The fatal error of neglecting the narrative

This error may have cost Syrian rebels the war – and it’s endangering Israel’s future.

November 18, 2013 14:45
Free Syrian Army fighter  in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighbourhood, April 28, 2013

Free Syrian Army fighter 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Aref Hretani)

Israeli politicians and opinion leaders are understandably preoccupied right now with the Iranian nuclear program. Nevertheless, they ought to spare five minutes to read last week’s column by Michael Young, opinion editor of the Lebanese Daily Star. Young analyzes how the Syrian regime, whose downfall once seemed inevitable, managed to turn the situation around so completely that its survival now seems certain. But his analysis is disturbingly relevant to Israel’s own international situation.

Young credits Syrian President Bashar Assad with a shrewd grasp of the Western mindset. The Syrian dictator understood that averting Western intervention required turning Western opinion against the rebels, and he crafted an effective strategy for doing so: equating them with al-Qaida. But the rebels’ own incompetence greatly facilitated this strategy, Young wrote: “They never appreciated how much the narrative matters. Rather than concentrating on unifying their fragmented ranks and speaking with one message and voice to the outside world, they have been caught up in internecine disputes, with each political and armed group pursuing a parochial agenda.” As a result, the West is now prepared to let Assad keep slaughtering them with impunity.


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