I recommend highly a new essay from Paul Pillar at The National Interest, where he examines Liz Sly's recent WaPo report on how Syrian rebels are becoming increasingly angry that the US - and the West as a whole - have not come to their rescue. Pillar notes - imo, very astutely - that recent US interventions have not bought it much in the way of gratitude (see Afghanistan and Iraq, says Pillar - and I might add Reagan's short-lived insertion of Marines into Lebanon in the early 1980s). Sending US forces into Syria will not buy never-ending peace and love from its people.
The most important dynamic is that if the United States gets involved at all in a bloody mess, it tends to be seen as responsible for all of the bloodshed and mess, even beyond what is reasonably attributable to its actions. Even if the United States does not apply the Pottery Barn rule to itself, others do, and in an expansive and unfair way. This will be a major hazard with Syria, given the prospect of much bloodshed and mess there still to come.
The perceived power of the United States amplifies and sustains such sentiments, much more than the actual power of the United States enables it to shape and control circumstances for which it will be blamed. The United States will not lose a “secular and democratic Syria” no matter what it does, because such a thing is not America's to lose in the first place.
Precisely. And Seumas Milne at the Guardian argues persuasively that the increasing levels of intervention by Gulf states and the West serves only to ratchet up Syrians' death and misery even as it nudges the conflict beyond Syria's borders.