Map showing Syria and Middle East.

Syria’s Two Wars

Syria is being wracked by two wars. One, between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army, can be resolved only through the kind of diplomatic solution that the peace talks in Vienna are aiming to reach; the other, being waged by the Islamic State, calls for a very different approach.

DENVER – Syria is being wracked by two wars. One, between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army, can be resolved only through a diplomatic solution – precisely the kind of solution that the peace talks in Vienna, involving a wide range of world powers and regional actors, are aiming to reach. The second, being waged by the Islamic State, will require a very different approach.

Of course, the Islamic State’s war is, in a sense, also a civil war – both between Sunnis and Shia and among Sunnis – and it is related to the struggle against Assad. But the Islamic State’s brutal terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris (not to mention its fighters’ barbaric behavior within Syria and Iraq) make plain that there can be no talking to – much less compromising with – its leaders. No political, diplomatic, or territorial arrangement with such a group – whose fanatical ideas and vicious practices clash with all civilized societies’ fundamental norms – can be justified.

To be sure, diplomacy will be needed in this fight. Just as war is often an element of diplomacy, diplomacy can sometimes be an element of war. In the war against the Islamic State, diplomacy will be vital to galvanize an alliance of countries dedicated to the group’s complete eradication – which will, however, have to happen on the battlefield.

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