About ceasefires for war zones

The ceasefire plans for Syria don't seem to be a lasting success, and it really astonishes me why anybody ever thought such a thing could succeed.

I understand it's the UN's job to work for a non-violent solution to (international) conflicts and for some reason this has begun to include domestic conflicts (as long as no very important country is involved).
That's fine, as far as it's about the prevention of large scale violence.

What's badly lacking among foreign politicians is the insight that hot large scale conflicts can usually not be solved with a truce and negotiations. That only happens when at least one side is exhausted / defeated.

There has been some criticism directed at the UN about how its peacekeeping efforts often only prolong violent conflicts instead of allowing for the 'natural' solution by arms (which is usually unfair, of course!).

Could we please forget about stupid ceasefire plans? There's no way how the Assad regime and the minorities which back it can coexist with the rebels, and they won't give up without losing the fight simply because the repercussions for decades of oppression, corruption and discriminations are worse than giving the warfare option a chance. Likewise, the rebels obviously won't tolerate the regime any more. This conflict will almost certainly be decided by gunfights, not by pen and paper.
Let's look if the UN and other external factors can influence the fight for power in Syria towards a less bloody, even quicker course. You're not going to find a non-violent course. Period.

I fully understand the desire to do something about a horrible conflict, but ratio and the knowledge of history should tell us that at times there's simply nothing we can do about it without doing more harm than good.

It sucks, but you know what sucks more? To make it worse.

S Ortmann

edit: Replaced "peace" with "ceasefires" in the title.


  1. I couldn't agree more I watch these conflicts simmer for decades and the war is the worse thing there is don't understand is that at least with war it does end most of the time. To many think that conflict while horrible is sometimes not the worse thing. Sometimes there is no peaceful way to decide the issue. History is a good teacher of that.

  2. "A bad peace is even worse than war." Tacitus


  3. The Druze (who are supported by the Christian minority I believe) are in a death fight. There numbers are way to small to survive if the state goes Sunni.

  4. Sir,

    Does the Annan plan really make things worse, though? By introducing UN observers, it can make things somewhat better where the observers are, and provide intel from both what the observers see and what they are denied access to.

    Given that regime violence is thus made easy to see, the Annan plan provides additional impetus towards further action through its own "failure" to prevent violence. It becomes clear to foot-draggers that additional steps are needed.

    It is not fast, nor is it enough on its own, but it provides a way forward and keeps Syria both in the public eye and on the hot seat. It is indeed better than nothing, if less helpful than helping one side directly.

  5. The UN observers only create pauses and extend the duration of the conflict. That may work in favour of the rebels, but is otherwise pointless. It's only a delay of the seemingly inevitable.

  6. I think this text is a bit unclear, I see that you dislike the observers but I'm unsure as to what your preferred actions would be. Are you arguing that "the world community" should simply let Assad crush the rebellion? This is more or less in line with your views on foreign interventions as I understand it ("it's bad, don't do it"), but some parts of the text speak against that interpretation:
    "Let's look if the UN and other external factors can influence the fight for power in Syria towards a less bloody, even quicker course."

    So, what is really your opinion?

  7. Do I need to have the wisdom of knowing a way out of the mess only becuase I claim that the current activity is delusional and no better than doing nothing?

    A desirable solution would include exile for much of the power elite and credible safety/representation guarantees for the minorities which support the regime so far.
    That's a pretty long way to go and both influence options and time are so short tht they should probably simply fight it out ASAP instead. I'm not sure that the regime would prevail.

  8. From what we have seen over the past few months, I dont see the rebels, if thats what we could call them, winning wider support and toppling the regime. The picture given by Western mass media is appallingly out of touch with reality and very much agenda-driven (the agenda obviously being an intervention). The rebels have not been able to form a somewhat coherent force speaking with a voice and acting as some kind of credible combatant. They are not holding cities or even suburbs or small towns. The talk in media as this or that town being a rebel stronghold is laughable.

    The Annan-plan seems to be designed to somehow give them a chance to do just that, but is not working for the very reason that the insurgency is a hollow effort.

    The government on the other hand, while certainly structured along ethnic lines does have support among the Sunni group, mostly among the economically important elements, which is one reason they held out for so long. Again the black and white picture in our media of an ethnic struggle or even the entire population against an oppressive regime that governs supported by arms and thin air is suspect.

    As such, I agree that in the current situation there really are no good answers and solutions. If there is no credible course of action, you stand back, until you have found one. This notion of "we gotta do something" is not credible policy.

  9. No, I'm asking if you think it's "best" for outside actors to just leave it be or if some action should be taken. That is I'm asking about your policy on interventions based on "humanitarian concern".

  10. @Rettaw:
    See point (13) here:

    No genocide in sight, just plain old civil war.