Can Clinton create a new reality?

Listening to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s days are numbered, I share some of the skepticism in the blogosphere. Clinton was clear yesterday:

But if I were a betting person for the medium term and certainly the long term, I would be betting against Assad.

Yet there are no guarantees; sometimes coercive regimes survive. See China, 1989. Or Iran, 2009. Repression can work.

I do not think Clinton is unaware that brutality can be effective. I don’t chalk up this statement or others like it to naive or misplaced optimism. Rather, I think she hopes to use words to re-shape the reality. If she, and other international and Syrian opposition leaders say it, maybe they will make Asad’s fall more likely to happen.

It points to a deeper difference about how the world works. Is reality dictated by material factors or can we change the world by how we talk about it? Are perceptions reality? What do you think?

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One thought on “Can Clinton create a new reality?

  1. My wager would be that perceptions are most likely to matter at the margin. I do not think such language is making an impact on Assad’s inner-circle. If anything, it is probably strengthening their resolve to know that if they loose, they’re pretty much guaranteed to face changes of war crimes. Clinton might be making an impact on mid- to low-level soldiers, who realize that this might not be over anytime soon. Better to jump ship while its still afloat. Hard to see what else Clinton can do at the moment short of adopting Slaughter’s tactics (no pun intended).

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