The Death of Moderation!

What can be said about the current developments in Lebanon except that we might be seeing the prelude to a civil war?What could really be more telling than this?

But yes, I can praise the March 14 forces for showing so much restraint and from refraining to challenge the current show of force by Hezbollah and supporters, the pro-Syria demonstrators, by mounting an equally impressive show of their own. But this will be adding more fuel to the fire, and already several agents provocateurs, some of which reportedly Syrian, have been involved in trying to steer the crowds into doing something stupid such as storming the Serail. The restraint shown by the March 14 forces is indeed wise and commendable.

The challenge, however, lies in the ability to maintain it over the long hold.

Restraint may not prevent violence indefinitely, however, especially if the other side, or at least certain elements in it, is/are intent on provoking it. But restraint could serve to demonstrate clearly to the international community which side needs to be blamed for the violence and, therefore, contained, and which side merits to be supported. Admittedly, however, if civil war should break out, this may not account for much in the overall scheme of things.

Some in the region are begging for huge crisis that can allow them to avert being held accountable for their crimes, and retain their positions, no mater illegitimately gained. This is not about any legitimate demands or concerns; this is more about their abuse by capricious elements on the highest level of governance and society in several states in the region, but mainly, in Lebanon itself, as well as in Syria and Iran.

Yet, there are those who would suggest rewarding the evil-mongers, to ward off the greater evil, as they contend, as though this policy has not been tried for decades now, to no avail. Falling back on more of the same is a sign of weakness on all sides, and will only serve to embolden the worst among us. Let’s not underestimate the mayhem that they could do, that they will be willing to do, if further emboldened. Isnt’ it enough for us to see how willing they are to push things to the brink?

Indeed, in the age of asymmetric warfare, and pure unadulterated thugary, no power will remain unchallenged no matter how technologically superior. Why? I think Marlon Brando put it best in his monologue in Apocalypse Now:

“I remember when I was with Special Forces…Seems a thousand centuries ago…We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile…A pile of little arms. And I remember…I…I…I cried… I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. 

And then I realized…like I was shot…Like I was shot with a diamond…a diamond bullet right through my forehead…And I thought: My God…the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters…These were men…trained cadres…these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love…but they had the strength…the strength…to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral…and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling…without passion…without judgment…without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”

Of course Marlon Brando’s character “had” to be killed at the end, as the very idea of civility militates against amorality. Civility does condone at occasions recourse to barbarous behavior, but it will never accept it as a way of life. At one point or another, people have to feel guilty about their barbarism, otherwise they could never be civilized. The lot we are dealing with is not the kind that will feel guilty about anything, otherwise they would not be risking taking things this far. This is not a peaceful protest, this is an act of intimidation, one meant to draw violence in order to unleash greater violence, one that is designed to be Act One of something bigger, much bigger.

Of course, this is an argument in extremis, there is usually much grey involved in most situations. But these are extremist times when extremist agendas are unfolding. You can cut-and-run, or you can face the music. Peacemaking requires teeth, not prayers nor wishful thinking, nor even… realism. Take a bite now, or gnash your teeth later. Moderation has been killed.

88 thoughts on “The Death of Moderation!

  1. Evil, profoundly immoral or wrong. It is generally held that murder is immoral, yet in war we murder civilians. Whole cities were bombed to pieces in WWII. Any civilian that can either willfully or under duress support the enemy’s war effort is a legitimate target. The ends do justify the means. Therefore it is not evil to nuke a city if that results in saving the lives of millions of Allied and Japanese soldiers, IMHO. Hezbollah is fighting a war against Israel and is currently quite successful at least so far as people’s perceptions go, and perception is key. That does not make Hezbollah evil. The problem is Israel constantly holds back in this war, mostly because they fear a loss of support from the US, a country that has forgotten how to wage war. Evil has no place in the vocabulary of war, Hezbollah and others know this and that does not bode well for the other side. Brando’s character was right, we lost in Vietnam and are losing in Iraq because the other side is more “evil”, willing to do the unpleasant things that will bring success.

