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The Washington Post: How, when and whether to end the war in Syria

Author: Kenneth M. Pollack, Director of Research, Saban Center for Middle East Policy
August 10, 2012

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The history of civil wars — and of efforts to stop them — demonstrates what is likely to work and what is likely to fail.

"The beginning of wisdom," a Chinese saying goes, "is to call things by their right names." And the right name for what is happening in Syria — and has been for more than a year — is an all-out civil war.

Syria is Lebanon of the 1970s and '80s. It is Afghanistan, Congo or the Balkans of the 1990s. It is Iraq of 2005-2007. It is not an insurgency. It is not a rebellion. It is not Yemen. It is certainly not Egypt or Tunisia.

It is important to accept this simple fact, because civil wars — especially ethno-sectarian civil wars such as the one burning in Syria — both reflect and unleash powerful forces that constrain what can be done about them. These forces can't be turned off or ignored; they must be dealt with directly if there is to be any chance of ending the conflict.


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