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January 19, 2006




Isn't reform really really, but really this time, just around the corner?


too much Syrian nationalism killed our rationalism.

I have a logical explanation for everything in life except two things:

-how the majority of Syrians still support Bashar Assad

-why Junblatt refuses to get a haircut.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur

"Should the visit of Ahmadinejad to Syria culminates in some dramatic declarations, such as the formation of a military pact, or something, anything along these lines, the Syrian regime will be going down first."

So if the US launch strikes against Syria, will Iran's rescue army come through Turkey or Irak ?(same for US striking Iran)

And I agree, Jumblat's hair is a problem.


The skeptic in me is always reminded of the farmer who as hard as he may try will never harvest a good yield from sowing healthy seeds in infertile soil. Are the masses ready for democracy or is this the vision of only a limited privileged few? How can the peole be ready for democracy if they are willing to march in their own funeral? How can they be ready for democracy when they are willing to idolize an empty political suit and even offer the ultimate sacrifice for his sake?

But if they are not ready for democracy does this mean that they should be abused? Yes, if they are masochists.

Rosa Luxembourg opposed Lenins' efforts at establishing a Marxist society in 1917 on the ground that the Russian people were not ready for the revolution. History proved her right. Maybe we should temper our demands for democracy and be satisfied with gradual marginal changes.


what does it mean for someone to be "ready for democracy"?


I don't for a second believe that you are serious when you ask the question about 'what does it mean to be ready for democracy" but just in case you are testing me here is a brief simple partial answer:
Those that are ready for democracy must accept the notion as the principle for organizing society and let me immediately make clear that one person one vote is only one aspect of the democratic tradiyion. To be ready for democracy implies that allegiance is given to an idea and not a person, To be ready for democracy means that people believe in their inherent inviolable rights. A democratic people welcomes dissent,thrives on diversity and shuns exclusionin all aspects of life. Democracy cannot function if its members do not act responsibly towrds each other and towards government. Democratic people demand equality of treatment by secular laws.Democratic people submit to the rule of law, all members all the time.


G -

I'm not testing you :). I am actually interested in knowing your opinion.

However, your explanation of what it means to be "ready for democracy" is not applicable to a large proportion of citizens in America, which is the "land of the free". Shunning exclusion and welcoming dissent possibly fit into the ideal version of what democracy is, but at the end of the day, how much an individual is willing to do all depends on what cost it incurs on their life. I admit - if they do hold democracy, and what you have described, closely, then the potential benefits, are much better than what is seen now, but this cannot be used to persuade people.

I may be wrong, but I don't believe that people defend Bashar (or any of the zuama in Lebanon, for that matter) because they aren't "ready for democracy". It is hard, given the immediate alternatives, to not understand why they do what they do. A thorough plan is needed. It isn't enough to say "Bashar is evil". It has to be proven - whether through propaganda or whatnot - that the alternative will create less fear and more security than what exists now.

View life as a game, where each player (which society is one of) is a selfish participant, and the most viable equilibrium does not have to be the option that is best for all players.


Very interesting discussion.

To Vox, if Syrian goes down first, Iran will not come to the rescue, they will just hope that the US will be bogged down in another quagmire for a long period for them to develop their first nuke and change the rule of the game. However, this might be academic now, the visit did not seem to have produced any startling or dramatic announcement.

As for readiness for democracy. Well, my understanding is this: people are never ready for democracy, but they are always ready for democratization. Indeed, there are a lot of Americans today whose basic beliefs are as antidemocratic as you can get. But most people seem to have accepted one way or another the existing political system with its insistence on check and balances, and for the most part, everybody is willing to work within that system. Those who don’t become cult-leaders and members, and have a very limited sway over the entire system.

How the Americans got to this point, and where do Europeans stand vis-à-vis this issue is a rather long story, and is subject to various interpretations. But the main point is this: we need to establish a system of checks and balances in our part of the world, and we need to package it in a certain way in order tog et as much popular and elitist approval for it as we can. Then we need to make it work, and its success will justify it and will create an aura of sanctity around it that will make its potential abrogation at a alter date quite an unlikely task. Such a system is at once liberating and limiting. But it can fulfill a very important function in the process of democratization. It can help manage the process through the creation of a decision-making process that can allow for greater and greater representation in due course of time, a process that precludes both kinds of tyrannies that of the majority and that of the minority, and establishing the rule of aw instead, which is far from being perfect as you know, but is always perfectible, and its perfection depends on the willingness of the people to challenge those laws they perceive as unjust and on the willingness of the elite to accept, no matter how begrudgingly, the independent rulings of the judiciary in this regard.

OK, enough with American History 101. The problem with trying to apply this model in a country like Syria lies more with the ruling elite, in both the political and the socioeconomic sense, than with the Syrian people at large. The political and economic elite are too corrupt and incestuous to be ale to rise up to the structural and intellectual challenges posed by this model, and the social and intellectual elite are simply too still caught up in the nationalistic and leftist ideologies of the past to be able to adopt such proactive manner of thought, discourse and action. They are quite unready for that by their basic predisposition.

This is the essence of our problem: a lack of suitable leadership on all levels.

Yet, one has to hope, and push limits, and encourages people into action, by appealing, appeasing, shaming, pushing, pulling, all while gnashing one’s teeth and fighting what seem to be a losing battle against ulcer.

But then, what are the alternatives?


