Last month, experts testified to a House committee that inaction in Syria emboldened Iran. Not long after that, Senator John McCain predicted that "the entire Middle East is up for grabs, and our enemies are fully committed to winning." He urged Obama to lead.
The New York Times cited an estimate from the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that over 100,000 have died so far in the four year conflict. As in many such wars, civilians and their property take the brunt of the violence. Both sides seek to terrify the population into supporting its cause. Resources must be destroyed to deny their use to the enemy.
Such is the nature of "civil war." Even in the American Civil War, Union generals used artificial famine as a weapon in Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Because of the misery inflicted by this war, many have urged Obama to get directly involved. Some cite humanitarian issues. Others point to Russia's support of the Assad regime, a government which has historically acted out against American and Israeli interests.
Just because there is a "bad guy" does not mean that he is opposed by a "good guy." President Assad is an authoritarian tyrant and supporter of terrorism. But would he be replaced by anything better? Rebel murder of a Syrian Roman Catholic priest tells the Western world otherwise. He was decapitated with an ordinary kitchen knife as fanatics shriekingly chanted "God is great!"
Do we really want that to run a Middle Eastern nation state?
Syria occupies a keystone position in the Eastern Mediterranean. North is Turkey, grumbling against a somewhat Islamacist government. Nearby lies Egypt, seemingly ripe for a military coup. Bordering Syria is Lebanon, who suffered a horrific civil war of its own in the 1980s. Spillover from the war could be destructive. A jihadist regime replacing Assad could be even worse.
The correct U. S. response should be a pox on both your houses. Do not get sucked into a race with the Russians over arming sides. Leadership should take the part of cooperative quarantining of the war within the bounds of Syria.
Yes this is a particularly horrible war. But there is nothing that the United States can directly do that will not make it worse on Syrians and threaten the degenerating stability of the region.