Friday, April 06, 2012

Non-violent disobedience for Syria? A bad idea.

In the article "Merits of a Syrian Cease-Fire on the CFR website it is argued that the Syrian opposition should now "launch a civil disobedience program which doesn't include violence.".

I strongly disagree. There is only a subtle difference between "civil obedience" and mob rule. The purpose of civil disobedience is to make a point and to show that a considerable part of the population supports that point. At that point negotiations should take over and a compromise should be searched. But when it ends up in a semi-violent takeover of the power it has clearly passed this goal and degraded in mob rule.

I think it is no coincidence that none of the color revolutions has become a success. Mob rule breeds instability, not progress. Serbia is the least problematic of the color revolutions. But it can hardly be called a success when a country cannot vote for the opposition without risking the anger of Brussels. The heritage of mob rule can also be seen in the fierce protests and other actions by radical Muslims in Egypt and Tunisia. They are a minority. But they know that if they push hard enough they have a good chance to have it their way. Already it is reported that the women of Tunisia dress more conservatively and at Manouba Universiteit Salafists managed for one month to impose an obligated scarf.

There is one other factor. At this stage of conflict there is no more freedom to demonstrate. And that works both ways: those who not go will face sanctions if the revolution wins.

What Syria's opposition needs to do after an armistice is building bridges with the army and the government and to negotiate with Assad about the future. Civil disobedience and demonstrations would show that they are still in the destructive mode and not prepared to a constructive contribution.

It is easy to suggest that Assad won't negotiate seriously. But that ignores Assad's real position. Thousands of regime supporters have died too in the past year and there is a real risk that a revolutionary victory might lead to massacres and other retributions against his followers. So if he can have a good deal he will certainly consider it. But then the opposition has to go beyond asking steps toward surrender. Instead they should aim for a real compromise.

No comments: