The war in Syria is now in a critical phase. Since the beginning of the struggle, we’ve spoken of Damascus and Aleppo as the core of Assad’s strength and the cities he must hold to hold the country. Damascus is the political capital and Aleppo is the commercial capital. In both cities, the mainly Alawite government has forged close ties with some leading Sunni families and those links combined with Assad’s military strength are what holds the regime together.Until very recently the violence in Syria raged in secondary cities and the boondocks; now the emboldened opposition has struck at the core of Assad’s power. He must re-establish control or the regime will disintegrate.From here, a lot of things can happen, and most of them are bad. There have been signs recently that the Alawites are planning to “fort up” in the mountain and coastal areas where they have traditionally lived. The country could split up at least temporarily as tribes, ethnic and religious minorities, rebels and gangs struggle for control. Assad could use his WMD in a last ditch effort to regain control — or he could regain control using normal means and the war go back to its earlier, inconclusive state, for a while. US or other foreign forces could get involved in an effort to get control of those weapons before they go to Hezbollah — and be stuck trying to keep a difficult peace in a fractured state.Or peace and order could return as Assad slips away and the rebels build a free and fair Syria on the ruins of the old regime.Revolutions and civil wars present governments with impossible problems. Nobody can predict the consequences of action — or of inaction. History moves at lightening speed; there is no time for study groups, long term analysis or consensus building. The President has to act, or not act as he thinks fit.The rest of us must hope that he, and the other world leaders involved in the situation, are either lucky or right. And let’s hope also for some wisdom and courage in Syria.