What If Syria’s Rebels Gain The Upper Hand?

by Patrick Appel

One reason Syria Comment is against American intervention in Syria:

The opposition is incapable of providing government services: Millions of Syrians still depend on the government for their livelihoods, basic services, and infrastructure. The government continues to supply hundreds of thousands of Syrians with salaries & retirement benefits. Destroying these state services with no capacity to replace them would plunge ever larger numbers of Syrians into even darker circumstances and increase the outflow of refugees beyond its already high level. Syria can get worse.

Most militias are drawn from the poorer, rural districts of Syria. Most wealth is concentrated in the city centers that remain integral (such as Damascus, Lattakia, Tartus, Baniyas, Hama, etc.), which have survived largely unscathed in this conflict, and have not opted to continue the struggle. If the militias take these cities, there will be widespread looting and lawlessness which will threaten many more civilians who have managed to escape the worst until now.

Many in these urban centers have managed to continue leading fairly stable lives up to the present; despite the tremendous level of destruction seen so far, many areas are still a long way from the bottom. It would be preferable to avoid a Somalia-like scenario in the remaining cities and provinces.

It’s not at all clear that U.S. intervention can improve the economic or security situation for Syrians.

Peter Galbraith argues that, if “our military intervention is not going to be effective we shouldn’t do it, and if it’s not clearly going to lead to a better situation, then we shouldn’t do it”:

[W]hat’s so striking about the Syrian situation is the minorities have not joined the revolution. It’s almost entirely a Sunni revolution. And that should be more concerning to people in Washington than it is. It’s understandable why the Alawites would stay with Assad. Understandably, they fear they may face genocide if he is overthrown. But the Kurds, who were the first to rise up against Assad in 2004, simply don’t trust the opposition. They think they’re interested in a Sunni Islamic regime that will exclude them and maybe be dangerous to them. The Christians, the same thing, and the Jews, the same thing. I consider that lack of support like a canary in the mine, and we ought to pay more attention to it.