Assad or We Burn the Country: How One Family’s Lust for Power Destroyed Syria

Little, Brown. May 2019. 592p. maps. notes. ISBN 9780316556729. $29; ebk. ISBN 9780316556705. POL SCI
Dagher (The Atlantic), a journalist with extensive experience in the Middle East, presents a detailed picture of the relentless destruction of the Syrian civil war that began during the Arab Spring in 2011 with peaceful demonstrations calling for reform. The Bashar Assad regime responded with harsh repression, escalating over the next few years to include bombing of civilians along with mass arrests and executions. Since then, hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions fled for safety, becoming refugees within the region or abroad. Assad skillfully avoided efforts by the United States and its allies to ease him from power, and benefitted from military and diplomatic support from Russia and Iran. Dagher combines on-site reporting with extensive interviews with those close to the regime and the opposition to demonstrate Assad’s determination to stay in power at any cost. The narrative explains how a regime employed the technology of destruction and the psychology of dissimulation, and is a powerful example of the value of responsible media to inform on one of the most brutal episodes of our time.
VERDICT Dagher’s chilling portrayal of Assad’s transformation from an apolitical doctor to ruthless dictator and skilled manipulator makes this book essential; highly recommended
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