Syria – with its sectarian hatreds, its ethnic animosities, its historical pretensions, its territorial ambitions – may presently be ruled by the Assads. But, were the Sunnis empowered in Damascus instead of the Alawite “pretenders,” nothing less cruel would define the exercise of power or the map of financial favor. They would just be different. The nation-state is not fit for a society delineated by these groupings. This is why some experts expect Syria to split apart into turf defined primarily by local allegiances, foreign neighbors, cross-border loyalties, religious inheritance and belief. Syria has not the traits of an ongoing and functioning political union.
Which is why blood has flowed there so freely. If your neighbor is not of your lot he is, if not a downright enemy, at least a stranger. This population pattern is now writ large in Syria. No one will be able to resurrect whatever there ever was of the Syrian nation. Maybe there will actually exist a heavy-handed Syrian government in Damascus. But there is no longer a people of Syria.
( Martin Peretz – New Republic)