This is based on a comment I made here.
With the ongoing public protests, Syria is in the situation where "honest (public) emotion" has become far more possible and hereditary President Assad is not killing enough to deter that. Kiwi political scientist Xavier Marquez (globalisation strikes again) has some great posts on cults of personality. Such as how poor an indicator public emotions when totalitarianism is operating are for what people will do when it collapses.
Whatever else they did, Western military interventions in Bosnia, Kossovo, Iraq, Libya have established outside military intervention is a live strategic possibility, regardless of its specific probability in a particular circumstances. What Steven Pinker calls "the Humanitarian Revolution" periodically has military back-up due to Western military dominance and the globalisation of empathy. And has so under centrist Democratic (Clinton), conservative Republic (Bush II) and liberal Democrat (Obama) Administrations. We can see the constraint that imposes on dictators operating in front of us in the streets of Syria.
Alas, the other side of that is seeking the "nuclear veto" to foreign intervention. The other open question at the moment being whether seeking the nuclear veto can end up provoking foreign intervention. [Go here for a discussion of likely success of such a military strike.]
Robert E. Lucas, JR on the industrial revolution -
1 minute ago