  2. The reason they are willling to do anything (if that is even true, and I am not saying I agree that ‘they’ are all over the edge and we aren’t) is because in Vietnam and Iraq..they have everything to lose (at least in their minds) and are fighting for their survival and integrity.WE, on the other hand are invaders. Invaders will always lose eventually….(unless, say like the Spanish empire…they are coming to stay and to migrate). As occupiers, nothing can be sustained against a population that resists the invader. It isn’t because the occupied people have less of a conscience or are more ‘evil’ or anything of the sort. It is because they are fighting for independence of the occupier. they have everything to die for. Thus, when the occupier cannot dominate -the only alternative in order to ‘win’…is to kill all. Once would literally have to blow the shit out of the enemy, which mean killing everybody else in the process. And this would have been true in Vietnam too. In fact, the bombing of North Vietnam by Nixon was getting close to such actions. But even if it is decided to have no reservation about the level violence to be used, unless you have a clear geographic separation of enemy from non-enemy fighters and civilians…you will end up with indescriminate mass killing.And then what have you got.After such an outcome – what has one achieved? In the case of Iraq…it would be like killing the patient to supposedly save him. And it would have been the same in Vietnam… total absurdity.And in the process…. those who do the killing – soldiers – and the country behind those soldiers…lose some of their humanity. A huge percentage end up with permanent damage to their character and health. With the american vets of the Iraq war…20,000 with brain injury and lost limbs…..who is going to pay for this? who is going to be responsible for our killers.BTW, in the case of Israel and HA, I don’t think the Israelis are holding back because they are worried about the USA. America’s administration wouldn’t give a shit if they bombed south lebanon to hell, which they practically did and then went in on the ground and take on HA.It is the international community and Europe and the rest of the world..who matter, and who would have not allow Israel to take such actions. In fact, I don’t even think…if real death on that scale occurred that the Israeli people themselves could live with that…. with who they would become.

  3. Ammar-My God…I actually find myself agreeing with some of what Zenobia has to say.However, this logic can backfire. For example…Jews could argue that OUR land is occupied and has been since the Romans kicked us out about 1900 years ago and WE are fighting the occupiers. Me…I am still willing to share, but I don’t see much evidence of that from the other side.And Zen is correct, if I read her correctly, the is a HUGE portion of the Israeli popluation that does not have a stomach for inflicting large civilian loses, and THAT, more than Europe or USA is what holds them back or drop warnings before an airstrike. Groups like the HA know this, and cynically exploit it.

  4. “In fact, I don’t even think…if real death on that scale occurred that the Israeli people themselves could live with that…. with who they would become.”Zenobia is RIGHT on the mark. Terrorists also know this and, like I said, the exploit the hell out of it.

  5. Zenobia,I was swinging between you and Ammar, He is really tackling very important questions in a very logical way, but then you are too. I am not a fan of the Syrian or the Iranian regimes, or HA in that matter, but I can understand to some extent why they are doing what they are, in the same time, I was always alarmed by the growing military power of HA, that doesn’t make them evil of course, but people who value their total absolute freedoms will be worried all the time. Some times the situation forces people to make hard choices, when you have nothing to gain and everything to lose, and especially when your ideology promises you of “Heaven” if you stand up to your oppressors/ killers or occupiers, then why not! The presence of Israel in this area is an implantation of a strange member into a rejecting body, especially keeping in mind the way it happened! When the world decides to apologize -in all possible ways- to the destroyed lives of millions of people in the region, those who suffered –including manipulated people of Israel- because of the “International Recognition” of an illegal occupation as a “legal state”, then some peace might be reached in a solid permanent way!In the end, you won my heart and mind, psychologist or not ; )

  6. Hammam, thanx for your praise. He makes me work soo hard!…that’s why I adore Ammar no matter how much I seemingly push against him. as for the last bit of your comment,,, my (short) thought for today is that… Forgiveness is Divine… something everyone individually and collectively should aspire to. However, it is rarely (very rarely) possible without Recognition.I sound so 70’s (ouch)….don’t I…..?

  7. Believe me, Zen, we all need a little, if not a lot, of that 70s spirit of forgiveness. But, as you said, forgiveness is divine, and we are just too damn human.

  8. HowieYou are right, it is Occupation. It can never be legal.ZenobiaOk, I forgive all what had happened.But I want my Grandfathers – and many other grandfathers- lands back, in Haifa, Akka, Alquds, Yafa, Al Nasira, and all the ancient cities of Palestine! WE STILL HAVE THE ESTATES-DEEDS FOR THEM, And THE KEYS AS A MATTER OF FACT! And we want to live on these lands too! ;)Forgiveness, is one side of the coin, the other side is Justice. AmmarTrue… even if some of us could reach that divinity, can’t guarantee the 99.9% left 🙂 AlexDoes forgiving the Assads and CO. means letting them lead what is left of our lives straight to hell! Ok, I forgive them the disappearance of my father since 1980, who didn’t -according to their own intelligence- commit any crime or violence, and many like him, I forgive them the torture and the 12 months in jail I spent my self –I have to consult my therapist about that- and my crime was that I didn’t inform them about a banned Political Party whose main activity is reading books!!, I forgive them the years that my mother couldn’t have a good sleep, My “voluntary” exile, My sister and here families official exile –as Mustafa put it, and maybe worked on it too, I forgive them 15000 missing people –if their families allowed me- on the condition that we know where their graves are to put a flower on them, and the wasted wealth and recourses of Syria for more than 35 years at least, but in the end, I WANT THEM OUT!

