The Ruling Ethos!

Why did you choose, so I was recently asked, to join the National Salvation Front, while some of your best friends back home seem to have joined the regime and are trying to help polish its image as diplomats and advisors?

My Answer:

We are all united in our belief that the main challenge today is about crisis management and damage control. We all believe that our current choices are between bad and worse. And we are all attempting to prevent the worst.

But some of us believe, and this where we surely disagree, that the worst will come should the Assads regime fall, as such a fall is bound to bring to a boil all suppressed internal contradictions of our society, and which are currently being kept in check by the authoritarian nature of the Assads rule. Moreover, and as well know, the Assads will simply not go gently into that good night, so some of the mayhem we fear will indeed be instigated by them, just as the Baathists are doing today in Iraq.

Others, on the other hand, myself included, believe that the worst will come on the hands of the Assads themselves. They are simply too greedy, too corrupt, too foolhardy, and sometimes downright stupid, and too bigoted at their heart of heart (despite all this show and tell about marrying Sunni women) to lead us out of this quagmire that we fell into as a result of their foolish policies and their continuous focus on their own particularistic interests and agendas.

Moreover, and since we all know that the Assads are more than willing to start killing their own people in order to stay in power, and since we all know that corruption plays a major role in this attitude of theirs, what makes us think that they are going to change their minds tomorrow?

What are we betting on here? Why are we buying them time?

Fear is one part of the answer of course. But no, not fear only vis-à-vis the idea of change itself, but fear of assuming the moral responsibility for the consequences of that change. The old question of the moral burden is at stake here, and it is gnawing at all our hearts and minds. We are united in this ethos as well, and there are no easy answers. The moral burden is immense.

That is why, and for all my argumentation and lobbying, when it comes to person to person contact, I don’t like to push people beyond a certain limit, I just make my arguments listen to theirs, debate the matter briefly, then leave it at that. Aggressiveness has its limits here, at least for me. I am not some messianic fool on some holy mission. I am not a proselytizer and I often doubt the veracity of the very message I am delivering. I am not armed with certainty to my teeth and doubts are killing me. Still, I’d much rather suffer the pains of their feeding-frenzy upon the last remnants of my soul than put up with the deadweight of certainty upon it.

But, of course, I believe, there is a baser instinct at work here as well. Indeed, working for regimes, especially when they seem all powerful and stable, provides both the coveted recognition and the comforting safety. While working for the opposition, especially in such feverish times and in countries such as ours where fear and suspicion rule the day, will subject one to all sorts of nasty accusations, not exactly the kind of recognition one craves, and open one and one’s family to all sorts of unattractive and downright dangerous possibilities. Indeed, to appear while wrapping oneself in the flag is always much more preferable and alluring than wrapping oneself in doubts and question marks. Most people wait until they are pushed to this position rather than adopt freely and willingly. Not everybody is a self-flagellating fool.

34 thoughts on “The Ruling Ethos!

  1. …well, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the characterization of the Assads as the kind of person Thomas was addressing 😉

  2. “I am not a proselytizer and I often doubt the veracity of the very message I am delivering. I am not armed with certainty to my teeth and doubts are killing me”That sounded very good, Welcome back Ammar!

  3. Not everybody is a self-flagellating fool. Aren’t you being a bit coy Ammar?You’ve made your choice and they made theirs.You’re no fool. They heard the siren’s song and made their bed with the regime. They are rationalizers who want their cake and eat it. Why not call a spade a spade?

  4. Indeed Josey, my wife has been telling me to do just that. But it’s hard for me to let go of friends, and I will always strive to find excuses for them. Besides, sooner or later, the regime will fall, but most of these people will stay and just as we had to work with Khaddam, we will have to work with them as well. Indeed, they will have their cake and they will eat it. In our popular parlance, we refer to this trait as Shatara (excellence in the Machiavellian sense. The term was also applied to con men in medieval times). We also refer to it as Waldanet Haraam (son-of-bitchness). We Syrians (and our “brethren” in Lebanon as well) are rather (in)famous for it throughout the region.

  5. I disagree, it is not ‘COY’ that Ammar is being… is having humility.And having humility is a virtue because one can decide that every one who made a different decision or wasn’t as brave was a rationalizer and a coward etc etc, but it seems to me that Ammar is correct in saying that he doesn’t need to do more than make his arguments and encourage movement. How can anyone know how things will come out. As much as one can have such strong convictions and passionate dedication to a viewpoint, in the end, there is always a chance that you could be wrong about the path to take, or the road to the desired destination. You could end up in Hell instead. so always have humility, embrace uncertainty, and be grateful for your doubts. to me, that keeps us safe from arrogance. and finally, Yaman is right about the irony of your invoking Dylan Thomas’ words. Alas, Ammar! It is YOU who will not go gently into that good night!!!!

