Just about one month ago, the head of the head of Hamas in Syria was removed from his position atop Sheikh Abu Salah Taha’s shoulders. ISIS gave the Sheikh the metaphorical 72 virgins of severance, and his head was given a new post, a wooden pole. Though the fighting has died down since, as it were, we seem no closer to peace. As head of Hamas, Sheik Taha killed many, and ISIS has killed many more. And now, Hamas has pledged Jihad against ISIS, It’s likely ISIS heads will roll, as surviving Hamas members have joined Assad, their murderous enemy of just a few months previous.
My sense is that bringing peace to the region will require 4 things: (1) one side must have a decisive military victory; (2) They must get the defeated leader to sign a surrender with some clear terms (3) They have to treat the defeated well enough that others will surrender too, and (4) They had to demonstrate the ability to govern. The surrender at Appomattox included all these things, as did Texas independence and the US revolution. By contrast, the history Mexican civil wars suggests that peace becomes near-impossible when you kill the losers, as ISIS has done in Syria. When Santa Ana killed the Texans who surrendered to him at the Alamo and at Goliad, he guaranteed that the Texans would fight on forever, no matter how desperate the odds.
Governance of any kind is a key distinction between countries and non-countries. In the Middle East, there is a tradition of governance by tyranny and partial genocide, but the rule cemented this way is tenuous at best. About 100 years ago, the Turks cemented their rule over Armenia by killing off many Armenians, and Russia did the same toward to Cossacks, but 70 years later Kasackstan seceded. Sadam Hussain, Bashar Assad, Col’nl Khadaffi, and Ayatollah Khomeini all ruled for reasonable times as murderous tyrants, but two of those ruler’s were killed and three of the kingdoms have descended into chaos. People who’ve seen war will often accept tyranny as a better alternative to chaos in the streets, but eventually they revolt. By contrast, Israel and Jordan have stayed reasonably stable by providing a degree of tolerance and justice.
In the Mid-East peace, we’ve chosen to support tyrants: Hamas and the Iranian Khomeini, even though they are murderously anti-democracy, and even though the Ayatollah has vowed to wipe us out, and even though ISIS seems to be winning. This strategy may work for us temporarily, but I suspect these leaders will fall in a few years, and leave us to deal with anger in the wake. Faced with the options available, I’d prefer to let the war take its course, and only step in when things wind down. This is what Theodore Roosevelt did with the Russo-Japanese war: he waited for it to die down, and then stepped in to make peace when asked to do so. Syria doesn’t seem ready for peace right now, but when it is, I suspect it will be better for us if we take the role of peacemaker later than if we support a losing murder now.
Robert E. Buxbaum, May 7, 2015, edited May 11. I’ve shown previously that there is no peace with zombies until there is a cure. Until then, it’s best to run. For those who don’t know it, Roosevelt was an odd dude: here he is riding a moose.