A couple of points not made in the article that will surely occur to many policymakers:
- The process is the goal. While defeating the Soviet army in Afghanistan would have been an ideal outcome, increasing the cost of Soviet occupation was a reward in itself. Even if the mujaheddin had been ultimately broken the policy would still have been considered a success. In short, it focuses Soviet attention in one theater and keeps them from acting elsewhere. A net gain.
- Bargaining chips. Policymakers may want want to exploit the opportunity to get involved in conflicts in a low cost/risk manner, such as arming insurgents groups or governments, to gain negotiating leverage over another state actor that also has an interest in the conflict.
- Alliance management. Again a low cost way to show solidarity with states that are far more concerned with the outcome of a conflict than is the United States.
All three of these points are valid in regard to CIA intervention in support of the Syrian opposition. What impact intervention has on the people living in the place where weapons and know-how are being made available is generally not a concern. Empirical fact.