Pity the Syrians as they face the Assad regime's tanks and artillery and snipers. Unlike in Libya, there is no Arab or international "mandate" to protect them. Grant Syria's rulers their due: Their country rides with the Iranian theocracy and provides it access to the Mediterranean. It is a patron of Hamas and Hezbollah. And still they managed to sell the outside world on the legend of their moderation.
True, Damascus was at one time or another at odds with all its neighbors—Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Israel—but it managed to remain in the good graces of the international community. It had made a mockery of Lebanon's sovereignty, murdered its leaders at will. Yet for all the brutality and audacity of the Syrian reign of terror and plunder in Lebanon, the Syrians were able to convince powers beyond that their writ was still preferable to the chaos that would engulf Lebanon were they to leave.
In the same vein, Damascus was able to pull off an astonishing feat: Syria was at once the "frontline" state that had remained true to the struggle against Israel, and the country that kept the most tranquil border with the Jewish state. (As easily as Syria's rulers kept the peace of that border, they were able to shatter it recently, sending Palestinian refugees to storm the border across the Golan Heights.)