Thursday, October 20, 2005

"An Agenda for Peaceful Change in Syria" by Hind Kabawat

Hind Kabawat, a lawyer, political activist, and influential member of Damascus' enlightened elite has written "AN AGENDA FOR PEACEFUL CHANGE IN SYRIA." Ms Kabawat has good relations with both the President and members of Syria's civil society. During the last year she organized the visit of an American rabbi and academic to Syria. She arranged for him to travel from Israel to Damascus where he addressed leading members of Syria's religious and political elite at the Asad library. It was a break through of sorts. She followed up with similar gatherings and hopes to continue her work for inter-religious dialog this coming year by organizing similar forums at the University of Damascus.

Hind has turned her elegant Ottoman house in the heart of Damascus' old city into one of the country's leading political salons. She frequently gathers activists and intellectuals in the courtyard to dine and discuss politics. The fragrant orange trees and soothing murmur of the central fountain inspire hope, much as they take edge off of disappointments.

Presentation by Hind Aboud Kabawat
Reunion: Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
Place: Institute of International Finance, Inc.
Washington D.C
October 14, 2006

Section One: The Syrian Problem

When Bashar al-Asad succeeded his father as President of Syria in 2000, there was a great deal of hope among much of the population that dramatic and systemic change might now, finally, transform the Syrian political system.

Bashar was viewed in many quarters as The Great White Hope. Why? Because to many Syrians, the only non-violent way to change Syria’s political culture and political infrastructure was from the top down. Almost by presidential fiat.

The reasoning went something like this: the country was too immature a political society to peacefully and democratically transform itself. And this argument is not without merit. The country has very little experience with representative democracy, or a multi-party system, where political power shifts from one organized group to another, after free open elections. Nor does Syrian society have much, if any, experience with a free press, an independent judiciary, or even a framework of institutions that make a civil society viable.

To compound the predicament of democratic political change in Syria is what might be termed, The Great Paradox. The potential that democratic change—i.e., free and open elections—might, ironically, backfire, resulting in the election of a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy that would systematically dismantle the one constructive legacy of the Baathist regime: a secular society where all the country’s diverse religions co-exist peacefully.

To see what happens when a secular Muslim society unravels, look no further that the sectarian political nightmare that is present-day Iraq. Undermining, or destabilizing, entrenched authoritarian societies in the Middle East can be a potential minefield. Any mis-step could result in serious political collateral damage. Among them, the dissolution of hard-won religious freedoms. The oppression of women. (As a Christian Syrian woman, I am particularly concerned about this last issue. No woman of my acquaintance in the region wants to endure the fate of most of my gender in places like Saudi or Iran.)

So you can see why some worry about the consequences of misguided political and social change in the region. It could too easily result in a worse political environment than the even the present unsatisfactory status quo. That is likely why Bashar’s coming to power ignited much optimism.

Here was a westernized, sophisticated, well-educated personality could possibly reform the system, peacefully, from within. Open the system politically and economically. Transform the country’s relationship with the US and the West. And initially, at least, much was accomplished. Many political prisoners were released. More open political debate was tolerated. The media was able to criticize the regime—somewhat.

But in the last year or so, it has become apparent that the al-Assad government does not have any real instinct for rapid and profound democratic reform. Corruption is still rampant in the Syrian economy. Who you know, or whose cousin you are, rather than the market, determines, too often, how the economy operates, and how contracts are awarded. And then there has been a very troubling reversion to political business, as usual, like the “old days” under Hafez al-Assad.

Let me give you some examples. Recently, a Member of Parliament, Riad Seif, was imprisoned for too aggressively criticizing the government, much as Aref Dalilah was imprissoned. A political debating club, the Attassi Forum, which could have been the basis, or the template, for new political organizations, was shut down after it allowed someone to read a statement from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. So much for freedom of speech in Bashar’s Syria. Most importantly, however, no agenda has been established for the creation of a truly free press, an independent judiciary, or free elections contested by different political groups.

Add to this, the Syrian government’s numerous blunders in foreign affairs, notably its ill-advised intervention in Lebanese politics, and the result has been increasing political pressure from the international community on Syria. And let’s face it; the Syrian government is feeling the heat. Witness the “so-called” suicide, a few days ago, of the Interior Minister, the man most responsible for Syria’s failed Lebanon policy. Only the politically naïve, or stupid, can ignore the increasingly vocal calls in many Western capitals (Washington, D.C, in particular) for regime change in Syria.

