The Fire & The Works!

The 4th of July fireworks at the National Mall were an amazing display indeed, enough to satiate the personal egos of a thousand Chinese emperors, though there was nothing really egoistical about it. The patriotic songs that we heard in the background, all celebrated the beauty of the homeland or, as is the case with the national anthem, a certain captured moment of inspiration in the midst of a decisive battle.

Old glories did not seem to matter much, and the personalities of the Founding Fathers, and any existing past or present leader, historical or mythical, were not celebrated or sanctified. Indeed, this was a national occasion, yet no “hail to the leader” was heard anywhere, no “our blood and soul are yours, o [insert the name of your favorite political asshole], and no “I’ll sacrifice my mother and father for you, o [insert the name of whatever self-appointed spokesasshole of God]. I have lived for so many years in this country when I was a student, and I am still amazed by the lack of reverence for historical figures and events here, at least in comparison with our obsession with these things back home. And if I were amazed one fold, Khawla and Oula were amazed ten folds.

This country’s only mistake at this stage is that it can still fall prey, and ever so easily, to the imperial temptation that comes with great power. But no one has yet invented an antidote to hubris and unenlightened self-interest, so, there is enough blame to go around in this regard. It is for this reason mainly that I avoid criticizing America’s foreign policy on moral grounds, for, in principle, no nation or state can cast any real stones on moral grounds, albeit, in practice, each and every nation and state throughout history has always justified the pursuit of its very material interests on the basis of some moral principle. As such, even Syria’s occupation of Lebanon was done on very moral grounds, and most Syrians are still willing to buy into this line of reasoning, even when evidence of official corruption and avarice is so clearly visible. People just crave to believe they are on the right side.

This is what is so unique really about the Vietnam protests. This was probably the first time in recorded history that a sizeable and organized chunk of a certain population was willing to stand up against the national consensus on issues related to war and national interest and to doubt the wisdom of the leaders on such issues. And the official response to that was not exactly peaceful, and this was in a democracy, as one can tell from the hundreds of clashes with riots police. So, how about it when something like that takes place in an autocratic society, such as Syria?

This is indeed what was so brave and unique about the Damascus-Beirut Declaration. This is also the dilemma that opposition groups find themselves in: they are not only standing up against the corrupt regimes but, oftentimes, they stand up against the national consensus as well. Now, imagine what the public and popular reaction will be like if we ever opted to stand out equally as publicly against the national consensus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as there are indeed some very good reasons why we should do something along these lines one day?

If the uproar against Bayanouni’s recent statements, which merely noted the willingness of a hypothetical MB-led government in Syria to put negotiations first on the table while not vetoing other possibilities, is anything to go by, we might just be over our heads at this stage. Luckily, we don’t have to chew on this particular bitter apple anytime soon. Bayanouni’s statements were necessary in order to showcase the growing pragmatism of the Brotherhood, but it is not important or relevant to reiterate this message at this stage.


Whenever we had fireworks during my childhood, there was always a rumor around that some people had a special rocket that can draw the President’s name in the sky for all the world to see, and there were always kids around claiming that this is indeed what happened in their neighborhood.

Three birds went on what seems to have been intended as a promethean flight right into the blazing firmament and got as high as the highest tree out there before disappearing into its glittering branches. Not all promethean ventures are destined to succeed I guess, nor are they all worth undertaken to begin with. But how can we know when really, that is, when to proceed, and when to call it quits?

18 thoughts on “The Fire & The Works!

  1. “Now, imagine what the public and popular reaction will be like if we ever opted to stand out equally as publicly against the national consensus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as there are indeed some very good reasons why we should do something along these lines one day?”Ammar, could you please clarify this statement? Do you mean if we stand out publicly against the national consensus in America or in Syria?

  2. Happy 4th of July!I would say that one of the prerequisites to moving away from celebrating “national Leaders” is to get a closure on our classic national struggles:1) Arab Unity: most of the Arab countries will help Syrians realize it ain’t ahppening.2) Eskendurun … we need to find a way to admit publuicly that we probably won’t ever be able to fight Turkey in order to regain that part. Unless, we feel that after we make peace with Israel we can afford to have a new strong enemy? (Turkey) .. or maybe one day the Europeans and Americans will decide to redraw the borders in a way that gives Syria back Eskendurun? … very unlikely of course.3) th eGolan Heights: This one, it is the responsibility of hte Americans to realize that Syria can not move foreward easily unless they get this issue behind them in a satisfactory way. If the US does not put its weight behind UN resolution 242, political change will be very difficult in practice. In dreams they can of course enjoy anything they imagine. George Ajjan has an interesting post which is related to what Ammar just mentioned … regarding the NSF’s position on Eskendurun and one of the comments also discussed the regime’s real position on the same issue.And I have been trying on Rime Allaf’s Mosaics to discuss the Golan’s future and its real relevance to each one of you… away from what we learned in Syria long time ago.And of course the question was asked directly here.

