No "taking sides" in a civil war. And the "protecting civilians" has a technical definition in the standard military sense: no deploying materiel only available to the military against people who lack same. Sort of a "rules of the game" issue, only it's rules of war.
Yet I hear all this commentary about how we aren't doing enough to support the rebels, and how we aren't doing enough to support democracy activists in other countries and how we're going to have to completely remove the existing leader and blah blah bleeping blah. You can definitely have real issues with the policy approach being taken, but it's virtually identical to the one pursued both by Bush Sr and Clinton. Have we just forgotten how this worked?
Maybe I just forgot all the sniping on the sidelines. I'm not sure I was paying enough attention back in the 1990s to even notice the commentary. Then again, maybe there wasn't as much commentary.