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Mitch SMith


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Syria: What is the core principle?

I have a friend who is a Syrian ex-pat.
He runs a grocery store in my town and I meet him almost every day.
When the Syrian conflict started getting bad I asked him about it. He said:

"We have a saying - when elephants fight, the grass is killed".

He went on to say: "I have a brother in a town that is at risk .. I plan to go in through Turkey and get him out of there." .. He has not been able to do that yet. And he explained to me the factional power that most Syrians understand .. the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Alawi .. but there are also Druze, Coptics etc etc..

And now, the USA wants to throw bombs to destroy critical infrastructure - regardless of who gets killed in the process.

This is a subject that is so complex that no one can really know what is happening.

My question to the TED community is this:

What is the basic principle?

My friend alludes to elephants and grass .. that seems basic.

Is there any other reliable abstract to be had?


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    Sep 12 2013: As Syrian, I can tell it's hard to actually speak about a 'principle' here, at least in this stage, where the things are getting increasingly complicated. Well, it started simply as a protests against one of the worst living dictatorships in the world, inspired by the rest of the Arab spring revolutions. That was two years ago, now, the things have quite changed, the most remarkable change was, possibly, the transition from peaceful to armed resistance, and it was the main factor in driving the situation to this complicated conflict.

    People from outside of Syria mayn't realize this, but the peaceful protests vs armed resistance were one of the most controversial issues throughout the country for a long time, maybe over a year. It has began since few days after the start of the events in march 2011, however, the movement kept essentially peaceful for more than half a year, and the people continued to peacefully demonstrate in spite of all risks and security attacks. It went this way until late 2011 (until that time, there were more than 5,000 deaths by the regime's security forces), when the armed clashes began to spread, finally turning into full-scale battles by the end of the year. When this happened, it all became a big mess, so now there's thousands of armed groups with all possible affiliations and ideologies. There's many fronts, several factions, and a lot of chaos.

    Back the basic principle, I still consider, personally, that what's happening is basicly a war between a dictatorship and rebels. It's right the several factions have joined, and it 's getting more and more chaotic, but still, this how it started, and this how the majority of people in Syria are still working for. What I would consider as 'fighting elephants' is the world international community, which is using all possible ways to benefit from the situation for its own interests.

    Note: I've just realized how long this became, sorry. I meant to write only few lines but it went out of control!
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      Sep 12 2013: Many thanks Abbad.

      Your voice is what we all need to hear.

      My hope is that Assad and the factions see reality and go to the negotiation table.

      Can you see any evidence that the militias are growing tired of killing?
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        Sep 13 2013: Thank you.

        Actually, I don't think so. The regime doesn't want to abandon it, nor the rebels does, so it's just going to be a long term conflict. Which is something supported by the world's international community; to make all sides of the conflict exhausted, so the world's big powers are able to extort both sides and to obtain their interests in Syria.
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          Sep 13 2013: So .. if you are grass - be careful to grow where elephants can't tread?

          Are you in Syria now?

          I think that Assad would be a fool to think that he cannot bend in the growing storm. I don't think he is a fool.

          Why is he willing to sacrifice himself in this? What is he protecting by his death?
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        Sep 13 2013: Yes.. That would be a good advice :) just in the case you could choose where to grow.

        Actually, I am not living in Syria. My family moved to Saudi Arabia since the 1980s, when quite similar events took place in the reign of Hafez, father of Bashar, however, the difference was that there was no internet, and by default, no media coverage. All massacres and horrors happened without anyone even knowing about it.

        For the last question, I am not sure if I have a good answer. But well, it's not easy to step down from power after decades of ruling a country, this happens with every revolution. Qaddafi, for example, fought as hard as Assad to protect his throne, but the only reason he was dismissed faster was that the western powers decided to dismiss him, which isn't decided yet for Assad.
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          Sep 13 2013: Many thanks Abbad!

          Assad must bend or break. It is his time.
          But it is not just Assad - it is all he built, and all who are the stones of his building.

          I think I understand - the entire Allawi tradition will be in deep trouble - they are where elephants will tread.
          I do hope they can get out in time.

