From an editorial in the Kansas City Star on Thursday:
It was called the Arab Spring when it began a wave of popular movements rising up against longtime strongmen, first in Tunisia, then in other nations including Egypt and Libya. But it is in Syria where the connotation of spring as a hopeful beginning has lost all meaning in the deepening violence of civil war.
Even Tunisia, thought to be the most likely soil for a moderate Arab democracy, is now threatened by frequent protests by ultraconservative Muslims who seek to turn the country into a strict Islamic state.
But the situation in Syria is most worrisome. There, more of the anti-regime forces are made up by better-organized Islamic militants raising the banner of jihad. The risk is that as the civil war drags on, it will radicalize more of the population and that will give the Islamists a larger say in any post-Assad government.
The Obama administration has supplied some rebel groups with limited quantities of equipment and money for arms. Earlier this year, in a memo only recently revealed, the White House authorized the CIA and other agencies to provide support for rebels fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
For the most part, however, the administration has stood on the sidelines, which may have been the most prudent strategy. But events over the last few weeks suggest that even this carries a risk of creating a vacuum that could turn the future Syria into a breeding ground for terrorist groups.
While few would advocate American boots on the ground, it is time for Washington to take a more assertive role in shaping the future Syria and bringing down the Assad regime.