Last month, the administration announced targeted sanctions against President Assad and his top aides, but no one seriously expects those to cause him to change course. Nor is there any expectation that the U.S. or NATO will intervene militarily to protect Syria's civilian population, as they have in the uprising against Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi. Mr. Gadhafi was a pariah even among the corrupt and autocratic Arab rulers of the region, who united with European and American leaders in calling for his ouster. Mr. Assad, by contrast, remains a member in good standing with the region's dictators, who see any prospect of his falling as a threat to their own regimes. Syria is geographically and strategically central in a way that Libya, long an outcast, is not.