          I have a Turkish father-in-law. He says:
          "It is easy to climb from a donkey to a stallion, hard to climb from a stallion to a donkey."

          I say - you get used to it with practice ;)
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        Sep 14 2013: Thank you Mitch :)

        Indeed, he will.

        Allawis are actually already in a big trouble, and, unfortunately, it's hard to tell how would they be treated after the end of all of this.
        I hope things stays under control.
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          Sep 15 2013: Hi Abbad,

          At this stage, I think the Allawi are under the test. They will die, or run.

          In the West, the politicians enjoy torturing refugees - it gets them votes and allows them to build concentration camps.

          A tribe in exile goes through a generation of challenge. Those who survive are the most beautiful people - and the ugliest. All become strong.

          If the world had intelligence, we would prepare for the healing.
          I have met many such refugees, Chinese nationals from Vietnam, Christians from the middle east, and Latinos from El Salvador. Those who get the healing become beautiful, those who are not healed become a scourge.

          Those who have not met such people get captured by tribal vengeance and represent the weakness and sickness of their own tribes.
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        Sep 15 2013: Hi Mitch,

        The problem about refugees maybe essentially about who are the refugees. The problem is that when you build something like a refugee camp, you will have there a magnet for the worst possible people in the society; they will have nothing to fight for, nothing to believe in, they just want a routine life ruled by the disgusting tribal customs (believe or not, my cousin was almost killed in one of those camps because a woman passed by while he was taking some pics!).

        So, if people want to do healing, they better not target refugees, but maybe those who are inside Syria itself. Indeed, the need for healing is now pretty high; if you have a war anywhere in the world, you will have a shocking and apparently an infinite amount of hatred and spite suddenly invading the whole society.
        We are facing now a real challenge, it is whether we keep control, or lose it to the blind rage generated by the horrors of this bloody conflict.
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          Sep 16 2013: War is the ultimate "amygdala hijack". It puts people into permanent state of "fight/flight/freeze".
          It turns-off the prefrontal cortex where rational thought takes place.
          In effect, it turns us into lizards - because only the lizard part of the brain functions.

          Within the war or the camps, nothing can be done - all will be traumatised.
          There are 2 ways to go with un-healed trauma - a person becomes destroyed, or hyper-functional.
          The destroyed mostly do not survive.
          The hyper-functional will be great for good or for bad - depending on how much their empathy has been damaged.

          There are some therapies that can be applied in camps, but not a lot - the camps in the Baltic conflict proved this.
          The best treatment is to get the people processed out of the camps as quickly as possible - into low-competition surroundings where serious therapy can be applied.
          This rarely happens - very few understand how important the trauma-healing is, and most governments do not fund it for refugees because there's no votes in it.

          What I have observed in refugees here is that - no country can afford to neglect this - a war-survivor with un-healed trauma will infect the community with that harm. The ones who get real healing become amazing people .. there are none better.
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        Sep 17 2013: Indeed, very few people would care for the treatment of war victims, unfortunately. And the situation in the camps and other gatherings of such people makes the things worse, and the mission even harder.

        We have several psychological societies trying to work in Syria, especially within the northern territory (which is now controlled by the rebels), however, they are'nt really efficient and are highly dispersessed, while the amount of the needed work is very large.
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          Sep 17 2013: Well, the fight .. the real fight is against our own comfort.
          If we don't pay today, we pay tomorrow double.

          Yes, we are short-sighted and for that, we pay too much.

          But, it's not so hard really, one does not build the road, one only clears the way.

          First is to get people out of the camps - they need somewhere to go.

          second is to have a place to go that is not worse than where they came from - that means support.

          All countries now have unemployed people - give them something to do - give them the task of helping the displaced people while they heal. This is a national investment - to make trash into gold.

          Then, give the displaced the freedom to choose - go home, or stay. Those who have healed will choose, those not yet healed will still be helped until they can choose.

          If I was one of these, I know that I would choose loyalty to those who saved me.

          Loyalty is the true basis of wealth. so the other work is to get people to understand that. - And that's the difficult part. Our overlords do not want us to know it.

          (Edit: Thanks for helping me with this. There is an opportunity here - for me and others ..
          If you disagree with the state - be the state)

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