Did Assad Make 'A Fatal Mistake?
As negotiations over the unwinnable Syrian civil war drag out, a Texas University Middle East specialist, David W. Lesch, tried to lay the blame for its start with Assad, www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q="Assad's+Fateful+Choice"+by+David+W.+Lesch&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 and specifically, with the speech that he gave to the country in March 30, 2011:
T he first--and biggest--mistake occurred at the onset, when Assad made the decision to crackdown harshly on the popular protests rather than offer real concessions. Indicative of this was Assad's speech to the nation on his first to address the rising tensions. This was a seminal moment in modern Syrian history. The whole country, supporters and opponents, waited with bated breath to hear what he had to say. Syrians believed this would be the moment when Assad would finally live up to expectations."
According to interviews Lesch had with various insiders, one group wanted Assad to be firm, another wanted him to be conciliatory. In his article for Syria Comment Lesch claimed that Assad chose the former, making a colossal mistake. Here are excerpts from that 5000 word speech in English: OEN readers can judge for themselves, taking into account that the flowery language is part of Arabic culture:
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the People's Assembly,
It gives me a great pleasure to meet you once again in this distinguished place, to talk to you about the conditions engulfing Syria and the region and to address, through you, all the children of Syria; Syria which is at the heart of everyone of us, the invincible castle, with its glories, with its people in every governorate, city, town, and village.
I speak to you at this exceptional moment when events and developments pose a great test to our unity and self denial. It is a test which is repeated every now and then because of the continued conspiracy against this country. Thanks to our will, solidarity, and the will of God that we succeed in facing it every time in a manner which enhances our strength and pride.
The Syrian people are entitled to hold their heads high. I talk to you from the heart with feelings of pride for belonging to this great people, with gratitude for their love; yet I speak with feelings of sadness and sorrow for the events which claimed the lives of our brothers and children. My responsibility remains that I should protect the security of this country and ensure its stability. This remains the ever-dominant feeling in my heart and mind.
I know that the Syrian people have been waiting for this speech since last week; and I intentionally postponed it until I have a fuller picture in my mind, or at least some of the main features of this picture, so that my speech should depart from the emotional rhetoric which puts people at ease, but does not change anything or make any impact at a time when our enemies work every day in an organized, systematic and scientific manner in order to undermine Syria's stability. We acknowledge that they had been smart in choosing very sophisticated tools in what they have done; but at the same time we realize that they have been stupid in choosing the country and the people, for such conspiracies do not work with our country or our people. We tell them that you have only one choice, which is to learn from your failure, while the Syrian people have only the choice of continuing to learn from their successes.
You are fully aware of the great shifts and changes happening in our region for the past few months. They are important changes which will have repercussions throughout the region without exception, including the Arab countries and maybe far beyond. This obviously concerns Syria, because Syria is part of this region.
But if we want to consider what concerns us in Syria in what has happened so far on the larger Arab scene, we can say that what happened vindicates the Syrian perspective, in the sense that it expresses a popular consensus. When there is such a consensus we should be assured, whether we agree or disagree on a number of points. What this means is that this popular Arab condition, which has been marginalized for three or four decades, is now at the heart of developments in our region. This Arab condition has not changed. They tried to domesticate it, but it has not yielded.
As far as we are concerned, you recall that in my speeches I always spoke about the Arab street, the fact that it gives direction, about citizens' views. Many in the media used it to express cynicism, and many politicians used to reject that and smile slyly, particularly when I used to meet them while Syria was under a lot of pressure. They used to propose ideas which were contrary to our interests and which implied conspiring against the resistance and against other Arabs. When pressures intensified, I used to tell them that even if I accept this the people will not. And if the people do not accept it, they will reject me. And if they do, that means political suicide for me. They used to smile, of course, implying that they did not believe me. Today, after these events, there have been several meetings, and I repeated the same words. Now they were shaking their heads in agreement.
This is very important. On the other hand, and since the Arab peoples refused to be domesticated and have not changed at heart, we have to work harder to heal the rift in the Arab world if changes in the region continue to take the same course, particularly working on the people to achieve certain objectives. The other thing concerning the Arab peoples' concern about core Arab issues, particularly the Palestinian cause, we believe -- and I hope rightly so - that the changes in the region will change the course that the Palestinian cause has taken at least for the past two or three decades and shift from a process of making concessions to a process of holding to rights. So, we believe that there are indications that what is happening is positive.