  6. I still do not know whay you would turn down a chance to shape Syria,s future only to join an opposition with no program ,could that be because you have it difficult to work with a non sunni president?,.

  7. Norman…… give the man a break….you “still don’t know why”? !! ….no, …..ammar would ‘have it difficult’ to work with a “moron” in charge of corrupt government….remember….. the last fifty posts???????

  8. Zenobia, Bashar is not nearly as corupt as the Sunni Khadam that Ammar thinks that he should be forgiven for thirty years of coruption because of his religin ,I do not know if you lived in Syria but coruption is not limited to specific religous or ethnic group ,it is a result of a single party rule which should change but not by violent means ,people who reach power by force can not be expected to be for peacfull change when their time in power is the way i saw your note about the jews being better than a bilion Arabs ,yes there some jews better than some Arabs but there some Arabs better than some jews ,generalization is rasism and i do not think that you are a the way Zenobia Bashar did not go to medical school because he was moron he got the grades to do that and in Syria you have top in the country in high school national test,so correct you information.

  9. Norman, I and others joined the opposition to help put together a program after deciding that the Assads were bad for Syria. As for Bashar, indeed I have a problem with a man who out his own interests, his family’s interest and his sect’s interests above all other interests. I mean you sort of miss the whole point behind having the power handed down from father to son, don’t you? Moreover, a person, who accepted this hand-over and never made any apology in this regard is no less corrupt than his father, or his brother, or his brother-in-law, or his cousin, or his uncle, or his former VP, and has no moral legs to stand on. But what he does have is a lot of scared people upon whose fears he can still rely.But you are indeed on to something Norman, that is: for every “Sunni” (and fuck the times when I have to be reduced to such epithets) like me there is indeed an untold number of other Sunnis who do have a problem working and living under the rule of an Alawite president. And the more the Alawite president and his clique insist on holding on to power the bigger the problem is going to get, and the more radical Sunni sentiments and view in this regard are going to get. And let’s not forget here what this regime did in Hama, and still the Islamists are coming back and in greater numbers. My personal problem with the Assads, if I ever had one, is that, had it not been for their stupidity, avarice, corruption and bigotry, I would never have had to work with the likes of Khaddam and Bayanouni, I might have never even ventured into politics.

  10. Thanks for the password Alex. Now I will slip away gently into that good night and all the way to Brazil to enjoy my ill-gotten fortune.

  11. Norman, you know you are the only one here who can succeed in getting on Ammar’s nerves … I tried so hard, but he keeps tolerating me.And, Ammar you’re welcome to empty my shallow bank account… unfortunately, I am not Mr. Ehsani2

  12. Norman, Please don’t ‘by the way’ me about something totally unrelated to this post so that now i cannot resist responding to you quoting me (miss quoting actually) completely out of context! Please understand the context in which i made such a comment – to a complete asshole who was rabidly racist, as you might recall. So , yes, I responded in a very hyperbolic way (unproductively as it turned out). But if you read carefully, you would see that I was not speaking of some “truth” per se, but about my sense of his own inferiority complex and his own internal problem. That is: he HATEs ‘jews’ and i imagined that he must work hard to swallow the fact that in recent times jewish people in this world have made an undeniable contribution to just about every aspect of human progress. If I compared it to the recent contributions of the billions of arabs as a collective culture – it was only to decend to his level of thinking for a moment and slam him.You know what, I really could not care less about any group’s supposed superiority. If I sounded like I did, and if I offended you Norman, forgive me. Truly, this isn’t a damn contest on this earth. Honestly, I am the last person to think it is. As for Bashar’s intelligence. Really, I have no great evidence. Again, please note that I said Ammar’s view is that he is a “Moron”. Maybe he was exceptional at biology and physiology, but remains a moron as a statesman!And as for Kaddam, well, Ammar will be making an error to put himself in the same camp as this man. For it seems (from my informal polling) that the entire population of Syria hates him.

  13. Zenobia,For what it’s worth, I think you are absolutely right that Ammar is making a BIG mistake… Khaddam is a crook.. He is corrupt as sin, and what’s more, he lectures on honesty and patriotism.. I might have even been able to swallow all that had he come out and said ‘Sorry, I made some mistakes, and I am repenting’.. But, no.. He insists that he is Mr. Honesty and everybody else is a crook..You are also right about Bashar being a moron.. The fact that he went to medical school does noteven mean that he got the grades as Norman says.. I mean, his father was the absolute ruler of the country.. How difficult would it have been for Hafez to force him onto any College / University!!..

