Posted by Ehsani on Saturday, February 11th, 2012
By Ehsani for Syria Comment
You’ve shown your true colors, “Ehsani”.
Of course, you conveniently consider and accept the irrational killing
automata of the regime as a fact that we must accept in order to
present a sound analysis, while not affording the protesters such
convenience in their irrational and emotional response as having any
influence on your analysis. That’s the scandalous premise that I can’t
possibly agree with.
Moral and ethical questions aside, this is a flawed logic. Would this
be a policy paper that you’d present to the president?
You yourself mentioned the activist that asked Ghalioun to step down without properly laying out how the opposition can move forward and what Ghalioun should be doing now. In the same way, you have not just proposed but actually argued in your last article that we should work on 2014 elections, without detailing how this can be realistic. You somehow managed to do what Mr. Al-Abdullah did, even as you correctly explained what he didn’t do.
“….he offers no precise prescription of what to do next.”
This is a sample of the many emails that I received following my last note entitled “Syria’s opposition must find a different way”. This was not surprising.
It is hard to argue with the fact that my suggestion to the opposition to play Ghandi came with a free pass to the Syrian leadership to continue business as usual at least till 2014. To many, this was unrealistic, naïve and outright irrational.
The premise behind my recommendation is perhaps the realization (defeatist?) that the regime will not give in and hand the rein of power unilaterally. There are three reasons for that:
- The leadership still thinks it can win.
- The leadership thinks that giving up power is akin to signing its own death sentence.
- The leadership thinks it is fighting evil.
Why does the leadership think it can still win?
Put simply, the daily morning decision making process may go as follows:
“Does anyone think that foreign military intervention (especially U.S.) is near”?
Answer: A unanimous negative.
Thank you all for coming. Meeting dismissed.
Asking the Syrian President to step down while giving near zero indication that a “credible” military option is on the table is the definition of weak and confused foreign policy by the international community. No, I am not personally advocating foreign intervention here but stating a fact.
Giving up power now is akin to signing your death sentence:
Nearly one year into this crisis, calls for revenge and holding people accountable for murder is natural. However, this also means that the leadership knows that it gains little by unilaterally giving up power. Indeed, giving up power now is like taking your loss upfront. Fighting till the end is seen as a better option as something may still happen to bail you out. This dynamic is all too familiar to those of us in the investment-trading world. Cut your losing position and take your loss now or stick with it and hope for a market turnaround. Human nature invariably chooses the latter.
The leadership is fighting evil:
Both the regime and its supporters are convinced that the ultimate winners from the opposition will be religious zealots who will take Syria back to the 7th century. Moreover, the country will become a puppet in the hands of more powerful regional and western countries who will dictate its future geopolitical aspirations. Regardless of the shortcomings of this leadership, its successor is likely to be far worse is the assumption here. While many Syrians dislike discussing sectarian issues, the country is far more sectarian than many want to admit. Religious minorities are far more likely to believe in the above dynamic.
When I called on the opposition to find a different way than arming itself, I did indeed give the leadership a pass till 2014. I did so because I am convinced that the regime goes through the above three-point rationale constantly and that up to this point it comes up with the same conclusions described above.
For the regime to break the impasse and offer their own Ghandi approach, one or all three things have to happen:
1- The U.S. and the West threaten with a credible and specific timeline on military action to back their “you have to step down” rhetoric.
2- Damascus sees significant upside potential (lots of carrots) to stepping down now in contrast to carrying on fighting.
3- A significant core of the regime supporters start to accept the fact that the alternative will indeed be better than the present.
Even the strongest supporters of the regime readily admit that governing this country will be a formidable challenge should the leadership survive and manage to sail out of the eye of the storm. This regime has been able to survive for nearly half a century against all odds. With every passing day, those betting on it to extend this run need their prayers answered by the almighty.
Let me conclude by quoting one of my dearest friends who wrote to me this morning:
“I pray Syrians are safe, and somehow by a miracle and the grace of god come out of this dark place”