Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to produce a full-length post on the reasons for staying utterly uninvolved in the Syrian civil war. The basic reason is that we should only get involved in war in cases where self-defense is at stake, and even there it’s worth finding good excuses for not going to war, if that’s feasible. A war can be justified in the sense of being entirely retaliatory against an initiatory aggression, and still not be worth fighting. In fact, most wars are like that. But Syria has no bearing at all on American self-defense, and I don’t accept any of the non-self-defense-based arguments for “humanitarian intervention.” There’s certainly no reason for direct military involvement by the United States, and no reason, either, for indirect involvement. I’ve criticized the idea of nation-building many times, but here’s what I said in criticism of it in the Afghan case. I think the reasons carry over to Syria, and to most if not all other places.
Two anti-war pieces worth reading are (in order) David Bromwich‘s “Stay Out of Syria” in the New York Review of Books, and Fernando Teson‘s “We Should Not Intervene in Syria” at Bleeding Heart Libertarians. I would have put the arguments differently than they do, but I agree with the ultimate conclusion in each case: stay out.
For a somewhat sanguine early discussion of the Syrian intifada from a veteran observer I admire (but disagreed with even as I published his piece), see Sadek Al Azm’s Reason Papers essay on the Arab Spring in Syria. An embedded link in the latter piece takes you to Al Azm’s trenchant discussion in The New York Review of Books back in 2000 of the beginnings of the Syrian revolt in the so-called “Damascus Spring” of that year.