A friend of mine, and previous colleague, spent a couple years learning and mastering his Arabic language skills. He honed those skills living in Damascus. He had an interesting experience to say the least. But there were some take aways more profound than others. For one, Assad isn’t universally hated. By some, he’s liked – and it’s a side of this struggle we rarely read or hear about.

We’re overwhelmed with news and stories about how Assad is a brutal dictator. Like he’s Vlad Tepes Drakul, the inspiration for Dracula. As amusing a thought it is that Assad might be an evil vampire, he’s still a human. Rumors circulated early in the struggle that Assad wanted to step down, to go away and return to England where he had spent time before. Assad was to be an optometrist.

Have you ever seen an interview of his with Charlie Rose? His lisp is kind of charming. He doesn’t lose his temper and the way he presents portions of his perspective have merit. Everything that spews from his mouth can’t be dismissed. Returning to that rumor where Assad wanted to quell the turmoil by stepping down – his brothers wouldn’t let him. From what I understand his brothers are far more extreme than he may or may not be. The reality of the Assad regime is an unknown to us. No doubt, there are men in government who have a good understanding. Equally so, Qassem Soleimani knows him well. If only we had a dialogue with some of our adversaries. Imagine what we could learn.

My friend who I mentioned, traveled to Damascus for a year or two work on his Arabic. One day a firefight in an adjacent neighborhood broke out. The Arab Christian family he was staying with addressed his fear by telling him this: “Don’t worry, our president will protect us.” They believed it and they lived accordingly. They had faith despite the hardship of life many Christians face in the Middle East, in places like Egypt to be sure – they were safe.