UK & World News
Analysis: Syria Massacre Is No Game Changer
At ground level everything has changed, forever. At the level of bi-laterals, working groups and geo-politics - very little has changed.
The lives of the survivors of the Houla massacre over the weekend will never be the same.
Not only have so many families lost so much, but what was once an area of sporadic unrest can now be expected to become a hotbed of opposition activity and revenge killings.
But as a "game changer" on the international scene, as one diplomat put it over the weekend? Probably not.
There are turning points in these terrible conflicts. The massacre at Racak in Kosovo is one example, the imminent alleged massacre in Benghazi in Libya another.
However, that was then, and that was there.
'Then' was a time when Tony Blair and others were making the argument for liberal interventionism as a coherent policy.
Sierra Leone and Kosovo seemed to go well, Mr Blair remains a hero to many in both places, but after Iraq and Afghanistan there is now no appetite for intervention, especially if it requires "boots on the ground".
'There' were mostly places in which intervention appeared a relatively painless option until the wake-up call of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last year's hammering of the Libyan forces was conducted at long range and helped by having a proxy army on the ground in the shape of the rebellion, which included many army units which had defected. It did not change the rediscovered caution about foreign adventures.
Intervention in Syria would risk involvement on the scale of Iraq, quite possibly with similar consequences.
The Syrian air force and air defence systems are equipped well enough to take several enemy aircraft with them before they are destroyed.
Syria's shore-to-ship missiles could sink vessels out in the Mediterranean, and its ground forces, with a ready supply of Russian hardware, could resist an invasion and then resort to guerrilla tactics once it lost the opening rounds of a war.
The chances of it becoming another Iraq would be high, as would the risk of the conflict spilling into Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.
Some people call for the Arab powers to become directly involved, but they would find it difficult to come together and vote for intervention. They would find it even more difficult to actually intervene.
The Western powers do not want to get drawn in, especially without legal cover from the UN Security Council, and that is unlikely to be forthcoming because it is written in stone in Chinese foreign policy to oppose intervention in another country's affairs.
Also, Russia would not sign up for a meaningful UN resolution. It regards the Assad government as an ally, and it has its only warm water port in Syria.
So instead, the UN has issued a non-binding resolution condemning the killing, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt was unleashed on to the British airwaves to condemn the massacre and warn that although military action is not being considered, it is not being taken off the table, and the Syrian charge d'affaires has been summoned to the Foreign Office.
Oh, and diplomats will repeat endlessly that Kofi Annan's six-point plan, shown yet again to be dead in the sand, is the only game in town.
It is a ghastly, tragic, and deadly game, with elements of poker and charades.