Why Syria Goes to War: Thirty Years of Confrontation

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Why Syria Goes to War: Thirty Years of Confrontation

By Fred H. Lawson
Cornell University Press, 1996
222 pp. $29.95
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A refreshing attempt to explain Syria's foreign policy that does not dwell on Baathist ideology, the mind of Hafiz al-Asad, or the sectarianism of the regime. Instead, the author concentrates on conflicts within the regime. So far, so good. Certainly Syria's role in the crisis leading to the 1967 war and its intervention in Jordan in 1970 must be understood largely in those terms. The discussion of how Syrian regimes have used foreign crises to win support is valid, and Lawson even suggests an interesting exception to the "democratic peace" model -- multiparty Syria at war with democratic Israel in 1948. Consistent with his broad approach, Lawson sees Syria's confrontation with Israel as easing internal divisions by rallying the population to face an external threat. But this astute framework is weakened by an attempt to use a poorly developed Marxist notion of "accumulation crisis" to explain the underlying causes of dissension within the regime. Meant to be the point of the book, much of the economic analysis is thin and unconvincing.