  9. Hammam,I am not a big fan of “justice” … to me forgiveness and learning the right lessons are enough … justice means “revenge” most of the time… especially in the middle east. The Israelis who retaliate for killing some of their civilians at the hands of Arabs, retaliate by killing 10 times more Palestinian civilians, think and claim they are doing it for the sake of justice. Hamas, on the next day, promises more “justice” to make the Israelis pay for their “Justice” yesterday.In Iraq … the brilliant planners had “justice” on their mind… that’s why they ended up creating enemies … millions of Iraqi Baathists, Army personnel, and others who were punished for their “relation to” the Saddam regime.In Lebanon’s last civil war … there was a lot of “justice” going on for 13 years. They all acted like judges. Jeajea, Jumblat … all of them… There was the endless typical justice and counter justice.And, of course, the authoritarian regimes (like you know who) also believe they are serving justice when they put their opponents in jail for ever.On the other hand, in south Africa, the end of apartheid was a successful process because the emphasis was on forgiveness, not on “justice”.For now, let’s leave justice to Sweden and Canada … in the Middle East, the South Africa example is more suitable.

  10. Alex, it took a de Klerk to abolish apartheid and release Mandela, and it took a Mandela to forgive a de Klerk and chart a course for a forgiveness that is divorced from forgetfulness. Indeed, you cannot get forgiveness unless you are willing to admit mistakes and give back justice. Mandela would not have been able to forgive while he was still in prison and apartheid still a reality with which he and all black South African had to contend. It was only the willingness of the leaders of the Apartheid regime to recant and accept the consequences of ending the apartheid regime, namely that the white minority cannot continue to dominate and manipulate the political system in the country, that paved the way for forgiveness. You cannot ask for forgiveness while insisting on your erroneous ways. Indeed, that is exactly what opposition figures and dissident movements during the Damascus Spring period back in 2000 were trying to point out to Bashar, as they were prodding him on and on to effectively follow the example of de Klerk and end the situation of minority rule in our country. But Bashar soon proved that he was not a de Klerk, consequently, none of the reformers was given the opportunity to become a Mandela, although several were indeed thinking along these lines, their popularity or lack thereof notwithstanding. We simply cannot have one in the absence of another. Which is why we remain condemned to a search for justice-cum-vendettas, armed with Elephantine memories, bleeding wounds, and deadened hearts.

  11. And yes, Alex, my wife, Khawla, would like to add that forgiveness is the prerogative of the strong and empowered. To demand forgiveness from the weak is to humiliate them even further. Forgiveness is not given gratis, it needs to be earned. This is what Hammam was trying to say: he’ll forgive, but the Assads have to make amends, and they have to leave their positions to allow for healing to take place.

  12. We have always maintained that Alex is a regime drum beater. He can only be treated as such. The only way to deal with such aberration is to ignore him completely. I direct greater blame to those who discourse with him on such ridiculous issues which can only be described as a nonsensical farce with no contribution whatsoever to intellectual benefits.

  13. Who is “we” …anonymous. I think you can only speak for yourself.And I think it more apt that someone like yourself -who will only accept hearing those things that agree with your viewpoint – be the one to be ignored completely, as you say.In fact, it is only engaging and dialoguing with those whose viewpoint vary from our own and who challenge us to think out ever more precisely our own beliefs and perspectives that we can truly derive the ‘intellectual benefit’ you are claiming to value. I suspect it is only confirmation of your own views that you are looking for.

