To hear White House critics like John McCain tell it, the US can't intervene in Syria fast enough. The atrocities, he says, "are on a scale that we have not seen in a long, long time." Has he forgotten about Iraq so quickly? wonders Fareed Zakaria at Time. Even worse atrocities occurred there during the US occupation. Recall that in Iraq, a minority regime held power. The same holds true in Syria: It's mostly Sunni, but Bashar al-Assad is a member of the Shiite subsect Alawites. It's foolish to underestimate how much this complicates things—you can see it in Lebanon's modern history, too.
A minority group in power will cling to it desperately, fearful of what will happen if the majority takes control. US intervention will "intensify" the war and make Assad even more desperate, writes Zakaria. "If the objective is actually to reduce the atrocities and minimize potential instability, the key will be a political settlement that gives each side an assurance that it has a place in the new Syria," he writes. That never happened in Iraq, and the result is today's chaos. A political pact is Syria's only hope. Otherwise, "US assistance to the rebels or even direct military intervention won't change much." We'll be in the middle of another long civil war. Click for his full column. (Read more Syria stories.)