  3. Alex, you post an interesting proposition ‘prerequisites to moving away from celebrating “national Leaders” is to get a closure on our classic national struggles’.Interesting, why?Here is a list of some countries with territorial disptutes (in your lingo National Struggles):France and MadagascarEritrea and EthiopiaNigeria and CameroonMadagascar, France and the ComorosEritrea and EthiopiaAngola and Democratic Republic of the CongoSpain and MoroccoUnited Kingdom and MauritiusMorocco and AlgeriaGabon and Equatorial GuineaFrance, Madagascar, the Seychelles and the ComorosSudan and EgyptSpain and MoroccoKenya, Ethiopia and SudanSouth Africa and SwazilandZambia and ZimbabweBotswana and NamibiaBenin and NigerZambia and Democratic Republic of the CongoFrance and ComorosGabon and Equatorial GuineaNiger and LibyaEthiopia and SomaliaAlgeria and LibyaYemen and SomaliaFrance, MauritiusSierra Leone and GuineaGuyana and VenezuelaChile and BoliviaBelize and GuatemalaUnited States, JamaicaVenezuela and DominicaBrazil, Argentina and UruguayHonduras and El SalvadorUnited Kingdom and ArgentinaFrance and SurinameUSA and CubaGuyana and SurinameGuyana and VenezuelaDenmark and CanadaUSA and HaitiCosta Rica and NicaraguaColombia and Nicaragua…..There is even a dispute between the Vatican and Italy about a 3m-by-60m strip next to the Vatican City, but I guess this why the pope is so reveered :>

  4. BTW according to Wikipedia we even have a dispute with Jordan about “48 square miles (124 km²) of Jordanian territory”!!!!I guess this another one tyo add to our National Struggles.

  5. Yaman, I believe that Ammar means standing out in Syria against the national consensus . However, i would like to point out that the Vietnam protests….at least by the time they reached their full height, were NOT against the national consensus. I would say there is good reason to say that the national consensus was quickly shifting against the war, exactly as it has been doing recently in regards to the IRAQ intervention. The national consensus was already at least moving against the war.In addition, one should also note that DESPITE the massive protests against the Vietnam War, and despite the loss of national support (if not a consensus against)… the government leadership persisted in continuing it. The protests were going in 1969! yet it took until 1974 before the US completely drew out of Vietnam. The reason the gov’t finally relented certainly wasn’t because of the protests….which were always painted as carried out by radical marginals, hippies, etc. No, the govt finally relented because of huge losses in soldiers and a completely hopeless situation, and because the national consensus was against the govt. Ok, so what does that mean for uprisings and dissent in general? well…..I think the lesson would be that such promethean exercises in the name of dissent and change may be righteous and ethically sound, but if they have no national consensus behind them them… they will unlikely succeed. Prometheus…was by himself…flying up there in the firmament….

  6. hahaha!Nafdik, good point, so yes, there is a reason why Syria’s “classic national struggles” are a bit more significant than the Vatican’s.My point is that we need to discuss these issues, decide on our priorities, and move forward … towards a place where politics are less dramatic. And that is where you’ll see less leadership cults… it will be more difficult (though not impossible) for Teshreen to salute the great leader for his finance minister’s decision to increase interest rates by 0.25 percent).It does not matter what happened in the past where most Syrains did get programmed to believe in “our holly lands … every square centimeter of it” .. the fact is, this is the case … so they should start a top down approach … which lands do they need back and how far are they willing to go to recover them… or does it really matter to them to get those lands back at all?

  7. Zenobia:Well, if that is what Ammar meant, then I am curious as to specifics. I agree that the national consensus in both countries needs to be questioned (in differing ways, of course)–I also think that the self-serving Syrian government should stop interfering in Palestinian affairs, simply because it is working to the detriment of their freedom.

  8. My personl opinion about any of these issues is the following:- Our opinion today is useless since we have no instrument to convert our opinion into action- So the first priority is to change our system of government so that all Syrians will have an influence in the events that govern our life such as dealing with our “Classic National Struggles”- Beyond regime change (and reform is a method of change), the real questions is not what do we feel about A, B or C issue, since we all have different opinions. The real question is how de we create a system that will allow us to have different opinions and still act in a way that is to general benefit of all of us.So my short answer about whether I want fries with with my burger, is give me the damn burger first and then I will tell you if I want the fries too.

