If failure has a face it is the terrified children of East Ghouta.
It is the father carrying his bloodied baby out of the swirling smoke and dust created by the latest Syrian government airstrike. And it is the statement issued by UNICEF:
"No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones."
That simple sentence is followed by a blank page.
Failure written in blood
Syria is failure written in rivers of blood. Not just of the multitude of armies, militias and criminal organizations that have drawn their ever-changing lines within this blighted country.
This is not a war with a front. It's many wars with shifting allegiances that sometimes appear to defy logic.
But one thing is viscerally clear. This horrible conflagration has at its heart the suffering of ordinary people.
The millions who have fled, those bombed in enclaves like East Ghouta, who suffered the unspeakable horrors of Islamic State occupation.
And after so many years of this ongoing disaster, it seems the world is incapable of stopping it. No peace deal brokered in Sochi or Geneva has worked.
The only end in sight looks to be a military victory. Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran will keep killing until all resistance is crushed.
That means thousands of innocent civilians alive today will not be in the coming months.
It's not that Australians don't care
And in far-away peaceful Australia we obsess about politicians' sex lives. What a luxury.
It's not that Australians don't care. We were all moved by the picture of baby Aylan Kurdi drowned as his family tried to get to the safety of Europe.
And the little boy sitting in the ambulance after being pulled from the rubble from a Syrian government bombardment. That one really got to me.
But what can we do?
Knit jumpers? Send guns to the good guys? Join the fight as some Australians have done?
If the great powers, the UN, all the non-government agencies in the world have failed to end the slaughter, what hope is there that our compassion will achieve anything other than distressing us?
We care because we project ourselves in the anguished faces of the children. We see our kids, our parents and grandparents in the dust-covered survivors of the airstrike. Or the last choking moments after a chemical attack.
But empathy has its limits.
It's my job to look at the pictures, try to make sense of it all. But after so many years of this intractable hell, I admit I sometimes turn away.
It's simply too painful, and I can't do anything to make it better.
Combatting empathy fatigue
Eventually it will end. I suspect the ruins of the country will still be in Bashar al Assad's hands. A result thanks to the Russians, the Iranians, and all the foiled attempts by the US and others to achieve something better.
Failure. Of the world bodies charged with ensuring this suffering should never have happened in the first place. Of leaders who put their own power ahead of the lives of millions.
And what of us?
Our empathy hasn't stopped the bombs. But if we stop caring, we too have fallen victim to this and other conflicts.
We will have lost that flickering light of humanity that makes us care about far away strangers. In a small way, we too will be casualties of that horrible conflict.