Many of our neighbors and beyond question what the new Syria will look like. Will it be another Egypt, so unpredictable and so close to travel to times past or will it be a modern state with all the accoutrements that accompany modernity?
The first step history takes is, for the most part, the beginning of someone’s dream, otherwise it’s not history. And if a leader cannot see beyond the horizon, then his vision dies with the sunset. Â Â
Here are my own personal, beyond the horizon, 10 Rules of Leadership for Syria.Â Â
- PEACE: Promote peace as oxygen to your people. Our country can no longer afford but peace. Keep your army strong and well-trained to act as a peace keeper. Do not hesitate to flex your muscles to protect Syrian interests but peace should always be your goal.
- FREEDOM: Freedom, democracy, and human rights under the rule of law should be the credo of the new Syria. Syrians need to understand freedom’s limitations and benefits. Engagement, through building strong civic societies, is the best educator. Civic societies will be Syria’s watchdogs long after elections are over. Promote gender equality to strengthen Syria’s fabric. If you are a Muslim, pay particular attention to the minorities to digest their fears and extract their best for Syria’s future.Â
- CONSTITUTION: A well considered and debated Constitution is the first step to greatness. Protect all Syrians equally under the law and help all minorities, including the Christians, the Kurds, and the Druze celebrate their heritage and traditions. Theirs is as precious as the Arab or Muslim ones. This is the ultimate test of leadership. Every Constitution that met the needs of its people paved the way for a nation of over-achievers.
- ECONOMY: Key to a strong Syria is a strong economy. Promote an economic program that relies on individual achievements and not on laziness (i.e. Socialism). Syria needs a 5-year infrastructure program to modernize existing strong sectors of our economy (i.e. agriculture and tourism). Develop other sectors with help from the west and our neighbors. Explore gas reserves off Syrian coast to build these sectors in the poverty-stricken regions in the south, north, and east to provide Syrians with economic equality. Young labor and two Mediterranean ports provide many opportunities to create a vibrant economy. Control corruption with determination.
- ISLAM: Engage with all the different Syrian religious entities and celebrate their differences; but beware of the Islamists who will accept nothing less than total and absolute power. It’s their purpose and mission in life. Ignore the past history full of blood and write your own history of pluralism and tolerance. Always look to the future and rely on your country’s history as a guidance to improve and not a reason to deconstruct. If you are a Muslim, become the new image of Islam all Muslims wish it upon themselves, strong and participatory. No more infidels, martyrs of violence, suicide bombers, or Imams out of medieval Europe. Reformed Islam is upon us and he who builds a Muslim University to teach free thought will help Islam usher modernity. You will be attacked but you will also start the first step in freeing Islam from a thousand years of shackles. Muslims must break free from this low ceiling of ignorance and control. Damascus has all the credentials and historic authority to reform Islam.Â Â
- FOREIGN RELATIONS: Syria must stand strong and independent. No interference from outside by other Arab or non-Arab countries and no interference of our own unto others. Keep your relations friendly with everyone. Engage with our neighbors and the Gulf countries in a friendly manner, as long as they are peaceful, no matter their ideologies or mission. Theirs is theirs and ours is ours.Â It is not up to Syria to solve their problems. Their own people will.Â
- ISRAEL: Engage with the State of Israel openly and demand the peaceful return of the Golan Heights as openly. For Syria’s sake, never accept the Golan back if the Syrian people are not willing to accept Israel in their hearts. It’s a tradeoff that takes courage and time, but it is for Syria’s best interests. You should no longer accept to spread hate of Jews during the day and send faxes of apologies at night. Silence over Israel is no longer an option either because the extremists are winning with their loud voices of intolerance and will hijack your agenda. Syria needs Israeli knowledge and scientists and our people need to understand this is in our best interests, not the Israelis. You would be harming Syria if you do not build secure and open relations with Israel and the Israeli people.Â Â
- THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE: After some 64 years of trying, there is no solution to the Palestinian Cause except through drastic measures such as providing those living in Syria full Syrian citizenship. Keeping the Palestinians in limbo living under abhorrent conditions promotes more violence. Palestinians need to realize you want them to be successful Syrian citizens proud of their heritage and roots. Don’t use them as a weapon because it’s not in Syria’s best interests. You will be attacked for your policies but that what separates a strong domestic leader from a weak regional one. The more we support blindly the Palestinians, the further we are from regional peace and stability. Don’t let Israel haters in western countries lead you with their ill-conceived policies because when your people suffer the consequences, they still bask in comfort and luxury thousands of kilometers away.
- WESTERNIZATION: There is nothing wrong in adopting western values as long as our heritage and traditions remain ours to protect. Remember that their history went through the same ignorance we Arabs and Muslims are going through today. Promote western values of individuality to build the nation and don’t let the Islamists impose collectivity to expunge independent thinking. Remind our people that a cocooned country is a weak country. We have a lot to learn from western ideas and innovation to survive the competitive world around us.Â
- PRINCIPLES: Don’t be afraid to fight for the right principles even at the expense of future votes. Syrians may not be ready for your ideas but it is your job to open their hearts and minds. That’s what leadership is all about, difficult and miserable but rewarding if you succeed during your time. If you don’t, history will remember you kindly when your ideas become realities. Always remember that Syria gets the prize when it becomes politically and economically strong and that your personal journey is yours to remember but only Syria can be its sole beneficiary. Don’t worry about dying poor, you won’t be able to take it with you. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â