The Political Science of Syria’s War

December 19, 2013

 

Briefing 22

The Political Science of Syria’s War

POMEPS Briefing 22 – December 18, 2013

* For more references on Syria and civil wars click here.

Syria is about to enter its third year of a brutal conflict which has killed more than 100,000 people and driven millions from their homes. What began as a peaceful civil uprising inspired by the successful Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings has long since devolved into a complex, protracted civil war fueled by an array of external interventions on all sides. It’s hardly the first complex civil war to scar the modern world, though. Indeed, the study of civil wars is arguably among the richest current research programs in all of political science.

So what does the political science literature on civil wars and insurgencies have to say about Syria’s evolving war and how it might be ended? To find out, last month I convened a workshop through the Project on Middle East Political Science (which also sponsors the Middle East Channel). I invited more than a dozen of the leading scholars of civil wars to write memos applying their research to the Syrian case. These scholars were joined by a number of Syria specialists, and a range of current and former U.S. government officials with responsibility for Syria.

This special POMEPS Brief collects the memos prepared for that conference, along with several articles previously published on the Middle East Channel. The overall conclusion of most of the contributors will come as no surprise: The prospects for either a military or a negotiated resolution of Syria’s war are exceedingly grim. But that’s only part of the story. More interesting, perhaps, are the reasons that Syria seems so resistant to resolution — and how international policies have contributed to the problem. Read more…

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