Max Fisher has an outstanding article on the Syrian Conflict titled “Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse.” Fisher places the Syrian conflict into the context of other civil wars, and argues that that what makes this conflict distinct is not only the diversity of combatants within Syria, but the extent to which this is a proxy war, which has drawn in a myriad of external actors. In sum, Fisher suggests that all the factors in place suggest that this will be a very long war. While not a cheerful read, the writing is clear, the arguments are succinct, and the implications are disturbing. As I write this, the piece has attracted over 330 comments, and it is well worth reading the “reader recommended” ones.
The Syrian government recently reclaimed control of a suburb of Damascus; the entire population of this area of the city departed. At the same time, Aleppo is undergoing a ferocious attack. It seems that momentum is shifting towards the regime. As Fisher suggests, however, every advance by the regime is likely to draw in greater resources from its external enemies, and hence counter-balance its successes. Tragically, this may still be a war that is years from ending.
In this context, I want to highly recommend Ann Hironaka’s book, Neverending Wars: The International Community, Weak States, and the Perpetuation of Civil War. Although the book was published in 2008, before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the arguments that it makes are particularly relevant to understanding this war. Also Martin Smith’s Frontline report “Inside Assad’s Syria,” does an excellent job conveying a sense of the Syrian regime, and why its supporters believe that they have to fight.
Shawn Smallman, 2016