Monday, 5 November 2012

Open Letter to Bashar al Assad

Dear Sir,

The world looks on in anguish as it sees Syria flounder deeper and
deeper into trouble. I wish I could offer my services as a negotiator,
for which I have only two tiny qualifications: [1] I have no official
position in any country, but [2] a small amount of training in
conflict resolution.

My starting position would be: [1] that Assad is still the only legitimate Head of Government of Syria; [2] that his claim to be the most widely accepted single figure on the political scene may still be correct. Though his popularity might well be below 50%, it is possible and even probable that no other single leader or party has the degree of support accorded to Bashar al Assad and the Baath party. [3] That therefore his present attempt to restore law-and-order should be respected; it is the duty of a government to maintain order.

However, it does seem bad politics (internally and internationally) to have resorted so promptly to repression and force as a means of bringing law and order to the country. That may be the method used in the past. That may have seemed the method most likely to succeed 12 months ago when the official military forces were all in the hands of the government. However, these are different times, even from 3 years ago. It is undeniable that a government of a country killing its own citizens signals a failure of government. It should be clear to all that the argument or point of view that commands the most emotional support inside a country is that one that should ultimately govern that country. It seems to many (especially in developed countries) that "asking the people what they want" is a safe way of finding which argument is the argument that will ultimately win. And would ultimately win if it came to fighting -- on a level field. It therefore seems (to many observers) that a mistake was made in not offering the people of Syria a vote.

That mistake alone does not make the present government illegitimate. Nor does it seem clear, to reason and logic, that the mistake is irreparable. Why not organize, even at this late stage, a popular vote? It might bring a temporary halt to the fighting. It might support the legitimacy of the Baath Party. It might offer an alternative route out of the conflict.

I would be grateful if you would consider this idea.

Yours sincerely, Cawstein.
L. Cawstein

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