I hate to hijack Ammars' blog for this exchange but I will be brief.
Of course you will find some in the US who are not democratic. You will also find them in France, in Germany in the UK... However in each of these places the majority of the citizens by far have an understanding of their democratic responsibilities and most act accordingly. Government and citizens have a relationship of reciprocity. Citizens pay their taxes and government is run as to increase their well being according to the choices that they (the citizens) make.
As for either Syria or Lebanon, I am afraid that a rather substantial majority of the citizens have NOT demonstrated such an awareness.In Syria , they even describe their present tyrannical dictatorship as a democracy and the public either believes that or at a minimum aacquieses, I don't know which is worse. Very few Syrian citizens have shown that they accept the idea of dissent. The public has vilfied Khaddam just as much as the regime. In Lebanon the public insists to show its devotion to free elections but the vote is always cast along "tribal" lines. Some seem to have discovered recently the Lebanese identity but it is so clear that a big proportion of the populace does not even believe that the state should exist.
In Syria the public has encouraged through its action its executioners to prolong and strengthen their stranglehold and in Lebanon whenevr we are given the opportunity to enact some meaningful change we proceed to strengthen the traditional leaders who are the cause of the cancer that is destroying us. Lebanon is essentially run by Bkirki, the Mufti , the Immams and the Druze Sheihk al Aql. Each of these clergmen is in a position to call on the blind unquestionable allegiance ,in political matters, of those that were born into their sect. And please dont forget that birth into a sect is a pure accident.

You see Laz, people have to prove that they are worthy of a system. What we are describing is not only a lack of preparation but the dire need to create a totally different view of reality. What we need is nothing short of a paradigm shift. The sad part of the story is that paradigm shifts do not occur only because a few people are asking for them. Paradigm shifts have to be a grass roots movement otherwise they are doomed to fail.


My last response 10:30 was already started when you posted your 10:27. (Thatexplains the apparent redundancies in my response. I never gor to read yours until after the fact. Sorry}

Amr T

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.


G -

You are absolutely right. We need a complete paradigm shift. We also need more concrete laws, accountability, independent judiciary, etc, since the list goes on and on. Something has to crack the viscious cycle. And btw, my email is under my profile, so if you do want to continue such discussions ...



I agree with Amr, we have to make do with what's available.

here is an Idea:

We come up with a letter to syrian ebmassador in D.C., he happens to be a descent guy. we destribute the letter on syrian blogs( we can even ask syrian bloggers to post it for a week), we ask for josh's help by writting about it. i can provide you with the embassador's email and phone number. this way we make some noise, I recommend the letter to have no bashing of the regiem. if the embasador gets 10,0000 emails to his inbox, 1000 calls to his cell phone, and Josh writes about it( and hopefully others), then we can say we did something.....



the letter is about freeing Aref Dalila.

sorry about that


I Endorse the idea of the letter, and I can do my part in speaking to the Ambassador. Syriana, can you provide the initial draft? Of course, we have to bear in mind that Aref might still be freed over the next few days.


I think you are quite right. This is why I called for a national work stoppage to protest corruption on February 1.

But you see, I am convinced that the regime will not be able to clean up its act. But, you see, once the people begin pushing and see that there is no response, they might change their minds down the road.

The regime, too, might overreact to such moves, and this could serve to expose it as well.

So, in short, I agree, change needs to come in small steps, but even such steps require a certain amount of daring and imagination. Civil disobedience is a must.


OPEN message to Dr. Bashar Assad,
Syria now is in uncharted territory, Mr. Assad you need to show the county that you are on the helm of the job at this difficult time.
The national opposition groups and free peoples of Syria demands the immediate implementation of the demands below before Syrian people rally behind your regime
The regime must agree to work with the national figures and democratic elements in good faith and stop meddling with the emotions and life of the people in Syria...
1-The dominant role of the Baath party needs to be reduced to allow the real oppositions groups to participate in a program of transition to a democratic and free society to facilitate a free and fair election “even to the presidency itself”.
2- You need to act and remove any elements opposing the needs for institutional reform.
3- Abolishing Decree No. 51 “state of emergency”, in which you Mr Assad himself admitted that mistake and abuse were made with Decree No.51. You must reinforce the independence of the judiciary system
4- Syria in needs of justice system to fight corruptions and enforce transparency in the county public entities for fair and allow a fair and transparent biddings process


OK, Atassy does provide us with something that we can definitely work with. But let's wait for further suggestions before we finalize this.



I don’t possess much of a talent when it comes to writing letters; however here is what I think the latter has to include:

- Greetings (to the ambassador)
- Introducing the undersigned as a Syrian citizen
- A calling for the release of Aref Dalilah
- A statement about the unfairness of Mr. Dalilah imprisonment, and how his charges are based on politically motivated interpretations of an ambiguous law.
- A Statement explaining that by writing this letter the undersigned is exercising his/her constitutional right in communicating to our representatives what we think is right for the country.
- A Request to the ambassador to communicate to both the Presidency and the cabinet the content of this letter.

I recommend the letter carries NO defiant tone so that many people could participate.

Atassi’s letter, with all due respect is too broad and too general.

Here is how I imagine the scenario:

Ammar creates a new post, the post calls the Syrian bloggers to creat, each on his/her blog, a post that includes the following: a picture of Aref Dalila, Short summary of his ordeal, the letter, and the ambassador email, and his telephone number (all to be provided in Ammar’s post). Their post will ask Syrians to copy and past the letter and send it as an email to the ambassador, or simply call the ambassador and relay the request to him personally.
Ammar, asks Josh, Mobayed, and others to participate for more publicity.
This was my suggestion, your 2 cents are highly appreciated.


My two cents will be forthcoming soon, Syriana. But first, let's switch our attention momentarily to covering a breaking story, and then we can go back to this issue over the weekend. See my new post, please.

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