Editorial: Cease-fire and stability should be the goal in Syria

What a difference a few days make. One of our previous editorials lamented that "it seemed the U.S. was walking intractably toward military intervention in Syria." Praise goes to Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama for seizing the opportunity that Russia's last-minute intervention in this crisis allowed. They could have dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin's pledge to secure Syria's chemical weapons as mere political theater, which it might well have been. Kerry's meeting with Russia's foreign minister in Paris to develop a diplomatic plan of action not only deterred immediate military invention, it reinforced the importance of the international ban on chemical weapons and it may have opened a door to a fuller peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.

Of course, the crisis is very far from being solved and even the continued deterrence of Obama's threatened limited military strike is not totally assured. The plan to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons, a cache of what is believed to be some 1,000 tons, is daunting by itself. To do that under the eyes of a distrustful government inside a civil war only compounds the precariousness of the plan.

The world won't have to wait long to see possible results. The deadline for Syria to provide a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons, including types and quantities, and to reveal its production and storage sites will come due not long after this editorial is printed. That will be the first major test of the various players' real intentions. To meet the next deadline, which is the end of November, Assad must have allowed "immediate and unfettered" access to international arms inspectors. The destruction of equipment must begin in November and all components of the arsenal must be eliminated within the first half of 2014.

Help fund independent Catholic journalism.
Donate now.

A score of things could go wrong to derail this plan. The phrase "working for peace" comes to mind, because it will take hard work for this plan to be successful. It will require all the persuasion Russia can muster to ensure the cooperation of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The United States will have to set aside its distrust of Russia and its unwillingness to work with international organizations. This road to peace is replete with impediments but it is still far more preferable to the military alternative.

Our ardent hope is that the process of eliminating the chemical weapons will lay the groundwork for a cease-fire and lead to a stable political process in Syria. It is unspeakably awful that 1,400 Syrians died because of gas attacks, but we should not lose sight of the fact that some 100,000 other Syrians have died in the two-year conflict, victims of conventional weapons. Another 6 million have been forced from their homes. A cease-fire would give respite to these suffering millions. A stable political process would give them at least some hope for a future.

This story appeared in the Sept 27-Oct 10, 2013 print issue under the headline: Cease-fire and stability should be the goal in Syria .

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.