What Should We Think About the Syrian Civil War?
As Syria enters its third year of civil war, Marc Lynch summarizes the findings of a workshop he convened at George Washington University’s Project on Middle East Political Science. Participants included civil war scholars, Middle East scholars, and Syria specialists. The prognosis for the Syrian civil war isn’t particularly good:
The fragmentation and infighting of Syria’s opposition is, again, typical of a certain type of civil war — the type least amenable to diplomatic resolution, most open to unconstructive foreign meddling, and least likely to produce post-war stability. This fragmentation was built in to the early nature of the uprising: The revolt broke out across the country in a highly localized way, with little real centralized leadership or institutional cohesion. And as the University of Chicago’s Paul Staniland argued, that initial lack of cohesion has proved impossible to reverse: “Once a parochial structure is in place, factional unification is extremely challenging.”
Contrary to what some have been suggesting there may have been nothing we could have done to avert the bloodbath there at any point in the conflict. I found this observation particularly interesting:
The foreign support for the Syrian rebels has thus predictably produced what Schulhofer-Wohl views as the worst of all possible worlds — it has extended the fighting, made compromise more difficult, and increased the dangers of rebel infighting, while also facilitating the rise of extremists. “Military aid to the Syrian opposition has sustained its fight against the al-Assad regime,” he argued. “In this military posture, the rebels ensure their survival against the regime but lack the ability to defeat it in decisive battles.”
since it hearkens back to what I was saying early on in the conflict. Diplomacy is unlikely to bring a quick ending to the conflict, there has never been a truly good course of action for us with respect to that conflict, and it might be more prudent of us to identify and execute strategies for mitigating the suffering of those made refugees by it or the damage the continuing conflict will wreak on the region than aiding the rebels or searching for a diplomatic solution in what has become the bloodiest civil war in today’s world.
Read the whole thing.