Better late than never, I guess

It’s only taken five years, but the rest of the world seems to have had an epiphany about Syria:

As the bombs continue to fall on Aleppo, a new reality is descending on Syria: the long-held belief that the conflict there will only end with a political solution might not hold true.

Russia now says the conflict is simply too complex to expect a peaceful settlement. The British have concluded that efforts to bring another ceasefire to Syria have failed.

Russia’s insights have been particularly helpful in this process:

And just a week after a ceasefire that it helped negotiate came to a fiery end with the bombing of a UN aid convoy, Russia’s UN envoy seemed to shut the door to future negotiations, at least in the short term.

“In Syria hundreds of armed groups are being armed, the territory of the country is being bombed indiscriminately and bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now,” Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council.

It’s true, Syrian territory is being bombed, a lot. And very indiscriminately to boot. Unfortunately, judging by Ambassador Churkin’s use of the passive voice, I can only conclude that we have yet to figure out who’s doing the indiscriminate bombing. Somebody should get on that!

Considering we’re now halfway in to year six of the Syrian conflict and on its central issue–the future of Bashar al-Assad and the rest of his government–literally no progress has been made since the fighting began, I would venture to say that we may be on to something here. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why everybody has clung to the idea of a political settlement this long. The alternatives are too horrific to easily contemplate: either a long and difficult intervention and occupation that could easily make things worse, or a military solution, as in total victory by either side. In the latter case the death toll could be astronomical; tens of thousands of civilians are already dead and millions displaced, and the result has been the current stalemate. Imagine how much more destruction will have to accompany a military end to the war. Then imagine what kind of violence could be in store after the fighting stops, in the form of reprisal attacks, pogroms, etc. That’s the road Syria is on, and nobody seems to be able to find an exit ramp.

To give the international community its due, it’s tried, I guess. But there are only so many Syrian peace talks you can have without any Syrians involved, so many ceasefires you can negotiate without a single combatant actually signing on to them, before even the dimmest among us figure out that you can’t negotiate peace on behalf of two sides that are committed to war. Until that commitment changes, there’s not much to be done unless you want to occupy the country, and that’s certainly no sure path to peace either. Maybe the commitment will change if Assad takes all of Aleppo, though there’s no telling how many people will have to die in airstrikes, artillery barrages, and for lack of clean water and medical care in the meantime. Maybe the commitment will change as the US presidential race sorts itself out, and if so…well, good luck with that.

Or maybe nothing is going to change that commitment, in which case you’re back to either occupying the country or, well, containing the spillover and letting the chips fall where they may. That’s a shitty choice, but at this point I don’t see many other options.


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