Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse - The New York Times:
Academic research on civil wars, taken together, reveals why. The average such conflict now lasts about a decade, twice as long as Syria’s so far. But there are a handful of factors that can make them longer, more violent and harder to stop. Virtually all are present in Syria.
Many stem from foreign interventions that were intended to end the war but have instead entrenched it in a stalemate where violence is self-reinforcing and the normal avenues for peace are all closed. The fact that the underlying battle is mutliparty rather than two-sided also works against resolution.
When asked what other conflicts through history had similar dynamics, Barbara F. Walter, a University of San Diego professor and leading expert on civil wars, paused, considered a few possibilities, then gave up. There was none.
“This is a really, really tough case,” she said.