A few years ago, I attended a lecture by John Galtung, one of the fathers of Peace Studies. I remember vividly his main message: all conflicts, whether personal, comunal, political or internacional, are solvable in a peaceful way. Like mathematical problems, sometimes it may seem they are not. But it is just because of a lack of knowledge, or imagination.
I loved that theory because of its optimism and confidence on human ingenuity. Moreover, I think it is true that only when you are disposed to go an extra mile in your efforts, that you can really achieve what seemed impossible. However, I always wondered if there are conflicts which are just intrinsically impossible to solve, no matter how much imagination and effort you put on them. To me, Syria looks as this kind of challenge to Galtung’s assertion.
I felt pessimistic about Annan’s mission since the day it was anounced. And now that there is a UN team in the country to monitor a cease-fire, I do not feel more hopeful about its chances to succeed. I have the impression that long time ago the Syrian regime decided that it was worth taking the country to an awful journey of a civil war to stay in power.
If that is true, and that calculation is still there, there is not much that well-intentioned mediators can do about it. The Syrian regime will just keep buying time by agreeing to some peace proposals when feeling under pressure, and later on, sabotaging them. As it did with the Arab League mission a few months ago, and it is now doing with Annan’s plan.
In addition, the problem is that as the conflict gets bloodier, the possible solutions get harder to implement. At the beginning of the revolt, it might have been possible to a reach power-sharing agreement between the two sides if there was a strong international consensus. Nonetheless, as the number of victims mounts, it also does the hatred, and these schemes becomes less and less likely. No dobut that Damascus knows this, but I am afraid it is exactly the scenario they seem to prefer. According to their mindset, a civil war will consolidate their support among some minorities, espeacially alawites, afraid of an Islamist takeover.
All this said, given the lack of other viable options (NATO and Western powers are weary of a military intervention, and many experts fear that instead of stopping the conflict, it would make things worse), I support all the efforts of the international community to put an end to the violence in Syria. I hope that Annan’s extra mile proves Galtung right, and my pessimism wrong.