Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious -- but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

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Feb 23, 2005

The Good Son Part II

Earlier today I wondered about Bashar Assad.  Chris Suellentrop over at Slate also wondered about Bashar Assad in 2003 and determined that he is an evil moron.  I'm still not convinced.

Bashar's recent key strategy seems to have been allying Syria with Iraq going into the Second Gulf War.  Everybody wants to know why he made such an obviously dumb move.  The common belief is that Bashar wanted to be sitting pretty to help rule the World once Saddam triumphed.  Saddam likely talked himself up before the war to help solidify this line of thinking for Syria, not to mention the fact that Syria's premiere party is apparently Baathist and was obligated if not eager to help.

But could this really have continued to be Bashar's end-game after Saddam began jettisoning weapons and money into Syria?  I can imagine the Phone call Saddam made:  "Bashar, Saddam here.  Listen, I'm going to hide my nukes and chems in your backyard so that the Americans don't find them when they arrest...err, uh...so that you can have them at your disposal as my partner in World domination after we kill those dog men."

Bashar would truly have to be a moron to buy this.  I'm not sly enough to rule a country and I can see through it, so I have to assume that Bashar did as well. Politicians are killed all the time because they weren't smart enough.  Do we honestly think a moron would last very long as a dictator in a place like Syria?  Saddam is an idiot, but he is no moron, and he didn't end well.  Even Mubarak in Egypt seems very sly, and he's losing grasp.

I also have to assume that Bashar had little or no choice in the matter.  After all, he is working with men who for thirty years served his predecessor, a ruthless Baathist dictator and conqueror - his father.

So, for the sake of argument, let's agree that Bashar is not a moron and personally saw through Saddam but nevertheless agreed to support him.  We still have the same question, but this time from a different perspective. Why help Saddam? ...becomes... What does Bashar have to gain by faking allegiance with Saddam?

First and foremost, he might stay alive for another few years lest the Baathists employ another highway bomb. He also becomes the proud new owner of a hand-me-down nuclear and chemical weapons program.  Naturally these are no good to him unless he is alive to use or sell them.  And not only is he still alive, he is now in the perfect position no matter how well Democracy thrives in Iraq and spreads through the region.

For should Democracy fail in Iraq, he gets the benefit of having aided Saddam as well as acquiring a big stash of weapons.  Should Democracy do well, Bashar can proceed to publicly or slyly dismantle his father's regime with a dual face.  Publicly as a "Western-educated eye doctor hoping to share the gift of Freedom with his people," or slyly as a "Dictator's most loyal son who can't stop the overwhelming force of Democracy."  This is a position that a moron would not find himself in, that is, sitting pretty with lots of big guns.

To dismiss Bashar as a moron gives too little respect for a Western, scientific education and a marriage with an English-born wife.  It also undermines the difficulty of navigating some of the most treacherous political waters today, if not ever.  The big test will be how he handles the people's current uproar for civil liberty.

I still have a lot to learn about Bashar and the Syrian Government, and welcome all comments, opinions and information.  You can be sure that I will be following this story.

UPDATE:  Another phone call from Saddam.

posted at 06:51 PM by Chris Chew in Politics


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