As violence rages in Syria and Western leaders meet in Tunisia to plan how to approach the violent and entrenched regime of Bashar al-Assad, Michael Hirsh reminds us that the U.S. and its allies have been in this situation before, with Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya. Here we look at the players involved in Syria: the diplomats, the rebels, and those who still back Assad.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sits next to British Foreign Minister William Hague, left, at the start of the Conference on Syria in Tunis, Tunisia. Clinton and Hague are among a number of foreign diplomats who want Assad to agree to a cease-fire and eventually to step down.(AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
Turkish Foregn Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, center, takes part in the Friday prayer at the La Marsa mosque, in Tunis, with his Tunisian counterpart Rafik Abdessalem, right. Davutoglu is in Tunis to attend the conference on Syria. He is calling for an arms embargo against the Assad regime, according to the Jerusalem Post.(AP Photo/Amine Landoulsi)
Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al-Thani, called directly for Assad to step down and said corridors for humanitarian aid should be opened, according to the Associated Press.(AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
The coalition of Syrians opposed to the Assad regime includes secularists as well as Islamists. It also includes Syrian army defectors, seen here celebrating after joining anti-regime protesters in Homs province. As the Syrian revolt grows deadlier by the day, Assad's greatest advantage lies in the lack of unity among the disparate forces opposing him. For nearly a year, a chorus of voices has risen against the regime: exiled dissidents who spent years locked in Syrian prisons, increasingly bold rebel fighters who see force as the only option, and tech-savvy young people desperate to cast off a stagnant dictatorship.(AP Photo)
Pro-Syrian demonstrators protest outside the Cartago Hotel where the Conference on Syria is held in Tunis, Tunisia. The protesters, waving Syrian and Tunisian flags, tussled with police and carried signs criticizing Clinton and President Obama. The Assad regime is entrenched, and members of his religious sect, the Alawite Muslims, a minority group, wield power and dominate the military apparatus in Syria.(AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
Assad is both the leader of and a symbol for the Syrian regime and its backers, but, as Hirsh writes, "without an imminent military threat confronting him, [the West's] words are unlikely to move Assad very much. The Syrian dictator has cast his lot; like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, he has already waded so deeply into bloodshed that it is too late for him to turn back."(AP Photo/SANA)