Syria: The Confused
How has the Syrian regime managed to withstand the revolution for so long?
One of the questions that has certainly crossed the minds of many is how exactly the Syrian regime has managed to withstand, for nearly two years, the tide of peaceful and then armed opposition, despite losing control of over half the country and carrying out the most heinous acts of violence against the residents of Syrian cities and villages.
The answer was provided by a recent report in the New York Times newspaper, and it lies with the undecided, on in other words, the confused. It is clear that this category still constitutes a considerable portion of the Syrian population. They could be opposing the regime’s policies, but they also fear for their future, they could be opposing the regime’s repression and violence, but the opposition has failed to convince them to do so. This category includes professionals, army officers and civil servants who administer the affairs of the state, hence ensuring the continuity of the regime. At the same time, the confused are sitting on the fence and have failed to adopt a stance that could tilt the balance to one side.
The confused are a natural phenomenon in any society because the majority of people are distanced from politics and their prime concern is to support the daily lives of themselves and their families. They will attempt to adapt to even the most difficult conditions, unless their rage finally boils over and the idea of the regime remaining in power becomes unthinkable.
We would have expected this rage to have boiled over by now, had the Syrian popular uprising remained peaceful. During its early months, the revolution garnered popular mobility and sympathy in view of its demands for freedom and social justice, whilst the regime’s strategy – as has been made abundantly clear – was to counter the situation by means of blatant military and security force. As a result, the opposition or protestors had no option but to resort to arms in response to such excessive use of force, and this is what happened.
Weapons for weapons, blood for blood, this became the situation in Syria. It terrified many, especially in large cities where a considerable part of the people sought only to achieve reform, freedoms and better living standards. These people were well aware that the regime would not allow such developments, and that their chances of acquiring more rights would be zero as long as they were being governed in the same manner as in past decades, and ever since the Baath party rose to power. Yet despite this, these people were also not ready to risk their lives, and they were prepared to endure a degree of restraint and repression in return for a semblance of normality.
This is to be expected, as ordinary people are not “revolutionaries or adventurers by nature”, otherwise society would transform into a state of chaos. As for activists, they are merely a minority or elite grouping in society, and their success or failure is conditional upon their ability to convince the general public to follow them.
In fact, this is the dilemma facing the opposition in Syria. They need to win over the confused and frightened who are sitting the fence, watching but not taking a side.
Those people are right to harbor apprehensions towards armed resistance. Thus, the opposition, in their various guises, need to consider such fears as part of their strategy on the ground. They must act to eliminate these fears, whether they stem from sectarian or ideological motives, and they must also seek to preserve state institutions and prevent any reprisals.