The Case for Regime Change in Syria (4)

A point was raised in the Comments Section below to the effect that for every corrupt Alawite in the regime there is at least five corrupt Sunnis. I don’t dispute the veracity of this statement. For indeed it comes as a natural reflection of two facts: 1) demographics, that is, there are simply much more Sunnis in the country than Alawites, and 2) the politics of appeasement and co-optation, that is, if we you want to keep the Sunnis elite on the quiet side and ignore the abnormal fact of Alawite dominance of the military and the decision-making process, you have to ensure that they are corrupt.

It is for this reason that the Assads cannot be true reformers, no matter how hard some wish them to be. Their very interests run contrary to reform. Indeed, the very selection of Bashar for power was meant to preclude the very possibility of reform. Bashar was chosen to preserve the status quo, not challenge it. If Bashar was under the illusion at the beginning of his reign that economic reforms could be enacted without changing the existing structure of the decision-making process in the regime, thus gaining him some popularity and earning him some sorely needed legitimacy, his illusions were soon dispelled, and, to him, this marked the end of all serious consideration of reform. It was back to the haphazard system of handouts and presidential magnanimity.

Ever since, the Assads sought to preserve the existing patronage system, long elaborated by Assad Sr., with some limited modifications meant to empower them even more. For between them, they simply don’t seem to have the necessary brain power to invent and enforce a new one.

For this reason, and this is the essence of contention with all my fellow Syrians and all those foreign policy analysts who still insist on offering advice to the Syrian regime and who still insist on its continued viability, I believe that the problem with the Assads is not related to any lack of conduits of communications between them and the outside world, or growing and “unreasonable” American pressures, or a lack of qualified cadre of advisors and technocrats, or anything of the sorts. Rather, the problem with the Assads lies in their own personal predispositions and limitations as well as in the nature of the system that they have inherited. Both the system and its keepers are obsolete.

This creates a major problem for the international community, especially the US and France, for the choice in front of them is very simple: they can either accept this regime as is, with all the problems that this situation is bound to create for them (for the regime, by virtue of its rigidity and inertia is inherently rigged against their always dynamic and diversifying interests) or they have to work to remove it.

More importantly though, and for the people(s) of Syria, the continuation of the system posses a serious threat to the very viability of the state, for corruption as we have noted above, is at the core of the system and represents a necessary method for keeping the Alawites in general, and the Assads in particular, in power (see the recent entry in Joshua’s Blog). This country’s (not to mention Lebanon’s) economic and social conditions have grown too fragile to sustain the system for much longer. The breaking point is indeed at hand. But waiting for it to happen means that we are in effect reconciling ourselves to a total breakdown of existing social arrangements and a complete dissolution of the country, with all the suffering, mayhem and bloodshed that this would entail.

This is why I believe the Assads need to be opposed and removed like the infestation that they are, and they need to be removed now before it is too late.

7 thoughts on “The Case for Regime Change in Syria (4)

  1. Here’s a counter argument, parts of which you have probably heard before a million times, but for the sake of discussion at least:The situation in Syria is similar (to various degrees) in all countries in the area, with the exception of Israel which is not purely a Middle Eastern system.But Lebanon? Kuwait? Iraq? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? …It is not an Assad specific system … but it is certainly a popular bad system that the Assads fully adopted, just like the rest of the Middle Eatern leaders.This “system” has been moving in this direction for a long time. It has been supported by many forces. Therefore, it has huge momentum … stopping it and changing its direction is doable if everyone is pushing in the same new desired direction consistently and with all sufficient force. You blame the Syrian leadership, and I partially agree with you there. But I equally blame the rest of the “forces” in Syria. Some might have contributed to it more than others, but if we are not into the blame and punish game, then that is not the most relevant point.Another Bashar point (or excuse, as you prefer to think of it) is that the outside forces are also “forces” they can be constructive such as honest opposition leaders putting the pressure in the right direction for the right reasons. But they can be distracting as in the western countries applying pressure on Syria to change its foreign policy. That pressure is not in harmony with the other internal reforms forces. It makes the regime more nervous and more defensive and cautious. Even if they wanted to put all their resources to the difficult task of changing the direction of their internal system, external pressure of the type that was applied the past year made sure the Syrian leaders were mostly busy with analyzing the latest daily Syria warning from president Bush. I know this is repetitive and it sounds like another defense of the regime’s points of view, but I simply want to put everything on the table before I conclude:For things to move, it takes all relevant forces to move in the same directionThat of course takes us to the old chicken and egg argument:1) the regime brought the outside pressure on itself by messing up in Iraq and Lebanon …etc.2) The regime is simply too preoccupied with external threats to work effectively and confidently on taking the necessary risks required for fighting corruption. Besides, the regime is only one force.The way out of this is to have a balanced and focused approach to putting pressure on the regime .. not too little and not too much. Instead of calling it “pressure” let’s call it “active interest and continued involvement” by all those who genuinely want good things to happen in Syria. No one likes to go through the risks and discomfort associated with change, it is only natural that the Syrian regime is no exception. They need to be continuously “encouraged” to take that risk. Even if they are not all statesmen as you argued earlier, there are ways to motivate every personality type out there. Negative reinforcement is not the most effective motivator. But that is another topic, I do not want to get into pop-psychology again I guess.The challenge comes from those who are pretending they are pushing in the right direction but are instead pushing in their own self-serving directions. this includes:1) some “regime” forces2) some “opposition” forces3) some outside forces.I can not see it as a simplified Bad regime / good everyone else case. I am not a politician and I have not had your close experience with many of the personalities involved, but as a typical Syrian, I can tell you that my impressions are that no one has a monopoly on goodness or immorality … those traits run across all those forces whose sum decide the eventual direction and speed of change in Syria.