  14. On the subject of Justice….. well I think it is very important concept..abstract and ill-defined as it is. I think the misuses of the notion of justice are what Alex is referring to. Like all those other big lofty abstractions like ‘freedom’.. it is easy to co-opt meaning for devious uses.but underneath….Justice…is a beautiful thing..and critical to peace, I believe. And i agree completely with Ammar that Justice is not inherently necessary for forgiveness to take place, but in practice it is rarely possible to have forgiveness without some justice.I think I meant a similar thing when i said that Recognition is a prerequisite for forgiveness. I think justice….usually means a kind of change of the status quo and a physical manifestation of recognition of wrong being righted.By recognition, I guess I am suggesting that some hoped for restitutions are not going to be possible, and at minimum their needs to be a public acknowledgment of a harm or denial of justice that was done. For example, in the case of people that have been killed – there is no way to bring those people back. And in the case of the Palestinians… and the emergence of Israel… history cannot be remade. To try to completely repay the damage done…would only create new damage to new people… Israelis who were born into this current reality and shouldn’t have to pay with their lives or be punished for the sins of their fathers.On the other hand, some restitution is required… and a new project of discontinuing any further denial of justice is absolutely necessary. A recognition that all justice rectifying the wrongs of the past cannot be achieved, but that this reality of those wrongs is on record…. is the purpose of a public recognition in the service of reconciliation.Reconciliation and forgiveness rests on a set of processes that are clearly not easy to bring about. We can’t wait entirely for full restitution and change to occur before attempting to find ways too recognize the validity in our enemy’s claims. Otherwise the violence never ceases. So, it seems to me there has to be attempts made to begin the process even beforejustice has been achieved. I think my dear friend Alex would agree with this.In the case of the Palestinians and Israelis…it would be a massive process to bring about recognition. For example, the Palestinians of the territories have to overcome a problem of identity now with total victimhood. Otherwise they cannot recognize that they have also caused harm and suffering. The problem on the other side is that many Israelis and Americans was to engage in a process that pretends that the relative harm done on both sides was equal, and of course, it was not. This distortion has been a huge part of Palestinian fury over the public depiction in a large part of the West.In the case of the Assads, I don’t see why anyone should offer any forgiveness to them this point and maybe never. Mercy, maybe oneday….but that is different. There has been no point yet where restitution has been made, the status quo changed, and an opening for reconciliations between former leaders and victims of the security services or the like. So, I think it is very different situation for that of Israel/Palestine.

  15. I understand Ammar (and Khawla).I think that many Syrian intellectuals and opposition leaders have enough of Mandella in them, And I also think that Bashar may well turn out to be a De Clerk one day.I just believe that given the added religious complexities and insecurities of the Middle East (not only the issue of power sharing), in addition to the regional conflicts, both Arab Israeli and Arab-Arab, also make Syria not ready for that Mandella-De Clerk solution.But that does not mean we should sit and wait for that moment. We should look for creative ways that will get us there safely.Why safely instead of promptly? because the Syrian people (majority of) want it this way. They want their reforms (economic and political) but they don’t want it at the risk of violence in Syria.And we need to be more positive again about the future. If Bashar disappointed you the first two years he took power, maybe you should consider giving him the benefit of the doubt …that 9/11 and the American invasion next door then the Hariri investigation and the France US Saudi Lebanese cooperation against him, took their heavy toll on his time and ability to take risks in reform. These are mostly very valid excuses to me and, again, to most Syrians.We need to to get rid of those valid excuses (and not allow new ones to appear) … only then can we know if Bashar can be a De Clerk or not. If it becomes clear to the Syrian people that he does not have it in him, then you will see a Lebanon-style million Syrians demonstrating against the regime in the street. The Syrians are not less courageous than the Lebanese who did not fear the Syrian army at the time. But Syrians are less angry and more understanding.Forgiveness takes inner strength, not strength derived from Syrian politics and from sitting in the president’s office in Damascus… it is an inner process that allows you to clear your mind from the sadness and negativity of the past and makes you a more effective agent for constructive change… regardless of whether or not the other side deserves your forgiveness. It is not a trade that requires reciprocation. It is self rewarding.

  16. And Zenobia, I wish I could say it as well as you did. The Palestinian Israel conflict is the conflict that can benefit the most from a reduction of anger on the two sides. And anonymous … I’m sure all the naive readers who forgot to close their eyes when they see my comments, are grateful for your monthly warnings/reminders.It would be such a great upgrade from the current authoritarian system in Syria to see strong believers in democracy like you take over.

