09/05/2013 04:22 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2013

Calculating Peace in Syria

We need a human calculation for peace in Syria. The political calculations of the interventionists and isolationists being debated in Washington DC and on every talk show studiously ignore the option of peace mongering. The atrocities rained on the Syrian people must be stopped without further violence.

We hear from interventionists that President Obama and the United States will be weakened if the US does not go ahead with military strikes in Syria. With deadpan faces the analogy is made to a middle school playground on which a bully must rightly be stopped. Unleashing the capacity of the world's largest military in order not to be seen as weak by the morally bankrupt and criminal Assad regime is a spurious argument at best.

Assad must be stopped, but not in order to puff ourselves up. He must be stopped for the sake of the Syrian people who live in terror in their own country. He must be stopped for the sake of the over two million Syrians who have fled the carnage - including almost one million Syrian children. Assad must be stopped for the welfare of the human family so that chemical weapons will not be used again by any dictator or government.

Polls show that the American people are war-weary because of what they see as questionable wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. War-weariness does not equate with turning a blind eye to what is happening to the Syrian people.

The isolationists argue that the time has come to retreat from US activism in "policing" the world and exercises of nation-building. Significant numbers of isolationists say that it is time "focus on America" even as they vote to gut or defund programs to improve access to healthcare and education or rebuild our infrastructure.

The recent global protests against US military action in Syria are not fueled by a desire for the US to retreat from the global stage. Instead, much of the human family is eager for US engagement that enhances democracy, freedom and human rights. That is an engagement of humble strength and power.

The calculations being debated in Washington and elsewhere debase the inherent goodness of political discourse by solely focusing on military engagement. It is a false choice to suggest that the only options are intervention or isolation. The human calculation of forging a peace that ends the Assad regime and works for the well-being of the Syrian people needs to become part of the discussion.

The American people and the human family should be presented with the option of creating a robust global coalition for peace in Syria. Peace is never solely about the ending of conflict. Peace is historically understood as working for the well-being of all which often includes the ending of conflict and war.

If peace-making were as easy as war mongering we would long ago have figured out how to create peace instead of turning to violence to end violence. Peace emerges because of those who have the vision and courage to pursue it and the willingness to put in the hard and difficult work of accomplishing it.

The human, diplomatic and political capital being expended on putting together an unenthusiastic coalition to support military strikes against Syria can instead be spent inviting, cajoling -- and even shaming -- world leaders into a coalition of the willing for peace.

If a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who is President of the United States of America invites his fellow Nobel Peace Laureates to join him in assembling such a coalition the public squares of the world would erupt into street demonstrations of support. Even Assad would pack his bags in the face of such determined strength.

The human calculation for peace should be on the table now - for the willing.

Robert V. Taylor is President of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation in New York and author of A New Way to Be Human.