Fouad Ajami

Syria: The Lost Bequest of Hafez Assad

Bashar, son of Hafez Assad, has a son by the name of Hafez. But as the defiance and bloodletting in Syria would seem to suggest, Bashar needn’t worry about training his son for future rulership. The house that Hafez Assad built, some four decades ago, is not destined to last.

Dynasties are, of course, made, not born. The far-flung Ottoman Empire, one of the greatest Eurasian powers, emerged out of the labor and talent of Osman, an obscure early-14th-century chieftain, a warrior among many on the borderlands of the Byzantine Empire. So beguiling was the advance of this Ottoman dominion that a legend of Osman’s greatness would be spun by later generations: it was claimed that he was related to Noah through 52 generations. The present ennobles the past, and greatness is invariably in proportion to distance from the men—and the first settings—of great undertakings.

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