Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — she who referred to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for so very long as a “reformer” — is now trying to excuse the administration’s moral and diplomatic sloth that is its Syria policy. In a windy speech on Monday, Clinton made minimal effort to explain why we intervened in Libya but have been inert in Syria:

Why does America promote democracy one way in some countries and another way in others? Well, the answer starts with a very practical point: situations vary dramatically from country to country. It would be foolish to take a one-size-fits-all approach and barrel forward regardless of circumstances on the ground. Sometimes, as in Libya, we can bring dozens of countries together to protect civilians and help people liberate their country without a single American life lost. In other cases, to achieve that same goal, we would have to act alone, at a much greater cost, with far greater risks, and perhaps even with troops on the ground.

But that’s just part of the answer. Our choices also reflect other interests in the region with a real impact on Americans’ lives — including our fight against al-Qaida, defense of our allies, and a secure supply of energy. Over time, a more democratic Middle East and North Africa can provide a more sustainable basis for addressing all three of those challenges. But there will be times when not all of our interests align. We work to align them, but that is just reality.

Umm. But why nothing for so long in Syria, setting aside the option of military action? Well, she doesn’t say. Perhaps she and Assad’s cheerleader, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), entirely misjudged the butcher of Damascus? Perhaps dawdling at the United Nations was a waste of time?

Nevertheless, the result of our paralysis are clear. Clinton acknowledges the hellish status of Syria:

As Syrians gather to celebrate a sacred holiday, their government continues to shoot people in the streets. In the week since Bashar al-Assad said he accepted the terms of an Arab League peace plan to protect Syrian civilians, he has systematically violated each of its basic requirements. He has not released all detainees. He has not allowed free and unfettered access to journalists or Arab League monitors. He has not withdrawn all armed forces from populated areas. And he has certainly not stopped all acts of violence. In fact, the regime has increased violence against civilians in places like the city of Homs. Now, Asad may be able to delay change. But he cannot deny his people’s legitimate demands indefinitely. He must step down; and until he does, America and the international community will continue to increase pressure on him and his brutal regime.

And so the U.S. will . . . . will do what? She doesn’t say. A speech is not a policy, and plainly the administration doesn’t have the latter when it comes to Syria.