With renewed calls for a peace plan and the establishment of a transitional government in Syria, the United States is once more declaring its commitment to "leading from behind" in the Syrian crisis--which is to say, not leading at all. Meanwhile the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. In addition to the massive humanitarian crisis within Syria, neighboring Jordan and Lebanon are reaching a breaking point in their capacity to support Syrian refugees. In Lebanon alone, the ratio of refugees to Lebanese residents has reached an astonishing one to five.
Meanwhile, sectarian tension within Syria is on the rise, and with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah's active participation in the crisis in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime, sectarian strife is beginning to simmer in Lebanon as well. Further east, Israel is beginning to see clashes edging closer to its borders, as is the case with the Turkish border in the northwest.
Reports from Syria are saying that the Assad regime has not even used its full capacity yet against its own people. Although the armed Syrian opposition has made significant gains, it remains weaker than the regime militarily. The Obama Administration's choice to "lead from behind," supplying the opposition with only low-level, non-lethal equipment, has achieved nothing except prolonging the bloodshed. More than two years into the uprising, the balance of power does not look like it's tipping in favor of the opposition. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears convinced that the international community is not serious about calling on him to step down. And ongoing support from Iran and Russia buttresses his inclination to simply ride out the challenge with ruthless repression.