  2. tiime for the few decent syrians to take up the playbook of the masses in the arab worldI suggest quietly start planting bombs at hotels, schools, governmental buildings, time to quietly shoot your leaders that are good targets.sounds like your country is target rich for attack by the GOOD people.start killing the bad guys, no notice, just do it, find out where Prez Assad’s Grandmother lives kill her, if you cant kill the Prez, kill his mistress’s family, do what the arab world already does….enjoy!

  3. from bin laden, it proves my point!Arab reformists are constantly threatened by Islamists, who consider freethinkers to be guilty of the worst of crimes.(1) The most recent death threat against Arab intellectuals was issued by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.In an audiocassette released April 23, 2006, bin Laden addressed the issue of the Danish cartoons and what he regards as the Arab countries’ failure to show an appropriate response. He emphasized that anyone mocking the Prophet or making fun of Islam should be killed. Likewise, bin Laden attacked Arab “freethinkers,” several of whom he mentioned by name, and called for them to be killed as well. He cited the precedent of Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf, whom the Prophet had killed for writing poems against him, as a model for proper conduct in such cases. According to bin Laden, there is no need to consult anyone on this matter; every loyal Muslim should see it as his duty to eliminate these heretics.The following are excerpts from bin Laden’s speech, as posted by the reformist website Middle East Transparent on April 27, 2006.(2) Freethinkers and Heretics who Defame Islam Should Be Killed

  4. The Assad regime has been firmly in charge of running Syrian affairs for more than three decades now, as such they are ultimately responsible, both morally and legally, for the state the country is in right now. Opposition groups, for all their moral foibles and all their fractiousness and all their corruptibility, cannot be put on the same plane with the regime. As for external pressures, they have been a major factor in our lives ever since our emergence onto the modern scene, and they have always been used as an excuse by the ruling regime to justify lack of reforms and continued neglect of developmental issues. So, for three decades now the Assads of Syria have not been able to find a way to strike the right balance between the serious need for internal reforms and the need for drafting a more pragmatic foreign policy (the occasional “successes” of Assad Sr. notwithstanding), one that is more commensurate with the country’s own size and resources. Their particularistic interests and their minoritarian predicament have always come in the way. To cover their failure in this matter, the Assads resorted to crackdown, and they continue to do so. The Assads, then, are the main problem. No, they are not the only problem, but they are the main problem. On the other hand and while, in theory, the case of the Syrian regime does not represent a unique occurrence in the region, the minoritarian nature of the ruling regime, the leadership styles of its main decision-makers, namely the Assads, and the changing regional and global realities have all combined to imbue the current moment with a certain amount of urgency. A showdown is taking place now and the options are limited. The theory says, in order for things to move in the desired directions, all forces (i.e. regime, opposition and external actors) should combine to push in that direction. That sounds very logical. But the reality we have to deal with is one where the regime cannot, due to its very minoritarian and authoritarian nature, push in the right direction. Its key leaders have no interest in doing so, openness and reform to them means the end of their authoritarian rule. And they are right. The Assad rule represents an abnormal situation completely incommensurate with democratic norms, as such, any serious push for political reforms and democratization is, by definition, intended to eventually bring an end to their rule. Unless, the Assads can find a way to reconcile themselves to this eventuality, they can only be obstacles to reform. It is clear to me at least, that the Assads have already made their choice. They would rather see Syria burst in sectarian flames than accept the necessity of ending their rule. This attitude of the Assads is not predicated on their Alawite affiliation, but on the fact they are thieves and they want to continue to thieve. Just read through the latest revelations with regard to Al-Madinah Bank scandal.

  5. كد أن البلاد تشهد حملة واسعة لنشر التشيع الإيراني”هيئة علماء المسلمين” في سوريةتتهم النظام بمحاربة المذهب السني»السياسة« ¯ خاص:اتهمت هيئة علماء المسلمين في سورية النظام السوري بشن حملة على الطائفة السنية التي تشكل الاغلبية الساحقة من سكان البلاد لصالح ما وصفتها بالاحزاب الخيمنية.وقالت الهيئة في نداء تلقت »السياسة« نسخة منه امس ان هذه الحكومة تصرفت دوما على طريقة (انا ربكم الاعلى فاعبدون) في كافة المجالات فعاثت فسادا في كل ما هوعمومي وخصوصي ودقيق وجليل في حياة ابناء شعبنا وتمعن اليوم في نقل الفساد والدمار الى اعمق نقطة ممكنة والى اخص خصوصيات الانسان المسلم السوري وهي معتقداته الدينية.لقد حاربت هذه الحكومة في زعمها منذ ايامها الاولى التدين في سورية بشكل عام بحجة ان التدين يناقض مبادىء العلمانية والمجتمع المدني والفكر القومي والاشتراكي , ولكن وبعد سنوات قليلة اتضح ان هذه الحكومة تحارب الدين الاسلامي فقط والمذهب السني بعينه دون غيره , فلقد اطلقت هذه الحكومة العنصرية الطائفية الحاقدة العنان لاتباع كافة الديانات العشرة الموجودة على ارض سورية لممارسة التدين والدعوة والنشاط واعطت رجال الدين لكافة الطوائف كل الحقوق المفترضة لرجال الدين وفي الوقت نفسه راحت تحارب المتدينين من اهل السنة بكافة الوسائل بداية من منعهم من اطلاق لحاهم الى منعهم من اداء الصلوات في المساجد بحرية الى حظر حرية تدريس الدين في المساجد وحرمان رجال الدين المسلمين السنة من مرتباتهم وحقوقهم المالية والقانونية بقصد افقارهم واذلالهم وانتهاء بملاحقة علماء الدين من اهل السنة والجماعة والتنكيل بهم دون مراعاة حرمة دين او قانون او انسانية.واضاف »لقد كان واضحا لدى علماء الدين المسلمين السنة ان هذه الحكومة الطائفية تسعى للقضاء على الدين الاسلامي السني وذلك بمحاربة علمائه ومنعهم من اداء مهماتهم في الدعوة والارشاد, وطبعا هذا الهدف يعني تحقيقه القضاء على الطائفة السنية لاحقا وبشكل تام وهو هدف هذه الحكومة الحقيقي وما تدمير حماة ومجازر القرن الماضي الا بعض الادلة على حقيقة وجود نوايا الالغاء الطائفي هذه لدى حكام دمشق الطائفيين.وتابع النداء »لقد صاحبت اجراءات الحكومة العدوانية بحق علماء الدين المسلمين السنة اجراءات عدوانية اخرى بحق بقية ابناء الطائفة الاسلامية السنية ليست باقل عسفا وقسوة مما اصاب العلماء , فمن التفقير والتجويع والتمييز والحرمان من الوظائف العليا وحتى الدنيا وفرض البطالة والنهب المتواصل للاموال عن طريق الابتزاز والفساد القسري والاختلاس وصولا الى الابادة الجماعية«.واعتبر ان هذه الاجراءات القصد من ورائها دفع اتباع الاسلام السنة الى هجران بلادهم وتركها اوالتخلي عن هويتهم ودينهم والبقاء دون هوية ودون معتقد ديني تمهيدا لمرحلة اخرى اكبر واعم واعمق لتحقيق الالغاء والاستئصال لهذه الطائفة السنية كانت هذه الحكومة تعد لها بتان واصرار ولقد بدات بتنفيذها بفاعلية منذ خمسة اعوام.وقال »هذه المرحلة تتضمن بالاعتماد على نتائج سياسات الاضطهاد والعسف تشجيع ودعم التشيع الايراني الخميني لينتشر في سورية تمهيدا لتحويل اكثرية اهل السنة في سورية الى اتباع للدين الخميني الذي يعتنقه الان رئيس الدولة وكافة اعوانه الكبار وكافة قادة طائفته الحاكمين بالجور للبلاد السورية العزيزة.واكد ان التسهيلات التي تقدمها الحكومة للخمينيين تتزامن مع حملة شعواء تشنها على ما تبقى من مدارس وهيئات علمية دينية اسلامية سنية فلا يكاد يمر يوم الا وتصدر فيه اوامر وتعليمات وقوانين جديدة تضيق على علماء المسلمين السنة مجال حركتهم بداية من اذلالهم الدائم على ابواب فروع مخابرات النظام ونهاية باغلاق مدارسهم ومعاهدهم التي اغلق اكثرها وما تبقى ينتظر نفس المصير.واوضح ان اكثر المناطق المستهدفة بهذه الحملة هي اكثر المناطق السورية معاناة من سياسات التفقير والتجويع الحكومية الطائفية

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