Next to Syria, Columbia has the second largest number of internally displaced individuals with that number growing by 300,000 annually since 2000. Unfortunately, civil war perpetrated by the FARC rebels has driven instability, terrorism, and an illegal drug industry in Columbia since 1964. From Syria to Ukraine, the inability to resolve the armed conflict offers valuable insights.
When solving a problem, it is wise to find an example where a solution has had success then examine where it has succeeded and where it has fallen short. Not only has Columbia’s economy grown by about 4% for the past four years and various Columbian industries blossomed over the past decades, the number of FARC rebels has been steadily declining.
Just as efforts to starve the Islamic State have helped hinder their operations, the Columbian armed forces have been increasingly successful in depriving FARC of funding by targeting revenue sources like illegal mining operations. Currently, the Columbian government is engaged in negotiations with FARC, which may or may not be fruitful.
With that in mind, some progress in a 50-year old civil war can hardly be considered success. After years of failed solutions, which include granting FARC a safe haven surrounding San Vicente del Caguán in 1998, FARC remains a major source of turmoil for Columbia and neighboring countries, which have absorbed refugees fleeing from FARC.
Like the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah, pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, and many others, outside supporters and defenders prevent Columbia from disarming FARC. FARC’s connections to other militant groups through Cuba are particularly disconcerting given US President Obama’s efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Airtight international monitoring of who travels to and from Cuba must, therefore, be a high priority of the diplomatic reset.
Recognizing FARC has also survived by taking advantage of Columbia’s size, which is nearly twice as large as Texas, and dense jungle terrain, the challenge in eliminating FARC is obvious. The largely forgotten US-led “war on drugs” has helped undermine FARC, but it and other US efforts have failed to adequately respond to threats like FARC.
The Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban have, however, faced a full-scale US air campaign. The progress made by US airstrikes on the Islamic State has been pivotal in halting the advance of the terrorist group.
Where Columbia could use some stronger intervention against FARC from a US-led coalition of American countries, Columbia does have the full support of the United States. Syria may now enjoys aid from regional powers Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but it also faces increasing US reluctance to engage the Assad regime, in addition to the Islamic State, due to American efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Iran.
In many respects, Venezuela is Columbia’s Iran. Unlike Iran, the United States is currently ratcheting up pressure on Venezuela with targeted economic sanctions over the deaths of several protesters during a crackdown on political protests instead of reengaging the South American oil-producer under new leadership. Unlike Russia, the reason for imposing sanctions on Venezuela appears more like a hypocritical rationale than an effort to dissuade Venezuela from violating human rights , especially when considering the amount of attention police brutality has received inside the US.
Success in any armed conflict depends on winning the support of all regional powers. The Islamic State would assuredly be far weaker if Syria was not involved in a civil war with a multitude of competing factions while the country could heal quicker from the damage, if it had a solid economy. The Ukraine Crisis would dissolve if Russia started supporting peace instead of armed rebels.
In the case of Columbia, there is still a need for regional leadership and unity to end the war with FARC, but many of the ingredients for overcoming the Columbia’s war with FARC are already in place.
Read old posts