WAR IN SYRIA – FIVEish WAYS TO STOP IT

The dials on the counter have stuck at 100,000 dead. Syria’s moderate majority has been decimated – lost in the fog of a media obsessed with ISIS and heart-eating Islamists. Perhaps we didn’t understand at its outset but Syria’s War has wounded the International Community as much as it has unpicked the very fabric of the Middle East.

How do we begin to stop it? Below are five academic solutions to war – some more useful than others. We’ll unpack each one in the coming weeks, especially what they might mean for Syria. But for the moment it’s important to give the experts their time in the sun…

1) FIGHT ON TILL THEY CAN’T FIGHT NO MORE
That Could Work:
It’s the  “give war a chance” argument touted by policy guru Ed Luttwak. He suggests we allow such a torrent of bloodshed that one side either drowns or both do. There is some sense to it. Ed argues that premature ceasefires help both sides to rest, rearm and restart whilst imposed armistices merely deep freeze conflict. Without victors or vanquished the violence is merely hibernating…
It Won’t Work:
If belligerents smash each other so categorically that they fall over – chances are the country will be destroyed too. Institutions, establishments and people – the very things you need to rebuild countries – all gone. People also don’t forget violence. And revenge is a dish best served cold.
That’s Worked in the Past?
Sri Lanka pulled it off against the Tamils. But accusations of chronic war crimes have left the country marked.

2) SPLIT SYRIA – COMPLETELY
That Could Work:
There is every suggestion that this is the preferred option coming out of the US State Department. Something similar to what Clinton presided over in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, partition was mooted from the moment valid rebel forces began fighting back in mid 2011. Least it would keep the warring sides apart and allow self-governance. The idea being that:
The Kurds get the North East.
The Regime gets the West, the coast and Damascus
The Rebels get the East / South East.  Something like that.
Oh, and Assad stays in power – the Regime argue he’s won the war so he should and shall remain…
It Won’t Work:
There is no way to split Syria. There is a delicate ethno-religious tapestry and no clear tribal divides. People are scattered everywhere. Short of sanctioning a giant ethnic cleanse this is not going to happen easily or happily. Remembering also that “Islamist” groups want their slice of the North / North East – the UK and US will never allow this. The whole thing seems a nonstarter. Besides when you split a country you often get a banana split – a country that never really works again.
That’s Worked in the Past?
It worked for Yugoslavia. But only after the massacre of 7,000 in Srebrenica. And even then it required a strong NATO force of 60,000 odd soldiers.

3) LIVE AND LET LIVE
That Could Work:
A kind of federal solution might work for Syria – where local leaders take control of policing and security. Locals seek localised ceasefires with Assad on the understanding they will not try to bring his government down so he won’t obliterate them. As the commentator Hassan Hassan has identified this has been happening to a certain extent around Damascus – least it was at the beginning of the year. Assad stopped starving areas in return for a kind of “you let me live and I’ll let you live” solution. So we build peace neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The end political solution will look a little like Lebanon – a state so fragile and confusing it seems always on the point of dissolution but always, somehow, manages to pull through.
It Won’t Work:
On the face of it, in terms of stopping war right now, this does seem the best solution. But again it rests on the idea that Assad stays. Also a tapestry of ceasefires, each with their own negotiating teams and reasons, is harder to maintain than one solution for one country.
That’s Worked in the Past?
It’s been working for some people in Syria already. Assad doesn’t have the troops to fight everyone all the time. So he’s been accepting limited ceasefires around Damascus especially.

4) SHOCK AND AWE – WIN THE WAR
That Could Work:
This is the total foreign intervention option. Get the planes up, enforce no fly zones. Bomb airbases and artillery centres. Essentially go to war with Assad. And while you’re at, you might as well hit the “Islamists”. Force the main parties to the negotiating table through airpower. Some think we should have done it from Day 1 and the stats seem to support them – the earlier an intervention starts the more likely it is to succeed. Although we tend to think of failed interventions in Rwanda and Somalia as the model, the truth of it is that NATO and the UN have actually done better in recent years. Interventions have stopped aggressors massacring civilians because they’ve worried more about their own survival. NATO, in particular, has the fire power to get Assad to give up on war.

It Won’t Work:

Intervention would just lead to a globalised war with Iran, maybe even Russia who are enjoying being the primary mischief makers in the world today. Assad has been threatening a global apocalypse if the international community gets involved. He’s even been saying that unsanctioned aid is an act of war. Best just rely on Samuel P Huntington (he of the Clash of Civilisations) who says it’s, “morally unjustifiable” to put US soldiers at risk in intra-state conflicts.
That’s Worked in the Past?
Yes. More and more in recent years. Bosnia, Mali. Whatever you think of the political reasons behind the Libya intervention it stopped Gaddafi wiping out his own citizens as he was threatening to do. The lesson though is go in early, go in hard and go in with an exit plan.

5) FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGE ALL POLITICS
That Could Work:
This requires a bit of a leap. We get majority Shia power Iran to side with the Americans. In return for closer relationships and no more sanctions over the whole nuclear thing Iran will agree to move away from Assad. Equally, they’ll use their influence to pull Hezbollah out. The US needs Iran now for fuel reasons so they can’t stay out in the cold forever. But that’s only the half of it. Next we jump over to chief Sunni power Saudi Arabia and force them, in return for Iran sharing influence in Iraq, to abandon the “Islamists”. This should begin to pull the big players out of Syria. Then we head to Russia and give them giant concessions in their backyard, perhaps something unpleasant based on the Ukraine, in return for cutting off Assad. But we’re not done yet. Next we release all remaining prisoners from Guantanamo. We mend the “Islam is Evil” rhetoric and we engage with all shades of the religion. As commentators like John McHugo have successfully argued there is no existential clash of civilisations between Christians and Islam and we should start behaving as such. Perhaps Arun Kundani’s “The Muslims are Coming!” is a good place to start if you’re interested in this.
It Won’t Work:
Suffice it to say that civil wars sprung up after the collapse of communism too. It’s impossible, too, that American Republicans will allow Obama to get into bed with Iran.
That’s Worked in the Past?
It might all seem far fetched, but history shows that most civil wars end when their “mothership” conflict ends. Most clearly after the Cold War. All it will take is to put down our drones and end the War on Terror. Once and for all.

6*) WILDCARD OPTION – ISRAEL SAVES THE WORLD
That Could Work:
Let’s not forget Israel in all this. Assad’s legitimacy has always been based on his war against his neighbour. His regime’s the only one who can really defend Syrians from the Zionist menace – so he says. And some people believe him. So let’s move Israel into the good guy role. By offering to give parts of the Golan back to the Syrians they could demand Assad’s removal – playing up to their national pride. They’ll want to keep the aquifers as they need the water, but this is mainly a symbolic gesture based on decades of war. A war which Israel could do without at present. It might even convince some of Israel’s Arab constituents that their government’s no longer just blundering into intifada after intifada.
It Won’t Work:
Israel has its own problems and is never going to give land back to any country that isn’t strong enough to fight them for it. Besides, they probably prefer the anarchy of end of days Assad to the possibility of the “Islamists” taking over – most of ISIS’s propaganda promises they’ll move on Jerusalem soon enough.
That’s Worked in the Past?
Not in the real world. No.

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