Saturday, July 9, 2011

Response to the National Initiative for Change

Dear signatories of the National Initiative for Change in Syria:

Toronto, April 30, 2011

Plato once said “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. For this reason, I always do my best to exert my political rights and responsibilities. Consequently, as a good Syrian citizen, I carefully read your initiative and formulated my input about it, which I will lay out in this message.

Indeed, your initiative came in a very critical moment in the history of Syria. The developments on the ground, people’s discontent and demonstrations, are ramping up very fast. In the meantime, there is severe lack in the political process that can lead this unrest to produce its favorable results. This lack of political process is from both the government and the opposition. The government tried to make some “reforms”, but these “reforms” came too little, too late. Further, they appeared timid, unconvincing and hypocritical. This means that the government will undoubtedly fall sooner or later under the public pressure. Here comes the important question. Where is the political initiatives of the opposition?!. Without any political alternative, the country will go into chaos, enormous unrest and maybe civil war. Thus, your initiative came to fill up to certain measure the lack of serious political process in Syria. However, I have some comments on this initiative.

First, in your proposal you are counting on the president to understand the reality and to step down now for the sake of the country. Unfortunately, I think this won’t happen. I know Bashar personally. I know well what type of personality he is. Bashar was a “nice” person, however superficial and has no good understanding for real life. Consequently, Bashar could have had good wishes, when he started his presidency, but he has had no ability to achieve them. This failure is inherent in his character that lacks charisma and social intelligence. Thus, he has not been in control and he won’t be; he has had no courage, and he won’t have shortly. In brief, he is immature and has no personal assets that permit to him to have appropriate psychological growth. As you know, people when they can't progress personally, they regress (please refer to Karen Horney in “Neurosis and Human Growth”. In other words, they become worse, more dysfunctional and consequently more evil. This particularly applies to immature people in power, because during their reign they become extremely entitled, arrogant, narcissistic, ruthless and paranoid (please refer to Eric Fromm in “Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”). Bashar is no exception. He by now believes that he was born to be president; even, he is the best of them all. He is the savior of Syria and probably the whole Arabic World (as his father used to believe). Do not think that for them these are empty words, they simply try to bluff us with. Not at all, these are deep beliefs in their minds; they are called in psychology self-delusions (please refer to Cordelia Fine in "A Mind of its Own"). However, he knows inside himself that without presidency he is nothing; nobody will respect him; nobody will glorify him; nobody will adore him. Therefore, do not count on him to quit the presidency merely for the sake of the country. He won’t leave the presidency easily. He won’t give up before reaching the point of psychological breakdown (I can elaborate more on this point, if you wish). On the other hand, he will quit at the end when the demonstrations grow up. He will give in not because he loves the country, but because of his psychological breakdown.

Second, before the president steps down officially, encouraging any army officer, even if it is the Defence Minister or the Chief of Staff, to take any political move seems to me reckless, because such move will lead to a schism in the army. It will result in a civil war similar to the Libyan one. As you know, in the army there are many units that are loyal to Maher al-Assad, which will obey him till the end. Maher will not relinquish his position easily, even if Bashar steps down. As long as Bashar is still officially in power, Maher’s units will be legitimate and will fight till the end to keep the status quo. On the other hand, when Basher resigns these units will be rogue, if they do not obey the person who then will be then the Commander in Chief. In brief, If any of the highly-ranked officers attempts any political move in the current status, we will see situation similar to that occurred in 1984 when Rifa’at Al-Assad put his tanks in the street of Barzza (Damascus) confronting the tanks of the rest of the Syrian Army. Furthermore, I do not prefer, personally, any participation of the army in the political process. I believe firmly that Bashar will resign due the increasing public demonstrations, leading to his psychological breakdown.

For all the above-mentioned reasons, I feel that your proposal is not a viable solution for the current crisis, although it stimulated our minds and made us think about the political dimension of the crisis. Do I have any alternative proposal?!. The answer is simply “no”. But, I have some ideas to exchange with you:
1. We (I am talking from my position as a common Syrian citizen) need more ideas and proposals from you and the other opposition groups. I hope these groups will share their ideas with other opposition groups and the Syrian people (at least through the media outlets that reach most of them) till there is a certain consensus among a reasonable percentage of the opposition groups on a common plan of action.
2. The opposition groups should start to lay out not only their views regarding how to resolve the current crisis, but also their visions for the future of the country. This should include what happened wrong in the past (of course, without accusations or blames) to avoid them in the future. This exchange of ideas, if civilized, will accelerate the demise of the regime, fortify the opposition, encourage the Syrian people in their revolution and make the coming transition period much easier.
3. If the situation continue for more than a couple of months like it is now with everyday bloodshed, the opposition groups should meet together and try to start a common vision for the country. They should do this with unofficial meetings first and finally in an official conference. A unified opposition will break the regime down and accelerate its demise. I know how difficult such meeting would be. In fact, my knowledge about the opposition groups in Syria is very limited.

4. At the end, if the people continue their demonstrations and the government pursue its crackdown without any political solution in the horizon, the opposition should form a government in exile, which would gain the recognition of all the western governments. At that time, the regime will lose all its legitimacy and fall sooner than we think. Further, that would make the transition much easier and the people more confident in their struggle.

I am sending these ideas to you as a common Syrian citizen who cares about performing his duties and taking the opportunity to practice his rights. I have no political inclinations. I am a physician and researcher; indeed, this is the only work through which I feel I can fulfill my human potential.

Best regards,

Haytham Khoury

P.S. This was my answer to the National Initiative for Change. It was sent by e-mail to Dr. Radwan Ziadeh, Dr. Najib Ghadbian and Mr. Ausama Monajid on April 30, 2011, the one day after they published their initiative on "". Furthermore, since my initial response to the initiative, I gained more knowledge regarding the situation of the Syrian opposition and changed my opinion as to the viability of the establishment of a government in exile.

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