A Free Syrian Army fighter carries the empty shell of a cluster bomb.
Courtesy Reuters

In recent weeks, the argument that a decisive Syrian rebel victory would not necessarily be a good thing has gained ground in U.S. foreign policy circles. A negotiated settlement between Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the rebels, the argument goes, would be preferable. Such an ending would have a better chance of stanching the violence and preventing outright sectarian war between the mostly Sunni rebels -- hungry for revenge against the Alawites -- and the rest of the country.

Yet after almost two years of bloodletting by the Syrian government, there is little chance that splitting the difference between the factions would end the conflict. Even worse, a negotiated outcome would perpetuate Assad's favorite strategy -- honed over decades -- of using the threat of sectarian war to make his adversaries in the international community wary of getting involved. Instead, the end of the Assad regime should be decisive and complete.

Of course, there are those who disagree. For one, Glenn Robinson, an associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, has argued that the Syrian rebels, if they win, will seek revenge and embrace neither democracy nor liberalism. Arguing along the same lines, Madhav Joshi, a senior researcher at

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  • BILAL Y. SAAB is executive director and head of research and public affairs at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) North America. ANDREW J. TABLER is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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