Fouad Ajami: The Last Battle of the Cold War

Roundup: Historians' Take

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover's Working Group on Islamism and International Order. 

Afghanistan was once thought of as the last battle of the Cold War. But that designation must be accorded the ongoing struggle in Syria.

The late dictator Hafez Assad built his tyrannical regime in the image of the late Soviet Union. He usurped power in his own country four decades ago, when the power of the USSR was on the rise. His armies and factories were in the Soviet mold, as were his feared intelligence services. The Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination Hafez Assad forced on the hapless Lebanese in 1991 was vintage Warsaw Pact.

History hasn't altered much: Now Hafez's son, Bashar, in a big battle to defend his father's bequest, has Vladimir Putin's Russian autocracy by his side. The Soviet empire has fallen, but there, by the Mediterranean coast, a Syrian tyranny gives Russia the old sense that it still is a great power...

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