  17. Hammam-And my wife’s parents and most of their friend and relatives have the deeds to THEIR house and lands in Iraq. And I could talk about not just Jews but American Indians, Mexicans, Brazilians and on and on that have legitatmate complaints.I want my grandparents stuff back from the Ukraine…But the Palestinian cause has not evolved much past this concept. Fine..have your stuff back…but then we want all our stuff back too. Not going to happen…and all the misguided efforts of the Palestinians have led to no solution and more of the same with not help either.Hamman…just ask, for example..any human being that has suffered, on let’s say from ah..hemmoroids. Ask that person what is more important…justice…”why did this happend to ME” or do they just want some relief.Some come…let’s make peace…we both have given up on dreams. And justice? Are you kidding? For whom…just the Palestinians? Do the Palestinians have a monopoly on suffering and getting a bad deal? Ask the Darfurians about a bad deal.Ammar is right…justice has no end to it. We have to both let go of part of what we feel is ours (except the Golan, ALEX) and go on with the other miseries and injustices of life…of which there is no end…even without the Zionists.

  18. OK the American brotha’s put it best. It is an old story of a one time queen of an eastern province who was later enslaved by the Romans. So she became known appropriately as the slave of East and West.

  19. Anonemous of 11:42, I had to delete your earlier comment, it was both mean and irrelevant to the discussion. No matter how heated the debates get on this blog, we prefer to keep things as civil as we can.

  20. HowieI don’t have a problem, you can get your wife’s lands, houses or any kind of property, even if it was in Damascus, as long as you have the needed documents that support your claims! The result will be the gradual fading of the illegal “state of Israel”. All who know the history of Palestine know that Arab-Jews, were living side by side with the rest of the people of the area, as a matter of fact it was a Jew midwife that helped my grandmother be able to deliver a healthy baby after a long time of waiting! There were no problems then, even now, we can reach some kind of deal before it is too late. States and Nations are not going to be strong all the time, that’s why I want “justice” now, rather than revenge then, but justice is not on your side, this is why you are trying to run away from it, it is Israel, with the help of American Veto who is not abiding with numerous UN resolutions, or any kind of settlement with the Palestinians. It is Israel who has more than 200 nuclear warhead missiles, and if you want me to compare statistically the number of killed civilians on both sides I will.You want all your stuff back?, you can take it back, but do that where you came from, cause I don’t know how an Ukrainian can have a land in Palestine??!! Justice is not “why did this happen to me”, it is “I want the same rights that the others have” or in a better way “The others have the same rights that I give to my self”Yes, yes, yes….. Let’s make peace! But not on the expense of the Darfurians, Tibetians, Palestinians, Original Americans, etc. Actualy it is the same mentality that exterminated the Original Americans, is governing Israel’s military mentality. And your version of peace means that Palestinians should give up their rights in exchange for a big prison that they can run on their own but with Israeli supervision! I suggest for a start: STOP BOMBARDING CIVILLIANS WITH GUIDED MISSILES AND CLUSTER BOMBS. Then we can talk about Peace, not Justice!Anyway, believe it or not, I don’t consider Israel as the main/ root cause of instability or backwardness or lack of democracy in the region! Israel is the result! And when we have real democracies, development, human rights states in the region, then Israel should start worrying and thinking seriously about peace and justice with the surroundings. That’s why Israel doesn’t want the regime change in Syria.My own personal theory is: Let’s have peace with Israelis, work on development and democracy in our countries, and ask for a just solution for the historical problem of Palestine through –unbiased- just International Bodies.And oh…. the Golan Carrot you are keeping for Alex! Of course you are very generous since it is in your hands still, you can’t use South Lebanon anymore…. 😉 And by the way, Jews invented, besides Hummos… Killing their own prophets.

  21. Hammam-I was being tongue in cheek when I said I want my stuff back because, of course, that will happen when camels fly.If you want to take the route of “who it really belongs to” man oh man we can do a long, endless session on that. But how did we end up in the Ukraine? Because our country was taken away from us and we were exiled. But I have done that argument a thousand times and you will never convince me and I will never convince you.If we can ever make peace with you guys, both sides are going to have to walk away pissed off and feeling like they got screwed. The justice thing? Internation body making a decision? They did…it was called the UN in 1948, but y’all rejected it and started this entire mess that never had to be, why would that work this time.We kill our prophets? Like who? You ain’t gonna blame us for the Jesus thing are you?