  9. Indeed, I think each one has hit on the same point in his/her own unique way: we need to be relevant on the street in order for our promethean ventures and aspirations to have a real chance to succeed. Even though I remain a regime changer, I am also not in favor of waiting for the regime to change before we act. I am more in favor of incorporating regime change into the overall message of change we preach in this particular country of ours that is Syria. A different approach might be more justifiable elsewhere where the regimes could be more apt at the give and take of politics. Our main problem in Syria is that we are not dealing with politicians anymore, but with pure blooded thieves and murderers. So, how do achieve this relevance? Try different things and keep on trying all while attempting to address the problem of lack of proper resources. There is no other way. Getting the national consensus (in Syria, and elsewhere, but mainly in Syria at this stage) to shift to our side is a potentially long and drawn out process, once we reach a certain critical point though, a certain watershed event could speed things way beyond our control. We should be ready for anything and everything to happen at any given moment. Never a dull moment, huh?

  10. Ammar,I fully agree with you that if we want to mobilize poeple beyond being upset with the regime then we need to create a vision of what happens the day after.Today we have 2 visions that are offered:a) Al-islam houwa al hallb) the socialist, ultra natinalistic agenda offered by old timers who still can find meaning in these concepts and wordsI think we have to offer a new vision for poeple that is not based on concepts of nation, religion, struggles, etc. But focused more on individuals:- Do you want your children to have jobs?- Do you want to be able to voice your opinions in a free society- Do you want to worship who you want and where you want?- Do you want to be treated with respect by government employees and agents?- Do you want to able to travel where you want, whenever you want?- Do you want to have the full protection of the police and the courts when somebody wants to usurp your rights?I feel that nobody is proposing this simple, down-to-earth message in the opposition and I have a feeling that such a message if articulated correctly will have a strong resonance in the population.

  11. From Philip I []Ammar and fellow contributors, any idea why the syriacomment server is down? In fact the whole univerity server seems to be down.Anyway see new post “Road to Democracy” on Via Recta which is relevant to your discussion. Sorry Alex, the opening reference to you is meant to be complimentary.

  12. Nafdik, and Philip I, I think we see eye to eye on all of the issues you raised. Nafdik, a down to earth visions that address the points you highlighted will go a long indeed, especially when proposed by credible figures. Our problems at the NSF is that we have highly controversial figures that need to be made credible first, otherwise, they will dilute whatever message that they will adopt. There is probably a need for a counterweight figure(s) to Khaddam-Bayanouni in the Front. Philip, you hit on a point in your post that has always been a concern of mine, the fact that the Assads are paving the way for Syria’s eventual dissolution as a viable state with their corruption and off-handed adventurous politics. We are fighting against time here. This is the essence for my support for such a pragmatic institution as the NSF.

  13. I was scratching my head for a person to speak to the Syrian poeple and I think I found one that will be trusted by poeple of all generations. I will email you his name. But in general, I think that poeple play different roles in any revolution.There are:a) Thinkers who think about the vision, these will listen to all the noise poeple like me are creating and formulate a coherent visionb) Communicators who take these ideas and spread them to the poeplec) Action men who convert the will of the poeple to resultsThe Islamists have gone through the three phases above were defeated and have an army waiting for them when they decide to move. The liberal democrats have ….We need first to get through a) and have the vision thought through.

  14. How about ‘action’ women….i think the action women are the ones who will really convert the will of the people into results……

  15. Touche,Women are the forgotten force in our society, they might hold the key to destoying the regime and our next kaeed could be a kaeeda. (I just hope Bushra is not reading this)

  16. I have question about the Syrian American Congress, which should represent the Syrian in North America. I went through their website and I did not feel equal handed posting and analysis for the Syrian issues. Any feed back would be appreciated specially from Ammar.Thanks

  17. SAC tried to be equal handed, but I guess for many of its founders this is going against their inner strain, their interests and their fears. Still, the conference they held in Chicago was good from the perspective of those who represent the opposition, seeing that the likes of Bouthaina Shaaban and Imad Moustapha opted out in the last minute. This left the opposition figures with a certain advantage, and we managed to garner a lot of sympathy for the cause, so to speak. The people’s hearts are with change, their minds, bodies, and moneys, on the other hand, are a different issue all together. The success of the conference from the opposition’s point of view seems to have represented many of the initial founders, and I think that there are a lot of recalculations going on behind the scenes.

Comments are closed.