Arab dictators’ wives

by on February 29, 2012 at 7:23 am in Political Science | Permalink

Via Mark Koyama, I found this Guardian article fascinating, here is one excerpt, concerning Syria:

The pinnacle of Asma’s international media charm offensive was a gushing piece in last March’s American Vogue, just before the Syrian uprising began and was met with a crackdown. The article has now mysteriously disappeared from the magazine’s website. Described as a “rose in the desert”, “the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies”, Asma, dressed in jeans, heels and a T-shirt with “Happiness” emblazoned on the back, describes how her home, a triplex apartment, is run “on wildly democratic principles” – seemingly far from the brutal one-party state oppression going on outside.

Looking at her three children, she says: “We all vote on what we want, and where.” Pointing to the dining room chandelier, which is constructed from cut-out comic books, she says: “They outvoted us three to two on that.” Against a backdrop of designer bags, private jets and SUVs, Asma tells Vogue her “central mission” is “to change the mind-set of 6 million Syrians under 18″, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.”

dearieme February 29, 2012 at 8:32 am

Mind you, she is rather pretty.

Careless February 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

It’s good to be the king

msgkings February 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Not a fan of the surgically plumped lips. Always makes the purchaser look like a duck.

Tom of the Missouri February 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

…..and the Obama administration gushed and bragged how they were resetting their relationships with this and similar dictators throughout the world. Assad the younger in particular was described by Hillary as a guy we can work with who is different from his father. The only evidence I know of this was the Vogue article. The rest I think was based upon the extreme faith of the Obama administration in their own virtue and superiority over almost all previous administrations who knew of the ruthless and blood thirsty nature of the Syrian regime. I speak of course for example of Assad the elder’s previous razing of entire cities and executing his enemies who opposed him prior to the age of ubiquitous cell phone communications. You can extrapolate this same approach to Russia, Venezuela, Egypt, Nicaragua, Argentina, Libya, Iran, The Taliban (yes we are now trying to negotiate with the Taliban when we are not apologizing to them) and all other hell holes in the world where the Obama administration tried a similar approach with our proud and self professed enemies. To my knowledge all have been extraordinary failures as they now busy themselves with continuing the stimulus, dismantling the Pentagon and regulating the private sector out of existence. Could we have done worse if we had put a first grade class in charge of American Foreign policy? The editors at Vogue were of course just following the lead when they wrote the original article. I heard plenty of objections to the article at the time it was written, but none of which originated from the leftist media or administration. I wonder if Vogue was asked by the administration to cleanse their archives.

Thank you so much Professor Cowen for bringing this little bit of history to people’s attention. I am afraid the disappearance of this little piece of propaganda from Vogue’s archives is not the only piece of history that will try to go missing in the upcoming campaign. The rewriting of history is part and parcel of this crews mode of operation.

The Anti-Gnostic February 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

Bashar is not a US “enemy.” He’s corrupt and ruthless, like all governments in that region, but he is not an enemy of US interests, unless you count Zionists and Saudi supremacist oligarchs as friends.

When we “lead from behind” with the Sunni rabble and the cream of that country–Sufis, Alawites and Christians–are disappeared or fleeing to the US and Europe, then we’ll truly be allied with our enemies.

GPC February 29, 2012 at 10:55 am

Thanks for finally calling out that hell-hole, blood-feud enemy of the US: Argentina. I just pray we don’t have to call on our boys to occupy Mendoza. I don’t know how they could survive.

tkehler February 29, 2012 at 11:25 am

AntiG — You’ve neglected to provide your definition of “enemy”. Clearly Syria — when acting as an arm of Iranian foreign policy, and when murdering pro-democracy politicians and civilian leaders in Lebanon, to name just two instances — is, on some understanding, an enemy of our interests. But your comment about “Zionists” gives the game away. If it weren’t for them stinkin’ jews other there, we’d not have to be involved at all, right?

The Anti-Gnostic February 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Until the Syrian Navy launches ships for Florida or the Syrian government trains and finances militants to take advantage of our schizophrenic immigration policy, I do not consider Syria an enemy. And all your “democracy” talk is naivete. Democracy over there means Sunnis are free to slaughter heretical Muslims in their beds and chase the Christians out.

And yes, Israel–a staunchly racialist nation-state–drives much if not all of our Middle East policy, along with the deeply corrupt and brutal Saudis and Turks.

farmer February 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm

why is it america’s problem is lebanese people are bing killed? frankly, that sounds like lebanon’s problem

Willitts February 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm

So murders aren’t your problem until you or someone you care about is murdered or threatened with murder?

