I cannot understand what al Assad hopes to achieve in Syria. I know he hopes to hang on to power, but what kind of power will it be? He will have to enter a state of constant vigilance and on-going retaliation. He will be the leader of a truculent population which takes no joy in either his leadership or in being Syrian. How will he keep his foot on the neck of every Syrian, and what satisfaction will it bring if he carries it off? Perhaps he imagines that there are only a few rebels and that once they are cowed, captured, or jailed the rest of the population will go back to being loyal subjects. Maybe the group of rebels in Syria is actually quite small, I don’t know. However, I bet the number of rebels continues to grow as the troops loyal to Assad continue to kill innocent civilians.
This is obviously not about a leader who loves his people and his country, unless the leader sees himself as a stern father who needs to punish his misbehaving children. It must just be about power and the drive to hold on to it at all costs. It must be about not knowing when the political dialogue in the world had moved beyond your antiquated form of governance.
There were moments when Assad could have held on to his power and been the prime mover of change in Syria. I can only believe, after the terrible things that have been done to the Syrian people, that those moments have passed. North Korea has become a nation that maintains a high level of secrecy and isolation. I’m not sure that al Assad would be able to replicate that model or even that the rest of the world would allow it. Closing off Syria and locking out the rest of the world would probably be the only approach that would allow him to stay in power, but that would be an empty victory. A great warrior (and a great leader) knows when to bend.