U.N. peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous declared on Tuesday what the world has long known: Syria is in a state of civil war. Ladsous noted that the government of Syria has lost “some large chunks of territory,” and contended that we are seeing “a massive increase in the level of violence,” with the mostly peaceful opposition increasingly fighting back. The world, however, is at a loss for what to do. U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan lies stillborn, with the Syrian regime refusing to honor a ceasefire, the first and easiest step of Annan’s diplomatic effort. Meanwhile, the international community remains reluctant to intervene decisively, even though more than 12,000 Syrians have died, tens of thousands more are refugees and internally displaced, and the Syrian regime is executing children and indiscriminately shelling civilians.
It is clear that the Obama administration has no appetite for another aggressive intervention in the Middle East. Washington’s European allies, who led the campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, are consumed with their collapsing economies. Moscow, whose support is needed to make sanctions more comprehensive and to gain U.N. support for any intervention, openly backs the Bashar al-Assad regime and has made it clear it opposes support for the Syrian opposition. Indeed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed on Tuesday that Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria — hardly an action designed to promote peace.