The Big Brother’s Advice – OpEd


By Alsir Sidahmed

Earlier this week, a remarkable advice came from Washington telling the Syrian opposition battling the crumbling regime of Bashar Assad to think of ways to accommodate the abhorred security apparatus that is currently defending the regime in any future arrangements.

In a blatant way it said: Don’t repeat our mistakes.

Syria - United States Relations
Syria – United States Relations

Pushed more by ideological motives that blindfold sight on reality on the ground and opting to put its eggs in the basket of questionable Iraqi opposition figures, Washington went along the way to enforce the complete de-Baathification of the Iraqi government, i.e. firing all those related to the governing Baath party. In a country ruled by that very party for more than four decades, it was clear that the irrational, irresponsible and reckless move meant only one thing: Creating a security vacuum.

Since power does not like vacuums, it was an open invitation to violence in various formats: Sectarian, ideological, political and so on.

The net outcome was direct hit that took lives of 4,487 American soldiers whose lives were taken into direct combat, according to the Pentagon official figures, while 32,226 were wounded in action. The latter could be a much underestimated figure depending on how one defines “wounded in action.”

Moreover, and according to “Iraq Body Count,” the name speaks for itself, 100,000 Iraqis were killed in the violence that erupted in 2003 and continued till the Iraqi war was officially declared over on December 15 last year, while 1.5 million Iraqis became refugees in other countries and between 2 million to 2.5 million were termed internally displaced people.

Moreover, not much has been spoken about economic cost of the Iraqi war on the American economy. The figure is estimated to be in trillions of dollars that was borne by the American taxpayers. Simply put the surplus inherited by the Bush administration when it took over power back in 2001 turned into red and indebtedness to China and other Gulf countries that bought the American treasury bonds.

Others like Joseph Stigliz, a Nobel Prize laureate and former Clinton economic adviser estimated the cost to be $ 3 trillion and more taking into consideration issues like medical treatment and so on. He concluded that no country can wage a failed war abroad without having to feel the pain at home. And that pain is in the form of economic troubles starting with deficit.

The significance of the American advice is that aside from the bitter lessons learned, it looks into the future not only of Syria alone, but of the whole region as such. Though the prime motive of the Arab Spring was to challenge repression and for that matter the security apparatus defending the regime, the American advice goes a long way in finding an alternative to keep that security somehow intact to avoid creating a vacuum that will eventually imperil the new political arrangement.

In other words security is as important as freedom.

A step further and on the political front — the advice implies the need to find a way to incorporate those who were part of the previous regime. Though that could be difficult to swallow for the time being given the violence that seems to be the only game in town and the bitter experiences of the defunct regimes.

But the issue at stake is the future, not the past. More important is the need to decide whether to remain locked in the bitterness of the painful past or to look into the future to find ways to accommodate all and move on.

In most cases those supporting the regime were not only the staff, but they also reflect some social groups that will be around and the stark choice whether to have them operating in the open or force them to move underground.

The only way to move forward is to recognize all segments of society and agree on ways to deal with differences in peaceful ways through the ballot box, and not through guns and bullets.

The problem with such an approach is that it is long term, it requires genuine commitment to democracy and freedom and the ability to endure its slow approach.

After all democracy is a way of governance, not its outcome. And the famous Churchill’s saying that democracy is a bad option, only others are worse, is still valid.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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