Bashar is really a nice man. He’s thoughtful and humane and wants the best for his people. As he drives to his office every morning, he watches ordinary men and women on the streets and tries to guess what goes on in their heads. He’s a family man, too. In the first year after his son’s birth, he never once missed the baby’s evening bath. Furthermore, he’s married to a beautiful young woman ‘with a classic English accent, to boot’. And if he sups with the devils of Hamas and Hezbollah, we ought to understand. The stability of Syria ought to be uppermost in our minds. Otherwise, the real devils who were his father’s henchmen and who surround him still might feel he was endangering their fiefdoms and topple him.
So there you have it. This is the essence of a new biography of the hereditary president of Syria by an American academic who has been a welcome visitor to Damascus for years. However, there is another way of looking at the book. The author’s rosy gloss does not obscure