A few years ago, I heard an officer in Israeli military intelligence say that there’s nothing so comical as the sight of Bashar Asad, ophthalmologist, peering through binoculars at a military exercise. He looks so unmilitary. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but now I do. Just look at this picture, taken on Monday at a Syrian military exercise at an “undisclosed location,” and released by the official Syrian press agency.
Bashar is decked out in a fresh uniform, sleeves rolled up a little too neatly. The effect is simply to reveal his spindly white forearms, which don’t look like they’ve ever seen the sun.
But there’s something even funnier. Where’s his watch? His wrists are bare. Now as anyone knows, you can’t last for an hour in any military, even the Syrian, without a watch.
Explanation? Here’s one. When Bashar got to the base and changed into his military costume, he realized that he would look ridiculous in his civilian watch–probably a fancy Rolex. So he took it off and stuffed it in his pocket. Not owning a military watch, he just went without.
(I know, you’re thinking that the watch might have been brushed out by a Syrian military censor, lest it reveal the time. Top secret! So here is a larger version of the photo–no obvious tampering. Anyway, if a censor wanted to obscure the time, he could have just obscured the watch face.)
Compare the Bashar photo to this shot of Jordan’s King Abdullah, at a Special Operation Forces Exhibition held in March at a Jordanian airbase. On this basis alone, I’m betting that Abdullah outlasts Bashar.
Just in: A well-informed source tells me that Dr. Bashar, while adjusting the focus on his binoculars, was heard muttering to himself: “Better… or worse? Better… or worse?”