It's still possible, in this day and age of 24/7 news coverage and citizen journalism, to destroy an entire town. As the horrible violence in the Syrian opposition stronghold of Homs has shown in the last few weeks, all you need to do is kill everybody. And as Robert Young Pelton points out, the Syrian government may have had a blueprint for this callous plan of destruction. As Pelton writes in FP, "It's impossible to know whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- a longtime Russian ally -- studied the success of the last Chechen war before launching his own assault on the restive city of Homs. However, his Russian military advisors surely know the tactics well. The crackdown in Homs carries a grim echo of Grozny, both in its use of signals intelligence to track down and silence the regime's enemies and its bloody determination to obliterate any opposition, including Western journalists." The world may never know how much Syria really learned from Russia, but as the photos here show, the visual similarities between the two conflicts are shocking.
Above, a house damaged by government shelling in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs on Feb. 11, 2012.