|Kissinger’s good option|
Most see nothing but bad choices in Syria; Kissinger sees the way out
By Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post
“There are no good options but to do nothing is the worst,” lamented a Financial Times of London editorial this week that wrestled with how the West should respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Doing nothing would be best, counters a New York Times oped, which concludes the U.S. will lose, however the Syrian civil war plays out. “Bombing Syria may be a futile gesture. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it,” argued an editorial writer for the London Telegraph. But neither does it mean we should do it, stated a Canadian Press article entitled “No good options for Syria.”
The West is right to worry about making the wrong decision in the Syrian civil war –it doesn’t want to become embroiled in another failed Middle East war, the intelligence is murky on whether the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attack, and yet, if the West doesn’t punish Syria then Iran, Syria’s backer, will be emboldened in pursuing nuclear weapons.
But the West is wrong to think it has no good options. It has a superb and just option, one that will let history unfold as it should have long ago. That option — to break up Syria into coherent nations — was proposed earlier this summer by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a gathering at the Ford School.
“First of all, Syria is not a historic state. It was created in its present shape in 1920, and it was given that shape in order to facilitate the control of the country by France,” he began, explaining the root of the present crisis.
“Secondly, it’s a country that is divided into many ethnic groups, a multiplicity of ethnic groups, and that means that an election doesn’t give you the same results as in the United States because every ethnic group votes for its own people … Moreover these ethnic groups are very antagonistic to each other. You have Kurds, Druzes, Alawites, Sunnis and 10 to 12 Christian ethnic groups.”
The notion that these groups could ever get together and form a coalition government, as proposed in the Western media, is not only unrealistic but “inconceivable,” says Kissinger. “On the whole it is an ethnic and sectarian country… it is now a civil war between sectarian groups.”
Kissinger believes Syria should and will break up in some fashion — indeed, the independent-minded Kurds have already created a de facto state with a potent military, the Druze have their own militias and Assad’s ruling Alawites, in preparation for a retreat to their traditional homelands should they lose the civil war, have heavily fortified Alawite territory. This break up, sooner rather than later, is Kissinger’s preferred outcome yet the West is misguidedly acting to thwart it.
Plan A for the West, President Obama explained this week, would be “a shot across the bow” — limited bombing to teach Assad a lesson while allowing him to remain in power. This plan, many believe, not only risks a larger war by a panicked Assad but also could backfire by enhancing Assad’s stature at home and in the Arab world, in that he could claim to have withstood an attack by the combined colonial powers.
So what would the effect be if the Western nations chose neither the do-nothing option nor a risky military attack but adopted instead a Kissinger-inspired Plan B — a principled declaration that they favour a division of Syria into its constituent nations, starting with an independent Kurdish state in what is now Syrian Kurdistan?
Without dropping a single bomb, this declaration would create a win for the Kurds, a pro-Western people who are also one of the largest ethnic groups in the world without a state of their own. It would create a win for the West, who would now have a pro-Western state in what has long been hostile territory. It would create a humiliating loss for Assad, who would be seen to have presided over the dismemberment of his country. And most importantly in meeting the West’s immediate security needs, it would send a chill through Iran’s mullahs, who have to date been impervious to Western boycotts and other attempts to end Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Iran, which has Kurds of its own along with other restive minorities, would now contemplate the prospect of the dismemberment of its own state – Iran’s dominant Persians represent only about 60% of the country’s population. A Western declaration of support for Iran’s Kurdish minority would deter the mullahs as nothing else has.
The current state of Syria is an artifice with no glorious history or national traditions to cherish or preserve. In previous centuries, its various regions were but administrative districts of the Ottoman Empire. Under French rule following World War I, a Syrian Federation ill-served many of its minorities, leading to its collapse and ultimate takeover by the Assads.
The West need not engage in a risky war and it need not appear impotent if it fails to do so. It need only finish the business begun by the Great Powers after World War I, when they vowed to recognize the right of the peoples such as those in Syria to self-determination.