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The troubled path from dictator to democracy

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 14 June 2012

The international outrage at the atrocities inflicted by the Syrian regime against its own people is utterly justified.

The reports and accompanying images of the mass murder of innocent women and young children evoke powerful emotions and bring calls for some form of protection for those who may be under threat.

People around the world are urging the United Nations to step in and end this slaughter of civilians in Syria.


There is a relatively quick solution to the violence and bloodshed and that is for Syrian President Assad to order his military and security forces to stop firing upon unarmed civilians.

However, President Assad will have been greatly encouraged by the tacit or explicit support his regime has received from Russia, China and Iran.

One of the arguments that Russia in particular has used against any international intervention is that the groups opposing the Assad regime are disorganised and dysfunctional.

Russia is of the view that further chaos would result from an overthrow of the current dictator.

While this undoubtedly true and would appear to be an accurate assessment of the myriad groups operating within Syria, it would hardly be a surprising outcome in a country that has suffered decades of oppression.

Dictators are quick to crush any individuals or organisations with the potential to coalesce into a movement large enough to challenge their power.


With the tools of the State at their fingertips, a dictator can use security apparatus including secret police to ensure the fragmentation of opposition groups.

The fallout from the removal of a dictator inevitably produces uncertain outcomes.

The euphoria in Libya at the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi has faded as tribal and sectarian rivalries have resurfaced in the jostling for power within Libya.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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