What Went Wrong: Understanding the Trajectory of Syria’s Conflict

  • Raymond Hinnebusch


This chapter asks why the Syrian uprising did not lead to a democratic transition and instead descended into an intractable proxy war. It first explores the origins of the conflict in the contradictions of the pre-uprising order. It then examines the trajectory of the uprising, examining key turning points: it explains the successful mobilisation of mass protests, in spite of an unfavourable opportunity structure, and analyses why, owing to the choices of hardliners in both government and opposition and among external powers, the window of opportunity for democratic transition was missed. After the failure of democratic transition, why revolution from below did not result is attributed to Syria’s fragmented social structure and government strategies. With the failure of revolution, government “counter-insurgency” might have prevailed, but external intervention on behalf of the opposition cost the government its monopoly of violence and territorial control and tipped Syria into a failed state. Finally, with state failure, competitive regime re-formation led to more exclusivist alternatives—the rump of the government and jihadist counter-government—fighting over the Syrian space.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raymond Hinnebusch
    • 1
  1. 1.University of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland

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