Rami G. Khouri writes: For months now, speculation by analysts, diplomats, scholars and journalists about the nature of the post-Bashar Assad transition in Syria has been as dynamic as the events on the ground. But with one big difference: Most analyses of events on the ground rely on facts; but discussion of how events will unfold in post-Assad Syria has been riddled with wildly unsubstantiated speculation and pessimism, often tarnished by doses of Orientalism, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic racism, and plain old-fashioned amateurism and ignorance.
The prevalent perceptions I refer to include that Syria will long remain locked in domestic strife; the Alawites will face eternal hostility and revenge; sectarian civil war is likely to break out; the post-Assad struggle for power will be chaotic and perhaps violent; Syria could easily break up into several smaller ethnic statelets linked to neighboring states or compatriots; Syria’s collapse will trigger warfare across the region, and a few other such scenarios. While some or all of this might happen, I suggest that we must keep open the possibility that Syria’s post-Assad transition will be much less chaotic or violent than many fear, for several reasons:
The evidence from other Arab transitions offers no support for the expectation that Syria’s transition will be a sectarian free-for-all. Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya’s self-ignited regime changes (unlike Iraq’s Anglo-American initiated mess) have not only avoided major sectarian troubles or violence, but in fact the re-legitimized constitutional processes have included a serious and deliberate attempt to make sure that all population groups are given equal opportunity to partake in public life and governance – not on the basis of sectarian quotas, but on the basis of equal citizenship.
The Syrian people are too intelligent, sophisticated and cosmopolitan to allow themselves to sink into a dark pit of sectarian warfare, even if their sick Baathist-led, Alawite-run power elite uses sectarianism and the specter of post-Assad chaos as tools of intimidation – tools that have failed miserably, in any case.
Syrians of all identities will be so pleased to start a new life of normalcy, freedom, dignity and citizenship the day after Assad is toppled that they will be too busy re-creating their own country in their own image to be sidetracked into domestic warfare. The last thing Syrians want after 42 years of police-state rule and many months of violence since March 2011 is to keep fighting each other.
The day after Assad will not necessarily be a moment of chaos. A reasonably orderly transition could occur, because a credible, indigenous structure for governance already exists. The dozens, perhaps hundreds, of local committees across Syria that have been organizing the revolt against Assad family rule will emerge the day after with immense legitimacy, authority and logistical capability in governing at the local level. [Continue reading…]