Two New Books on Syria: Moubayed and Lesch
One can sense the tension in the air as America closes in on Syria. I received my first piece of hate mail yesterday indicating that nationalism is on the rise. On the other hand, both taxi drivers I spoke to today were as kind as could be, going out of their way to assure me that Syrians like Americans, etc. It is amazing how little anti-American sentiment is directed at individual Americans in Syria.
A petition is being circulated by "Friends of Syria." It doesn't say who the authors are. It reads:
When will you leave Syria? I really don't want you to be sitting in my home country with your American imperialist self.
No offense, you are an American and all Americans look to Arabs and Muslims, and Syria in particular with rather, or actually absolute, a malignant way. This is your right as our enemy, and we have our right to look at you as our enemy. And I really hate to see my enemy in my home. So are you gonna be in Syria long?
Yazan Sayed [firstname.lastname@example.org]
The people of Syria are caught in a complex political game outside of their control. Having suffered for decades from internal oppression and external threats, they now stand powerless in the face of the Bush administration's latest campaign to change the Middle East, according to its own interests only. Friends of Syria wish to show our solidarity and support, and let the world know that Syria does not stand alone. If you are a friend of Syria, now is the time to show your support. Please add your name to the List of Supporters.
Two new books have appeared this last month, which are worth noting.
1. The first is by Sami Moubayed, "Steel and Silk"
Dr. Moubayed has compiled profiles of the 351 leading men and women who shaped Syria during the 20th century. As the advertisement claims, "you will meet the nationalists who led the independence struggle against the French. You will meet the statesmen who made Syria a central player in the Middle East. You will meet poets, painters, dramatists and thinkers as well as diplomats, journalists, and civil servants. Over 160 black & white photos. Includes a workshop for students, journalists, and researchers that includes an annotated timeline of 20th Century Syria, and lists of Syrian officials since the fall of the Ottomans in 1918."
I have had it on my desk for only a month and already I have referred to it many times to help me figure out who is who of Syria. It is a labor of love. Nothing else rivals it in either English or Arabic. Everyone who is serious about understanding Syria will want to buy this book.
2, The second is "The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar Al Asad and Modern Syria," by David Lesch Here is the blurb from the cover: "Is Syria a rogue state? How important is it to the fates of Iraq, Iran, Israel, and Lebanon? Based on unique and extraordinary access to Syria’s President Bashar al-Asad, his circle, and his family, this book tells Syria’s inside story."
This is the first biography of Syria's new president to rely on interviews with the President, his wife, and other family members and friends. Although Lesch gives a sympathetic portrait of his subject, he also depicts his weaknesses and the many challenges he must overcome.
DAVID W. LESCH is professor at Trinity University in Texas and an expert on Middle Eastern studies. His many books include The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment.