But let’s face it. Our lion has been incompetent from the very beginning. He has always been part of the problem. He is the problem. The regime is the problem. But accepting this rather manifest truth has always been rather difficult for Syria’s opposition groups, because that would have put them face to face with their real dilemma: fight to change the regime, or accept it as is for better or worse.
Since they are too weak to fight, and since surrender is so damn undignified, the Opposition tried to envision a “third alternative,” denouncing those who espoused the first alternative as “fanatics,” and those who opted for the second as “cowards.” But in truth, the “fanatics” and the “cowards” in this case are the only realists around.
Meanwhile, the third alternative never materialized because it was based on the faulty premise that the President was a true reformer at heart and that all he needed was a little shove every now and then to convince him to turn against the very system that brought him to power, legitimized his position and defended him (and his interests, of course).
Five years have elapsed since the President arrived to power. He has so far turned his back to the idea of reform each and every time it was brought to the fore by internal and/or regional development. He did it at the beginning of his term back in 2001, when he ended the Damascus Spring and accused the dissidents involved of commiserating with foreign diplomats, paving the way for the ensuing crackdown. He did it during the recent Baath Congress, which produced only vague and inconsequential promises of limited reforms, none of which was ever carried forth. And he did it again in this latest speech of his, in which he, once again, and quite unequivocally, threatened to crackdown against the “unpatriotic” opposition.
After all this, isn’t it about time that the Opposition came to terms with the fact that the only real and patriotic option in our case is that of fighting for regime change? Yes, this is, of course, difficult. Yes the Opposition is indeed quite weak and has no grassroots support at this stage. But, once the decision is made, ways to deal with these shortcomings, as serious as they are, can always be found. After all, Syria is not the only country to have faced such a quandary. Other countries, such as Georgia, Serbia, the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, to name but a few, faced the same problem not too long ago and still managed to find ways to overcome it.
Velvet revolutions are products of strategic decisions, brave leadership, strong organizational skills, training, and networking, networking, networking – internal, regional and international. As a people, the Syrians are no more or less ready for such a development than the Kyrgyz or the Georgians were. The problem, rather, seems to lie with the country’s Intelligentsia and Opposition. If they should prove to have the same limitless capacity for self-deception that their ruling regime has, then the country is simply fucked. There will be nothing to prevent the country’s implosion in this case, regardless of how it will happen, be it in an Iraqi-style scenario, or a Sudan-style scenario, or even a Somali-style scenario. The end result is the same.
As for those who still believe that this regime can still hold the country together even if it is isolated, or even especially if it isolated, they seem to be factoring in only the internal balance of powers in their calculations, ignoring the fact that Syria does not exist in outer space, but is right there, smack in the middle of everything, and that there are a lot of powers who will be, for better or worse, poking their fingers into its “private” “internal” affairs, in the hope of piling more pressures on the regime and inducing change.
Let’s not forget as well that this regime does not have a unique strongman, but a host of them with differing attitudes, aptitudes and agendas.
And let’s not forget as well that throughout the last few years all of these people proved themselves to be complete morons, albeit ruthless. In fact, it is this moronic ruthlessness that is the problem. It is exactly this predisposition that lead to the assassination of Rafic al-Hariri and Mashouq al-Khaznawi, and to the imprisonment of Aref Dalila, Riad Seif and Kamal Labwani, among others. It is precisely this syndrome that has paved our way to the current predicament where the only way out is through undertaking what seems well-nigh impossible: a peaceful regime change from inside, or a velvet revolution.
Be that as it may, achieving a velvet revolution should be the Opposition’s real goal right now. That’s what they should plan to do. There is no other way out for the country.