But 2 years gives us some time for observation on modern civil wars.
Observers trying to be neutral in seeing what is happening in Syria start off with a customary disclaimer. "Assad regime is rather shady and vicious, we don't support it but perhaps chaos that will replace it will be worse".
We will do the same. By all means, Assad government is a lot less benign than was the genuinely popular government of Gaddafi. Libya, a country of 6 million (with half of it lasting and maintaining military operations for 7 months under constant NATO bombardment), demonstrates this fact along with the objectively high social/infrastructural spending on the population. Without direct NATO bombardment of Western Libyan infrastructure, Gaddafi's forces would have easily occupied and pacified eastern Libya within 1-2 months and neutralized destabilizing foreign mercenary, special forces, and terrorist elements. In fact, during battle for Misurata, Gaddafi's troops attempted precision targeting of hostile elements rather than current Assad strategy of neighborhood isolation and blanket bombardment. That show of humanitarian tactics ultimately hastened Libya's slide into current sectarian decentralized chaos.
Assad father's semi-reactionary coup within the Baath party in the 1960s greatly moderated socialist factions and allowed current batch of corrupt business elites to ultimately emerge. Assad dynasty has also mismanaged its influx of funds from recent partial opening to globalism and neoliberal theory. Libya mismanaged funds as well but to a lesser degree. History shows us that cold war attempts to find a third way between socialism and capitalism (such as Baath party's fusionistic ideology of socialism, nationalism, pan-Arabism, state capitalism) gradually degrades towards something blatantly fascistic, stagnant, and opportunist due to lack of ideological clarity.
One constant in secular nationalist modernizing Arab republics appears to be strong state and military apparatus that inevitably partially "sells out"/merges with the Western-phile business classes. To be fair, occasionally they genuinely do create social progress via emulating parts of previous experiments (ex: Nasserist, Peronist, Kemalist, Leninist, and FDRist practices).
Another constant is that due to strong nationalist military tradition of these ungodly "third way" hybrid regimes, they prove difficult for the neighborhood. They are just too willful, independent, too sovereign for current process of globalization. Thus we see today's opportunism of neighboring states (local hereditary mafia monarchies, neoliberal Turkey, and Western governments) to ride/redirect the protest wave and overthrow third way regimes to better exploit them. A pattern emerges that when a third way state tries to create a peaceful outreach and make new friends, they get stabbed in the back (watch the interview of Assad by Charlie Rose and note the experience of Libya giving up chemical weapons and becoming more normal only to be stomped).
However if you got a genuine civil war on your hands that is strictly indigenous and if you got the support of Western capital and weapons and you still don't seem to be winning, then you're definitely on the wrong side of history. You may want to call on French/Saudi/etc military to help you out and take chances with that.
Lesson 1: Outcome depends not on domestic factors but either interference or non-interference of global and regional powers.
The global media bubble of disinformation that Western governments can achieve around a targeted country is monstrously powerful and very difficult to breech. If you are on the wrong side of the transnational slander campaign, you best get powerful friends.
UN is split into faction A) [US, France, UK] that disregards basic UN premise of national sovereignty in favor of corporate transnational neo-feudal police state and faction B) [China, Russia] that fight to protect UN status quo and thus perhaps even UN's legitimacy with a statement of "what happens inside a country's borders is not NATO's/UN's business". Eventually of course, during UN's evolution we may first see some global police apparatus develop but it'll be more along lines of multilateral government agreements, continental security/economic blocks, and not just one security block arbitrarily browbeating UN to cater to its needs. It may even be possible to have various large security alliances have their own representation in UN as a collection of global gendarmes with their own respective neighborhoods to patrol.
Many military bases are located in dangerous zones such as by forests or by hills that allows them to be bombarded. This applies to all military bases including the ones inside powerful states like France, UK, US as well. The bases are not civilian proof (due to expectation of civilian areas being safe) and thus could be rapidly surprised and looted. A country fearing attack by NATO pirates and their proxies (Algeria you're next considering France is picking up the war on terror torch) best double cement wall their bases, clear nearby brush, and prevent construction of residential areas in the vicinity. Even a large big name base is ridiculously vulnerable to 100-200 well armed people storming it to grab even bigger guns. Thus installations in countries vulnerable to civil war should copy base protection methodology employed in Afghanistan.
