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If war is not the answer, what is?

By Richard Heggie - posted Friday, 19 September 2014

Phyllis Bennis (Institute for Policy Studies) has published in The Progressive a six step plan to weaken the influence of ISIS and to work towards diplomatic and financial solutions. There is an absence of words like "crush", "destroy" and "pursue ISIS to the Gates of Hell".

Here is an outline of Ms Bennis suggested plan, along with a few comments:

Step One. Stop the airstrikes.


Revenge is never a justification for military action.

Step Two. Make real the commitment to "No boots on the ground".

Advisers, trainers, CIA personnel and "special forces" also wear "boots".

Step Three. Organize a real diplomatic partnership to deal with ISIS.

The current "coalition" has been cobbled together in an attempt to legitimise the US airstrikes, but most seem to agree that military action is not effective (and probably counter-productive) when used against an ideology. More fulsome and effective national (and citizen) commitments would be forthcoming for a coalition pursuing (only) diplomatic and financial solutions.

Step Four. Initiate a new search for broader diplomatic solutions in the United Nations.


The US and others sometimes seem frustrated at the apparent slowness and even incapacity of the UN to endorse their plans. Perhaps this is because the plans are flawed – and the UN is indeed only complying with its charter. A plan involving diplomatic and financial objectives is more likely to be passed by the Security Council than one based on military action and airstrikes.

Step Five. Push the UN, despite Lakhdar Brahimi's resignation, to restart real negotiations on ending the civil war in Syria.

This means including Russia and all other interested parties in the negotiations. The US should stop being dismissive of Russia based on the West's perceptions of Russia's role in the Ukraine and elsewhere. Russia is always a force to be reckoned with – and all "forces" should be brought together for negotiated diplomatic and financial outcomes for all parties. Russia did play a meaningful diplomatic role in the removal of chemical weapons from Syria – arguably without the need for the airstrikes that the US threatened.

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About the Author

Richard Heggie is founder of Heggies Pty Ltd, a 100 strong multi-disciplined Australian environmental consultancy,
Since selling the practice and retiring in 2014, Richard has maintained a strong interest in corporate social responsibility, social justice, ethics, climate change, science foreign affairs, diplomacy and politics.

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