A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fred Hof: Asad Regime is a "Dead Man Walking"

Frederic C. Hof, one of the State Department's point men on Syrian policy, has not bothered to mince words:
“This regime is the equivalent of dead man walking,” Hof told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East today. “But the real question is how many steps remain. I think it’s very difficult to project how much time this regime has.”
Though he specifically says that it is the "regime" that is the "dead man walking," most reports are treating it as if he were speaking of Asad personally.

Now there are a lot of people speaking in the name of the Administration, or the State Department, who don't know what they're talking about and are speaking out of their (inappropriate orifices). I can personally testify that Fred Hof is not one of them. Fred and I were in the same class in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service back in the 60s, and unless I'm mistaken there's no one in the current Middle East policy/think tank/diplomatic/government/academic community I've known as long as he. We don't see each other that often these days, but when Fred speaks on Syria or Lebanon, I listen. He has a track record. He served a full US Army career before becoming a diplomat. During the Lebanese civil war he was waiting at a checkpoint in Beirut when he took a round from a sniper, probably Syrian, though he recovered. Yet he later negotiated with the Syrian government. He basically wrote, with little credit, the Long Commission report about the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and when he retired from the Army some years later, at a surprise party at "Mama Ayesha's" iconic Arab restaurant in Washington, the then-Commandant of the Marine Corps showed up. How many Army Lieutenant Colonels get the Marine Commandant at their farewell? I also had the privilege of being there.

Fred went on to a long, and continuing,  career in diplomacy. Both before and since he left the uniform behind, he has worked in both Democratic and Republican Administrations as a close advisor to such critical negotiatiors as Philip Habib, Richard Armitage, and George Mitchell.

He published a book on the Israel-Lebanon border line in the 1948-49 war and has written essential monographs about that region and the whole Golan issue.

As I said above, for these reasons, when Fred Hof speaks on Lebanese and Syrian issues, I listen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for the history.