Stopping mass murder and oppression, wherever it is feasible to do so, is not a worthwhile political and diplomatic goal?

I thought we had refuted the nonsense of isolationism a very long time ago. World War II should have killed the idea permanently. We got WWII because we didn’t learn this lesson from WWI.

When George Washington spoke of avoiding foreign entanglements, he said so at a time when the world’s strongest nation couldn’t project power across an ocean sufficient to quell insurrection. He said it when we would have been a junior partner in any joint venture. He didn’t foresee a world with ICBMs, terrorism, WMD or global war.

We were drawn off our shores to protect American citizens from foreign attacks almost as soon as we became a nation. The War of 1812, quasi-war with France, Barbary Wars, etc. America was never an island.

The Anti-Gnostic March 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

You want a Democratic Rainbow Warrior Army scouring the globe of murder and oppression, do it with your own blood and treasure. And picking sides in ancient tribal and sectarian disputes and then inviting the protagonists from both sides here is not a sensible policy. Oh, and there’s no more money.

dead serious March 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

Wait what? We’re not supposed to be following every letter of the Ten Commandments (I mean Bill of Rights)?

Bender Bending Rodriguez March 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

The rest I think was based upon the extreme faith of the Obama administration in their own virtue and superiority over almost all previous administrations who knew of the ruthless and blood thirsty nature of the Syrian regime.

Didn’t you get the memo? We are the change we’ve been waiting for.

TallDave February 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

It’s all fun and shopping until her husband starts shelling Homs. Maybe a reality show?

Unfortunately, as we’re seeing in Libya, Egypt, etc., the area’s pathology and Obama’s apathy are such that most of the revolutions we’re seeing are not going to bring about much freedom, because the people have the mistaken notion that repressive Islamic theocracy is going to solve the problem of repressive Arab nationalism. As we saw in Iraq, the mosque has been the natural center of resistance to these regimes, because it’s the one place the autocrats can’t control, and there are no liberal institutions to speak of.

Iranians, of course, already had that revolution in 1979, and they know better — theirs is now a liberal revolution. Iraqis mostly figured it out from 2005-2007 and have been trending secular. One can hope places like Egypt will learn quickly (democracy is a process, not an event, and most particularly a learning process for the electorate) before the electoral process is rigged and free speech stifled, as in Iran, but there aren’t a lot of reasons for optimism.

TallDave February 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

*problems of repressive Arab nationalism

Rahul February 29, 2012 at 9:45 am

Isn’t “Obama’s apathy” a good thing? Would you be happier if he was more actively interventionist in all this?

TmC February 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

I wish he’d be more apathetic towards the US.

TallDave February 29, 2012 at 11:17 am

There’s a lot of institution-building we could be doing, but aren’t because this admin considers promoting liberal democracy to be colonialism or something.

It’s a bad sign when we’re sending Ginsburg over to Egypt to tell them not to use the U.S. Constitution as a model.

Urso February 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I think that the relevant question is not whether the administration (or Americans in general) would consider it colonialism, but whether the Arab people would consider it colonialism. And the answer is probably yes, which is why it’s a bad idea.

As to the US Constitution being a bad model for Egypt, my gut reaction is to agree, if you’re talking about the document in globo. I mean, 21st century Egyptian Muslims are not late 18th century British Anglican colonists. To pick an easy example, the Seventh Amendment is not; Egyptian legal systems aren’t and have never been jury-based the way the Anglo system was, and the idea of the “common law” is meaningless to them. I’d have to think for a while about what parts of our Constitution are generally well suited to export and what parts are not.

Attorney at Flaw February 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Unless Egypt has a long history of partially self-governing regions/districts/states/provinces/whatever, I would think that a unified system (rather than a federal system) is more appropriate.

msgkings February 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

TallDave…neocon?

DavidN February 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm

TallDave: Institution building? That’s worked well in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fuck sakes, do you have to relearn lessons every 10 years.

dead serious March 1, 2012 at 10:18 am

He’s a Republican. They don’t learn, period. It’s a faith-driven policy agenda.

Miley Cyrax February 29, 2012 at 9:15 am

Bahaha these “westernized” Middle Eastern dictator wives exemplify the western women they’re lauded for being similar to–it’s almost allegorical–they use their income and that of their SO’s on Antoinette-esque material frivolities so they feel pretty and important, all the while paying lip service to feministic platitudes about things such as “empowerment” and “independence.”

Cliff February 29, 2012 at 11:19 am

Antoinette got a bad rap

msgkings February 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Perhaps but Miley isn’t far off base here

Rahul February 29, 2012 at 9:21 am

Here’s a link to the original Vogue article (nothing ever disappears from the web, eh!).

