The Inevitable Death of the Syrian Army
I tend to agree with CJ Chivers on most matters of politico-military analysis, and particularly his recent verdict on the role of IEDs in the Syrian insurgency. Namely, “…the Syrian army is fucked. And the troops must know it.”. In brief, his argument is that IEDs are an extreme threat to a conventional army in hostile territory – with eleven years and unparalleled resources, the US Armed Forces have made only erratic progress against their threat. The Syrian Army has neither the time, expertise, equipment or money to defeat these tools. They can continue to kill many people, but their operational effectiveness is only going to decline and the Syrian Army is doomed as a conventional military force.
He does not dwell on the fact that breaking the Syrian Army is only part of winning the war. As conventional forces are whittled down, the dividing line between them and the insurgents dwindles. The FSA will have the benefit of a more hospitable popular environment, but there will be plenty of Alawites, Christians, and just-plain-loyalists who might potentially support a rump Syrian Army. As the conventional advantage of the Army diminishes, many of the troops will flee but a potentially-still-large contingent will fight. They will not have their supply lines and helicopters, but will still be well-trained, well-equipped, and well-organized. There is no reason to think they won’t take up unconventional warfare as well.
So Chivers’ insight is correct but incomplete – the Syrian Army is fucked as a conventional modern military. Unfortunately, that in and of itself tells us little about the prospects for a peace through victory in Syria.