Solving the Syrian conflict starts with shutting up (if we unabashedly decide not to listen)


Caricature by Syrian cartoonist ‘Ali Farzat.

In reference to William Roffel’s article entitled “Solving the Syrian conflict starts with building trust”, published on 25th February 2013.

Today I would like to share my views about this article, which is just a prototype of many on the web nowadays. It’s, to my mind, a disguised version of the several typical standardisations of peace-building process. Those standardisations according to which such “intervention models” – polluted by their own nature – are applicable everywhere regardless of local specificities.

I’m quite sceptical about this article, for the following reasons:

The author forwards the proposal of decentralising and localising potential “transitional ruling elites” – because it is still that we are talking about, and we should not forget – with the purpose of avoiding what is weirdly considered a “sudden” central power change (still “sudden” after 2 years since the beginning of the revolution). Can such a transitional power decentralisation be really carried out in proper terms with the help of the western diplomacies? As far as I’ve been allowed to know, the latter have never accumulated a fine-grained knowledge or experienced field work in Syria. And they have largely proved such an incapacity throughout the revolution: split between silence, ethical judgment suspension, fake engagement – while immobilising the status quo – or tout court detachment. Let alone they would be able to strengthen specific plans on a Syrian local level. What should the external actors’ role be in such an abstract scenario then? Or, if they’ll pretend impartially assisting local processes, would their only possible role of donors be really meaningful and harmless?

Moreover, in light of the author’s considerations: “Asking Assad to leave now is likely not a good idea given that he represents a large group of Syrians; though the opposition might demand that lower level officials be replaced”, I frankly wonder:

1. Where is this “large group” still staunchly sustaining Asad with full awareness and political consciousness – and not as a result of complex psycho-social dynamics that a long-date dictatorship engenders, such as overarching social fear and terror for the unknown, or as support to the regime to exorcise their trauma (but maybe this perception of mine is biased by my inevitably ideologised knowledge of Syria. What’s wrong with that, if de-ideologising means winking at genociders by now?!).

2. Has this guy ever spoken to one of the “rebels” or people closely affiliated to them? Does he really think hey would give up about the focal goal of Asad’s immediate departure? Is, consequently, such a proposed scheme materially feasible?

Behind the unwavering position of the two parts there is still a symbolism that feeds the trust and the support of the “masses” – or their bewilderment – that cannot be overlooked in proposing a real peace-building plan for Syria. The symbolism of the merciless and imperative need for departure of Asad’s sanguinary regime on the one side, and the end of West financed terrorists destroying a solid country on the other. Now, I wonder, does the author truly believe such a symbolism can easily be dismantled for the sake of western intervention programs?

Also: “Elections won’t help. They would just assert who will be the winner and the loser”. It is highly unlikely that the aftermath of future elections will run smoothly. Yet, I would sincerely invite Roffel to explain how and when democracy can be deployed in concrete terms and represent the grassroots, if he has decided to discourage the election process in the transitional stage.

The last but not least author’s consideration: “Sidelining Assad means sidelining that group, thereby undermining the possibility of compromise”. Why do we persist in conceiving of reconciliation as something we should try to build between powerful elites and macro-levels? He purports to criticise any top-down approach to peace-building process, while he’s reasserting it too, by forgetting that Syrian people’s current division has been caused throughout the years by “rule-and-divide” regime strategies, as well as a consequence of a domino effect and a reflection of polarised macropolitics at odds with each other.That is to say, individuals and political leaders do claim a different approach to reconciliation and trust building.

In a nutshell, if this is the best plan we are able to come up with, well, let’s get back to sip our Western afternoon tea and let’s shut up.

(Estella Carpi)

Categories: Syria | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Solving the Syrian conflict starts with shutting up (if we unabashedly decide not to listen)

  1. Yanni

    Commentary and comments – is a major problem in the humanitarian intervention ‘industry’ – some should not expand their momentary thoughts in to major overhauling policy – which failure to take robust consideration of the society that is being responded to. Growingly, terms like reconciliation are flouted around like grande epiphanies imploring citizens who live the chaos to cast the past aside or even the present. Mind you the past and the present is a stretched out suffering imposed by not only current leaders, but historical ‘relations’ and exchanges. You so rightly and eloquently point to the way views from a far/at a distance emotionally take much for granted and very little into account for the daily life of individuals. I specifically not this championed ‘bottom-up’ approach that has long been used as the catch all phrase for building peace by the people. What is actually included in this bundle of remedies is the view that bottom up is the activity of society or the people. Instead, as many criticisms painful demonstrate, bottom-up is not the entire society or a homogenised mobilisation of all citizens as members of organisations. The local organisations are the bottom-up stakeholders, but they are also a strata of society and now international humanitarian industries. The ‘bottom-up’ is a highly idealised approach which skims a portion of societal grievances. Admittedly, it is extremely difficult to get the entire society on board. Though repeatedly, the international policy arena seeks this major objective from one context to the next. Strangely, an international amnesia on how it ‘went down’ in the previous context, from whence these ‘tools’ for transition were built, becomes the working norm. One minority resembles another or marginalization calls for shifting the elite so as to re-infuse the severely pummelled by the violence, the regime that drains every aspect of their worlds (social and individual).

    Yes, sometimes the voice that needs to be heard is ‘shut down’ by the one that needs to ‘shut up’ and do the listening.

    Thank you Estella.

  2. Pingback: Solving the Syrian conflict starts with shutting up | TransConflict

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