This presents all Syrians, whether they support or oppose the Baathist regime, with a real challenge. How can we prevent interference in our internal affairs? Even those Syrians with a profound contempt for the al-Assad regime will not tolerate political change imposed from outside. (Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.) Again, look no further than Baghdad to see the consequences of ill-conceived and ham-fisted interference in the delicate balance that is contemporary Arab/Muslim political culture.

In the best of all worlds, the Arab Middle East would be the mirror image of a functioning liberal democracy in the West, but we are not. And wishing it were so, or destroying our countries through counter-productive and savagely destructive wars will not make it so. Our societies are the result of a different historical and political evolution than Western societies. A more open and democratic society is clearly the goal of all thoughtful political actors in the region, but the question remains, how do we get there?

Part Two:

Let me now talk about some potential solutions to the Syrian Problem.

In the US government’s eagerness to impose democracy in the Middle East, it forgets that it tolerated a one-party authoritarian regime, right next door, for over nine decades. Only in its last presidential election, just a few short years ago, did Mexico witness the peaceful transfer of power from the bizarrely named Party of Permanent Revolution to the new political force headed by Vincente Fox.

Mexico evolved over a long period of time into a functioning democracy. Its early dictators make Hafez al-Assad look progressive. Over the years, Mexico did evolve into a sort of “pseudo-democracy,” where the president could only be in power for one term, but the president, no matter who he was, was always from the same party, the PRI. Only now, ninety years or so, after the Mexican Revolution have you witnessed a peaceful transition of power from one political organization to another.

Why do I raise the Mexican issue? Because it demonstrates that some societies, without a history of democratic political culture, may need to take a different road to reach the goal of profound democratic reform. Look what is happening in Egypt, with Hosni Mubarak allowing contested elections for the first time. So what can be done in Syria short of a coup d’etat, or interference from outside?

Well, for starters, Syrians, themselves, must continue to pressure the regime for real change. There are risks clearly. But I truly believe the time when the Baathist government would use an Iron Fist to suppress dissent is past. What I believe the government should do is this. Borrow the one constructive result of the Iraq Fiasco and create a Constitutional Assembly.

Under the auspices of Bashar al-Assad, Syrians should write a new constitution that codifies a Basic Law—one that satisfies all Syria’s diverse communities. If there is a constitution, which has been freely created by all Syrians, not just the Baath party, and guarantees religious freedom, and the separation of Church and State (or Mosque and State, in the Syrian context), then there would likely be less fear that a post-Baath Syria would result in a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy.

Such a constitutional-building process would also help incubate the creation of any number of political groups and associations, which are desperately needed if Syria is to emerge as a truly democratic political society. What Syria desperately needs is more open political discussion about its future—and its fundamental values.

Can the government of Bashar al-Assad be encouraged to open such a debate? I think so. Just last year, the president hosted a conference in Damascus of ex-patriate Syrians from around the world. The tenor of that conference: vocal calls to open up Syrian society to real change. The next step: a similar conference for Syrians who live in Damascus, Allepo, Homs, or Latakia, not London, Toronto, Sydney, or Los Angeles.

Despite his missteps, I believe that Bashar al-Assad can still redeem the promise of his first days in office. Someone must convince him that he should become Syria’s first “Mexican President.” And someone should convince him it is time to invest in his own people, the poor, the hard working, the low and middle class, give them hope, freedom, social justice, more education and open the country for an Economic reform. Hold office for one six-year term. Effect real reform and think of the future of the Syrian People, while he is in power. And leave office knowing that his country will be profoundly transformed by his willingness to exit politics voluntarily and transfer authority to someone who has the freely—won support of the whole society.


At 10/20/2005 03:12:00 AM, Blogger BP said...