Lesson 3: Give in to protester demands early. :)
Now not just any protester demands (not the demands of the bourgeois children who want free flow of capital, privatization, and "free speech" for their capital) but those demands concerning economic freedom of the poor. Thus, any government in fear of "being next" should make overtures to the local communist party apparatus, secular/socialist community organizers, etc to co-opt them and then use these connections to route out foreign infiltrators and create community support. Rationing should occur immediately to create popular dependence of the poor sectors of society on government for subsistence. This means, bread, sugar, petrol, basic children supplies, etc. Make an economic outreach to Cuba, they may send some help over.
Lesson 4: Determine early whether it genuinely is a civilian protest that can be handled by combination of political outreach and police action or whether it's total national security threat requiring major mobilization to secure strategic areas with triple rings of defenses. Do not gradually escalate and allow insurgents to adjust. If threat is serious and Western hyenas/neighboring government jackals are beginning to side with protesters go to Lesson 5.
As tempting as it is to use all your might to chase a bunch of dangerous religious rednecks across the country and attempt to maintain security across the whole country, that is often is simply not possible. Major cities (and substantial buffer zones around the cities) should be first priority in order to prevent emergence of a center of power for an alternative government (that can then rely on drawing educated cadres within the city). Military installations, borders, arms factories, and energy supplies should obviously come second.
Create rural pockets where insurgents can operate and herd them into those pockets. If some cities developed an infection already, isolate the neighborhoods and starve them out. Religious extremists are similar to zombies from a bad Hollywood movie only they feed off people's broken hopes and their radicalization once infrastructure and the economy have been destroyed.
Lesson 6: Pay large amounts of money to PR firms of a neutral country so they run ads on news channels of Western countries if possible, wage prolific Internet campaigns. In the era of declining American empire, even a monolithic media offensive will have cracks in it.
Lesson 7: Maintain refugee camps within areas of government control and use the dispossessed males for recruitment. It is not helpful to have them sitting in a neighboring country without supervision or being indoctrinated into the opposing camp. Plan for creation of refugee camps on your own territory in advance, preferably in urban areas where they can provided with physical needs, security, and propaganda umbrella of the government.
Lesson 9: Maintain illusion that all government facilities are functioning normally but store all vital records underground or in other locations to prevent fire damage from car bombs. Record keeping is essential to maintain food/supplies rationing mechanisms running in a hearts and minds campaign. Relocate some essential government offices to more secure military bases if possible.
Lesson 10: Set up a transnational intelligence sharing center on potential threats from Western powers and their lackeys. Create a database of known mercenary networks. Set up a multi-billion dollar assistance fund in faction B country to use for aid if a foreign backed civil war should happen to you. Don't allow New York Times, BBC, or any Western media agents into your country, they are affiliated with intelligence services. Use Chinese or Russian media channels from Faction B.
Any country may find themselves in danger even if so much time has passed that they think they're safe. Cuba, Venezuela, Algeria, Iran, and every strategic willful country in Africa/Central Asia/Middle East should collaborate on how to prevent humanitarian catastrophe from foreign physical and informational infiltration and NATO bombs from falling on their territory.
vicious caste based monarchies. Karma will have their way with them when their "subjects" wake up and turn republican or when Saudi extremists refuse to go abroad and turn their attention inwards. Considering that the entire region is similar to pre-WW1 Europe, it is better for all nations in the region to be on the same republican level of understanding and progressing towards greater secularization, fertility lowering education, and modernization. Secular educated people are less likely to sign up to fight in wars and more likely to demand socialist leaning style of development.
And here is an interview with Assad just a couple years ago after he was visited by senator John Kerry and after he made outreaches to Turkey, Qatar, and the West.