Events around Syria's borders have created new hope this week, in some quarters at least, that foreign intervention to end Syria's agony may be drawing near.
In fact, the latest developments fall far short of creating the necessary conditions for decisive action by outsiders. But they do tell us that the 21 million Syrians will not be trapped in this nightmare, now 19 months old and getting worse, indefinitely.
Last week a few Syrian army mortar rounds struck a Turkish village, killing five, and Nato's top official Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned quickly and bluntly that the alliance deems an attack on any member, including Turkey, to be an attack upon all.
This conjured up visions of US air power smashing President Bashar Al Assad's military, thereby dooming his regime. But Mr Rasmussen, as Nato's secretary-general, is a bureaucrat, not a decision-maker. The idea of US military action in Syria remains hopelessly improbable.
Well, then, what about Turkey? On Wednesday, Turkish fighters intercepted a Syrian Air jetliner overflying Turkey en route from Moscow to Damascus, forced it to land, and confiscated some cargo. Also, Ankara allows the Free Syrian Army a presence in border areas. But none of that signifies that Turkey is anywhere near prepared for significant military action, alone or with others.
Nor can the 150 US soldiers sent to Jordan this week be seen as the vanguard of an imagined liberation. These "planners" no doubt include intelligence operatives, but the group's avowed first mission - helping Jordan cope with 100,000 refugees (and more arriving daily) - is plainly necessary. Indeed Syria's neighbours, like bigger powers farther away, are now most concerned not with stopping Syria's tumult, but with confining it there.
The combat balance does appear to be tipping, slowly, against the regime. But what comes after? The FSA has no real platform nor even much coherence as a fighting force. At the political level, "the opposition" looks like a mere gaggle of squabbling opportunists. Foreign extremists are said to be arriving in alarming numbers. This political vacuum helps explain why the US and others have been so stingy in feeding the FSA serious weaponry: who can say who would control it?
Nor is this potential chaos limited to Syria. The regime's proxies and tools, notably Hizbollah and certain Kurdish elements, cannot save the Assads, but can and may export Syria's war to neighbouring countries with fragile ethnic and sectarian balances.
The world's inaction on Syria may have been inevitable, but it certainly has not helped.