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Benefit of Wars: Their Lessons for Syria

21/05/2013 13:15 BST | Updated 20/07/2013 10:12 BST

If there is anything we should learn from wars in the past, it is how to stop them. But I doubt if mankind is able to learn from the past at all. German neo Nazi's kill Turks or make them feel unwanted. Hungarians wave Swastika's in front of a Jewish conference. And in Syria we allow the Assad regime to slaughter it's own people. Over 70,000 people are killed (when can we start to call this a genocide?), 1.4 million people were forced to flee to neighboring countries and 2.3 million people are displaced within Syria.

In the coming weeks UN, NATO, EU, USA, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and many others will have intense debates on what to do. Will the talking heads finally reach common ground and start acting accordingly? Stopping this war, is it really too complex, as many people tend to think? I don't think so. We just have to use the lessons history contain for us, decide and act. Six wars in the last twenty years provide all the answers we need.

Let's name the six scenarios after their historical look-a-likes: Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Libya and the Balkan. And yes, there's something to choose, but that's the most positive news I have for you. Don't expect any Houdini trick to happen. Each scenario has a tremendous downside. But not acting at all - the Rwanda scenario - is morally a 'no go', because the bloodshed will get worse and worse. The civilians of Syria have the right to be protected against the brutalities of its regime. Not acting makes all of us responsible for the casualties.

USA and EU could decide to provide weapons to the resistance. But those weapons will surely fall in the wrong hands, like already happened with most weapons provided by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Some calculations say that up to 25% of the rebels are related to Al-Qaeda and we don't want another 'Afghanistan'. In the eighties USA President Reagan provided weapons to the Taliban warriors, to fight against the Russians. Until today these weapons are used against the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. And this option makes it even more difficult to persuade the Russians to stop sending their weapons to Assad. Thus for sure sending weapons will fuel the escalation of armed violence.

The NATO could decide to send troops and start a ground war. This requires the US Army taking the leading role with at least 70,000 troops. But 'Iraq' teaches us that the tremendous costs and also the aftermath of such an intervention can be devastating and the USA will get sucked into another snake-pit or maybe even worse: a direct war with Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, both backing the Assad regime. It's not likely to expect the USA choosing this path.

A monstrous never-mentioned option could be the 'Mali scenario'. NATO could decide to team up with Russia and support Assad. In that case the rebels know they can never win the fight and feel forced to start a dialogue with Assad. In return Assad's allies can force him to except regime change. The bonus of this option: Assad's weapons of mass destruction will not fall in the hands of radicals and the Jihadists will not come in power. The big difference with Mali though is that the French did back up a corrupt and authoritarian Mali government, but that government wasn't slaughtering its civilians. Teaming up with a killer, wouldn't that be a cynical immorality of the highest degree? Or would the possible result justify the means?

It's more likely to expect the NATO to establish a 'No Fly'-zone, so the jets of Assad can no longer bomb rebels or innocent civilians. Last week, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey campaigned for this option. It will provide the rebels with a much better chance to win the fight. But the strongest rebels, the Jihadists, will probably arrive in Damascus first and once they are in power you should not expect them to share it with others. And they will surely be reckless towards the old rulers and their supporters. We could call this the 'Libya scenario', in which the dictator will be chased away, but the people get chaos in return.

Then the only scenario left is how the world - also after years of ignoring and hesitating - dealt with the genocide on the 'Balkans', 18 years ago. A No Fly Zone was combined with three weeks of targeted bombing on military barracks, tanks and government buildings. It made the aggressors agree on a ceasefire. After this the Dalton Peace Conference created the base for the current not too fragile and still developing democracy within the countries of the Balkans.

UK Prime Minister Cameron announced that he is willing to host such a conference where regime and rebels will hopefully meet. When this leads step-by-step to a non-violent regime change, respecting all sects and minorities of Syria, you could call this the ideal scenario. That's why even peace organizations such as Pax Christi International are promoting this option. This option also guarantees that Assad's weapons of mass destruction wont fall in the hands of radicals and those radicals wont become the new dictators. But this requires the support of both super powers, USA and Russia. Oxfam: 'By aligning their priorities two of the world's most powerful countries can facilitate a political solution in Syria'.

In the meantime I continue to build MasterPeace, not only because it promotes creative, impartial and non-violent involvement such as the 'Syrious Mission' last week by our music advisor Merlijn Twaalfhoven, who brought music in the hearts of many Syrian refugee kids. But also because in the coming years MasterPeace will recruit up to half a million new peace-builders around the world, with the goal to use music, art, (social) media and dialogue to prevent the escalation of conflicts. Because above all, if there is one thing we can learn from all wars, it is that we develop more and better ways to prevent them. Or we will always be too late and history will repeat itself again and again and again.