A LITTLE economic freedom is a dangerous thing. People will want more freedoms than that.
This is what Syria's young President Bashar Assad must ponder. He finally sacked the cobwebbed government he inherited upon the death of his father, the dictator Hafez el Assad, in June 2000.
Bashar Assad moved more slowly than many hoped. But now he has fired 36 ministers under Prime Minister Mustafa Miro, and asked Mr. Miro to form a new government with some of the same faces. The young president feels strong enough to loosen the grip of his father's servants, a bit.
His goal is to free the economy. Syria has applied to join the World Trade Organization, which will require it. The Bashar regime has already invited in foreign banks, because many Syrians were boycotting the state banks for institutions in Lebanon and Cyprus.
Mr. Assad has also let some political prisoners out of jail. But he put some new ones in, and cracked down on journalism and dissent as his father did.
To enter the modern world, Syria needs more reforms than the few apparently contemplated. It needs dissent, legitimacy and even democratic choice. It needs to free its grip on Lebanon and restore that country's sovereignty.
Most of all, it needs to stop support of terrorists based in Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, which has been credited with bombing the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and other groups that shoot and bomb Israeli civilians.
The 36-year-old ophthalmologist, who changed career paths only when his older brother Basil died in a speeding car crash in 1994, is a modern man. He wants to spread computer literacy.
Bashar Assad also knows the majority Sunni Muslim businessmen hate the corruption favoring a few of his family's Alawite clan, the young want to see what the censors keep from their eyes, and the Lebanese want Syrian forces out of their country. As a true contemporary, he must know that terrorism has gone out of fashion.
The new government with the young president's stamp was announced Thursday.
It will have to embrace more change than has been hinted for the world to take notice.