Doing the Math!

The math of life deals more with cold logic than with complex calculations 

Further to Hammam’s excellent argument below, I would like to point another problem with the math issue that gets often raised these days.

It goes beyond a doubt that when an America administration makes a mistake in calculations, whatever the reasons for that may be, more people get hurt around the world than when a regime like the Assads does. But looking at things from this perspective ignores an important fact, namely that American administrations are, in the final analysis, accountable to their people, while the same cannot be said of the Assads. 

The main problem here, however, is that, because of America’s influence and standing in the world, as well as its complex and intricate interests, people from around the world, even those of developed countries, would want to see American administrations being held accountable to them as well. Since, however, we cannot all practically aspire to being American citizens, it seems that the only reasonable way to hold America accountable to is to work for the establishment of a fairer international system.

But this feat cannot be achieved by appealing to international principles and conventions alone, leveling the playing grounds in this regard requires reaching a comparable level of socioeconomic and political development. Contrary to popular lore in this regard, which is often reinforced by nationalist and Islamist ideologues, western powers are not standing in our way to achieve this, and might in fact be willing to aid in it, because more developed and sophisticated economies make better trade partners, as the ASEAN experiences prove.

Moreover, the success outside the region of our migrant communities, through both the traditional and more “liberal” components, argues against arguments of cultural and/or racial inferiority.

As the main obstacle in this regard cannot but reside with the ruling regimes and their partnerships with certain societal forces. Working to reform and change these regimes through the development of grassroots oppositional forces is, therefore, the first and necessary step towards the establishment of a fairer and more representative internationals systems. In order to make America more accountable to us, we have to make our own regimes more accountable to us. If Syrians want to oppose any conceived evil designs being implemented by any number of American and western politicians, that is fine, but the battle begins at home, against our own evil schemers and corrupt tyrants – the Assads and their ilk: they are not the lesser evil. Or, if one wants to think of them as such, then the more reason for taking them on first. For it makes more sense to take on the lesser contender before you take on the champion of the world. 

Of course, I am here subscribing to the argument that the West and America are evil, I am just saying that the unfairness of the international system is real, and that remedying this state of affairs requires a certain prioritization on our part: one that puts the struggle against local tyranny and corruption at the top of the agenda, one that seeks to establish on the grounds alternatives to the networks of tyranny and corruption in our midst (this is what the concept of reviving civil society is all about), and one that seeks to build parallels and alternatives to the external networks of the regime through which it tries to acquire and maintain international legitimacy. That is the importance of arranging meetings between dissidents, activists and opposition members and western and international officials.

I have repeatedly argues before that my opposition to the Assad was primarily premised on developmental grounds. That is, had I been convinced, or had the Assads shown that they could help advance the cause of development and modernization of our country, no matter how slowly and gradually, things would have been different. And by launching and operating the Tharwa Project in Syria openly and for years before I was told to leave, and we were forced to go underground of sorts, I have given them the benefit of the doubt. I have also observed how similar more “benign” experiences came to naught. My assertion that the Assads are irreformable was premised neither on theoretical considerations nor isolated happenstances, but on clear evidence.

Most those who argue against opposing the Assads in such clear cut manner, and still argue for reforms from within the regime premise their arguments more on fear of change or lack of societal readiness for change and/or the perceived suitability/unsuitability of current geopolitical conditions in the region, rather than some real conviction in the abilities and legitimacy of the Assads. Pointing out the prevalence of unsuitable characters and movements in the political scene is also used s an argument here. 

The counter argument to all this is simple: societies become ready for change by working for change, and change should be sought by working in tandem on the external and internal fronts, because they are intimately and inextricably connected and through this work geopolitical conditions can be made more amiable for change.

Since this whole enterprise is pretty risky, the ultimate decision to push should be left to the people, meanwhile we have to argue our case in front of them and in front the whole world, and we have to be ready for the time when they might just decide to take the path of confrontation and change in spite of all risks.

As the prevalence of unsavory characters on the political scene, this a frankly something that cannot be helped, and what people need to realize here is that the choice is ultimately not one between opposition and regime, but one between hope and despair. If both the regime and the opposition inspire despair, then to hell with them both, the dynamics of change and social agitation itself will produce new set of leaders that can be far more representatives of the people’s values and expectations. 

Should the people’s choices in this regard prove too conservative to my liberal and heretical taste, and to that of so many segments of the population, well, this is all part of the social learning process. The Syrian people are entitled to experiment with change just like the intellectual, political and military elite of the Baath, Nasserite and other ideological parties have done in the decades following independence.

No, this is not easy to accept or say, but social attitudes cannot change without going through such transitional periods, whether we like it or not. But I believe that if speak of these issues openly beforehand, we do have a fair chance of eliminating the worst case scenarios that we all fear in this regard, and in finding something that is more manageable. Holding on to the status quo for dear life, on the other hand, will only serve to radicalize more and more social strata, thus paving the way for transforming our most dire predictions into self-fulfilling prophecies.