  22. Hammam, HowieThese things are better discussed later.If peace treaties are finally signed between the different sides, then few years later democratic (or relatively democratic) systems are established and functioning in our countries, and people get busy with practical challenges (economic growth, education …etc) rather than the current emotional and religion-related areas of interest, then maybe it might become easier to settle the Palestinian Israeli conflict.Before we reach that stage, Arabs and Israeli people will need to experience living in peace with each other for few years, with full normalization. When they do not feel the need to protect their people from the “enemy” then everything becomes easier.So, peace between Syria, Lebanon and Israel should be the first step, at the same time, 75% of the issues between Israel and the Palestinians can be resolved (just follow the agreements reached during Rabin’s time). Years later, they can discuss Jerusalem, compensations …etc. Only when everyone calmed down and experienced the more logical side of living together in the Middle East.

  23. Alex-Good Golly Miss Molly…that is twice I find myself agreeing with you.All joking aside…this is the only possible way of doing things. The distrust and internal pressures run SO high and SO emotional right now that major agreements just, in my opinion, could not hold.Problem is, the maximalists often seem to be calling the shots or are able to sabatoge the efforts of moderates…but yes Alex you are very correct in the essence of what you say.I guess I have finally driven some sense into you after all.But which prophets were those that we killed? Rabin? Is it Rabin you meant? Jesus? Or are you talking about us killing our profits…like hummos sales?

  24. But it was not me who mentioned the profits killing thing! You and Hammam can continue your friendly discussion in that and other topics.

  25. Alex-I know it wasn’t you that asked…but I know you were THINIKING it!Do you know what prohets or profits he was talking about?

  26. All who know the history of “Palestine know that Arab-Jews, were living side by side with the rest of the people of the area, as a matter of fact it was a Jew midwife that helped my grandmother be able to deliver a healthy baby after a long time of waiting! There were no problems then, even now, we can reach some kind of deal before it is too late.”This is intermittently true. The Jews who lived along side Muslims were typically at the whim and moods of who was in power…and their was plenty of abuse. Another reason why we have to have our own country.Midwifes…I have told the story before that it is apparently true that a Jewish midwife saved Saddam Huessin’s life and his Momma. Sorry about that. To me, Alex makes some good points. If the starting position is, “give me all my stuff back and then let’s talk”…well its a complete non-starter so I guess it will be dirty-for-dirty for another 60 years? Both sides are going to have to bend and nobody is going to get everything they believe they have coming to them.

  27. Alex: “I think that many Syrian intellectuals and opposition leaders have enough of Mandella in them, And I also think that Bashar may well turn out to be a De Clerk one day.”This statement is so outrageous I don’t even know what to say about it except, Huh? I mean there is absolutely nothing in Bashar’s record ever since he ascended to power that suggests that he might take that path. Let’s not forget here that it took the man less than 6 months to unleash the crackdown on dissidents and opposition figures and end all hope for political reform in the country. Your faith in Bashar does not fall in the realm of rational analysis. But then you did admit that there two years of disappointment that proceeded 9/11, which they don’t seem to count for much for you as a measure of the man’s capabilities and intentions, the way he was selected for office and his lack of any real credential in this regard notwithstanding. You might be right about he Syrian people though, safety and security do come first to them. But the struggle for freedom and justice do involve risks, ones that can never be really moderated. The French will never have left Syria without a fight, nor will the Assads leave power without a similar struggle. This does not condemn us to violent tactics, but to the necessity of a national struggle. Indeed, the issue of religious identity is bound to complicate things enormously; and the mayhem in Iraq and the rising tensions in Lebanon will contribute to the existing lethargy among the Syrian populace, and we, the reformers, the dissidents, the opposition figures of various colors and stripes, will continue to be squeezed out to the last one of us, ad the only people who will be left to oppose the Assads and garner popular backing are the very ones who will be interested in revenge rather than justice (vis-à-vis all the rest and not only the Assads). And they will get it. Because Bashar is not a de Klerk, and will never be. The Assads system is simply too cliquish to allow for the emergence of such a figure. The reason why a de Klerk emerged in South Africa was mainly due to the presence of an internal system of discussion and accountability among the Afrikaner. A certain critical measure of political sophistication was present. The Assads Kitchen Cabinet, in the literal sense of the word, comprised of the brothers, the sister, the brother-in-law, the wife, the mother and the cousins is simply not sophisticated enough. No, I think if there is going to be any hope on the scene today it lies in finding a way to take it the message of change and its necessity, for all the risks involved and all the tensions and the problems, directly to the Syrian people. Insisting on a top-down approach is hopeless and a complete waste of time.

