Sunday, August 28, 2016

An option still on the table

Max Fisher's Interpreter column for the New York Times lays out the bleakness of Syrian war end scenarios. But the analysis seems to have a particular amnesia about African wars -- surprising given the breadth of experts consulted -- which leads it to see the Syrian conflict as uniquely intractable. Maybe. But there's a vast literature on Africa's intractable wars, many of which did eventually end. Jeffrey Gettleman discussed this in a Foreign Policy article from 2010 --

The only way to stop today`s rebels for real is to capture or kill their leaders. Many are uniquely devious characters whose organizations would likely disappear as soon as they do. That`s what happened in Angola when the diamond-smuggling rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was shot, bringing a sudden end to one of the Cold War`s most intense conflicts. In Liberia, the moment that warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor was arrested in 2006 was the same moment that the curtain dropped on the gruesome circus of 10-year-old killers wearing Halloween masks.

Now, that's not an obvious strategy against Syria's rebel groups, because there are so many of them. But that same logic for Syria points towards Damascus. Personal loyalty of regime figures to Assad is not infinite, and there's a long history of senior figures being disposed of when they got inconvenient.

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