It may seem beside the point to boycott peace talks that had already been suspended and weren’t likely to go anywhere.

But that’s what the U.S. and its allies need to do if they want to regain any kind of leverage in Syria.

Russian bombers helped the government of President Bashar al-Assad achieve scorched-earth victories on the ground during recent peace talks in Geneva. Worse, by allowing Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin to use diplomacy as a cover for bombing, the U.S. and its allies have legitimized and even aided the Russian campaign.

This has to stop. At a minimum, there should be no resumption of talks later this month, as currently planned, until government forces allow humanitarian assistance to the 1 million Syrians now trapped and starving in rebel-held areas.

The U.S. needs to rethink how to help the rebels in a way that forces Putin and Assad see the value of negotiations. U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia can also be prodded to do more to help stop Assad’s advance. And surely President Obama can do a better job explaining the urgency of this threat.

In the meantime, administration officials need to remember that diplomacy is not an end in itself – and to call it out when others use it as a cover for war.

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