The Syrian uprising began one year ago. The Assad regime marked it in two ways. First, with a Potemkin rally in Damascus, with tens of thousands of pro-regime demonstrators coming out (read: forced to come out) in support. They called it the “Global March for Syria.”

The second marking of the uprising was by armies marching on Syrian cities.

Official media announced government forces had cleared “armed terrorists” from the northwestern city of Idlib, suggesting the army was gaining ground in the uprising which has cost at least 8,000 lives and crippled the Syrian economy.

Opposition activists said soldiers had fired on people trying to stage anti-regime protests in various locations and reported evidence of fresh atrocities, including the discovery of 23 bodies, some with signs of torture, near Idlib [...]

Television videoed rallies in numerous cities, including Deraa near the border with Jordan, which was the epicenter of the original protest movement last year but has been filled with security forces backed by tanks in the past 24 hours.

Critics said the government had bused in state employees to the demonstrations and had made participation obligatory.

So a public face of support, backed with an illicit campaign of repression.

It’s very difficult to keep watching the spectacle in Syria. I think Juan Cole does himself a disservice by mocking “those on the left” for their inability to come up with a solution in Syria because of disinclination to military intervention. He sounds like every warmonger who blames “pacifists” for letting people die. Surely he knows that the situation in Syria is far more complicated than Libya (and this is just residual bleating for criticism from his support for the Libya intervention). Syria has a large army, a major stockpile of chemical weapons and a sophisticated anti-aircraft presence. Snapping your fingers and saying the world should “do something” in Syria doesn’t take into accounts the potential for generating a worse situation than the current tragic state of affairs. Sometimes there is no good solution. Anyway, I don’t actually see Cole coming up with one.

For what it’s worth, the Pentagon comprises the real so-called peaceniks here, because it’s they who don’t see any possibility for an intervention that would meet any goals in Syria or the region (for one, you’d probably have to stage the intervention in Israel, which I’m sure will go over well). An intervention presents enormous challenges, and would have no international legitimacy conferred on it, thanks to the craven behavior of Russia and China. It’s not something you just engage in because, well, we must do something.

I don’t have an answer to the slaughter in Syria. I wish I did, it would make things much easier.