Actually, the U.S. response to Syrian upheaval has been pretty good

U.S. officials have concluded that Assad’s regime is unlikely to survive, but they’re not sure how long it will take for him to fall. Publicly demanding his ouster could raise unfounded expectations of direct U.S. intervention, a step the administration is far from ready to take. And if Obama were to call on Assad to quit with no result, that would leave the United States looking weak, a lesson that Western powers have learned again in Libya this summer…

The United States essentially is trying to help arrange a slow unraveling of the Syrian regime rather than an abrupt collapse. In that sense, Syria is very different from Tunisia or Egypt, where the Obama administration endorsed revolutions that were already well under way, or Libya, where it has backed an armed uprising that started without U.S. help…

This isn’t exactly leading from behind; it’s more like helping from offstage. But one of the lessons of Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli has been that White House statements aren’t as important as they look. It’s what happens on the ground that counts.