Concerning the Syrian government it is too often suggested that toppling Bashar al-Assad will bring about a peaceful resolution. The potential ramifications of such an action are never fully considered. A vacuum in the Syrian presidency is declared a necessary phase of conflict resolution, without addressing the impending challenges the vacuum would breed. Statelessness is not an environment in which a unified, secular, or tolerant society can emerge, yet nation-building through regime change continues to be the standard course-of-action. Outside powers have little desire to aid in the growth of civil society inside Syria, but they enthusiastically assist in illicit weapons trafficking to the war zone, acting as kingmakers in another peoples homeland. The obsession with Bashar al-Assad is a contrivance created by longtime dissenters with no political base in Syria, backed by their supports who sought to provoke the overthrow of the government.
There is no one who can say with certainty that Assad’s departure would benefit the Syrian peoples well-being or strengthen the institutions of the state. It can be said however that the services the government delivers are highly sought after by the millions of internally displaced refugees (IDPs) who have fled rebel-held territory for government lands. Institutions still function in government-controlled Syria, and the people are afforded some semblance of a life. Toppling Assad does not bring that reality to more people, and almost assuredly would decrease the quality of life in Syria even further once the vacuum is introduced. Overthrowing governments simply because you don’t like the man in charge hurts the ordinary people who rely on a functioning state for goods, services, law & order, and an orderly regulatory environment. Regrettably, if these things are offered in an authoritarian state, they can be doled out as patronage to a select few more easily than in a democratic state, creating frustration on the part of those left out of economic, social, and political gains. These are internal issues that need to be addressed through peaceful reform. Outside, international organizations like the World Trade Organization can incentivize governments to do meritocratic things that will make them more competitive, but forcing change through the sword is a recipe for calamity. Which is what we have seen play out in Syria, a calamity that could have been avoided had outside actors not made the situation innumerably worse.