make up for the nationalist anti-American backlash sanctions will bring about.

When three suicide bombers attacked hotels in cosmopolitan Amman, Jordanians crowed the streets yelling "Burn in hell Zarqawi" and similar anti Al-Qaeda slogans. In Damascus, Hizballah and various Palestinian terrorist organizations operate freely while museums glorifying wars against Israel are built. The choice is obvious. I hope for both Syrians and Americans, we make the right one.

Syria: Page 1 | Page 2

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