Ousting Syria’s Assad through a ‘soft landing’

David Ignatius writes: Maybe it’s time for Syrian revolutionaries to take “yes” for an answer from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and back a U.N.-sponsored “managed transition” of power there, rather than rolling on toward a civil war that will bring more death and destruction for the region.

The Assad government announced Tuesday that it was ready to accept a peace plan proposed by U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan. The Syrian announcement in Beijing followed endorsement of the plan by China and Russia. The proposal has many weaknesses, but it could open the way toward a “soft landing” in Syria that would remove Assad without shattering the stability of the country.

Yes, I recognize that moderate diplomatic solutions like these are for wimps. The gung-ho gang has been advocating supplying arms to the Syrian opposition, setting up no-fly zones and other versions of a military solution. Morally, it’s hard to dispute the justice of the opposition’s cause; the problem is that these military solutions will get a lot more innocent civilians killed and destroy the delicate balance of the Syrian state.

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. A Syria peace deal will also give a starring role to Russia and China, two countries that don’t deserve the good press. That’s okay with me: Vladimir Putin gets a ticker-tape parade if he can help broker a relatively peaceful departure for Assad.

The case for this cautious, managed transition can be summarized with a four-letter word: Iraq.

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