The core institutional components of the Syria’s al Asad regime include the bloated bureaucracy and ruthless Ba’th party. Both of these pillars hinder the effective operation of the government and undermine its performance. This performance drain is compounded by the necessity of patronage networks. The Alawi minority has embedded its interests deep within the regime. It promotes corruption, and ensures the loyalty of the beneficiaries; this greatly damages proper functioning of the state, especially vis-à-vis the economy.
The differences for Syria under Hafez al Asad and Bashar al Asad reveal the inherent weakness of the regime. The difficulties Bashar al Asad has faced since taking over after the death of his father are recognizable through his lack of absolute power. Bashar al Asad’s inability to reform and foresee an impending economic crisis, along with his dependence on the old Ba’th guard, further illustrates the intrinsic limitations of the Syrian regime’s architecture.
Although Hafez al Asad was able to ensure a transition of power, he was not able to reorient the structure of the Syrian regime. Because Bashar al Asad is not his father, and was unable to lock in public support; simply put Hafez al Asad was the regime and Bashar al Asad has been unable to fill the power vacuum.
As a result, Bashar al Asad has been left in dire need of both power and legitimacy. This need is clearly evident in his policies since assuming office. At first he tried to generate legitimacy amongst the people, but the legacies of the past, namely the old Syrian guard, the regime structure, and the resistance to change, negated Bashar al Asad’s efforts. The Syrian civil war seemed unavoidable in the midsts of the Arab Spring, but it begs the question, could Bashar al Asad have saved his regime in Syria through transparent reform if he acted as soon as took power?