Detlev Mehlis, the German investigator leading the U.N. inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, is convinced the bombing was plotted by a group of high-ranking Lebanese and Syrian intelligence personnel; his report, which he will hand over to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday, is set to reopen old wounds in Syria-Lebanon relations.
According to an article by the German newsmagazine Stern, which will hit the newsstands Thursday, Mehlis, 56, has launched investigations against key figures of the intelligence circles in Beirut and Damascus. United Press International has received the full text of the article ahead of publishing.
According to the piece, written by a journalist close to Mehlis and the investigation, the German and his U.N.-mandated, 100-strong staff heard from more than 400 witnesses about the Feb. 14 assassination of Hariri, the popular former Lebanese politician, who was killed along with 20 of his followers when a bomb exploded under his convoy in downtown Beirut.
While most of the witnesses are not suspected of being involved in the killing, some high-ranking Syrian officials are: Among them, according to Stern, Roustom Ghazalé, the former head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, and Asef Shawkat, the current security chief in Damascus. Mehlis questioned six more high-ranking Syrian intelligence officials, Stern said. Shawkat's involvement could prove especially damaging to Damascus, as he is the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In an interview with CNN, Assad denied any involvement in the killing and vowed to punish any Syrian proved to be involved in the affair.
The Syrian government has borne the brunt of Lebanese and international outrage at the killing, due to its extensive military and intelligence influence in Lebanon, as well as the public rift between Hariri and Damascus just before the prime minister's resignation. Mehlis' mission coincided with growing U.S. pressure on Damascus to control its 310-mile border with Iraq, stop supporting radical Palestinian groups, and end its interference in Lebanon where some say Syrian intelligence is still operating despite the withdrawal of all troops earlier this year.
The report will be made public just days after the death of Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan rattled Damascus. Kenaan, 63, was reported to have committed suicide in his office earlier this month. He served between 1982 and 2001 as the head of Syria's military intelligence service in Lebanon where Damascus maintained several thousand troops and an important contingent of intelligence personnel from 1975 until last April 26, when under international pressure Syria was forced to withdraw. Mehlis questioned Kenaan, but not as a suspect, Stern reported.
He did, however, grill Ghazale for five hours, after which the Syrian reportedly acted rather self-assured: "I love all Lebanese, and Hariri I have loved especially dearly," he said according to Stern.
But Mehlis confronted him with his own motif: Investigators had found $20 million on one of Ghazalé's Beirut bank accounts -- all that with his rather modest monthly salary of roughly $3,000. Mehlis asked the Syrian how he got so much money, to which Ghazale reportedly did not directly answer.
"What does the $20 million have to do with the murder?" he finally asked.
In Lebanon, Mehlis' investigation has led to deep insecurities. The government has beefed up security ahead of the report's publication to ease fears Beirut would slide into chaos. It had initially proclaimed the killing was done by an individual suicide bomber, but Mehlis and his team quickly found otherwise: At least eight people have been directly linked to the assassination, Mehlis found, with a total of 20 people overall involved in the case. Hariri's followers opt that the men responsible are tried before an international tribunal.
Four high-ranking members of the Lebanese intelligence have been arrested. In June, Mehlis' team had searched office and private apartment of Mustafa Hamdan, the pro-Syrian head of the presidential guard. Hamdan is accused of messing with evidence at the scene of the crime, as he ordered to fill up the crater left by the bomb, Stern said.
Prosecutors arrested three more Lebanese officials, including Jamil Sayyed, the country's former security chief. Sayyed has sworn innocence, and said to prove so he would "go to the end of the world."
Syria is under great international pressure from the United States and France over the killing. Washington is expected to increase pressure on the Assad regime if the assassination proves to lead to Damascus. Observers say Syrian involvement in the killing would be near political suicide: It would likely destroy Syria's international reputation and hand its opponents a reason to deliver the blow that could finally destabilize the Damascus regime, and even possibly bring it down. Washington considers Syria a state sponsor of terrorism, though it maintains diplomatic relations with it.
None of the big political killings in Lebanon were solved in recent years -- but Mehlis has a reputation of getting to the truth.
The 56-year-old German from Berlin has solved the "La Belle" case, the terrorist bombing of the Berlin discotheque in 1986, which killed two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman. Mehlis accused Libya of direct involvement in the bombing.
The importance of his new report and his own role might be compared to that of Hans Blix, the U.N. investigator who was deployed to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction, which he did not.
The U.S. magazine Newsweek earlier this month reported that the U.S. government had discussed a possible military intervention in Syria. According to the article, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinced her colleagues to await Mehlis' report for a decision. The goal seems to be to "get [the regime] by the throat, and then really squeeze," Joshua Landis, a Fulbright scholar in Damascus who runs an influential blog called, told Newsweek.
So does Mehlis' report decide over war and peace? Or does it simply result in sanctions that might bring about the end of the Assad regime?
"I never wanted to be compared with Hans Blix," Mehlis told Stern. "But now I know how he must have felt."

