However, such plans have not been realized owing to the absence of a cooperative culture.
Given that Syrians were socialized in a deeply authoritarian system, even those who are fighting for a democratic system are inexperienced in the art of coalition building. Also, potential politicians have never been able to really measure their popularity in democratic contests. As a result, not a few of them overestimate their actual influence and tend to compete for leadership rather than cooperate.
Syria’s opposition leaders do not need to sweep their political differences under the rug in order to gain the international community’s support. They simply need to create a common body that all relevant groups on the ground can accept, as the Libyan opposition did when it set up the National Transitional Council.
After that, they should establish a legitimate authority inside Syria that can administer liberated areas, distribute aid and provide services to civilians. Such a transitional authority could call upon the international community for needed support more easily than an exiled rebel group could.
The Syrian revolution is essentially a civilian and political rebellion against dictatorship — one that is gradually unraveling al-Assad’s regime. The opposition must begin to lay the groundwork for a new order based on unity and cooperation. Otherwise, smaller groups of armed militants — supported, or even manipulated by external actors — will dictate Syria’s future.
Volker Perthes is chairman and director of Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin.
Copyright: Project Syndicate