Brandon Martinez / Non-Aligned Media
The cultist dogma of people obsessed with Syria’s civil war is something to behold. If you don’t worship Assad like a demigod you’re ‘pro-terrorist,’ and if you don’t hate Assad and explicitly call for his forceful overthrow you’re said to be ‘complicit in his crimes.’
This kind of black-and-white thinking is what leads to war in the first place. When groups of people cannot work out their differences amicably through debate and dialogue, conflict inevitably arises. The pro-Assad Syrians (and their assorted sycophants from abroad) are just as guilty of this one-dimensional thinking as those armed opponents of the regime and their supporters.
The only way I see peace playing out in Syria is if Assad steps down and allows someone from the non-armed opposition a chance to lead. The civil war has markedly polarized opinions within Syria and abroad either for or against Assad. It doesn’t appear that those opponents of Assad will be satisfied with anything other than his complete dismissal, whereas Assad’s supporters won’t be content with anything less than Assad rule for the foreseeable future. This situation is not a recipe for peace.
Anyone with a sane mind wants to see peace in Syria, and a return to normal life for all Syrians. But how is this possible when we have two sides mutually committed to each others’ destruction who have brainwashed teems of people to harbor implacable hatred for the other side?
Two things need to happen for peace to prevail:
1) The rebels and insurgents need to lay down their arms. So long as there is armed opposition operating on Syrian land, peace isn’t viable, and conflicts will inevitably flare up.
2) Assad needs to step down. As mentioned above, the civil war has so thoroughly polarized opinions both for and against Assad, that the only way these two opposing camps can get along is if they come to a compromise. That compromise is Assad’s departure from politics. He’s a doctor by trade, he doesn’t need to rule forever. Forty-six consecutive years of one-family rule in Syria has obviously brewed significant resentment among certain classes and sectors of the population, the remedy for which is a change in leadership.
Who should replace Assad?
Syria’s second largest political party next to the Baathists is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which is also prominent in Lebanon. Members of that party have been part of Syria’s non-armed political opposition for decades. Someone from this party would be a prime candidate to succeed Assad and help stabilize the country. This process of change should be worked out exclusively by Syrians and not the foreign interests (on both sides) currently invested in the war.
Like Gaddafi had done, the Syrian government is going to have to implement certain clemency programs to incentivize armed insurgents to put down their weapons. If they don’t do this, there is no telling when the bloodshed will stop – it may continue on for another five or ten years, as we’ve seen in other civil conflicts in Lebanon, Algeria, the Congo, etc.
Under no circumstances can the present leadership of armed groups in Syria get a seat at the table of governance. They have proven already that their idea of “government” is effectively a gang-land fiefdom where anyone who disobeys their primitive edicts is ruthlessly killed. Assad’s regime may be guilty of this as well to a certain extent, but nowhere near the level of depravity demonstrated by groups like Al-Nusra and ISIS who, for all intents and purposes, seek to resurrect barbarian rule from the 7th century.
Some will say Assad’s departure is ‘capitulation’ to those foreign powers that have championed his ouster, but bringing peace to Syria is far more important than pride. An Assad replacement from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party is not a win for those powers (chiefly the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia), rather it is the opposite. Syrians achieve peace, and have an independent leader not in the pocket of foreign powers.
Of course, there is no guarantee the war will end if Assad is replaced, and insofar as many of the rebels are Sharia-loving theocratic zealots who believe everyone and their mother-in-law is a subhuman “Kafir,” they cannot be reasoned with and must be defeated militarily. But I believe Assad’s retirement will be a significant step towards peace if the ‘Assad card’ is taken away from the foreign backers of this war, whose weapons and cash have helped irrigate Syria with the blood of countless innocents.