  14. Syrian Brit and Zenobia (and Ammar)What is a “moron”?Can you describe the personality traits that you would pick if you were given the opportunity to custom design a Syrian president for today’s environment in the Middle East?If we go a bit more practcal, can you tell me of a few Syrians who fit , or come close, to your choice for a replacement to Bashar?

  15. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a ‘moron’ is ‘foolish, stupid, a mildly mentally retarded person, avery stupid person’.Oxford English Dictionary adds ‘Adult with intelligence equal to thatof an average child’..I’ sure you get the picture, Alex!..As for the’custom-made’ President.. well, I, for one, am not asking for much.. I want an honest and open person who gets the job on merits, and not by inheritance or by brute force. Someone who is accountable to the People he is meant to serve.. so that if he is not doing a decent job, the People can show him the door, and bring in someone else.. after all, that is what democracy is about.. As to who that person is, in the model I propose, it doesn’t really matter, because the system would ensure that whoever is in that position works for the interest of the Country as a whole, and not for the interest of any particular group, no matter how big or small that group is..A dreaming delusional fool??.. maybe I am!!.. I tell you what, though.. it certainly beats siding with a corrupt no-hoper like Khaddam, or a confirmed moron like Bashar…

  16. lol,just the WORD .. MORON, makes me laugh……basically, it is equivalent to an IDIOT.We can do better than an idiot, can’t we? ….. laugh, we hope so……ahhhh, the problem of LEADERSHIP …… a very big problem…..I think I need some time to come up with my description of the personality of desirable leader(s). Integrity, honesty, vision, the intelligence to surround herself with competant and honest advisors; these are just a few qualities. But Syrian Brit is correct, it is the system around the leader that provides the possiblity for successful leadership. Let me get back to you on that.

  17. Ammar ,you seem to have problem with the fact that Bashar,s father was Hafez ,as a Syrian he has as much right to be president as any other person ,he was chosen because he offered stabelty and trasition to democracy but what seems to have happend is that some people felt that the Syrian goverment and the Baath parties are weak so they intended on forcing them out of power which made resist and the Damascus spring went nowhere ,Alex ,i get on Ammar,s nerve because i think Ammar is a desent man who wants good for Syria but torne between being a Sunni leader or a Syrian leader mbeing a Syrian leader which i think he deserve is better for Syria ,i hope he makes that choice,Ammar , i want to tell you a story about Jamil Assad ,i live in the early seventies in a pumping station to east of palmyra called T3 which was part of Iraq Petrolium Company,at that time Jamill Asad was a low level police station chief and in Syria at that time they were cutting the hair of teenagers who had long hair ,that was my destiny at the hand of Jamil Asad and that was my last encounter with him ,anybody in Syria who is corrupt should be pesecuted no matter who he is .

  18. Norman, go read Ammar’s post that he wrote on his birthday entitled “Family Affairs”. Tell me, do you really think the man who wrote this cares so deeply about whether the president or he, himself, is a Sunni leader. I don’t think Ammar gives a shit about being a Sunni!may i quote the man: “for every “Sunni” (and fuck the times when I have to be reduced to such epithets) like me …” Clearly, this is NOT the issue….as for the story about Jamil Assad and the shearing you got from him, i wasn’t sure what it all meant…. Let us hope the new Regime to come doesn’t commit a ‘Samson and Delilah routine’ on Ammar…. I want to keep him intact, (laugh)…

  19. Zenobia, I want to keep me in tact too, my dear. And Norman, despite our occasional disputes, I understand where you’re coming from my man, we are both damned to care about a country that often fails to care for us in return. I think time will make most of our disputes rather academic. So long as we don’t doubt each other’s intentions, which I believe to be good for the most part (and I am speaking of myself here, I cannot pretend to judge other people’s motives, except for the Assads’ of course, teehee), we’ll all do well, and we are bound to find enough common grounds in time to work and thrive together.Now to the main point, whether joining the NSF or not is a big mistake, we really need to understand here that I am not doing it alone. Have you noticed the reaction of the internal opposition? They distance themselves from the NSF, but they do not attack it. Even those who attacked Khadam at one point, such as Fateh Jamous, Haytham al-Maleh and Riayd al-Turk, later modified their statements and defended the NSF as a legitimate opposition to the regime. Doesn’t that tell you something? My pragmatism in this regard is really not hat unique. Almost every known opposition figure in the country supports the NSF, albeit and admittedly to varying degrees. And I think the days and weeks ahead will bring with them a lot of surprises in this regard. Suffice it to say in this regard that had I not known how many internal opposition figures are more than OK with the idea, and how many of them were indeed in touch with Khaddam before his departure, that is, had I thought the NSF will be a purely external development, I would never have joined it. But in reality, and what people don’t seem able to fathom at this stage yet, is that the NSF is mostly an internal phenomenon. It is something that was hatched out inside then taken out, where there is more freedom to act and to coordinate. I don’t mean to say though that the NSF represent some popular movement at this stage, on the contrary, I agree that the average citizen will probably look with much suspicion at the NSF. But the story is different among internal opposition figures. Their input here, and contrary to what many people seem to think, far exceeded ours up until recently. It is only after the recent conference that we can say that an external body has been created to orchestrate a certain policy most of its pillars have actually been elaborated internally.

