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    When will things (hopefully) get better in Syria?

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD15 June 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 1007


    It was about five years ago, I guess, when we visited Syria with a friend of mine who was getting ready to make an investment in the country. I remember our long conversations during which I raised some of my concerns about the country's political situation. Anyway... My friend took the risk and made quite good money until now.

    Recently we got together. The Arab Spring seemed to be an Arab Storm to him. Production was interrupted; he closed down the factory. He entrusted the factory to local security guards and brought all the Turkish personnel back with him to Turkey. He was angry and impatient. "When will things settle down?" he asked - a question that lately I've been hearing more often.

    First, I mentioned Afghanistan. How much time has passed since the Red Army's invasion? 32 years... That specific invasion was to lead to socialism, not democracy. Moreover, the regime that was to be constructed seemed authoritarian and discipline-oriented. It appeared to be the right fit for a fragmented social fabric. But it did not work. Nowadays, the U.S.-led coalition forces are struggling to build democracy. The monthly figure spent in Afghanistan is about $10 million. No one knows when this will possibly end and democracy will finally arrive.

    Then, I mentioned Iraq, where bombs explode almost every day. I reminded him of the first Gulf War which started after Saddam invaded Kuwait. It occurred 21 years ago. God knows how many people lost their lives and how much money had been spent for this war. Then it was clear to us that the objective of a "stable Iraq" was replaced with the task of promoting democracy.

    So, we returned to our initial question on the future of Syria. First of all, we questioned the motives behind the insurgency. Then we considered the possibility of an escalation in the short run. I reviewed the current political actors, political system, beneficiaries, and such institutions as the Baath Party, the Parliament, the Army, and intelligence services. I tried to answer the question, "When was the last time a Syrian government was peacefully replaced by the opposition?" Then I examined the tribal system, social system, ethnic and sectarian cleavages. I reconsidered the still vivid memory of atrocities. Add to this list the current international conjuncture, the concerned international public opinion, and all the high-spirited political speeches.

    I ended up with David Galula, the famous theorist of insurgency. It is true that there are many reasons behind insurgency. When an insurgency starts, the initial cause immediately loses its eminence, says Galula. New struggles produce their own daily motivations.

    As more and more refugees crowd and cross the Turkish-Syrian border, I can see that the initial causes of the insurgency have begun to lose their force. Nobody talks about democracy anymore. Those women and children who managed to cross to the Turkish side talk about bread and the fathers and husbands they left behind. As more lives are lost, the insurgency starts to produce its own causes. Spreading beyond the Turkish border, this has become an internationalized insurgency, too. It seems that, like the above-mentioned examples, it will last for years. To conclude; my friend's factory will not be producing anything for a long time.


    This commentary was published in Hurriyet Daily News on 15.06.2011