  28. Ammar: “Your faith in Bashar does not fall in the realm of rational analysis.”but please keep inmind two points1) my “faith” is not absolute … would it make it better if we can say that for example “I am undecided, I did not make up my mind yet” … as I tried to explain above, the events of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, and the faily western pressures (including presidents Bush and Chiraq for a while making sure they mention Syria negatively even when they meet a Nigerian president) .. these things do not make it easy for me to conclude that Bashar is a failure, or that he is uniquely not trustworthy among potential politicians who can lead Syria. I am very happy to give him another chance, with certain constrains of course.2) Let’s say that in this respect (being relatively easy on Bashar) I am more in tune with the majority of the Syrian people. You and I are discussing “personal opinions” more or less. We are both logical and we agree on most other things I’m sure, so let’s admit that it is a matter of personal preferences … I value stability and calm long-term progress. You are more revolutionary… Who knows who is right. We are both only humas Ammar. “Democracy” and other neat stamps does not automatically make everything right. The “democracy advocates” Mr. Jumblat and Mr. Hariri Jr. both inherited the leadership job from their families and are both living on corruption wealth to a large extent, same applies to the King of Saudi Arabia (althoug I actually like King Abdallah) … so these labels that you like to selectively apply to Bashar, while you seem to accept the others, are not that “logical” either. And again, you probably know that a majority of the Syrian people agree with the “assads” and their “kitchen cabinet” on their policies on Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, the US …etc. So, for now, if you want me, and the other common illogical Syrians like me to not like the Assads and not support them, I strongly suggest that there are two ways:1) ask the Americans and Israelis to invade Syria and burn it on top of the Assads.2) Advice the Americans to help the Syrian people get what the Assads at least seem to be working hard to achieve … protecting Syria and its interests in the regional conflicts. When this happens, Syrians will start to like America more, and they will be attracted to “democracy” and political activism … but anything else is only going to lead to more frustrations and/or violence.

  29. Howie,… 🙂 you are not much of a psychologist after all… calm down man.Alex,“and people get busy with practical challenges (economic growth, education …etc) rather than the current emotional and religion-related areas of interest”!!!I was under the impression that they are busy with exactly what you mentioned! What emotional and religion-related areas?! I don’t get it? If you mean that the Palestine Issue is merely emotional or religious thing then please explain more?! I believe many times you hinted that Ammars take on the Assads is emotional although it is very justified and layed out in a very logical way, and you many times agree with him. Unless you think talking about justice is emotinoal, which I find strange considering talking about forgiveness –which I agree totally with- is more emotional in this field. Peace is the “emotional” outcome of justice, and if it didn’t achieve this then It won’t last, I think! I have to go “non-emotionally” with Ammar on Assad=De Clerk thing, you are very optimistic man, I wish I was like you, you know… even during the interrogation period –the hardest as you might know- I always had the fantasy that we can communicate rationally with the regime, starting from the officers who were interrogating us to the top of the chain of command, by the end of the day it was clear, they don’t want to communicate, they don’t care to cooperate for the sake of the country, they were beating us just because it was the only means of communication for them. Now, do we need to see Syria in a war with USA, Israel, or any other bully? Of course not, THEY DO! Whether intentionally or mere stupidity, it is the rationality of others that is protecting Syria form other Iraq, not the thugs –as Ammar puts it- who care only for the family business. But still, we are asking for justice, recognition, reconciliation etc. not revenge from the Assads, you have to convince them not the people of Syria if you can, to give the people and them selves a brake!

  30. I cannot be as positive as you are about what the Syrian people think about any given issue. I know they have grown to fear the regime again. I know they are angry with the Americans, but to my knowledge this does not necessarily translate into real support of the regime and its head. Verbal assertions are one thing, real faith in the system and its leaders is quite another. Had the people had any real faith in the systems and its leaders, their support would have been much more vociferous and spontaneous than anything we currently see. But you know dictators are never that keen on spontaneity, which is why their support is always surreal. As for Syrian attitudes towards democracy, they would have to love for what it could bring to them regardless of their attitude towards the US. I have no problem with people having problem with America, I just think there are better ways for expressing our frustration than to allow ourselves to be polarized and manipulated into pro- and anti-American stances. Our concern should be to protect our country and our children fro the raping and pillaging being practiced on a daily basis by the ruling, corrupt and authoritarian elite. If we cannot see thing in this light, we don’t have to wait for America and/or Israel to burn the country down on our heads, we’re doing pretty damn good job of it ourselves.

