James Traub cites a remarkable piece of evidence about Syrian public opinion:
A poll conducted by the Doha Debates in mid-December found that 55 percent of Syrians wanted Assad to remain in power.
Let’s suppose that there is not as much support for Assad remaining in power now as there was two months ago. Maybe there is a narrow Syrian majority for removing Assad at this point. Even if that were true, it would still mean that the country is evenly split in half. Pushing for Assad’s removal may sound good, but it is a solution that half of the population does not want. This isn’t the first time that there has been virtual unanimity in the West that a certain foreign leader must give up power, but it is much more unusual that there is not even a clear majority of people inside the country that favors this outcome. Critics of Western states’ responses to popular uprisings in the last year have often said that they have been “behind the curve.” In this case, they seem to be so far ahead that they are demanding things that most Syrians apparently do not yet want.
Update: Beauchamp details why the results from this poll are unreliable.