Syria's civil war
A conference on Syria is not enough. The West should also arm the rebels
NOBODY thinks that the Geneva negotiations, which began on January 22nd after months of effort, will bring peace right away.
But with civil war raging inside Syria, just getting people around the same table feels like progress; and, it is argued, the talks might lay the ground for negotiations that may one day lead to a ceasefire, or even to power changing hands.
Meanwhile, they can broker local truces and get relief to Syrians dying for lack of food and medicine.
Anything that would alleviate Syria's plight is welcome.
But if America and Europe are serious about helping Syria, they should arm the rebels fighting the regime.
Out-thinking, out-manoeuvring, inhuman
That is a message people do not want to hear.
Then again, neither do they want to face up to the brutality inside Bashar Assad's prisons.
This is not casual thuggery but, as a security official who defected from the regime with thousands of horrific photographs has revealed, an audited policy of official terror administered on an industrial scale.
The violence Mr Assad has used has driven reason and tolerance out of what was one of the Middle East's most integrated countries.
Well over 100,000 people have died and millions have fled their homes.
The hatred is spreading to Lebanon and Iraq.
The Geneva gathering cannot drain such an ocean of suffering and wrongdoing. It is built on the premise that Mr Assad will relinquish power through a transitional government.
But why should he?
He believes he is winning. He is holding his own against rebel attacks, or even gaining territory.
The programme to eliminate his chemical arsenal, imposed after he murdered about 1,000 civilians in a nerve-agent attack, has turned him into a partner of the West.
He set out to radicalise the rebels, releasing jihadists from his jails early in the conflict.
This programme has been so successful that Western voters now think the rebels are as vile as Mr Assad.
Geneva could even get in the way of peace.
The humanitarian aid that may come from the talks is desperately needed by Syrians, but it comes at a cost, because UN aid agencies will, again, depend on Mr Assad for co-operation.
Peace is almost impossible unless Iran, Mr Assad's biggest backer, also leans on the regime.
Yet Iran was barred from the conference only hours after having been invited, because it will not sign up to the condition that he surrenders power.
To cynics, Geneva is a device that lets everyone pretend to have a Syria policy even when they don't.
That may be deft diplomacy, but it is a licence for inaction, and the price is counted in Syrian suffering.
As talks drag on, Russia and Iran will continue to boost Mr Assad's strength.
It would be wrong to let the balance tilt so far that he can dictate terms.
The best way to break the deadlock would be for the West to arm and train selected rebels, as it should have done almost from the start of the violence.
Many fear that the beneficiary of money, equipment and arms would be al-Qaeda, which matches only Mr Assad in its contempt for human life and Western democracy.
But over the past few weeks that risk has diminished, as nationalist Sunni groups, including devout Islamists, have turned against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate.
Not only are arms and money less likely to end up in the wrong hands, but the nicer rebels—even if they are not the most reliable or savoury allies—are the front line against ISIS, whose sectarian poison threatens the entire region.
Even with more outside help, the rebels are not about to defeat Mr Assad.
But turning the tide of the fighting might shift the negotiations, too.
If the regime is under pressure on the battlefield, it may be more willing to negotiate a proper ceasefire, or even, if people are tired of war, Mr Assad's departure.
Moreover Iran can ill afford to finance a stalemate.
When it has had enough of pouring money into Mr Assad's seemingly endless conflict, it may be willing to argue for peace.
Some say that if outsiders continue to help the rebels, they will condemn Syria to even more suffering.
That is possible.
But the brutality Mr Assad has practised against his own people strengthens the case for trying to tip the balance of power against him, and the best way to persuade his backers to withdraw their aid is if the West has money on the table, too.
One thing is certain: if either Mr Assad or al-Qaeda prevails, Syria will continue to suffer for a very long time.
1.lack of 缺乏
Another problem was the lack of competition.
Her lack of experience is a severe disability.
2.face up 面对，担当
But one country has yet to face up to its changed circumstances.
Managers must face up to its existence and influence.
3.spread to 蔓延到；波及
The crisis threatened to spread to china.
The mayhem spread to other parts of the city.
4.set out to 打算，着手
The screenwriter set out to explore the ways in which different people face demanding times.
He has set out to make salesforce a more generous and efficient donor than any other firm.