  20. Syrian BritYou did a good job answering the “moron” question, but that was not really the point, as you know.We know what an ideal system can produce, so my question was not about the ideal political system. And by the way, an ideal political system can also produce what many people call a moron who got the job to some extent because of his family name, and who was credited for messing up his country’s credibility internationally.Zenobia gave a reasonable answer:”Integrity, honesty, vision, the intelligence to surround herself with competant and honest advisors; these are just a few qualities”I have no problem with these traits, except that some of them are better suited to describing an ideal friend, not an ideal Middle Eastern president.And that, unfortunately, is one of the problems Syrians have. A “successful” president in that area is not always “honest, with integrity” … The Israelis consider Sharon to be a very successful leader, the Turks considered Attaturk to be “god” … Do you know much about Attaturk’s character traits?Syrians are lost … they want an angel for president (sweet, honest, humble) … but an angel who can stand up to all those bad guys threatening Syria (It varies: Israelis, some Lebanese, Americans, Islamists, Old Guard Baathists, Mushrikeen, Kurds, Jordanian king …) in a successful way.So he should be an angel who is very strong … in the Middle East that meeans he should be ablt to occasionally use violence against the bad guys perhaps? … when you have to?But Hafez did that, yet people complained he was too violent. Attaturk was much much more violent, but Turks worship him.Even though Hafez was not a womanizer, not a drinker, he worked 16 hours a day … Khaddam just said that on the Elaph interview that he accepted to give the presidency to the Iraqi president in order to unite Syria adn Iraq (after Syria lost Egypt’s fighting power after the Camp David accords) … sounds like he had vision?But he was too harsh.So let me suggest that my Syrian friends are really lost … they want an ideal president, and they are shocked when people like me question their wonderful choice! … I just wonder if they really know if that Ideal angel can really run a country like Syria … Can he deal with both Hamas adn Hizbollah? can he manage the relations with the United States AND Iran? … can he continue to run the security agencies in a way that keeps damascus one of the safest cities in the world? Can he be reassuring to the Christians and the Alawites? Can he Fight the set of bad guys that vary from Syrian to Syrian?Before you accuse me of being totally happy with our current president, let me assure you that I am aware of his weaknesses … but unlike many of you here and in Syria, I am also aware of the things which he, and his regime, are doing in a reasonable way, yet the rest of you are taking it for granted and are assuming it is a piece of cake really.Zenobia, I like your two choices a lot:vision, and ability to surround your self with competent assistants. Bashar frankly did not surround himself with very impressive people, some are good, but many are below average. As for vision, I think he has it, but he still has the Baathist attitude that “we know what’s best for the country” so no need to really explain to the people.Did I criticize him enough to cover myself for the way I defended him above?:)

  21. Alex, you said: “As for vision, I think he has it.” Well, can you show it and explain it to me please, because, I certainly don’t see it. And please, don’t tell me that nonsense about economic reforms first, because these, too, cannot take place without a vision.

