Arm both sides.
The optimal goal is stalemate, to create a quagmire that bogs down both sides, sucking up resources and destroying men and material for however long this state can be maintained. The idea is to encourage both sides to use up what they have against each other so that neither can threaten you after the conflict is resolved.
In a conflict where there are no good guys, where the civilians have been brainwashed through their religion to hate us and suspect us as being the cause of their suffering, there is nothing to be lost by actually making it so. In Syria we have an Iranian-backed Shiite regime fighting a Saudi funded, al Qaeda manned Sunni insurgency. None of the players in the conflict are freedom fighters believing in the establishment of a secular based, peaceful regime in Syria, and nothing will be gained by the United States committing itself to one side or the other.
Obama’s indecisiveness is actually accomplishing this goal. Iraq, a country whose government the US established, is allowing overflights of weapons and munitions from Iran to resupply the Assad regime in Syria. At the same time the US encourages the Saudis and Gulf states to provide arms and material to the insurgents attempting to overthrow the Assad regime.
To put it bluntly, every dead insurgent or Syrian regime soldier is one less insurgent or soldier dedicated to fighting the United States and its allies. The suicide bombers that attack Assad’s regime will not kill American soldiers at checkpoints in Afghanistan, just as the Iranian special forces captured and executed by jihadis will not kill Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.
While this may strike some Westerners as morally repugnant at first, consider the alternatives. If the Assad regime emerges from the civil war victorious, the hand of Iran will be much stronger throughout the region. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Syria would be in a much better position to threaten America’s only true ally in the region, Israel. A positive conclusion to the conflict would embolden Iran and provide an end to the drain of resources the current conflict draws from the regime, allowing it to refocus on its nuclear program which not only threatens Israel but Europe and in the long term, the United States. On the other hand, if the Alawite Assad regime is overthrown in Syria, what follows will make the Libyan Afterparty in north Africa look like a juice party at a geek fraternity by comparison. The victorious rebels would make Syria into a terrorist training camp, exporting instability and violent attacks throughout the Middle East, but particularly against Israel and Europe. Syria would become the new Afghanistan, run by Wahhabi fanatics dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the assimilation of the West. When viewed from a purely utilitarian American perspective, a successful overthrow of the regime may in fact be worse, forcing the US to intervene militarily with boots on the ground and repeating the errors of the Iraqi occupation.
Neither situation is palatable from the American perspective, so the only option is to support both sides indirectly until they are thoroughly weakened to the point where they cannot threaten the United States or its allies. Turning Syria into a Vietnam-like quagmire for both Iran and al Qaeda is an opportunity that has fallen into Obama’s lap, which when combined with his terrible leadership skills, may be the best luck America has had in its foreign affairs since Mikhail Gorbachev became the premier of the Soviet Union.