Saturday, May 13, 2017

Syria is a Difficult Problem, To Say the Least

The Russian plan to end the war in Syria is faltering?

I protest that this Moscow initiative isn't a plan to end the civil war--it is a plan to win the war. I can't believe that after all this time, winning isn't our objective.

This Yale group article suggests partitioning Syria to end the war.

To be fair, Syria once was split up based on Ottoman administration.

But remember that after 7 decades of "artificial" borders that shape reality, the borders are far more real today. Although I admit that 5 years of full blown war and half a million dead can undo decades of legal pressure.

Yet I doubt Assad would consider that Alawite coastal homeland defined by the Yale group as extending inland enough to satisfy him.

And population transfer would be necessary, the Yale group says.

That sounds so benign, but "transfer" will be ugly and bloody "ethnic cleansing." Is the world ready for that? Population transfers between India and Pakistan at independence; across immediate post-World War II Europe; and in the broken Yugoslavia don't give me comfort that it can be safely engineered given the force necessary to enforce the moves.

America is supposed to take the lead given our own problematic past of "transferring" American Indians westward?

And what of mixed Syrian families and communities? What of roots put down and economic interests that defy the newly drawn borders?

Formal partition could be possible in theory once the American-led coalition defeats ISIL in Syria, at least, by suppressing one source of hatred and violence. But do Syrians want a partition?

I will say that practically speaking Syria is partitioned and decentralized now in ways that look like army division-based feudal fiefdoms that conflict with the plan's borders.

But my view of partition is old and remains in force--it should be done if every other means of defeating Assad is not possible and we have to settle for weakening him (or, as I mentioned in other posts, if there are worst things than the survival of Assad for the peace of the region)--but even then we should continue the war against Assad (in whatever form that might take) once that partition is done.

Otherwise a partition plan may just be an Assad ploy to achieve a sequential total victory (today the Alawite homeland! Tomorrow the Euphrates River valley!) with Russian and Iranian help following partition and the withdrawal of Western, Turkish, and Sunni Arab support for rebels.

So I'd rather focus on beating Assad--and thus Russia and Iran, too--and working on a unified post-Assad Syria. The only bright spot to the nearly 500,000 dead so far is that the Syrians--without imported jihadis to stir the pot--might, from sheer exhaustion, be more willing to accept a unified post-Assad Syria and work out their differences without even more blood.

Russian, Iranian, and foreign jihadi intervention, interests, and expectations of payoffs for their sacrifice make Syria more than a civil war. I don't like partition right now since I think we have better options. But I can't say I rule it out despite the potential disasters that come with the potential solution.