But this same crisis — this same loss of Western self-confidence, this same collapse of faith in ideals — also has a bloodier, more violent face. That face is the ongoing war in Syria — or rather the slow, grinding, murderous endgame of the war in Syria. Right now, the Syrian government army, aided by its Russian allies, is fighting the last pockets of resistance in Idlib, the only remaining rebel province in northwest Syria. As these forces advance, they shred what remains of humanitarianism and the law of war.
Against the Geneva Conventions, they are hitting civilians. Worse, they are targeting the sick and injured. As a precaution, the United Nations gave the Russian government the location and coordinates of hospitals in Idlib. But instead of protecting them, the Russians might have shared those locations and coordinates with the Syrian government. As a result, many on the ground, including the medical teams of Doctors Without Borders, have now stopped sharing such information with the United Nation This is a war in which the locations of sick people have to be kept secret from the international community.
This is also a war in which no Western country wants to invest diplomatic effort or political time. In another era, at this stage of a civil war — think of Bosnia or East Timor — there would have been a high-profile American envoy, perhaps a secretary of state, or a similarly ambitious European negotiator, or perhaps a U.N. team with the full backing of a U.S. administration, on the ground. But all such efforts have failed in Syria. As Europe turns its back on the Middle East, and as the Trump administration turns its back on the world, no new ones stand much chance of success.