The story of an old joke – a clarification

General John Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition to Counter ISIL
General John Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition to Counter ISIL

When I referred in my post yesterday to Hady Al-Bahra’s appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart,  I was not suggesting that he was wrong in doing so, I was merely explaining that, because it happened now and not two years ago, the impact of such an appearance will be minimal, and that we should not raise our hopes too much. After all, American officials are talking about a multi-year plan, even in connection with the upcoming training of the FSA.

Indeed, over the preceding years, the situation on the ground has grown too complicated to allow for quick fixes, or even for the kind of democratic transition for which we aspired at the beginning of the Revolution. The best that can be worked out at this stage is a territorial and a power-sharing arrangement that would hopefully excluded Assad and other key officials involved in orchestrating atrocities. When Obama talks about a political solution, this is exactly what is implied. We should plan our upcoming political moves as members of the opposition accordingly.

We should also be mindful that even liberals like Jon Stewart, whose support for our cause should have been a forgone conclusion, have grown too weary, wary and cynical when it comes to “foreign entanglements” of any kind. In such an environment, support for removing Assad, for pacifying the country, and for reconstruction, will not come easily. The entire American political establishment at this stage, Left and Right, and most influential public figures, also Left and Right, are quite unwilling to take the kind of gamble we want and need them to take. In order to overcome this innate resistance, we need to become extremely professional and organized at we do. Coldhearted realism on their part can only be overcome through coldhearted professionalism on ours.

The current team working on behalf of the Revolution in Washington D.C. at this stage, people like Mouaz Moustafa, Oubai Shahbandar, and Muhammad Ghanem, are doing an excellent job indeed, and as the head of the Coalition, Hady seems to be the right person at the helm at this stage. But much more still needs to be done in terms of drawing an overall long-term strategy. Ours, and as things stand at this stage, might be a multiyear fight, but there is not a moment to lose when it comes to getting our act together, otherwise, the conflict will span generations. The Coalition is still quite prone to shenanigans, and the D.C. team cannot make up for that. Hady’s real challenge is not here, transforming the Coalition into a professional political entity is the real challenge that someone in his position needs to overcome. His successes in reaching out to the international community can and should be leveraged into greater political weight and influence within the Coalition, in order to facilitate its necessary restructuring down the road.