Poignantly, the Assad regime has reportedly engaged in war crimes for which it must eventually be held to account, and stands to lose the political and economic hegemony that underlies its existence. The opposition, in turn, foresees a future under Assad in which it would be subjected to even more repressive and humiliating strictures.
In short, both sides of the Syrian conflict appear to be nearing, if they have not already crossed, a point of no return into a zero-sum fight for their very survival. In such a climate, the Geneva agreement offers no reasonable means for setting the conditions necessary to a peaceful settlement, and any means short of intervention seem increasingly unlikely to do so.
To be certain, America cannot act as a global policeman that deploys troops to every crisis-ridden situation. An ill-defined principle of intervention could stretch our forces and resources too thin to be effective while still responsibly honoring our core national security priorities. But whatever principle is most appropriate, it seems clear that the increasingly common atrocities in Syria would be well beyond its threshold for tolerance.
What would tactically constitute the most effective way to intervene is a question for military experts. In the face of negligible commitments to human dignity by China and Russia, their ability to block UN Security Council action, and the likelihood that Russia is actually aiding the Syrian regime, it is arguable that a smaller group of nations will have to find a way to stop further destabilization.
Nonetheless, there are significant reasons to hesitate when considering intervention in Syria. No doubt, the specter of Iraq’s civil conflict, the rise of a potentially intolerant and abusive strain of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the infighting in Libya must haunt the thoughts of those responsible for such a decision. There are counterpoints to these legitimate concerns, however.