A few posts ago, I noted that the French won the Algerian War militarily. My co-blogger has scolded me for being deliberately misleading. He is correct. The discussions with Lebanese army officers that produced the post were actually discussions about why the French experience illustrates why Assad is going to lose.
The French Army had three key advantages that Assad does not have. Moreover, at least one of the reasons why De Gaulle decided to abandon that military victory also apply. First, what advantages did the French have that Assad does not? First, French troop levels (proportional to the Algerian population) were four times the levels that Assad can muster. In theory, Assad can call up reservists and increase draft calls. In practice, that will not work.
Second,the French Army could draw on the resources of the Hexagon. In effect, it was financed by a large industrial power. Assad has ... nothing, except in Michael Ignatieff’s fever dreams.
Finally, troops could not and would not defect during the Algerian War. No matter how far morale declined (and it actually did not decline all that far) defection was simply not in their opportunity set. That is not true of Assad.
There are two more differences, but they are actually an epiphenomena of the above three French advantages. The French could credibly commit to remaining in control indefinitely. That commitment reduced the willingness to fight among the Algerian population. (That commitment turned out to be wrong, of course ... but in 1958 it seemed much more likely that France would be sovereign in Algeria in 1968 that it does that the Baath Party will still rule Syria in 2022.) In addition, the French army had the resources to engage large-scale population resettlements ... something far beyond Assad’s reach.
In other words, the reasons why France won in Algeria show why Assad is going to lose.
The problem is that he is going to lose slowly. He can easily fight on for another few years, although the correlation of forces has turned against him. De Gaulle abandoned the victory because of international pressure and because there were no real advantages (other than access to oil, which the Evian Agreements let France keep) to hanging on. The first applies to Assad. The second not so much.
What could change that timeline? Large-scale support for the rebels, which still does not seem to be happening, or a coup.
I see no signs of a coup, but I am not a Syria expert.