Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Foreclosure Sale: Syrian Presidential Palace

My former Pentagon colleague David Schenker points me to this excellent photo essay compiled by Martin Kramer, who provides great commentary as well. Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words.

Now, many American officials convinced themselves that Bashar al-Assad wasn’t such a bad guy; rather, he was the eminently reasonable Western-educated doctor. They argued ferociously in the halls of Congress and in the corridors of the State Department that the problem in U.S.-Syrian relations was simply a lack of dialogue, and that the United States was too shy about doing business with Bashar.

Many of these officials are now retired (Nancy Pelosi not included, alas). Now that Arlen Specter–the proud sojourner of almost two dozen trips to Syria–is no longer working in Washington, perhaps he can bid on this must-go villa to which he was so embarrassingly frequent a visitor? For his sake, let’s just hope Edward Djerejian, the former ambassador to Syria whose positions boarded on apologia, doesn’t start a bidding war.

In all seriousness, the frequency and enthusiasm in which officials once traveled to Damascus to be received at the palace pictured did harm to the American image and its position in the world. Symbolism matters. Assad was conscious of it, as Kramer highlights in his commentary. Perhaps it’s time American officials recognize it as well.