Thanks in large part to Russia, the ally and enabler of President
But those who believe Obama is on the verge of military intervention are likely to be disappointed. Now, as before the Geneva conference, the most widely discussed scenarios for
If the only criterion for such intervention was mass suffering, Syria would certainly qualify. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed, more than 2 million have fled the country and 4.5 million have been internally displaced. Although opposition forces also have been guilty of barbarism, the Assad regime has relentlessly attacked civilians.
Advocates of a more muscular U.S. policy point out that in 2005, a
But an attack on Syria would have far greater repercussions than the bombing of Yugoslavia, potentially enmeshing U.S. forces in a protracted conflict and unleashing terrorist attacks against Americans.
Apprehension about another military commitment in the Middle East is why some prominent critics of Obama's Syria policy propose measures short of intervention: a no-fly zone enforced by U.S. air power or a dramatic increase in aid to "responsible" rebel forces. But a no-fly zone would require attacking Syria's air defenses, and an infusion of military assistance could end up prolonging the violence and empowering anti-Assad groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
If military action is untenable, what "policy tools and options" might Obama pursue? The most effective tools may be diplomatic. Obstructionist as it has been so far, Russia still might be persuaded to support a Security Council resolution calling on Assad to allow the delivery of food and medicine.