Chuck Freilich on what comes after the near-inevitable fall of Assad (shorter: don’t even think about spiking the football):
In the absence of any American and Western intention to intervene militarily, andÂ given Russia’s and China’s diplomatic obstructionism, international involvement in Syria has been inconsequential. The Annan plan, based on the illusory premise that Assad would undertake domestic reform, could not possibly have succeeded, for the reforms envisaged would have guaranteed his demise. He was thus left with no alternative but to pay lip service to international demands, to stave off possible intervention, while pursuing the only route available to him to ensure his survival ”“ brutal repression.
Today, international intervention is probably too late, the regime will likely soon fall in any event, though thousands of lives might have been saved, and the opposition will no longer settle for less than ultimate victory. The policy of “leading from behind” pursued by the Obama administration in Libya, where it allowed Britain and France to lead, and now in Syria,Â where it is letting Russia and China block action, have characterized its entire approach to the dramatic changes in the region since the “Arab spring” began. Admittedly, it did not have many good options, but passivity is not a policy prescription.
Syria’s deeply divided and dysfunctional opposition remains a primary obstacle to effective international involvement, but as the endgame nears, the need to forge a united, moderate and effective opposition is greater than ever. The tragedy of Syria,Â as in EgyptÂ and other regional countries now undergoing transformational change, is that the chances of a moderate democratic regime evolving are minimal. Indeed, it increasingly looks like the tyranny of Assad will be replaced by an Islamist regime, possibly with strong jihadi and even al-Qaeda influences, and Syria itself may fragment. We may yet miss the relative stability and predictability of the Assad years.
Some of us [sic] more than others:
In the short term…it increasingly looks like a new regime may be as unsavory as its predecessor and may threaten the four decades of calm that have prevailed on the Golan Heights. Â The danger of escalation is great, especially if Syria, or its Iranian and Hezbollah allies, in a desperate attempt to save itself in its final extremis, seek to divert attention from their shared problems by usingÂ Syria’s vast chemical arsenalÂ against Israel, Syria’s own citizens, or international players, should they seek to intervene. A long-established rule of dictatorship is that an external crisis is always a good means of deflecting attention from domestic challenges.
The whole thing. Read. Etc.