There is no political solution in Syria. One side or the other will have to be disarmed. The only alternative is permanent conflict between factions. As long as a government exists in Syria, sovereignty can be reconstituted, likely with weaker authority than before the war began. When the government is overthrown, as it was in Libya, no one group has an institutional pathway to legitimacy. The only pathway then is violently overunning ones opponenets, much like ISIS has done to create itself. The principals of democracy, secularism, and legitimate authority cannot be created in an environment of permanent insecurity. Continued conflict is not in the interests of the Syrian people, who prefer government authority and services to a prolonged proxy war between outside actors that seek a government in Syria that includes their own input.
Russia has been consistent in its position that overthrowing the government in Syria is an unacceptable outcome. The United States has instead continually changed positions, lacking any clear strategy for how to stabilize Syria, partly because the U.S. lacks any historic relationship with the country. It instead defers to pressure from partners in the region in formulating its public policy.
U.S. partners are traditional rivals of Syria, so it is unsurprising that they would appreciate the fracturing of the country. Israel so that it may cutoff Hezbollah in Lebanon from Iran; Turkey to energize Islamist partys in the region and reestablish from Ottoman times its orbit in northern Syria; and Saudi Arabia to weaken Iran’s presence in the Middle East. It would be difficult for the United States to brush off the perspective of these three nations, yet it has to an extent pushed back their most extreme goals. Not because the U.S. wants Russia, Assad, or Iran to succeed in the region, but because there is a deep sense that what our partners want is increasingly outside of our own scope of concern, and thus our national interests. That involving itself in what CFR president Richard Haas called the Middle East Morass is in the longterm, detrimental to our ability to effectively engage Asia and shape an international order for the 21st century. That who runs Syria simply isn’t that important, as long as its not ISIS or any other group pushing a global ideology.