In Syria, the US will "not get what it wishes for not what it pays for"

FLC

“...It is not surprising Syrian infighting is occurring, as there have been signs of it brewing for months. More confusing would be trying to marginalize large swathes of rebel forces while simultaneously stepping up arms provisions, and expecting unity, rather than heightened infighting, to be the result. “Marginalization” of dedicated insurgents in an ongoing civil war involves violence. While “peeling the onion” of jihadist sympathizers and cobelligerents away is important, it is a means to the end of more effectively targeting and dismantling hardcore Islamists and jihadist groups. Without that, the policy provides an anvil but no hammer. Trying to shorten the Syrian civil war is a noble intention, but doing so while pushing out jihadists invites and likely even requires prolonging its second phase. Scaling up our efforts will not solve the practical or moral dilemmas with proxy warfare.Fostering a smaller Syrian group, then, that can fight on the U.S.’s behalf, may seem appealing. There’s a catch. Ensuring proxy loyalty to patrons relies on factors that impede many of America’s present Syrian preferences. Patrons often draw loyal proxies from populations disaffected or vulnerable to prevailing political conditions, which made the Lao and Montagnards particularly effective and loyal sources of “secret armies” and irregular partners for the U.S. during operations in Indochina. Southern Syrian secularists, former regime soldiers, and Bedouins may prove more receptive to U.S. interests, but they are also an unlikely nucleus for a post-Assad government likely to be dominated by groups associated with the civil war’s northern front. Their capability for building the kind of broad, horizontally integrated network to achieve influence over the rebellion and post-war Syria will be limited.Yet placing such a group outside the Free Syrian Army’s aegis points to a tougher truth about proxy warfare, which is that the same characteristics which limit the group’s ability to effect desired humanitarian and political outcomes in Syria make it easier to handle. Small groups take fewer resources. Groups unable to operate in the north or from across the Turkish border are less likely to fall under Turkish or Islamist sway. A proxy that coordinates poorly with local political-military authorities is less likely to default on U.S. preferences than a larger, locally predominant entity such as the FSA, which, by the nature of its social-institutional foundations, will be inclined to answer to local interests first.While patron states can shove social-institutional development in the right direction, creating a broad, unified front from without can take years. Many of the conditions that enable it – the ability to exclude other regional suppliers, relatively low reliance on local power bases, and compatible ideology – may be impossible to produce within Syria.For many powers willing to engage in proxy warfare, a second-best outcome is a local proxy just strong enough to carry out a more limited set of tasks. The U.S. may not be able to rely on the FSA to secure or create a buffer against hostile groups along the Jordanian border, or assist the U.S. in monitoring or targeting jihadists or Iranian/Hezbollah proxies of interest. A smaller force coupled with a logistical effort could perhaps execute those tasks, but it could not deliver a unified Syrian opposition or widely deny hostile groups a safe-haven in Syria. The administration’s current strategy in southern Syria appears sized for a more modest U.S. role. As many demand the U.S. step up its support though, it’s worth remembering the returns to scaling up resourcing or objectives for Syrian proxy forces could have minimal or even negative returns at the margin. Above all, proxy war will not effectively be simultaneously be an instrument of humanitarianism an effective tool for carving out U.S. influence in Syria – in such scenarios, we not only can’t always get what we wish for, we often enough don’t even get what we pay for. …”

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
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