Sunday, July 22, 2012

Syria speculations

1.  Me from Aug. 31, responding to William's request for my prescience on Syria:
I'm clearly not too prescient about civil insurrections, but I think the bad guys will win in Syria, at least for the short term. The military hasn't seemed divided there, which is the only way for the unarmed good guys to win.
So, wrong again, somewhat.  Maybe penalties assessed against me could be reduced by my "short term" qualifier.  The Libyan and Syrian civil uprisings started about the same time but the former started peeling off military units immediately while the latter only had random low-level deserters until recent months.

My guess based on other countries has been that people power uprisings have to win quickly, within weeks, or not at all.  I should modify that to say that successful people power uprisings win quickly or not at all, unless they become civil wars which follow a different kind of trajectory.  I still think Syria is unusual though in the length of time it lasted as civil demonstrations before either fading away or transitioning to what it's now become.

2.  Pretty obvious it's a civil war now, and despite the only-recent change in terminology by the Red Cross, it's been a civil war for months now.  Also obvious that Assad's finished, although I still disagree that it was obvious a year ago.  The US government seems to agree he's finished.

3.  As rebels are starting to take territory, although not necessarily hold it, the situation is becoming more like Libya, including a downside that rebels become more vulnerable to air power.  I stand by the argument I made in February that we should provide more direct military assistance to rebels, particularly in creating safe havens.  The tens of thousands of people that have fled to Turkey in just the last few days could still be in a Free Syria, starting to organize the transition.

4.  My argument in February relied on negotiations first, with military assistance as a backstop.  That's changed - unless there's a coup/assassination, negotiations are useless now.

5.  The key issue now is planning that prevents massacres of Alawite and Christian minorities.  Peeling off enough of them to assist the rebels would definitely help.

6.  Speaking of Syrian Christians, it's interesting that conservative American Christians are so aggressive over Syria when most of them were far more reticent to support change in Egypt.  The obvious difference is the attitude of the regimes toward Israel.  I'm guessing conservative American Christians aren't all that interested in the fate of Syrian Orthodox synods.

7.  The rebels in Syria seem even more like a black box than the ones in Libya.  OTOH, things seem to be going okay in Libya (no takers still on my Libya bet offer).

8.  Not sure of the value of my military predictions, but here's one:  Assad won't use chemical weapons.  I believe without evidence that Western nations have secretly communicated to him their guarantee that the gain to him from using them will be outweighed by the Western response.  He might still be tempted to use them in extremis but at that point, hopefully, anyone given the order will realize the personal best option is to disobey/take government succession planning into their own hands.

UPDATE:  forgot to reference the one-month rule that started working in Libya around May 2011 - from then on, setbacks to the rebels never lasted more than 30 days, and each month left them more powerful than the month before.  My guess is the same rule may have started applying in Syria a month or two ago, and a month or two more of the same will indicate the eventual result.