How the Syrian War Can End

On October 30 – before the events in Paris – Atlantic Online published an article by David Ignatius, the associate editor of the Washington Post, “How ISIS Spread in the Middle East and How to Stop It.” While the world is pondering how, now, to deal with ISIS, we might consider that, if we are lucky, one thing might conceivably happen – successful diplomacy, back stage, to end the Syrian war. This would certainly have a negative effect on the future of ISIS. This is an extract from the article.

…History teaches that such wars end through a combination of the exhaustion of local combatants and an agreement among major regional and international powers on a formula to curtail the fighting and rebuild some governance. Usually the settlement ratifies the informal cantonal boundaries that have emerged during the fighting, so that each sect has what amounts to a “safe zone” in a decentralized state that functions under the umbrella of the old nation.

That’s what happened in Lebanon with the Taif Agreement in 1989, and it’s probably the best that can be hoped for in Iraq and Syria. To reduce human suffering on the way to such a new equilibrium, it’s important, where possible, to back moderate forces as they create the safe zones that will eventually form the pieces of the new federal state – and that provide platforms for attacking extremist groups.

Middle Eastern wars rarely end with outright victory and permanent stability, so the word “settlement” may promise too much. At best, for many years, it may simply mean stable ceasefire lines, reduced bloodshed, fewer refugees, and less terrorism.


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