« Natural gas prices will rise and tight oil will not peak for decades | Main | A review of a science fiction novel »

January 03, 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

And here's Landis arguing that Assad could last another year or more: http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=17307.

I hope not, but he makes some good points.

Doug M.

In the "won't destabilize the region" discussion, you left out Lebanon. That's already destabilized, and likely to get much worse.

It's not clear to me that Lebanon has, in fact, been destabilized. (It's even less clear to me that it's likely to get "much worse".) There's been violence that's driven by the Syrian conflict, yes -- but there was violence before, unconnected to the Syrian conflict.

I honestly don't know enough about Lebanon to say how likely it is that things will get worse. (Even less, how likely it is that they'll get worse than they would have been anyway.) But so far, while the Syrian war has definitely changed the balance of power within Lebanon, that hasn't yet resulted in outbreaks of mass violence. (Yes, there was the Wissam al-Hassari killing and subsequent rioting. In a the context of the last 30 years of Lebanese history, it's hard to say that stands out.)

Doug M.

I think I'm out another $50, fortunately for charity, but very unfortunately for the people of Syria.

Still, I'll remind you that (at least as I saw it) the bet wasn't about timing. It started with this post
and my contention that the form of government typified by Assad Sr, Gaddafi etc was on the way out. I thought Assad Jr would fall soon, and you disagreed. To make a bet feasible, we needed an end date. If you're willing to keep extending, I'm confident of a win in the reasonably near future

Here's the starting point


"As regards the future, I’d be happy to take Assad as a test case. Doug sees him as a likely survivor, I don’t."

Sure. Back in the summer of 2011, I thought Assad would either win rather quickly, or be taken out by his fellow Alawites in a blue-on-blue coup in order to negotiate a political settlement.

That said, before long I'd abandoned both those models in favor of 'this is likely to drag on for some time'. See, e.g.:

"[S]ix months from now, Assad will still be in Syria, and still the leader of an internationally recognized (though very diplomatically isolated) government. It’s possible that he might be assassinated by then, but I don’t think it likely. I don’t see a blue-on-blue coup taking him out now, and I don’t think he’s anywhere close to cutting and running. Foreign military intervention is (for reasons I’ve discussed) unlikely...

"Six months from now, the regime may well have lost control of large swathes of the country. Syria will probably be increasingly violent, impoverished, and immiserated. And Assad may well be — in effect — just a powerful warlord in a country that has a number of warlords. But he’ll still be there, and will still be at least nominally the head of state. More’s the pity."

He's actually doing a bit better than that analysis suggests. So, still a long ways to go, I think.

Doug M.

BTW, our dictator count from August 2011 has lost one: Ethiopia, died of natural causes and not yet replaced. He was an old-fashioned charismatic revolutionary; for now, the President is a mild-mannered figurehead, with a junta of revolutionary veterans really running things from behind the scenes. Those sorts of arrangements don't tend to be long-term stable, so let's see how this evolves over the next little while. Ethiopia's an interesting place, and I could imagine a range of outcomes, from "heading for liberal democracy! hurrah!" to "more dictatorship" to chaos.

Meanwhile, though, Presidents Bongo of Gabon and Gnassingbe of Togo -- two authoritarian African leaders who inherited the positions from their fathers -- have both been growing steadily more dictatorial. Bongo, in particular, seems to be evolving into a classic old-fashioned African kleptocrat. I put both these guys on my "borderline" list back in August 2011; I'd move Bongo, at least, into the full-fledged dictator category today.

So, no net change. It's still early days, but I have to say there's more evidence for a "dictatorship is doing fine, thanks" hypothesis than your "dictatorship is inevitably doomed" position.

Doug M.

Terms are important here, I think. Dictatorships are not necessarily personalized. My understanding is that you fellows are debating the future of a subset of dictatorships, no?

(I don't mean to be pedantic: political scientists and informal observers alike would describe pre-1994 Mexico as a dictatorship.)

"I define a dictator as (1) a solitary leader, who (2) wields tremendous personal power, and (3) rules in a generally illiberal manner, and (4) will not leave office or surrender power unless compelled by force majeure, and (5) is not a traditional monarch."


whether it's a meaningful or useful definition is of course a separate question.

Doug M.

It's meaningful, of course, but I'm not sure if it's useful. My question was more directed at Mr. Quiggin. Why the focus on personalistic tyranny?

Why do you give me no love, John Quiggin?

The comments to this entry are closed.