With the arrival of the Russian airforce in Syria to add its muscle to the forces locked in a death spiral in that unfortunate country, now is the time to get serious about partition as the only way out of this morass. Let Assad stay and govern the Alawites–that’s obviously what they want or they wouldn’t keep fighting. Compromise must be the order of the day or else Little Syrias are going to spring up in every major city in Europe and North America as those millions who have had enough of war flee to safety. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have Little Syrias throughout the West if it would lead to a healthy blending of cultures as has happened repeatedly in the past, but since there are so many xenophobes out there, it’s difficult to imagine a peaceful welcome in the long term. For every kindhearted soul bringing food and secondhand clothing there will be the scowling Know-Nothing with a match and a gas can waiting for darkness to burn out the invaders.
Partition won’t be easy, but nothing is easy in the Muslim world these days. Marc Champion at Bloomberg News has an extensive article on the difficulties of partition, but as he points out ethnic cleansing has already happened, and the various sides are already carving out their future homelands. The UN might get involved with peacekeeping or even establish a protectorate, as problematic as that has been in the past. A protectorate works best when people are war-weary and ready for an end. We’re at that point.
Perhaps the combatants could be convinced to lay down their arms now if they were told that an experiment of historic import were to be made: Syria split into regions under different leaders and governments, relocation and a stipend guaranteed to the region of your choice (paid for by the savings on weapons). Those who back Assad could have their own country, those who want something different could have theirs, and in ten years lets see how things stand on an Index of Success that would include health, education, freedom and happiness. Instead of trying to conquer territory with military might, there would be an effort to conquer with principles of good government. The only stipulation would be that all sides must sign on to an accord guaranteeing basic human rights. You cannot murder or enslave the people within your region, and you cannot attempt to attack any other region. The assassins of IS cannot be part of this.
A crazy idea, but it could happen.