In the old Syria (for which read: that of Hafez al-Assad), Bunni told me, he would have been bundled into a car in broad daylight and taken to a jail cell somewhere. But Syria was changing, Bunni said. It had opened up to the world through the internet, it had a younger president in the form of Assad’s son, Bashar, and Bunni said that his appearances on pan-Arab satellite television channels effectively provided him with cover to speak out.
Less than a year after I met him, Bunni was bundled into a car in broad daylight and thrown into a jail cell after he signed a petition calling for improved Lebanese-Syrian relations...
It's the old, "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!" campaign, again. That's the trick Mao pulled in China in the 1950s: Let everyone have their say, but keep (1) police powers, and (2) individual rights in State hands. Then, once all the real or potential dissidents have had their say, lock them up and clamp down again so everyone realizes they live under an unjust regime. Re-direct all aggressions of the populace to external enemies if possible, or invent internal enemies if not.
That's the best reason why the ENTIRE Syrian regime should go down the toilet: lock, stock, and barrel! Of course, the regime is probably more stable than most analysts believe. In my opinion, only mass people power coupled by internal revolt within two or more armed forces can do the trick - and even then, the populace will have to capture secret police records intact to make sure the guilty parties can't just regroup.
It will take courage and not a little foolishness to pull it off. Doubtless many young men will see it as hopeless and sign up for jihad somewhere, thinking it an easy ticket to heaven that they can't get otherwise. These deluded people don't realize that heavenly judgment is passed not just upon ones deeds, but on what one could have done but avoided.
Can there be any doubt that the struggle for freedom from fear and want, and freedom for speech and religion, is far more important than any struggle against "infidels" or "occupiers"?