There is talk of lifting the arms embargo that currently hampers the Syrian opposition's attempts to topple Bashar al-Assad's regime. There is talk too of establishing a "no-fly zone" in Syrian skies and yet more talk of creating -- and, presumably, defending -- "safe havens" within Syria. There is, you will gather, a lot of talk.
All of which leads one to suspect that the road to Damascus, like that to hell, is paved with good intentions. Fine words and noble sentiments are harmless enough provided they do not become the spur for reckless adventures that begin in the haze of sentiment and are likely to end in the fog of unintended consequences. Moreover, one cannot quite resist the doubtless ignoble thought that it is irresponsible for Britain and France to make promises they're in little position to deliver. Call it Operation Raising False Hope, if you like.
We must presume all this enthusiasm for fresh foreign adventures stems from the presumed success of the Libyan intervention. The generous desire to solve other people's problems is a bug that, once caught, rarely dies.
On Friday, Foreign Secretary William Hague met representatives of the Syrian opposition in London. The British government plainly wishes to help the Syrian rebels but is equally keen to vet them first. Or, as Hague, had it: "We need their assurances about being inclusive of all communities, we need to see they have genuine support throughout Syria if we are to take that important step of recognition. We should do so in full possession of the facts and on the basis of discussions with them. The meeting is an important component of that and we will continue to work on this over the next few days."
To which Hague added: "A military victory of one side over the other would be a long, expensive process in terms of human life. Our top priority remains achieving a diplomatic and political solution.... We cannot stand still and just say we will leave things as they are ... but how we respond has to be well-judged and well-thought through."
It may be true that a well-judged response is preferable to a hare-brained reaction but that largely depends upon your definition of what manner of response may be considered "well-judged" or "well-thought through." Especially since, like his colleagues in Paris, Hague's suggestion "we cannot stand still" might leave an innocent observer to presume that the matter has been pre-judged more than it has any chance of being well-judged.
Standing still and leaving Syria well alone is, of course, not just an option but also the most realistic approach to a problem that is neither of the West's making nor its solving.