Children hold opposition flags as they take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus June 15, 2012. Picture taken June 15, 2012.
What is to be gained by intervention, other than curbing a tyrant? Reports from the battle zones - now apparently spreading, even to Damascus - are horrifying and cry for action.
It may seem strange, but the military of Bashar al-Assad is now reported to be targeting children - as if that will deter parents from opposing the regime.
"Targeting" children does not mean doing what rogue countries like Chad, Congo, Somalia and Sudan do by recruiting child soldiers and sending them to commit atrocities that adults might shrink from.
In Syria, "targeting" children means killing them, not recruiting them. While the civilized world recoils at the barbarism of the Assad regime, the Soviet Union - whoops, it's Russia now, although it sometimes behaves like the old Soviet regime - is reportedly sending attack helicopters to help the Syrian military crush dissent.
Assad's Syria is Russia's client and closest ally. Iran, too, needs Assad's Syria as a necessary ally that allows shipments of arms and instruments of terror to Hezbollah and Hamas for continued harassment of Israel.
Since Russia and Iran are taking sides in this growing Syrian civil war, it might be tempting for the U.S. and its allies to intervene on the side of "the good guys."
That's what we might have done in the old days of the Cold War. But not now.
Harsh as it may seem, intervention would be a mistake. What the "rebels" (if you want to call them that) are fighting against is the tyranny reflected in places like Russia, China and leftist dictatorships.
If we (meaning western democracies) entered the fray, it'll be war by proxy and wouldn't curb bloodshed, but spread it. Besides, America's goals differ.
While it wants regime change in Syria, it seeks some sort of accommodation with Iran over nuclear weapons.
Any kind of American military action in either of these countries causes nightmares for President Barack Obama whose single greatest priority is to be re-elected in November. Any sort of military adventure would drastically hurt his chances - which aren't that good anyway.
Remember, here's the guy who won a Nobel Peace Prize for doing exactly nothing.
The perception grows with every fundraiser he attends that his job is too much for him - even if he has convinced the private sector the economy "is doing just fine."
As the death toll rises in Syria, there is no let up from rebel factions which seem to be winning in the sense that they refuse to be beaten.
There's a lot of courage at work, and neither side is reluctant to commit atrocities. That's inevitable in civil wars. If Assad does eventually capitulate and flee the country, the incoming regime will need western help.
If it happens, it'll be a defeat for Russia and China - but it won't necessarily mean democracy for Syria, any more than the Egyptian and Libyan rebellions brought "democracy" to those countries.
One hopes those who implement decisions in Washington, London, Paris, and even Ottawa, are poised to act when the day comes that Syria will need friends whose interests are compatible with their own. But that day has not yet arrived.