At 10/20/2005 05:37:00 AM, Blogger raf* said...

ya josh-

where is that promised comment section moderator? articles copied in full should be taken out ...

as for the article - it seems hind kabawat lives in a similar dreamworld as so many other syrians:

"Syrians, themselves, must continue to pressure the regime for real change" -- after the destruction of the "damascus spring" and the subsequent attempts at civil society's engagement of the government few syrians are willing to do anything.

"[S]omeone should convince him [Bashar al-Asad] it is time to invest in his own people, the poor, the hard working, the low and middle class, give them hope, freedom, social justice, more education and open the country for an Economic reform" -- how delusional must Ms. Kabawat be that she still believes that (a) such a someone exists and (b) that "Duktuur Bashar" would actually listen.

In the end, hope & freedom & social justice & more education & opening of the country are not Bashar's 'goodies' to 'give' to the Syrian people - they are for the Syrian people to TAKE.

As long as Ms. Kabawat thinks of such things as education, social services, etc. as "makramaat al-sayyid al-ra'iis" ... her 'advice', her 'plans', her 'Agenda for peaceful change in Syria' are tainted by the ideology of the dictatorship.

damn zionists.


At 10/20/2005 05:55:00 AM, Blogger ForFreedomOfExpression said...

Syria 100 percent innocent of Hariri killing-Assad

Oct 20,2005

Syria was in no way involved in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a German newspaper ahead of the release of a United Nations report on the incident. "We are 100 percent innocent," Assad said in an interview in Die Zeit weekly newspaper released on Wednesday.

Chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis will hand over a copy of a report on the February killing of Lebanon's former prime minister to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday and it will form the basis of a debate in the Security Council next week.

At 10/20/2005 06:51:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

well said raf!

At 10/20/2005 06:53:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

Leading Syrian human rights lawyer beaten up

20 October 2005§ion=middleeast&col=

At 10/20/2005 07:00:00 AM, Blogger shamee27 said...

Very interesting article yet I disagree with it profoundly.
If this article show anything it shows who ally with the regime at the moment, basically Christians would fight and defend this savage regime by all means because they are scared of Muslims taking back their country back, well sooner or later Muslims will take Syria back from the hand of Nusyries , Christians and Ismaielies do you know why because we are 80% of the population. And this Syrian Christian lady can support the regime find excuse for king Asad the 2nd as much as she likes, MUSLIMS IN SYRIA WILL TAKE OVER SOONER OR LATER (INSHA ALLAH)

At 10/20/2005 07:13:00 AM, Blogger Gina said...

How can Ms Kabawat live so far from Syria and its reality?

What did we learn?
Even in luxurious villas in Damascus live poor people.

The first comment here (thanks to the commentator) is much more interesting than Ms Kabawat´s humble statement.


At 10/20/2005 07:35:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

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At 10/20/2005 07:37:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

shamee27,be careful and avoid such remarks.There are more sunni hypocrits around the regime than christians.

The christians suffered too from this regime,when asad bombed hama ,the target was the syrian civilians whatever they are ,christians or moslems,churches and mosques have been razed.
Christians are integral part of the syrian people.
Read history,the syrian christians never betrayed their nation.
Plz limit your attack to the thieves and criminals of the regime.

At 10/20/2005 07:46:00 AM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

I am profoundly disgusted by Syrians whether they represent the regime, or the oppositions.

Such people really deserves nothing but destruction. Syria must be destroyed, returned to the stone age, and whether it is rebuilt or not, I don;t give a damn.

For Shamy27, that ass hole, Syria was not a Muslim country before the fucking Arabs invaded it, and forced its people to become Muslims. Read your fucking history.