Interesting reading:

http://bit.ly/AsmaalAssad_ARoseInTheDesert

David Ellis February 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

Wow! June Cleaver lives!

msgkings February 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Yeah, she uses the Cleaver to kill Jews and rebels.

Heyo!

The Anti-Gnostic February 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I don’t think there’s any doubt that if a US State announced its intention to secede that the federal government would be dropping bombs in short order.

Do you know the history of the Jewish community in Syria? I imagine if you polled Syrian Jews they’d say they prefer Bashar in power over just about anybody else.

Rahul February 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I’ll admit I am ignorant of the details; yet,does what is good for the Syrian Jews, have to be also good for the Syrians? What fraction of the Syrian population is (was?) the Jewish community?

Bashar might still be the right choice (I simply don’t know) but this does not seem a good reason for it.

msgkings February 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Really, A-G? No doubt at all? How quickly did we bomb Texas when Perry made one of his many dumbass comments? I think there’d be some negotiation first, but that’s just me.

What can be doubted is comparing the legitimacy of the US government to the Assads, hysterical birtherism aside.

The Anti-Gnostic February 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm

The ruling Alawites are secular and tolerant of Jewish and Christian Syrians. Sunni jihadists in Homs, not so much.

It’s really bizarre watching US secularists who swear by multiculturalism finding common cause with the Gulf Arab religious monarchies in the homogenization of the Middle East.

The Anti-Gnostic February 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I don’t have any doubt of it. Look what happened the last time it was tried.

msgkings February 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Often wrong, never in doubt.

Jose Carlos March 1, 2012 at 10:41 am

Bashar is killing people in such a bad way nobody is afraid branding it as a “crime against humanity” so, he’s not the right man.

You can give a baby tons of candies, as long as you keep him from free will you’ll be going against his nature. Discipline is very different from dictatorship, create institutions to guarantee nobody is using freedom to harm someone else’s well-being, not armies!

Todd February 29, 2012 at 9:32 am

It’s Vogue.

It’s an article about pretty people in pretty interiors wearing pretty clothes.

There are posts on this thread drawing parallels to U.S. govt. policy in the Mid-East.

It’s Vogue.

Careless February 29, 2012 at 10:35 am

Actually, it’s the grauniad.

Chris February 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

So are we supposed to believe she is too stupid to know her husband is a murdering thug? Or, like a medieval queen, does she encourage him to kill to retain his power so her children will inherit it?

Miley Cyrax February 29, 2012 at 10:05 am

The latter. As any serial killer groupie or the 40% of Mexican high school girls that dream of dating a drug lord will tell you, being a murderer is a feature, not a bug.

Careless February 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

Not much of a future for her kids if he gives up, I imagine.

Philip Crawford February 29, 2012 at 11:00 am

Link to that statistic?

affe February 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

I like it, bloody repression as Game. Homs = DHV.

TallDave February 29, 2012 at 11:19 am

You hear the same thing from inner-city gangsters — they get into it because thug life is where the honeys are.

Of course we could fix all that by not providing an incentive in the form of laws that produce huge profit margins for drug dealing, but I digress.

CH February 29, 2012 at 11:45 am

money isn’t even the half of it. drug lords are idolized in culture. their high status, killer instinct and general lack of interest in being a kitchen bitch is enough to make the ladies swoon.

CH February 29, 2012 at 11:43 am

yup. chicks dig jerks. even feminists can’t get enough of their loving ministrations.

Bender Bending Rodriguez March 1, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Is that why so many feminists swoon for Obama even after he sells them out over and over?

chuck martel February 29, 2012 at 10:57 am

Thank goodness democratically elected leaders and their spouses don’t amass fortunes while in office and later. Plus they never give the order to shoot anybody, either.

TallDave February 29, 2012 at 11:21 am

I will refer you to the post on China the other day, in which it was pointed out the top 70 leaders gained more in wealth in one year than the entire net worth of the U.S. leadership, in a country about 7 times poorer.

GPC February 29, 2012 at 11:53 am

Not sure if this is sarcastic, but I do think it’s a nice feature that a Palin realizes she can earn money far more easily by not actually taking office and burning the nation to the ground. Score one for Fox News.

Hillary Clinton February 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Hey–it was a bestselling book!

Gabe February 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Has the US provided a lot of support to Syrian leaders in the past? Is it similar to Mubarak and Ghadafi and Sadam? where they are good until we say they are bad?

darren February 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Best part of the piece is this gem:

Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”

Art school for the win.

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