I've heard one too many anguished complaints from Ban Ki-Moon and Kofi Annan that if "nothing happens," the situation in Syria may develop into a "civil war." I can't stand it any more.
Reality check, folks: the situation in Syria is a civil war. Specifically, it is a religious civil war; the Sunni majority is trying to oust the Assad family and their supporters, mainly members of the Alawite sect (a minority Shia group). To give the protesters credit, for a long time they simply stood out in the squares and protested peacefully - to which Assad responded with tanks and mortar fire. In the last few months, some of the formerly peaceful people have been shooting back (using captured or smuggled arms), but they're still out-gunned by the Syrian army. And the Syrian army, except for a few defectors who refused to shoot their fellow citizens, still supports Assad.
It's clear to me that Assad, in apparently agreeing to Annan's "peace plan," was using what I call the "Yes, Ma" response. My dad used to say that to his mother, after which he would go about whatever it was he meant to do anyway. Assad knows perfectly well that "negotiations" would lead to exile and loss of power at best, and he has no intention of negotiating with anybody.
Ki-Moon and Annan know this; but if they admit that the "peace plan" isn't worth the paper it's written on, they then have to confront the question: now what? A lot of people are asking that question anyway, and they're all looking sideways at the United States when they do.
So - now what? After the Houla massacre (not to mention the one that just happened in Mazraat al-Qubeir), Syria is diplomatically isolated. Everybody's ambassadors have gone home, nobody is talking to Syria except the U.N. team - and the Russians, who persistently support Assad. It's pretty clear that international disapproval doesn't mean a thing to Assad. I believe he thinks he's fighting for survival; he may be right. I also think there's probably a touch of "My father built this and handed it to me and I'm going to keep it." As long as Russia keeps supporting him and selling him arms, he can pretty much ignore the rest of the world. And he will.
Nobody at the Secretary of State/Foreign Minister level in any country is saying this publicly, but I think there's some background muttering to the effect that we helped the Libyans, why aren't we - why isn't NATO - helping the Syrians? Recently I've seen some signs that the Syrian opposition is coalescing into a single force; but until now there were just scattered towns and villages under attack, there wasn't any "Syrian opposition" to support. And that means that "helping the Syrians" would involve ... invading Syria.
Just think about that for a minute. Russia is feeding Syria arms, do we really want to get into a proxy war with Russia in Syria? And the Syrian people might welcome western troops as liberators, but on the record in Iraq and Afghanistan, they're just as likely to stop fighting each other and unite against the invaders.
Really, folks, the last time U.S. troops were genuinely welcomed as liberators was in France in 1944. We've sent troops into a number of other countries since then and it's never happened again. We have to stop trying to be the world's peacekeeper. The U.S. hasn't got one single political reason to go into Syria, and that means that we should Stay Out.
Are we going to sit here and watch Assad murder his own citizens? Yeah, I think we have to. The Syrian people have to solve this one themselves. I really believe this. I also believe in the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you bought it. If we go into Syria for the noble cause of helping them overthrow their own government, we'll be there for decades.