The Arab Spring has been a watershed moment for the establishment of democracy in the Middle East. Certainly, it has had and will continue to have, bumps along the way to stability. America, as an example, did not establish a stable national government for some time after the Revolutionary War. Patience and support is key to the growth of Arab democracy.
However, despite the encouraging signs of progress throughout the region, there remains the Syrian question. Syria remains locked in a brutal civil war between entrenched interests supporting the current regime and a popular uprising growing in military strength. A bloodbath seems inevitable to outside observers.
Outside military intervention to stop the fighting seems unlikely. The US military is overextended as is and the European states lack the capability or desire to intervene. The stick is simply not an option now, and that means that is time to use the carrot.
Making deals with reprehensible regimes is rightly seen as an odious option but is certainly preferable to continued bloodshed and instability in the region. At the moment, the Assad regime feels they are backed into a corner. They have nothing to lose by continuing to hold out and hope for a victory, after all they know what their likely fate is if the rebels should win.
The international community should be spending less time making empty threats and gestures to play to the crowd and more time offering a way for the current regime to step out of the fight safely. Comfortable exile for prominent political and military figures in a friendly Arab state or even a power sharing agreement brokered by a UN peacekeeping force while elections are held might be key to a peaceful resolution. The only other option is to sit back and watch as Syria destroys itself in what will likely be an increasingly bloody civil war.