The Buzz

A Soft Landing in Syria

There are few columnists today who can write with both style and substance. David Ignatius fits this bill and a recent Washington Post column on a peace deal in Syria was no exception.

Ignatius argues that perhaps the time has come for Syrian revolutionaries to accept a U.N.-sponsored “managed transition” of power that would likely spare lives and save “the delicate balance of the Syrian state.” In coming to this conclusion, he acknowledges the mistakes of the past, addresses the present, and creates a plan to move forward.

The column confronts fears while providing solutions: “We should learn from recent Middle East history and seek a non-military solution in Syria—even with the inevitable fuzziness and need for compromise with unpleasant people.” He knows that a Syrian peace deal might give good press to Russia and China. Yet he reminds us of the consequences of a transition that is neither cautious or managed: “[It] can be summarized with a four-letter word: Iraq.”

Ignatius’ call for a peaceful solution despite that fact “that moderate diplomatic solutions like these are for wimps” is successful because he separates Assad’s attacks from state institutions the dictator has corrupted. “For all the perversions of Assad and his Baathist goons, the Syrian state and army are national institutions that transcend the ruling family.” Having done his homework as a reporter, Ignatius is aware of the concerns of the opposition. But he sees that this conflict is heading for full-blown civil war. America is lucky to have such an intelligent and measured talk away from the ledge.

The icing on the cake is the elegance of Ignatius’ prose. It’s an asset that always enhances his analysis and makes him a pleasure to read. Consider the sentence that sums up the whole column: “The alternative to a diplomatic soft landing is a war that shatters the ethnic mosaic in Syria.”

Ignaitus’ work is as deft as it is smart.