The Lights Go Out in Damascus


We read this morning that the electricity has been cut massively to the capital of Syria for the first time, and that the Russians are ferrying their advisers to Beirut for repatriation. Both actually and metaphorically, the lights have gone out in Syria. I am no fan of Bashir or the Russians, as you can discover by reading my other posts on Syria. But this is one of the oldest inhabited cities on Earth, filled with cultural treasures and decent people. The El-Assad family killed a lot of people, tens of thousands, but they also enforced a multi-cultural detente, permitting Christians and Druze and Shia and Sunni to coexist. Let’s remember that people fled here rather than stay in Iraq during the worst of that fighting.

The descent into chaos, which has already cost 60,000 lives according to the U.N., has just commenced. The madness of Libya, of Egypt, and Mali is going to play out in the coldest season of the year; the sniper hells of the Lebanese wars are going to be replicated in alleys and narrow old streets that will turn up frozen corpses when spring rounds the corner.

This picture was taken exactly four years ago when a white sail of birds against a blue sky made even the Assad regime look promising.

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