Most civil wars end when one side loses. Either it is defeated militarily, or it exhausts its weapons or loses popular support and has to give up. About a quarter of civil wars end in a peace deal, often because both sides are exhausted.There is much more in that article, including evidence that foreign intervention leads to more atrocities against civilians. In the Syrian case foreign support seems to make it impossible for the war to ever end, since whenever one side starts losing the other side's sponsors step up their support until the stalemate is re-established.
That might have happened in Syria: the core combatants — the government and the insurgents who began fighting it in 2011 — are both quite weak and, on their own, cannot sustain the fight for long.
But they are not on their own. Each side is backed by foreign powers — including the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and now Turkey — whose interventions have made Syria an ecosystem with no entropy. In other words, the forces that would normally impede the conflict’s inertia are absent, allowing it to continue far longer than it otherwise would.
Government and rebel forces are supplied from abroad, which means their arms never run out. They also both draw political support from foreign governments who do not feel the war’s costs firsthand, rather than from locals who might otherwise push for peace to end their pain. These material and human costs are easy for the far richer foreign powers to bear.
This is why, according to James D. Fearon, a Stanford professor who studies civil wars, multiple studies have found that “if you have outside intervention on both sides, duration is significantly greater.”
Friday, August 26, 2016
Civil War and Foreign Intervention, or, Why Syria's Nightmare Drags On
Historians who study civil wars say that foreign intervention tends to make them last much longer: