President Trump’s shocking announcement of a U.S. withdrawal from Northeast Syria has given the green light for Turkey to cross the border and launch a military offensive against the Kurds. Turkey views the Kurds in Syria as a threat. But more violence is not going to bring peace to Syria, which has suffered years of civil war between the government and rebel groups.
Instead of abandoning Kurdish allies in Syria who helped fight ISIS terrorists there, the U.S. needs to be a peacemaker. We must stop the long-standing conflict between Turkey and the Kurds and also end Syria’s civil war. This is the most challenging diplomacy perhaps ever.
Former President Jimmy Carter gives us some much needed inspiration and hope.
When Carter was trying to negotiate a peace deal in 1978 between Israel and Egypt at Camp David, he could see they were getting nowhere. Prime Minister Begin of Israel and President Sadat of Egypt were not even talking to one another.
So Carter said let’s take a day off and he took the two leaders to Gettysburg National Park, scene of the horrific battle of the U.S. civil war.
The United States was almost destroyed by civil war. Many lives were lost and families ruined in the struggle between the North and the South. President Carter explained “I wanted to show these two men that we Americans know something about war, and we know about neighbors fighting against neighbors.”
At Gettysburg, you can feel that loss of those who fought there. That spiritual feeling had an impact on those negotiations to end the state of war between Israel and Egypt.
As Carter wrote, “After that day at Gettysburg, we went back to Camp David, and you know the rest. We hammered out a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. We Americans work for peace not just to do a favor to others but because we want our own children and our own grandchildren to live in peace.”
As Carter was trying to show in the “day off” from the Camp David talks, it is possible to end years of conflict and build a better society. The United States overcame its civil war and also built peace along its border with Canada after years of fighting and disputes with Great Britain.
Syria’s combatants must also realize they cannot continue this war. As the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pleads “there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict.” There must be ceasefires, safe passage of humanitarian aid and political solutions.
Turkey must stand down its military invasion of Northeast Syria and stop its attack on the Kurds. It will only lead to more hunger and displacement among civilians.
As Sonia Khush of Save the Children warns,”There are 1.65 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in this area, including more than 650,000 displaced by war. All essential services including food, water, shelter, health, education, and protection must be consistently provided to all civilians, or we could see another humanitarian disaster unfold before our eyes.”
The American Civil War also led to the threat of famine, and relief efforts were ongoing years after the fighting stopped. Syria is also feeling the impact of war having lost so much agriculture.
The UN World Food Program is feeding 4 million Syrians a month with life-saving rations, including severely malnourished children. Edesia, A Rhode Island non-profit, has been making lots of enriched Plumpy peanut paste to send to Syria so World Food Program and UNICEF can feed the starving children. Millions of other Syrians displaced throughout the region receive aid. Funding this relief operation is a massive challenge.
That is why peace is so urgent. Continued war is not the answer. Those fighting in Syria must realize this. If not for themselves, the combatants must think of the children.