Reflections on recent events
Originally posted here on Oct. 19, 2015.
I am starting to see very clearly that there are those people who have the moral and emotional intelligence to understand two sides of a conflict, two enemies at once, and there are those who need to demonize someone in every situation. There are those who can empathize with their own community and with another, and there are those who at every turn look to demonize one group and whitewash their own. These are two camps of humanity, one with an evolved mind, and one with a primitive mind. Educational levels and graduate degrees having nothing to do with these two camps.
I am horrified by the mob mentality, I am saddened by many people I have helped and defended, not from my own community, who the first chance they get, join virtual lynch mobs.
The fact is that it is easy to …
‘Less Violent’ Does Not Have to Mean ‘Apathetic’
Here is another of my recent Huffington Post articles.
It is my opinion that, on balance, the world is better off with Americans who are less prone to go to war than not. There is simply too much American firepower that can be unleashed that causes unpredictable amounts of damage never anticipated by military planners, and certainly not imagined by thoughtless armchair warriors and lobbyists.
We human beings are not just an amalgam of instincts for fight or flight. We have evolved astonishingly impressive systems of local and global governance, which become more sophisticated and elaborate with every passing year. We are using our powers of reasoning and planning to make a less-violent planet in which human beings are living longer than ever before in history, a sign of our success at the rational and compassionate embrace of human life from infancy to old age.
‘Ceasefire’ Is the Syria Word We Need to Hear
Here’s an excerpt from my most recent article in the Huffington Post. You can read the full article here.
A bloodbath of civilians, torture and murder of children, willful starvation of millions, forced displacement of a greater population such as the Middle East has never seen, a global jihadi festival. That is Syria today. In far less horrific environments, the world’s major powers demanded ceasefire for warring parties, but not here.
Why? Conscience demands it, but not geopolitics. War, as has been said so often, is a failure of imagination, imagination of alternatives. The major powers (I will not call them “great”) are backing opposite sides in this war, as is well known, with Russia and Iran the main allies of the Syrian regime, and Saudi Arabia, the government of Iraq, and especially Qatar backing the jihadi influx into Syria. To a tepid degree, the Western countries are backing …
Nonviolence Goes Mainstream: A Surprising Result of the Syrian Tragedy – Part III
Political Realism Needs to Discover Nonviolent Social Change
When I start to hear in forums around Washington in the last few months that the people of Syria might have been better off without a violent revolution then we are witnessing a slow learning curve of the political realists. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria they are beginning to see the absurdity of embracing guns that give rise to everything they fear the most from the Middle East. The horror of the present makes the courageous crowds in Syria of 2011 something of a wondrous miracle, a proud pluralistic mass movement of social change, without the insanity of ideological extremism.
The lesson is simple. We activists must be much more prepared to massively support every nonviolent turn in social history across the world, but we also must be accompanied by policy makers who at the very least stay out of the …
Nonviolence Goes Mainstream: A Surprising Result of the Syrian Tragedy – Part II
Nonviolence and Violence, the Shocking Difference
For decades, there was hardly any opening in this strong police state to train and plan for creative and steadfast nonviolent social change. Some of us as peace activists did our best to introduce even the mildest ideas of social change at great personal risk to our Syrian friends. For over ten years I had been working steadily in Syria with Syrian partners on interfaith diplomacy and peacebuilding. We built bridges between both average people and between influential people across the spectrum from Alewite, Sunni, Shiite, Catholic, Protestant, and atheist. We engaged in what nonviolence practitioners refer to as exercises in solidarity.
We built a cadre of students in conflict resolution from young to old, inside and outside the government. We did this work with the grudging permission of the regime, through clever strategies of diplomacy. We also enjoyed the friendship of some Western …
Nonviolence Goes Mainstream: A Surprising Result of the Syrian Tragedy – Part I
Part I: The Failure of the Military Option
It may seem odd to speak of nonviolence in the same sentence as Syria, one of the bloodiest and most tragic destructions of a state and a culture in contemporary history. But the fact is that we are inching closer to a mainstream and politically realist understanding of nonviolence as a legitimate course of political change. This is very significant, because if in fact the major powers are beginning to acknowledge the futility of armed conflict, at least in places of a geopolitical standoff, such as Syria, then we can expect more Western support may to nonviolent resisters in the future. This in turn may inch the globe a bit closer to a nonviolent system of social change.
Why has the military option become increasingly futile in the Syrian case? Because Russia and Iran will not back down in their support of …
Troublemaking Powerful Women of the Middle East: What Gives With Their Nonviolence?
I think it is interesting that in just a few days we heard from the daughter of Emir of Qatar that MENA radical intervention into Syria was turning into a ruination of a legitimate struggle because of the violence and barbarism of the religious extremists. Then we heard from the daughter of Khomeini, father of the Iranian Revolution, that the current leaders may be ruining the revolution and replacing it with a dictatorship. What’s up with the new daughters of MENA? These women are not radicalized hippie eighteen year old children of farmers from the countryside. They are from the top elite of each country’s leadership. What gives with these women’s preference for nonviolence? Could this be a kindler, gentler effect of the Arab Spring? Or perhaps the culmination of longer processes at work?
The answer is that the slow and steady increase of women’s voices …
Syria’s Christian Conundrum
by Hind Kabawat, CRDC Senior Research Analyst and Expert on Conflict Resolution
This article was originally published by CNN here.
One of the most perplexing aspects of the Syrian revolution is the deep ambivalence felt by so many of the country’s Christians when faced with the prospect of freedom after four decades of authoritarian dictatorship. Some Christians have enthusiastically embraced the prospect of democratic change and a more open civil society, but many have not.
As a Christian, this provokes a great deal of sadness in me and others who are committed to transforming Syria into an open, democratic, inclusive, secular and religiously tolerant society. But the problem is that many, if not most, Christians in Syria do not believe that this will be the outcome of changing the regime.
On the contrary, they believe the present regime — corrupt and repressive as it has been — is the …
A Different Approach to Russia, China, in terms of Syrian and Global Governance
Diplomats Discuss Bashar al-Assad’s Future as Syria Fights Rebels – NYTimes.com.
This is an important article on the stage we find ourselves in of the Syrian revolution. Russia’s defense to the last of the Assad regime is a significant political reality that points much more deeply to the problem and challenge of global, that is, Security Council consensus on matters of global governance when massive human rights abuses are occurring. We are still at a kind of Cold War impasse when it comes to the spheres of influence of the United States, Europe and Saudi Arabia on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. The United States political narrative on such matters, and in such crunch times, runs something like this:
We the United States stand for human rights and democracy, and Russia and China only care about defending illiberal states and their sovereignty because …
Get on the Right Side of History
(A version of this essay was recently published in The Jerusalem Report.)
Across the world in the last 40 years politically organized religious forces have played an increasingly important role in national politics. From India to Indonesia, from Lebanon to Israel, from the United States to Russia, organized religion has increased its impact on politics.
We are also aware of the frightening rise of very violent religion, expressed through terror groups. For this reason, it is easy to misunderstand the relationship between religion on the one hand and between states and ethnic groups and their very secular interests, on the other hand.
Precisely because so many millions of people care about religion, religion has become an essential tool of secular state and ethnic interests. Indeed, what may seem to be a religious issue often turns out to be very secular state interests. Missing this relationship, it becomes easy