At 10/20/2005 07:48:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

If by now (five full years after being in control), Bashar needs someone to CONVINCE him (implying that he is yet to be convinced) that "it is time to invest in his own people......", then God help this country if this is how its "political activist, and influential member of Dam.'s enlightened elite" actually thinks. It is astonishing to continue to hear that Bashar "needs time". Guess what? HE DOES NOT HAVE TIME. The country needs to create 300,000 jobs a year just to stop its unemployment rate from rising further than the current alarming rate of 20% (by all accounts the real number is even higher). With its energy resources dwindling fast, the country is staring at an economic time bomb (population doubles every 22 years).

As for Shamee27's comments above, it is a shame but not surprising to read the way you view christians. regreattably, they have given the impression that they support this regime, but one cannot help but think that it is their fears of the unknown (are they going to be allowed to live their lives the way their own religion and customes allow them)rather than necessarily condoning this indefensible regime.

At 10/20/2005 07:49:00 AM, Blogger Ghassan said...

Ms. Kabawat wrote a very nice fairy tale story where an imprisoned beautiful girl jailed in a castle waiting for a handsome rich (he must be rich and a prince too) knight on a white horse to free her! Keep waiting Hind and I think you will wait for a LOOONG time!

I suggest adding a little bit of complexity to your story, by adding the following:
- Bashar will hand over EVERY person involved in the planning, execution and in the cover up of killing Hariri!
- Bashar will tell exactly what happened before and after the killing.
- Bashar will release all Lebanese prisoners in his jails.
- Bashar will return the billions of dollars that was stolen from Lebanon
- Bashar will mark the borders between Syria and Lebanon and will recognize Lebanon as a sovereign, independent country. Opening an embassy is not necessary.
- Oh, one more thing, Bashar and every Syrian will promise not to interfere in Lebanon's business! The divorce is FINAL!

And the couple will live in peace and love and will have a lot of kids!

At 10/20/2005 08:15:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10/20/2005 08:16:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

one constructive legacy of the Baathist regime: a secular society where all the country’s diverse religions co-exist peacefully

this is a venemous lie ,the co existence before baath was sincere and,they have sowed the culture of mistrust...Mrs Kabawat even if she belong to the old respected damascene families,like other syrians,she has been perverted by the baathist culture.Our fathers were courteous and braves ,asad crushed our past dignity.

At 10/20/2005 08:25:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

As much as one sympathises with the sentiments expressed by the Lebanese, people like Ghassan need to appreciate how important it is for them to have a stake in a prospering and functioning big neighbor next door. Using current populattion trends, Syria will have 34 million people by 2020 and astonishing 67 million by 2040. Lebanon will have 5.5 million and 8.6 million respectively. Marking up new borders and opening an embassy should hardly give the Lebanese the peace of mind that they seem to anticipate. What happens within the borders of Syria will continue to impact Lebanon for years to come.

At 10/20/2005 08:38:00 AM, Blogger adonis syria said...

Ehsan,at the end syrians and lebanese are one people...but Israel and in some way lebanon proved that the important is not the number but quality of the political regime.

At 10/20/2005 08:44:00 AM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

Again, Anawar Al Buni is the subject of attempts to destroy him.

Today he was beaten up by three men on Motocycle.

It is evident that the regime is not afraid of those so called oppositions who travel free inside and outside Syria like Abdel Alzeem, and their so called Damascus declaration (Islamists to the core), but the regime is afraid of real liberals such as Al Buni.


At 10/20/2005 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

"syrians and lebanese are one people"

Hahaha! good one! You're no better than the Baath.

At 10/20/2005 11:35:00 AM, Blogger ForFreedomOfExpression said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10/20/2005 11:46:00 AM, Blogger ForFreedomOfExpression said...

I'm an American and I'm against military action in Syria because I'm sick and tired of my country being blamed, demonized, and criticized when it acts with strength against the true demons of the world.

You, Professor Landis, are payed by the Americans. Its a shame for an American to fight for the badest despot, who will not hesitate, to destroy our planet. We can blame our government and its mistakes but what you are working for there in Damascus is absolutly dishonorable.


At 10/20/2005 12:04:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

"It is a shame for an American to fight for the BADEST despot, who will not hesitate to destroy our planet".

What does this mean?

I have never met Professor Landis and know very little about him besides the fact that he is married to an Alawi. Whether he is a CIA or a Baathi agent is up to him and his conscience. I think that there is no mistaking the fact that he has suceeded in providing a great forum for the exchange of ideas on a country that faces significant challenges ahead.