  31. Communism fell in Eastern Europe and the dictators disappeared because of a very basic ingredient: the people took a firm stand. They had no qualms about violence, chaos or anything else in the quest of their cherished aim. They had a clear objective and they set themselves out on the road to achieve this objective. They wanted freedom and life with dignity and were prepared to pay the price. How long will the so-called Syrian freedom seekers continue to discourse in a futile manner with the likes of such drum beaters? Such discourse does not constitute a fair price for the objective in mind. The first thing you have to do is to take a firm stand, affirm it forcefully and refrain from engaging with fifth column elements whose main function is cheap regime drum beating. You are asking for a valuable commodity. Do not waste your time and efforts on those who are seeking bones!

  32. Hammam,my answer is: yes and no.The Palestinians’ positions regarding Israel, the Jews, etc … are a mix of legitimate rights, logical, wise and realistic demands, but then there are also many emotional decisions and many opinions based on emotional reactions to all the drama in their lives.Do you deny that those who hate “all jews” have allowed their emotions to cloud their judgment?I am not judging them of course, if I had to endure the daily humiliation of the Israeli occupying army then I don’t think I would have been always successful in isolating my emotions from my actions and from my opinions.Same applies to the Israelis too. many of them hate all the Arabs, or do not trust any Arab ..etc. Is this a state of mind formed on purely logical foundations?So back to my point, on which I am today allied with my friend Howie … Today, both sides are full of anger, some of it “justified” (whichever unique way each side defines justified). If an Israeli government is to sign a land-for-peace agreement, you want the Israeli voters to aprove, or else the agreement is going nowhere. Therefore, you have to listen to the Israelis and find out how you can calm their fears. I am confident that a majority (not all, but a sufficient majority) of Israelis will support a much more moderate position from their government after they experience enough genuine goodwill from the Arab side. So I prefer a multi-staged peace process … enough egreements soon, followed by friendly relations (hopefully), followed by a new look at each sides’ tougher demands … who knows if their will be still need for all of those demands.Again, it sounds like I am asking “the victim” to forgive the agressor (after I did the same earlier asking Ammar to “forgive the Assads”)But again, I do not like labels like “the weak” “the victims”, and to me forgiveness is a very logical move … the peace of mind you get after you forgive is priceless. Who would say no to such a gain?And Howie, Israel (the strong party) needs to learn that its security will only come from befriending the Arabs. I know you have many fears and many complaints … but there is so much more your country can do to make things better for everyone. Today Israel is as attractive to the Arabs,as Hamas is to you. We can’t continue to see the two sides matching each other’s negativity and then escalating it.I can not see any other “logical: way out other than to have both sides of any conflict to act positive for a change.

  33. Alex-I agree with about 80% of what you say…We can go on and on about who is wrong or the most wrong…you see it as Israel…I see it primarily as the Arabs and Palestinians…It seems that each time we get close to doing something positive..all hell breaks loose..and we blame each other…I think, e.g. the Palestinans completely screwed up the evacuation of Gaza. I am sure they will blame Israel.You are correct, most Israelis would, albeit grudingly for many, give up land for peace but from an Israeli perspective we have to see some behaviorial change..hell we cannot even get consistent WORDS about peace.I am still bothered by a Muslim/Palestinian speaker I heard speak…with my very own ears. This is a journalist that used to work for the PA. He said to the group that most Palestinians see Israeli behavior that does not involve aggression as weakness and capitulation. For me…that was a rather defining moment. I just do not trust the intentions of the other side and I have seen nothing to make me change my mind about it.

  34. Howie,I think both sides made mistakes. I am not putting all the blame on Israel.In general, the Arabs at the beginning made more mistakes, and the past few decades, it is Israel that is making more mistakes .. in my opinion.As for your last point … I agree with you. But it is not something unique to the Palestinians. Again it applies to both Palestinians and Israelis… and to many others .. it is a perception that moderation is a sign of weakness. It is based on a total lack of trust in the intentions of the other side … in thiis case: Since the Palestinians do not trust the intentions of Israel, they conclude that “if Israel is acting nice, it must be because the Israelis are scared … they are not usually nice to us by default”So, again, Israel will need to show its more humane side to the Palestinians … at the beginning they will interpret it as a sign of weakness, but eventually they will start to accept the Idea that Israelis are not all “bad”.It takes time but it works … you can not try one positive test and then get disappointed that it did not work and that the other side is a hopeless case.And as you know, I also advocate that the Palestinians should do the same.BUT .. no one has the patience .. Instead, every one is looking for events that reinforce his/her pre-established conclusions (negative conclusions usually).

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