Over the past 20 months, the world has watched the conflict in Syria with concern, even horror, but without taking meaningful action to intervene in the continuing carnage. Now, however, as the Syrian civil war draws exchanges of fire across the borders with Israel, Turkey and other neighboring countries, the conflict is approaching a crucial line. This tipping point, once reached, is likely to spur a much more urgent and determined international effort to push the crisis toward a resolution that brings an end to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Western nations have condemned the bloodshed, provided humanitarian support, launched doomed diplomatic missions and held countless meetings, but they have not done anything substantial to change conditions on the ground. Clearly, the much-touted idea that the world has a “responsibility to protect” a civilian population from mass atrocities has not carried the day.
The killing of as many as 40,000 Syrians has kept the war in the spotlight, but Western powers continue to weigh the carnage against the complexities of the conflict, the risks of intervention, divisions within the opposition and other strategic considerations.