It shouldn't surprise anyone that Bashar el-Assad has turned the army on protestors and has shown little hesitation to create rivers of blood among his subjects. Tanks firing on civilians, sniper taking out protestors, blocking hospitals to stop protestors entering according to a report from The Independent. With reports of heavy machine gun fire, tanks shelling buildings and electricity and water being cut off from the city of Hama (where Assad's bloodthirsty father had massacred reportedly over 10,000 in 1982), it appears the regime will stop at nothing to remain in power. Another report talks of tanks running over people. Some claim over 1,600 have been killed by the regime since protests started in March, whilst this is likely to be somewhat exagerrated there can be little doubt the regime has been engaging on a spree of oppression.
It did try in recent years to put on a more moderate face. Some thought that as Bashar Assad had been trained as an opthamologist and had not originally been seen as the successor to his father (his far more ruthless and "Uday Hussein" like brother Basil had been, before he died in a car crash), he would be more moderate, and there had been signs of a loosening of the totalitarian state his father Hafez had instituted, but it would be more like moving from Stalin to Khrushchev. It didn't stop Vogue writing a gushing piece about Bashar's wife late last year (which it wisely has removed from its website).
However, the truth is out. Bashar wants to retain absolute authority and power, like his father. He has the support of the armed forces, and the brutal Ba'athist socialist legacy of the ruling party continues.
President Obama has rightly condemned what has been going on, as have other Western leaders. The regime's response has been to sponsor attacks against the US and French embassies. Meanwhile you'll notice two major differences between the foreign reaction to Syria and the reactions to Libya, Serbia and other examples of what is typically referred to as "humanitarian intervention".
Firstly, the Western world is financially and politically exhausted as regards "saving the world" from the brutality of dictatorships. Barack Obama has no appetite or inclination to do anything to intervene in Syria, not least because of the cost, but also because he firmly believes that it is for the UN Security Council to authorise any such action. Is he pushing for this? Well no, because he knows it wont be politically popular, he knows he'd struggle to pay for it and as he didn't support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (and was subdued on Libya) he doesn't believe the US should project itself militarily, in order to save the lives of others. Meanwhile, as the UK and France effectively lead the continued presence over Libya, they are not so inclined to go into Syria either, because of money. Germany opposed intervention in Libya at all. Of course neither Russia nor China are in any way inclined to support intervention against a government that turns on its own people, given that both are quite adept murderers of their own domestic populations.
So the post-Cold War age of humanitarian intervention, which has had mixed results including the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Liberia and Libya (I count Afghanistan as being action against those that harboured an aggressor and Iraq as action against a proven threat to international peace and security), is now over.
You'll have to get used to watching TV coverage or hearing/reading reports of governments massacring their own people. For the US and European powers are no longer willing to save them. That is, in part, because they have nearly bankrupted their own economies through many years of overspending on bribing voters and interest groups with future taxpayers' money. It is also because the cost in lives and money of such interventions (and the organised forces against them from the left) have made it politically more difficult to support. The UK was embarrassed about its previous sycophancy for the proven mass murderer Muammar Gaddafi, so could not stand by as he used helicopters to take out civilian protestors. However, Syria has never been a friend of the West, so the guilt isn't there.
All of this should please the so-called peace movement and human rights advocates from the left who opposed the Allied invasion of Iraq and overthrow of that Ba'athist dictatorship, as well as the smaller group who thought the Taliban should have been left alone in Afghanistan, to keep harbouring Al Qaeda and enforce a dark ages Islamist year zero ultra-patriarchy. The same people have been relatively quiet over Libya, except the usual tiresome claim that its only about oil.
You see, the so-called peace movement have long held up Afghanistan, Iraq and even Libya as of late as being "the fault of the West". This is a line whereby all NATO members and Western allies of military intervention in all these cases, must carry the blame for the actions of previous western governments in the Cold War. Never ever is the finger pointed at Russia or the governments of the former Warsaw Pact countries and the like.
Afghanistan was the fault of the West supporting the Mujahideen against the brutal Soviet backed Najibullah regime. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was, after all, supported by Keith Locke of all people. It takes a peculiar contortion of one's belief in human rights, womens' rights and freedom of speech to oppose the overthrow of the Taliban, but that is what the far left did (it would have been ok had the Afghan people done it on their own efforts though - like how it would have been good if the Jews had overthrown the Nazis in Germany). Support for the Islamists in Afghanistan was a mistake, but it doesn't mean one cannot rectify it when they not only have proven to be brutally sadistic, but harbouring those who attack you.
Iraq was also the fault of the West, for the support Saddam Hussein got against the Iranian Islamists. That piece of realpolitik (your enemy's enemy is your friend) was an appalling miscalculation, which was eventually figured out in the late 1980s when the West stopped arming and supporting Hussein (though one shouldn't forget the French help for Hussein's first attempt at building a nuclear reactor, which Israel swiftly dealt to). Of course, the USSR and Warsaw Pact countries also extensively armed and assisted Saddam, but Russia and its former allies are forgiven, somehow. However, that doesn't matter now, for notwithstanding Saddam's use of chemical weapons against his own people, his invasion and occupation of a neighbouring state (for oil) and his extended oppression and brutality against anyone who opposed him, he was deemed protected by international law by the so-called peace movement. Invasion against this dictatorship was "illegal" and "unjustified" as the borders of a dictatorship are considered inviolable. The left considered Saddam's regime as having at least enough moral authority for the actions to overthrow him to be considered less justifiable than letting him be.
This Ba'athist hereditory dictatorship in Syria has so many hallmarks of being abominable it should be more surprising that it didn't long ago raise anger and activism among the legions of self-styled human rights protestors in Western countries. You know, the ones who will raise a flotilla for the Gaza Strip, or rally against apartheid, or protest against the Chinese one-party state.
However, Syria's past can't be easily blamed on the West. It gained independence in 1946, but between then and 1956 was marked by multiple military coups. In 1956 it became explicitly allied with the USSR, and merged with Egypt in the ill-fated "United Arab Republic" of Nasser in 1958, before withdrawing in 1961. A 1963 coup led by the socialist Ba'ath Party set the stage for the future of the country. With Hafez Assad staging his own coup within the regime in 1970, he held power for 30 years, with an iron fist and a personality cult to match, with Bashar taking on the legacy in 2000. Throughout the entire period since 1956, Syria has been allied with the USSR, and subsequently maintained warm relationships with Russia, Iran, North Korea and other regimes with an overtly anti-Western stance.
So for now, you can watch Syria's regime massacring its own people. In the knowledge that the Western advocates of peace and human rights are rather quiet on it all, expressing concern, but not at all supporting intervention (how could they). They will be quiet about a regime they have ignored for decades, because it never had Western support and was always antagonistic towards Israel (although Israel has for some years sought a peace treaty based on progressively handing back the Golan Heights, but Syria wont make peace until the Palestinian situation has been resolved).
Meanwhile, with Obama in the White House, and largely uninterested in international affairs. With Western leadership dependent on a fairly wet British Prime Minister who is in coalition with anti-interventionists, it may be up the the French (given Syria was a French colony) to seek action. Yet, as China and Russia have no inclination to support it (and since few dare to ignore the UN Security Council nowadays), expect to see more blood flowing in Syria with no intervention.
It is, after all, the consequence of a policy of non-intervention and what the so-called peace movement and human rights movements want as a response.