Behind Hof’s idea is the need to connect what is happening on the ground militarily within a broader political framework that enables someone to be able to govern Syria after Assad. American-made weapons could be used as leverage to accomplish multiple objectives: weed out AQI influence within the Free Syrian Army; make it more effective; and strengthen the links between the political and military elements of the opposition. This potential triple play is no sure thing. Weapons can get into the wrong hands and complicate regional security when the conflict ends. Libya remains a case in point.
Whether the United States provides weapons or not, there is a compelling need to increase the legitimacy of the opposition in the eyes of key communities inside Syria that are still hedging their bets. The international community has to do more, working through regional governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the opposition, to address the compelling needs of the here and now even as it prepares for the day after.