The dilemma [in Syria] exposes the weakness of empathetic geopolitics in a world that continues to be dominated by territorially supreme sovereign states. In the Syria situation this tragic reality is revealed in all its horror. It is unacceptable in a media wired world where events are reported visually almost as they are occurring, or immediately thereafter, there is no way to avert the gaze of the outside world.
It is morally unacceptable to stand by, watch, and do nothing. But the UN lacks the authority and capability to impose the collective will of international society except when it can mobilise an effective geopolitical consensus as it did in Libya (but by way of deceiving Russia and China as to the scope of the response contemplated by the authorization of force in March of 2011). For reasons explained above, plus the lingering resentment due to the Libyan deception on the part of Russia and China, there has not emerged a geopolitical consensus favouring military intervention, and none is likely. Just as doing nothing is unacceptable, mounting a military intervention is unrealistic, and hence, impossible.
Does a solution exist?
What is left to fill the gap between the unacceptable and the unrealistic is diplomacy, which has proved to be futile to this point, but hanging on to the slim possibility that it might yet somehow produce positive results, is the only conceivable way forward with respect to the Syrian situation. It is easy to deride Kofi Annan and the frustrations arising from the repeated failures of Damascus to comply with the agreed framework, but it remains impossible to find preferable alternatives.
If diplomacy is finally admitted to be a deadend as seems so likely it raises serious questions as to whether in a globalising world the absence of stronger global institutions of a democratic character is not a fatal flaw. Moral awareness without the political capacity to act responsively points up a desperate need for global reform, but the grossly unequal distributions of power and wealth in the world makes such adjustments impossible to make within the foreseeable future. And so the peoples of the world go on living in this tragic space between the unacceptable and the impossible. It will take a miracle to close this gap! [++]