Saturday, February 25, 2012

Support for Syrian Dictatorship: Cognitive Dissonance?


Many of the conflicts, both inter nations and intra states, would not exist had consistent yardsticks been applied and had we interested parties been driven by the logic of “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. Unfortunately this is not the case and never will be.

Obviously the above is not meant to justify the rationalization that the supporters of the Syrian Ba’ath are using to justify acts that they would have opposed had these acts been committed by other states or by an opposing group. One of the strongest cases in support of this point is the absolute derision that greeted the George Bush declaration of the right for pre-emptive strikes by practically all nations but later on the application of this contemptuous logic was adopted and acted upon  by many a nation.

I think that these efforts to accept an action at one time and oppose it at another stem from the tendency to arrive at a position and then find means of justifying it i.e. reverse engineering. This tendency to act irrationally is described by psychologists as Political dissonance. This is simply the inability to think logically whenever the facts do not agree with our preconceived cognition. Professor Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University explains it this way: “what they’re really doing is inventing facts or ignoring facts so that they can rationalize decisions they’ve already made.”

The above is very evident if one reviews the various stages that the arguments by the regime supporters in Syria have gone through over the past year. They started by stating emphatically that the Arab spring will not find its way into Syria since the Syrian people are totally satisfied with their lot and are confident that the Syrian dictatorship will reform itself out of existence :-) . Then once the demonstrations started the supporters dismissed all of them as being the work of, literally speaking,  a few hundred dissatisfied individuals. But as the demonstrations grew and spread then the participants were accused of being foreign agents. When the authorities decided to hit back hard by employing tanks and heavy machine gun fire against civilians in residential neighbourhoods the regime supporters argued that this level of response was perfectly acceptable since the government forces have not employed even 10% of the fire power at their disposal (what a scary logic is that?).

All throughout this metamorphosis the language used was also undergoing change. It evolved from a handful of losers to foreign agents to traitors and along the way the cause of these “losers” started being described as having some legitimacy but only if they would submit to the dictates of their tormentors. No wonder cognitive dissonance is described as a malady that cannot be corrected since the suspicion is that it is hard wired into people.

Regime supporters are at the moment using every opportunity to demonize the uprising by pointing to its use of arms as being proof that those that are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice are doing so for the benefit of foreigners. That is laughable when the opposition was in essence driven into armed struggle by the policies of the regime itself that saw fit to marshal its military against dissenters. Unfortunately the Syrian opposition has played into the hands of the Syrian government by taking up arms in self defense. I wish that the opposition could have stayed peaceful and had instead concentrated on civil disobedience measures. But the fact that they did not is a disagreement about tactics and not goals. This is ultimately the weakness of the regime supporters. They are willing to keep adopting different arguments to justify and rationalize any policies adopted by the regime to suppress demonstrators, violate human rights, support armed struggle outside Syria and continue the brutal, cruel and deadly oppression of those that dare ask for a better life and a more democratic one.

Since the major criticism of the uprising by the regime centers on the use of arms by the opposition then does that mean that the regime supporters would accept massive well organized civil disobedience activities instead? I don’t think so since I am of the opinion that if that was to take place then those who favour the status quo would change tactics and would paint the demonstrators as uneducated, unskilled and as being paid mercenaries of KSA, Qatar and the US. The regime supporters are not opposing the uprising because they have a disagreement with the methods but they are opposing the uprising simply because it is asking for a regime change, a cruel dictatorship that is willing to employ any method to continue its undemocratic rule.

Ultimately it is the Assad clan that is responsible for the current state of unrest in Syria and for the bloodshed. No amount of justification or rationalization can ever legitimize a dictatorship especially if one believes that rulers must have the consent of the governed.


Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time post. I also agree that supporting the regime's actions can not be considered altruistic no matter how one justifies it in their own mind. Support really hinges on a belief that one's ideals or condition is more relevant than others. I think you can look at it from the perspective of one's an innate survival instinct.

ghassan karam said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this very important issue. I believe that this issue ( Syrian uprising) will be a historical watershed in the political development of the Arab world. Once the uprising prevails and if it is not taken over by radicals then I would not be surprised to see some major reforms in Saudi Arabia and the gulf emirates.


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