The disorder in Syria illustrates a too-little discussed problem that has emerged in the past decade of war and revolution in the Arab world: When repressive police states are toppled through foreign invasion or civil war, the basic framework of law and order can disappear, too. This has been the case in Iraq, Libya and now Syria.

Looking ahead, the United States and its allies need to encourage more stable transitions of power — where possible, maintaining national institutions, such as state services and the army, but transferring control of them to a new, more democratic leadership. That’s what happened in the mostly bloodless revolutions of Egypt and Yemen, where the United States pushed the army generals to abandon the dictators…

“There are hundreds of small groups (10-20 fighters) spread all over the area of Aleppo,” notes the bleak assessment given to the State Department. “The FSA has [been] transformed into disorganized rebel groups, infiltrated by large numbers of criminals. All our efforts with MCs [military councils] were abolished. . . . Warlords are a reality on the ground now. . . . A [failed] state is the most likely outcome of the current condition, unless adjustment [is] done.”