At 10/20/2005 12:07:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

That is the best assesmsnt and plan for peacefull transformation to denocracy in Syria,I hope George is reading.

At 10/20/2005 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Secular Syrian said...

I find it funny that within the same comments section, Hind's very intelligent analysis and recommendations are assailed as "Baathist" and "Zionist" by various factions.

People in the public sphere know that if someone criticizes you, that's when you know you're doing the right thing.

Hind's role is to educate and inform Western decision makers on what it will take to achieve reform in Syria. She knows that things are far from perfect, but she is wise to take a balanced position on the regime.

Bravo, Hind, please keep up the good work on trying to steer public opinion in a western context to manage much-needed and overdue change and reform in Syria more sensibly.

At 10/20/2005 12:34:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

God bless you secular syrian.

At 10/20/2005 01:25:00 PM, Blogger ForFreedomOfExpression said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10/20/2005 01:30:00 PM, Blogger ForFreedomOfExpression said...

I can live with your "balanced position on the regime". Why not? And even Miss Hind can do that, do you know why? Ask Professor Landis, let him educate you.


At 10/20/2005 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Nafdik said...

First I want to congratulate Hind on her very courageous stand.

What she is doing could cost her her life, even if it has been approved by the regime before being published.

Second, I think that weather we disagree or agree with her we do not need to start by insulting her. How many Syrians do you know have publicly critisized the regime? How many Syrians have asked to put term limits on our "eternal" leader?

If we really want to get rid of this regime we need to start respecting and trusting (a bit) other opposition figures, be they the MBs or the Hinds of this world.

So before sceaming about democracy and tolerence why not have some democracy and tolerence within the opposition and accept the concesus that emerges.

I think we have been corrupted so much by the politics of power that we are unable to move unless our view prevails and crushes all the others.

So again Hind, congrats from the heart for what you are doing. And may god save you so that others can start opening their mouths.

At 10/20/2005 03:51:00 PM, Blogger Nafdik said...

Now for my criticism of the Hind view:

The problem is that assuming that by a miracle our beloved 'dktor' decides that he wants to be the Ataturk of Syria and to move it to a secular democracy.

He is utterly incable of doing that for simple reasons:

1) He was given his post by a concesus from the power brokers of Syris
- These are basically the commanders of army and intellegince services
- If they do not support him he will be lynched by the Syrian poeple in 5 seconds
- If they decide to replace they can do it in 5 seconds too

2) Even if the elite 20 decide to collaborate by some real miracle involving many gods and lots of recreational drugs. Each of them derives his power from poeple who are supporting them because of financial benefits. As we have a trickle down corruption system

3) We have a big structural problem that other nations like Syria do not, is that the dictatorship is concentrated in the Allawi minority. They will find it hard to release power slowly as they want to feed their families and buy cars for their kids, etc. The poeple will find it hard to forgive them.

So if they release enough power that the poeple can revolt they will.

At 10/20/2005 08:32:00 PM, Blogger yazan said...

The main point I think that is missed in the article is the aspect of the true possiblity of democracy in Syria or for any Middle Eastern country for that matter. The point is that a nation that is truly "democratic" in character should represent the will of the people. The will of the people will no doubt run counter to American interests (ranging from being Anti-Israeli, by supporting the Palestinians, to economic principles that will conflict with American business interests). What we have here is a situation that deals with the aspects of what America wants, that is rather than something democratic, but more of a "tow-the-line" leadership. One thing that comes to mind is the concept that Noam Chomsky, a famous political thinker, stated about the Cold War: the biggest threat to the powers-that-be is indigenous nationalism, nationalism that carrys the will of the citizens within the country. In that matter, what I see is not only a barrier to democracy by internal factors, in this context the Baath regime, but there is also the obstacle of the external factors.

Another factor that I would have to argue against Ms. Kabawat, is that Syria has had a history of democracy that arose after its independence from the French and ended after the 1948 war with Israel. The issue of Mexico as an example is hardly fitting, what they have is a concentration of power to the capital elite that "tow-the-line" of Washington. This should not be acceptable to the Syrian population.

I agree with others in the aspects of giving Ms. Hind Kabawat support, I've had the luck in personally dealing with her in the past, yet I have to stress that although she wants changes and offers a "solution" is misguided inb many ways.


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