This chaos is tearing apart Syria's social fabric. We've written about how Syria's young women face forced marriage for the sake of the bride price, their families desperate to live off their dowry. Funerals, a solemn but sacred tradition in Aleppo, have devolved into a stock dumping of bodies, devoid of religious ritual. Profiteering has left citizens disgusted and distrustful of each other as they witness price gauging of food and basic necessities - the haves ripping off the have-nots.
For Syria's kids, it's leaving scars that can last a generation. Violence is breeding nightmares. Schools are overflowing with refugees, leaving few open to actually teach in overcrowded classrooms. In refugee camps, as NPR's Deborah Amos explored, the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder are made manifest in children's drawings.
Among adults, Syrians have been enveloped by a hardened fatalism that we journalists used to only among the survivors of Lebanon's civil war.
"Whether we're bombed or killed, it doesn't change anything because we're hopeless. [Syrians] say, ‘If I'm going to die, let me die in my home,'" said one resident of the embattled neighborhoods of Damascus. "There is something broken inside the people."
Amidst the suffering, international actors like the United States have been practically irrelevant. From the ground, if you're not helping rebel groups win the war or delivering aid people can see, you're not present. And on those markers of influence, the United States has been missing in action: While Washington debated arming the rebels, the rebels armed themselves. While the West considered removing Assad by force, Russia and Iran gave him a sufficient lifeline to stay in power. And while Washington worked to formulate its policy, conditions devolved to the point where it can no longer be effective.
Syrians see the past two years as a failure of global leadership -- a case of total inaction on the part of the United States. People waiting on bread lines and suffering in Aleppo's cold ask us if America's leaders even know what's happening to them. They can't believe they would let it go on.
"No American flags were burnt, but Syrians today are more skeptical of Americans than they were in the year past," wrote Yassin Al Haj Saleh, an opposition voice in Damascus who keeps in touch with us by email.
"Washington failed to mobilize the international position in favor of changing the Syrian regime. That could have been the meeting point of the Syrian interest and the enlightened American interest," he wrote.
That is, at the end of the day, the grim message I've taken away from watching this war: We have lost Syria -- we've lost the good faith of its people and lost the opportunity to stem its decline. Everyone, everywhere we've reached has said the same thing: Stop the bleeding. This message speaks to wounds we cannot see and stories we can hardly fathom. But they will shape the Middle East for generations to come.