  22. Did I say he has vision?… ok, blame it on the distracting Schubert music you added here!!I’m joking, yes I said it, sort of.I will answer your question with uncertainty … you and I have very similar values and hopes, but we differ in the way we are wired … you like clarity, and I like to always keep in mind all the pros and cons …So, I said “I think” he has vision. I take my probabilities seriously … the “I think” is because we are by no means at the end point of Bashar’s school year where we are ready to open his report card and look at his final grades. I know many of you feel that six years is more than enough for judge his vision, but I hope you can respect my different opinion that the situation in the Middle East the past few years was … a bit distracting? for a Syrian leader.Ammar, if my “naïve” offer/package is not offered to Syria/the Syrian regime, then you will never have a Syrian population that can make up its mind about the regime’s final grade… many Syrians are like you, fed up already, many Syrians are like me .. not sure yet, but quite sure that there are two sides to that arguement.I supported your choice to join the NSF because it could help you see more clearly the potential of that option (and I am not certain it is a weak potential) … I am sticking with my other option which is also not certain, but the complex way I calculated the probabilities in my head tells me it is still probably the more prudent option for Syria.My conclusion: Six years later, I still can not say that Bashar was presented with a fair exam… I will reserve my final judgement for later.I really don’t see much wisdom if any of us rediculed the other’s opinions … I know your opinions already .. I respect them, they are based on your calculations, they might be right at the end. The situation is just way too complex both in the Middle East, adn in Syria itself … Syrians often have contradictory aspiration, fears, enemies, idols, and expectations.Some Syrians are dreaming of a strong hero like Hafez elAssad, some want a human rights champion imported from Sweden, some want an emir al-Islam, others want a liberal secular intellectual.But if anyone of you actually has a direct line of communication to God and he heard some abosulte facts about Syria’s future that are 100% certain, I would love to hear them.I am still waitin for all of you to tell me some stories about Syrians you know who are able to lead Syria this year of 2006 … to be Ataturk if needed, to be the intellectual democrat when needed, to be a shrewd economists who can fire a few million non-productive Syrians from their masked unemployment jobs, and from the useless army … a president who can appeal to all the Syrians out there … the Kurds, and the Syriac Christians in Hassakai.

  23. Actually, I am really really liking this Shubert. I think the music thing is great!but…. it really is seriously going to my head too because….well you know who i think could be a president of a country like Syria? Call me crazy, but.. even though I would not appreciate his religiousity, Hassan Nasrallah could be a president of a middle eastern country. THAT is born leader. You have to admit, he has vision, integrity, intelligence, and balls like nobody’s business. and well, everybody either likes him or respects him. Ok, so he detests the western world, but……you asked what a leader looks like. That is what he looks like.ok…so..i will now brace myself for the smack i am going to get for saying such a thing…….

  24. Actually Zenobia, I quite understand how you came about this calculation. Hassan is a man liked not only by most in his won community, but many from other communities as well, and he had the credentials of a person who made himself through some perceived national struggle. Unfortunately, there is a possibility even for someone like Bashar to gain such credibility as well, if he cans withstand all these pressures and survive, as he would come out as the person who has stood up to American designs. This will land us back in square one: as he will be expected then to deliver the goods internally, in terms of improving living standards for a wide enough slice of the populace at least. But, in order for this to happen, Bashar will have to survive the next two years first. So, let’s wait and see. Or, as far as I and m “ilk” are concerned, let’s oppose and see. Things would be much more interesting this way.

  25. Zenibia ,on the run to tople Saddam Nassralla suggested Bashar Asad as president of Iraq and Syria ,he seems to have seen somthing in Bashar and if you think highly of Nassralla the Bashar might not be as bad as you and others think.

  26. Alex,You are posing an impossible conundrum, and I do not know of ANY President of ANY Country that can be all those people at different hours of the day!..I do not dispute that it is not an easy task running a Country.. particularly one like Syria.. more of a reason why Bashar is not suited for the job.. his only credential was that his father had ruled the Country for decades, practically unchallenged.. Your example of a moron becoming President on the back of his Family name is very poignant.. I mean, look at the mess he got himself (and his Country) in!..I have said on previous occasions.. I am merely a simple-minded physician, who does not claim to possess the political savvy or the debating powers that you guys and gals have so abundantly.. and, with that in mind, I admit with complete humility that I don’t have an answer to a lot of you had said..I have to say, as ageneral principle, the answer must be in what Zenobia suggested.. an honest person with lots of good advisors.. but don’t ask me about the specifics!!..What I know is the following: My beloved Country is slipping rapidly into a dark age, and those at the helm are encouraging the decline.. Those standing on the lines booing them are either powerless or ‘visionless’ or both(and that probably applies to me, by the way..)..You are right about one thing, though.. We ARE lost.. we ARE full contradicting aspirations..And you and others wonder why I prefer to dream?!! Because I simply despair..

  27. Syrian Brit,You are doing more than fine for a “simple-minded physician” … you are one of very few people who can be comfortable saying “I might be wrong” … and most of us here realy tried hard, but could not have the grades necessary to become simple minded physicians.

  28. Syrian Brit ,when did you gradute and which university did you gradute from ,we might have graduted from the same school ,i graduted from damascus university school of medicine in 1979

  29. Norman,I qualified from Damascus University in 1980, and worked in Lebanon for three years. After a brief stent in the US, unsuccessfully looking for training, I ended up in the UK.If you check my profile on my blog, there is an e-mail address, which everybody is welcome to use if they wish to exchange thoughts or compare notes!..

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