"Why," people wonder, "would a limited strike against the Assad regime make the world a better place?" That is one of the reason the White House has found themselves in such an awkward position, slammed by both sides in the United States as well as in the Middle East. Like most proposals fielded by Third Way consensus-builders, technocrats, and incrementalists, it is almost stunning in its half-ass-edness. Whether the question is economic policy, healthcare, education, or becoming entangled in a bloody civil war in a Middle Eastern nation harboring Russian military forces, Neoliberals have such a reflexively limited vision that they openly celebrate to the public how inconsequential their proposals really are, again and again and again. And the sum result is, as always, just enough involvement to cause blowback for the Party, but never enough commitment to make it worthwhile. No solution to the war is proffered. No strategy to stop the killing is entertained.
And that's tragic, because a diplomatic solution is staring us right in the face. It's almost inevitable that this solution has been discussed in some circles, most likely thanks to Joe Biden. But Neoliberals have no stomach for big fixes, even when the alternative is failure. As the Vice President said of Iraq, and as current events are sadly proving to be correct, the only hope for lasting peace is partition.
Iraq and Syria are, like now-defunct Yugoslavia, the product of imperialism. Rival nations have been forcibly bundled together by successive conquerors within artificial borders, and then suddenly left to their own devices within these same absurd confines. The result is a state of perpetual inner conflict, much like those tragic African nations that have essentially become the poster children of helplessness. The Central African Republic. Mali. Chad. The DRC. It's the same sad story, told again and again: rival ethnic groups from different regions constantly fighting for control of the whole country, each wanting a turn punishing that group which had previously been in control and had punished them. In Syria, the Shiite-Alewite coalition has brutally repressed the Sunnis, and they are fighting so determinedly now because they know that if the Sunnis seize control of the government they will exact a bloody vengeance in response. And should this occur, it won't be long before the Shiites and Alewites are rising up to regain control and get their own payback. Each side is well-motivated, and there is absolutely no reason that the cycle of violence will ever be broken by military success.
The only way to permanently end the war in Syria, and make sure we aren't back at this again in another twenty years, is to finally address the root of the problem, which means breaking up the colonial borders.
The United States, the EU, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, the UAE, and Kuwait, need to essentially pool resources until they've put together a massive foreign aid package enticing enough to bring the Shiite/Alewites, Sunnis, Druze, and Kurds to the negotiating table, in order to bring about a ceasefire and the Balkanization of Syria. The minorities on the coast protected by Assad's regime need to be able to guarantee their own safety from Sunni retaliation, and that means they need to become independent from the Sunni plurality that dominates the interior. The Sunnis have a right to self-determination, but this requires that they at last shrug off the domination of the Shiite-Alewite minorities. The Druze in their forgotten corner will be in risk of oppression and continued conflict unless they can reestablish their old independent nation of Jabal Al-Druze. Partition is a tall order, diplomatically. Our notoriously risk-adverse administration is, ironically, afraid of big changes, but this is the only way to put an end to this war. Let each side retreat to their own corner, declare victory, and get a heap of reconstruction cash. Let Turkish peacekeepers parade up and down the DMZ and display how indispensable a nation they really are. Let us in the international community stop propping up an unsustainable status quo that, should we instead accidentally bomb a bunch of Russians, is going to get us all killed.
Russia is doggedly resisting our attempts to oppose the Assad regime; even when the Saudis dangled $15 billion in front of them in exchange for backing off, they refused. They don't merely want a market for their armaments, they want their regional ally. They want to keep their naval base. Any outcome that results in their ally losing power over Syria is unacceptable to them. Therefore, the best chance both the United States and the Russians have at coming to a mutual agreement is through partition. If the Russians get to keep their Shiite-Alewite allied government with their coastal territories, including the naval base, then they'll have exactly what they want, and the Baathists can safely betray/deliver up Assad. The Baathists will remain in power, in their own land, without a restive minority population, which means that with Russian backing they won't have to worry about any real domestic political competition.
But the Kurds! you say. If the Kurds break off from Syria as their own nation, won't that have massive regional repercussions in Iraq and Turkey? Indubitably. But the Kurds, in fact, are what make this moment such a historic opportunity. Should the Sunnis in eastern Syria break off to become their own country, they too will be stirring up trouble in Sunni-dominated western Iraq. Any proposed partition talks in Syria would inevitably require Iraq also come to the table, which, if we are serious with ourselves, is actually a boon. As the Vice President has said, there won't be any end to the internal violence plaguing Iraq unless there is a partition of that country, which is just as artificially cobbled-together as Syria or the Central African Republic. Just as with Syria, in Iraq one nation is lording it over the others, and the repressed are bitterly fighting back. The only solution to bringing stability to the region is to bring both countries to the same negotiating table, and dealing with the entire problem with boldness and a clear vision for the future: five stable and independent countries where there were once two unstable Frankensteins unsuitable for democratic government, that could only be controlled by iron-fisted repression. One Persian Gulf Shiite country. One Mediterranean Shiite-Alewite country. One central Sunni country. One Druze country. And one Kurdish country.
Five countries?! This is madness! you might say. To which I reply, "Madness? This is Eastern Europe circa 1989!"
Out of a mere two countries, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, came NINE!
-Bosnia and Herzegovina
These individual countries still have their problems. But they have been split off into independent governments, and not a single one of them has disturbed the balance of power in more than a decade. They all have, more or less, what they want. Serbia may have wanted an empire, but they'll live with ethnic homogeneity.
An independent Kurdistan may be an issue for Turkey. However, Turkey isn't the only country with a border region full of Kurds; Iran, too has Kurdish separatists. It is easy to arrive at a potential outcome where a newly-independent Kurdistan, with disturbingly conservative Islamist Sunni neighbors to the south, turns to a rich and westernized Turkey as a patron, with a positive mutually-beneficial compromise made to form economic ties between Kurdistan and a semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Turkey, and all the while they get to keep poking Iran with a stick. Turkey is one of Iran's top regional rivals, and they would surely enjoy Kurdish separatists in Iran making the Ayatollahs' lives miserable under their watch, instead of the other way around.
The United States needs to look beyond short-term temporary fixes to long-simmering problems. With every passing decade, the seemingly-insurmountable problems in the Middle East only get worse. The violence and instability is spreading like a cancer. We might be able to win on the battlefield, but it will simply light the slow-burning fuse for the next round of horror. The only way to a lasting and positive resolution, that actually leaves the world a better place and improves the lives of the Syrian people, is through ambitious, moon-shot, history-making diplomacy, and heaps of foreign aid. The US shouldn't have to bear the brunt; if the Saudis were willing to offer Putin 15 billion to back off, then for Syrian peace and their own personal Sunni satellite state they should be willing to offer a substantially larger amount, and that doesn't even bring the other rich Sunni nations (all of which fear Iran) into the picture. The Kuwaitis, the Bahrainis, the Qataris, and the folly-loving infamous splurgers in the United Arab Emirates should be able to pony up their own Marshall Plans as well. Even if the US does contribute to the foreign aid, we'd spend far less helping Syrians than we'd have to spend to beat them. And it would be a far better use of the money.
The Balkan nations, bound together in the imperial artifice of unity, proved to be so volatile that they triggered the First World War. Russia backs Assad. The Saudis back the Sunnis. Iran hates the Saudis and backs Hezbollah who back the Shiites. Russia has a "strategic partnership" with Iran. Israel stands with breath bated and missiles readied. Make no mistake, unless Syria is permanently defused, it could very well prove to be a similar trigger for World War Three.