Like many others, I have thought from the very beginning that Syria had unusual similarities to the Spanish Civil War which preceded World War II. Today Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of The Syrian Rebellion, agrees. “The rancid hatred and mercilessness that separates the warring camps in Syria is evocative of that quality of hatred that played out in Spain”, he writes:
A short excerpt (click link to read in full):
Although Syria’s revolutionaries took inspiration from their counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, their situation is unique in the Arab world, argues Fouad Ajami. He sees vivid parallels, though, with the Spanish civil war.
Pity the Syrian people. They had been given to believe that fighter jets in the arsenal of the state - those Russian-made MIGs they once viewed with pride - were there for the stand-off with Israel.
Now they know better. The runs over Aleppo, the bombings of Idlib, have laid bare the truth. It is no accident that the founder of this regime, Hafez al-Assad, emerged from the ranks of the air force, which is not often an incubator of coup-makers. There would come a day, the masters of this minority regime doubtless knew, when fighter jets would be used at home.
Israel was always the alibi, the declared enemy. But the Sunni-majority country the Alawites conquered was destined to awake one day, and the rulers prepared for a day of reckoning. The cruel, all-out war between the dictatorship and the vast majority of the population was in the script all along.
Of the rebellions that broke out among the Arabs in the last two years, the struggle in Syria was bound to be a case apart. Think of the Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali calling it quits and leaving with his loot, of Hosni Mubarak stepping aside after 18 magical days of protest - this Syrian rebellion’s ferocity belongs to a different world of insurrections.
The Syrians must have understood the uniqueness of their situation. They took their time before they set out to challenge the entrenched regime. The first stirrings came two or three months after the other Arabs rose against their rulers. In a refugee camp on the outskirts of Antakya in Turkey, a young lawyer from Jisr al-Shughur - a Sunni town that tasted the full cruelty of the security forces - told me that he had been ready for a long war. He had left his home in the first summer of the rebellion, in 2011, but brought with him his winter clothes.
He was under no illusions about the rulers - they would fight a scorched-earth war. They were a minority, historically disdained, but all powerful. They had risen by the sword, knew no other way, and were certain that defeat on the battlefield would be the end of the world they had carved out over the last four decades…