It's been weeks since the first confirmations that chemical weapons are being used in Syria, but for the international community, nothing has changed when it comes to balancing the equation for going to war. Despite starts and stops and the slightest glimmers of an accord, it seems we are no closer to an answer that could end the war than we were a month ago.
There is one small sign that the U.S. is at least considering a more active engagement with the opposition, as the American ambassador to Syria returned there for the first time in over year. Robert Ford fled Syria as the war escalated in February 2012, then on Thursday he snuck across the border with Turkey to briefly meet with rebel leaders inside Syria.
But the best bet for any kind of progress will come this weekend, when David Cameron travels to Socchi, Russia, to meet with Vladimir Putin. That doesn't mean anything will come of it, of course. Cameron reiterated the U.K. and U.S. position that all evidence of chemical weapon use points to the regime, and not the rebels, but Russia continue to insist that all arms embargoes remain in place and that the Syrian rebels not be given any military support. Perhaps the two leaders can come to some sort of compromise on peace negotiations, but recent history hasn't been encouraging.
Secretary of State John Kerry also met with his Russian counterparts in Turkey earlier this week, but all they could agree upon was that the talks should lead to more talks.
Others, meanwhile, have begun pushing back on the idea that the talk of chemical attacks should necessitate any action at all or that the attacks took place at all. (Or even that chemical weapons are as bad as they sound.) The U.S. has been burned before by bad intelligence, and no one will have the stomach for another Mideast adventure based on faulty information.
And, of course, there's the argument that it doesn't really matter what nations are saying publicly, since in some way all the region's major players are already involved in the fighting on the ground. Israel, Iran, Turkey, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and even the CIA have already turned Syria into their battleground, with each fighting the war directly or through proxy groups. Even if the only "side" they are on is the one that simply keeps their rival from getting the upper hand—and the status quo is working out just fine for some—it's not a conflict that any nation can avoid for too long. That tangled mess or interests and goals has only made it harder to sort out the issue what should be done. Or if it will do any good at all.