Syrian Sovereign Capacity:
Distribution of Power
In the chart below, 5 dimensions of Syria’s capacity to govern itself are shown, from left (“Distribution of Power”) to right (“International Reputation”). Taken together, the 5 dimensions of the x-axis offer a comprehensive, holistic view of Syria’s capacity to govern itself.
Distribution of Power is important because it reveals who establishes and enforces the basic rules of self-governance of the country. The more wisely power is distributed in Syria, the greater the capacity of the country to respond to existential threats.
Power (in the political or social meaning) is the ability to influence or control the behavior of people. There are different ways to earn or maintain power. Which of these levels of development is most characteristic of the country? (If two seem equal, name the lower level.)
5. An emerging democracy, with a strong central state, rule of law, and democratic accountability. But, the institutionalization of the practice of democracy is not yet fully established and there is fear of return to rule by an elite. (This was the highest level chosen.)
4. Rule by an elite, with two of these three features: a strong central state, rule of law, or democratic accountability.
3. Rule by an elite, with one of these three features: a strong central state, rule of law, or democratic accountability.
2. Fragmented, with little violence. None of these three features exist at the national level: a strong central state, rule of law, or democratic accountability.
(1.4 was the average of the levels chosen.)
1. Fragmented, with ongoing civil war. (This was the lowest level chosen and the level most often chosen.)
25 prime actors participated in determining the ability of Syria to respond to existential threats based on its current distribution of power.
In the chart, higher levels indicate greater capacity within that dimension for Syrians to respond effectively to existential global threats, from Level 1 (very weak) to 8 (very strong).
- The highest rating: light green.
- The average rating: a triangle.
- The level identified most often: a cross.
- The lowest rating: dark green
Level 4: Participants made the following statements to support their assessment of Syrian Distribution of Power as best characterized as Level 4:
Rule by an elite, with two of these three features: a strong central state, rule of law, or democratic accountability.
A Round 2 participant stated (Aug 2016 - Oct 2016)
"The government controls everything. There is no distribution of power." (229051)
Level 1: Participants made the following statements to support their assessment of Syrian Distribution of Power as best characterized as Level 1:
Fragmented, with ongoing civil war.
Round 3 participants stated (Nov. 2016 - Jul. 2017):
“A cock crows on his own dunghill.” (230713)
“There are regions of government control, IS, PYD, and Islamists. The first 3 regions control large territories. The Islamists have smaller territory which itself is divided among parties. The Islamist area will diminish. IS may also. No one knows about the Southern Front. In 3 months there will only be 3 regions. Turkey probably agrees. Their only interest is in not letting the Kurdish regions connect.” (231641)
“The war has many dimensions. It is by definition civil, but that does not deny the revolution or the heroic work of the Syrian Civil Defense, Local Councils, etc.” (233911)
“It is a 2-front war, civil on one side, and against outside terrorists on the other.” (238631)
“It's not yet a civil war. There are not equivalent powers. The government and its allies are fighting the people in general.” (232631)
“There's still a lot of violence across the country.” (233121)
“Except it's not exactly a civil war because it's the government killing the people.” (235931)
“In some areas where Assad has control there are vestiges of a secure state, but not like it was before.” (239311)
“The only reason this continues is because Assad is funded by outsiders to maintain the military, and the opposition is unable to take control in a lot of places. Taking territory often includes kidnapping adults and children. There is an economic gain in it. If the government isn't directing genocide some commanders clearly are. We can know this because the commanders try to hide it. This will probably be investigated for years to come.” (239312)
Round 2 participants stated (Aug 2016 - Oct 2016):
“This is not a 'civil war.' This is a revolution. The government is no longer legitimate. Military coups have legality, but that didn't happen here. The regime stole authority not due to them. Hafez Al Assad had some legitimacy by military coup, but Bashar used corruption. Bashar used international and national elements. He initiated the term 'opposition' to legitimize his own authority. He trained the Islamists in the prison of Sednaya, then let them out…. The Alawites got in to make it look sectarian. Everyone is up to their elbows in blood. The Alawites are against him, as are many Christians." (220291)
"Power is now dispersed between the government, ISIL, the Free Syrian Army, the Islamists, and the PYD. There are sub regions within them. The government areas are controlled by militias, Iran, Hezbollah. The same with the Kurdish regions. They are divided too. There seems to be a power struggle within ISIL. Islamists are divided between radical and moderate." (223881)
"It is not a civil or sectarian war. It's a revolution for freedom…. When the people rise up Assad responds with killing." (225662)
[Agrees with Round 1 comment]. (221211)
Round 1 participants stated (Jan 2016 - May 2016):
"Democracy is very small because the country isn't stable. The freed regions have almost the same democracy in all regions. You gain the power from the people, not to implement it on the people. The government is the opposite. Bandits rule Syria now. The freed people want to develop the democracy and make it better. The local councils are freely elected. Everyone participates, even women." (222172)