Syria. Could intervention by peacemakers help?


DJ responds to my recent post about not intervening in Syria (promoted from the comments.) He helped broker peace in the vicious Sri Lanka civil war. Could the same process happen in Syria?

It bothers me that the idea of this post is to sit back and let people kill each other – or rather, let a handful of combatants kill tens of thousands of civilians. I’m not advocating military involvement, but rather “conflict resolution” involvement – and our government may not be the best tool for that job, since it seems to exacerbate conflict wherever it goes.

I’ve been listening to NPR commentators asking why the U.S. Government doesn’t have more people on the ground in Syria. My question is, why don’t peacemaking organizations have more people on the ground? (Or am I missing something?) We had them in Iraq – and some of them died for their work (think Christian Peacemakers, who were Mennonites espousing peace, not Christianity). In Sri Lanka, I was one of those folks on the ground. Our group took a conflict that no one seemed to understand, made sense of it, and eventually helped bring about a four-year cease-fire, the longest in that thirty-year war. Yes, conflicts CAN be intervened in and resolved – but generally not with guns.

We as human beings are obligated to prevent the killing of innocents where we can. Failing to do so is immoral. Yet it is equally immoral to rely on our government as a surrogate for our own efforts. It is a poor substitute, with goals that are often not in the interest of real peace.

Outside powers don’t appear to care much about what happens to the people of Syria, most of whom probably just want to get on with what once was their lives. Some urban dwellers in Syria are now living in caves, for God’s sake. And their economy is now a shambles.

Would a peacemaking group even be safe in Syria now? In Sri Lanka the sides were obvious and clear. There were also safe areas where combat wasn’t happening. I’m not sure if any of that exists in Syria.Who would peacemakers talk to? There are dozens of militias, rebel groups, and by now, probably war lords. The opposition doesn’t have a singkle identifiable leader. Also, who would protect the peacemakers?

I’m not comfortable with letting innocents die either. But even the most seasoned UN peacekeeping missions have had no luck. Worse, the conflict is spilling across borders into Lebanon, and possibly Turkey, Israel, and Jordan too.


  1. As I’ve noted elsewhere, those peace organizations that have worked conflicts before have a pretty good idea where to start. But more importantly, they understand that peace does not start at the top. The U.N. talks with leaders. Leaders are a product of their consituencies. Nothing can be accomplished without changing the dialog among the people. Indigenous and Mennonite peaceworkers are already working in Syria. Let’s hope outsiders send more peaceworkers rather than more guns!

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