Nearly 20,000 soldiers have deserted in the last seven months, most of them in the last month. The number of deserters grows daily. The recent death of Libyan dictator Kaddafi did not help morale for the government, or its troops. The government is working its small force of loyal troops hard, and that raises growing concerns about the continued loyalty of the army. With at least half the Syrian 400,000 security forces (police and army) of uncertain reliability, the government is using the 100,000 or so reliable killers (mainly Republican Guard and secret police, plus Hezbollah gunmen from Lebanon and terror groups living in Syria) to terrorize (and, increasingly, slaughter) those civilians who continue to oppose the government. This is a risky strategy, because as more of the less reliable troops and police shoot back, it's a sign that the end of the dictatorship is looming. But the government hard-liners, led by the president's brother (Maher Assad), have won the argument over how to handle the unrest. There's no going back from this, even though Iran is no longer backing the hardline approach. The Assad clan apparently is ready for a fight to the death, but so are the Syrian people. The Assads know they can rely on the army officers and most of the intelligence agencies and secret police. These men are tainted by their association with the government, and are usually non-Sunni. So if the reformers win, and the Assads fall, all these guys are out of a job, or worse. The Assads are taking good care of these men, and assuring them that the government has the resources, and determination, to see this crisis through to a successful conclusion. But so are the reformers, who vastly outnumber the better armed minority supporting the Assads.