As official records show more than one million Syrians have fled their own country, and more than 70,000 have been slaughtered by their President's troops, the world's Responsibility to Protect (R2P) seems to be gathering dust.
Almost two years to the day the Syrian uprising began, another ignominious milestone is reached. One million Syrians are officially classified as refugees having fled their own country.
This probably falls well short of the real figure, and in no way accounts for those who are displaced persons, stuck and fighting for survival within what is left of Syria.
Two years of bloodshed. War crimes being committed on both sides of that bloodshed. And, talk. Endless talk. Endless hand-wringing. Endless summits. Dismay that Russia will veto any UN Security Council action for its own national interests.
The stark reality that the proxy wars at play in this strategic zone mean Syria now teeters on the brink of being the new Somalia.
The body count has tipped over the 70,000 mark; the utterly desperate flee to neighbouring countries which are increasingly overwhelmed. Jordan and Egypt are cash-strapped; Turkey keeps its borders open to fleeing Syrians, Iraq - how bad is life when escape to present-day Iraq is the better option - is taking in refugees. Lebanon is being dragged into the crisis.
There has been no shortage of international summits and talk fests and donor conferences which aim to come up with a Syrian solution. Yet, of the billion dollars pledged at the February donor conference in Kuwait, only one percent has materialized.
Talk, talk talk.
Whatever happened to the much heralded global Responsibility to Protect. Cutely referred to as R2P it was a new humanitarian intervention somewhat ironically born of a blend of Morgenthau realism and Walzerian liberal internationalism intersecting at the point where military intervention can be justified - albeit when all else fails.
R2P is the mechanism which throughly, and lawfully, overturns the notion that what a country does within its own borders is no one else’s business. R2P means sovereignty no longer equals a license to kill.
R2P was the world’s way of assuaging its collective guilt for failing to act to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, and the following ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
These were failures which made a mockery of the post-Holocaust cry of “never again”.
Six months ago when the war crimes - let’s be frank and call them what they are - in Syria were more than well under way, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told the UNGA that he was “haunted” by the world’s failure to live up to that never again pledge.
Not haunted enough it seems, and certainly not as haunted as Syrians who have time and time again cried out for help.
Not as haunted as those fighting the Assad regime who, while grateful the US has finally agreed to have a (timid) dog in this fight and cough up some cash, don’t want bandages and food, they want weapons or the implementation of a Libya-style no-fly zone so the troops of their ‘President‘ can no longer murder them from the air.
Why can the US send drones to assist the French troops in Mali, but not send in drones to help the Syrians who are being slaughtered because of Assad’s superior air power?
Yes the arguments about not wanting weaponry to fall into the wrong hands are understandable, but weapons are obviously getting in.
Yes the US is (hopefully now) aware of its own doctrine of “you break it, you own it” which has come to bite it on its nether regions on too many occasions, but realistically, how much more broken could Syria become?
If the current situation continues, Syria will follow other protracted conflagrations which make extremists of those who are in battle. Africa and the Middle East are littered with examples.
Without hope of outside assistance, Syria too is in danger of any secular narrative concerning its future surrendering to extremism.
Wednesday’s capture of 21 UN peacekeepers from the Golan Heights by a group of Syrian opposition fighters is testament to the longer the crisis continues, the bigger the risk of an increase in the number of rebel factions, and the more desperate their tactics.
Australia’s former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans is a leading proponent of R2P.
He’s delivered many a speech outlining that R2P is about a state’s responsibility to act to protect its own and other people suffering from mass atrocity crimes.
R2P proponents hold dear to the belief that the new reality is not that countries like the United States - the world’s de facto policeman - have the right to intervene, but rather have the responsibility to protect fellow human beings, no matter where in the world they have the misfortune to be born.
It is about walking the walk of the international community. If persuasion in all its possible forms fails, then the international community moves in - through humanitarian measures, preventative and non-military coercion (sanctions, threats of international criminal prosecution, arms embargo)...and then coercive military force.
R2P was damaged by the Libyan experience when is morphed in to a regime change mission, and that has provided Russia with all the excuses it needs to block intervention in Syria.
Surely it is way past time to grapple with the raw politics of the Syrian slaughter. Soon, all that will be left is a truly dangerous, failed state.
Syria’s neighbours - especially Israel - will be in for big trouble if Syria is reduced to a site for sectarian war by extremists. It will be ripe turf for proxy war by jihadists, and if Israel is worried about Iran now, just wait till its proxies move in right next door with no curb on their activities.
There is no solution on the table because no-one has a solution and realistically there is no perfect solution.
If we waited for perfect solutions before exercising political will - domestic or international - nothing would ever get done. Politics is anything but perfect, and Syria is most definitely all about politics.
The first tangible step to aid Syria would be cease wasting time on manufactured crises like the ridiculous US sequestration, and the equally politically expedient sabre-rattling over when it will be time to stop starving Iranians and just bomb them.
With respect to Libya US President Obama spoke eloquently of it being time to respond to the anguished appeal of a people at the mercy of their tyrant leader.
How much more anguished can Syrians be - those who are still alive that is.