ANTALYA – When President Richard Nixon visited Syria in 1974, Syrians lined the streets of Damascus to greet him. Not all were delighted by his visit, though. “Isn’t that Nixon the same one you have been telling us for years is an evil man who is completely in the control of the Zionists and our enemies?” an eight-year-old boy asked his father. “How could you welcome him and shake his hand?”
Today, that boy is President of Syria.
Though the United States is currently focused on destroying Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal, its long-term goal is to remove Bashar al-Assad from power. To do so, however, requires understanding the xenophobia that reigns in Syria. America must focus its efforts on unifying the bickering rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and find a charismatic leader who can lead the drive to topple Assad. Only this approach can persuade Syrians that the campaign to destroy their country’s chemical weapons is not aimed at imposing a neo-colonial order, but rather at protecting them from a regime run amok.
Indoctrination in Syria begins at a young age. From the first day of school, Syrians are taught that America and its ally, Israel, are mortal enemies seeking to keep Syria weak. According to the ruling Ba’ath Party’s dogma, Syria is being targeted because it will not capitulate, remaining steadfast to the Arab and Palestinian cause. It is the last line of defense holding back a US-Israeli stampede over Arab rights.