What role does nonviolence play in Syria? Basher al Assad seems determined to alienate the world except for sort of Iran, Russia and China and perhaps Venezuela and Cuba--their camaraderie is built on hating the US and justifying their own despotic suppression of dissidence in their own countries--and he's done remarkably well at uniting radical violent Islamicists with Hillary Clinton and Europe in their opposition to him. How weird is that?
Syrians could win with few casualties, could have whatever form of government they like, but they would have to commit to strategic nonviolence, meaning they would have to renounce their armed struggle, and then decide to protect their own people by using dispersed, low-risk nonviolent resistance punctuated by higher risk public square protest on a testing basis, all done while working to erode the pillars of support Basher al Assad's regime relies upon.
Part of the idea is to explore, define, assess, and probe those pillars for hidden weaknesses and exploit and expand them. The planning and execution of the strategy should be entirely indigenous, and externals should either butt out or seek to help by following the wishes of the Syrian nonviolent movement.
For example, what we see now is a stupid race to support this or that armed resistance, either the so-called democratic insurgents or the jihadis that want a fundamentalist Islamic state. The US has withheld arms out of fear of supporting jihadis but now the pressure is on to support the other violent fighters in order to deny victory to the Salafists. This is a stupid dynamic. If the US government cannot support whatever nonviolent movement might exist, it should remain uninvolved.
Far better is the example from Voices for Creative Nonviolence wherever they have gotten involved. This Chicago-based group is there, on the ground, in hot conflict zones, seeking out nonviolent groups from whom they take leadership and advocating for nonviolence back home in the US. In Afghanistan they found Afghan Youth for Peace, a group that is entirely indigenous. The support they give to AYFP is not meant to change their agenda or philosophy, but rather to simply show some solidarity with it. If the US government would have done this beginning in 1980 the entire cycle of violence and blowback and Operation Enduring Bloodshed might have been avoided. Instead the US taxpayer funded war against the Soviet occupiers and armed the mujahedeen, who eventually attacked the US on multiple occasions. This poor strategy causes pause in the case of Syria, but not for oil-rich Libya, where the violent insurgency received lots of weaponry from the US and where the US used their own air power to decimate Qadaffi's military operations.
For the $billions spent on gathering intelligence, the US government manages to do so without real intelligence that would tend to really advance democracy and instead serves the war/oil profiteers. How much more the US citizens would be served by taking the model of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.