Given the tremendous pressure on the Obama administration to “do something” about Syria, it’s incredible that they haven’t. Yes, Kerry did meet with Putin, and there’s some plan to have a conference, but it’s unlikely anyone actually wants to negotiate.
What’s happening in Syria is a literal fight to the death — if the Alawites lose the war, they expect a genocide against them. This is not paranoia, but a blood feud they have contributed to with their own atrocities. If the Sunnis lose the war — well, they’ll keep fighting until they don’t. They have support from Turkey and the Persian Gulf states, and can always import fighters from Sunni countries. The radical Sunnis are the best funded, and have taken over the fight. However, the Sunni side is a fractured mess, with multiple groups in a loose confederation that would not last after an actual victory.
This is a situation Americans are not used to, a conflict with no clear good guy. Syria is probably in for a long civil war followed by a gradual decline into warlordism. There is an assumption in the States that we should be doing something — anything! — because we’re the superpower and that’s what we do. But this is a war we don’t really want anyone to win. Nor do we have the tens of thousands of troops to jump into this situation and end up fighting both sides of the conflict for no apparent client to take over after us.
When there’s no clear action to take, it’s best not to take any action. Calling for a conference is a great way to seem to be doing something while actually steering clear of the snake pit. If prospects change, the US can always step in. But you can only step in for the first time once.
So let’s hear it for the Obama administration, not taking the easy way out and doing something.