(CBS News) Dennis Ross, a former American diplomat and top adviser to President Obama's administration on the Middle East, says Syria is already in a civil war, and the only way to end it is to convince President Bashar Assad that his support - from inside the country and from Russia - has eroded.
"The danger of the current track is that you will end up with a failed state," Ross tells "CBS This Morning."
Ross stresses the importance of working to "move the Russians" into abandoning their support for Assad, but says the options - short of Russian President Vladimir Putin telling Assad he must go - are limited.
"If it turns out he doesn't have an insurance policy (in the form of backing from Russia), then I think the reality will change," says Ross.
In the meantime, the long-time diplomat says the U.S. must start to consider and plan for a means by which a "safe haven" can be established inside northern Syria.
"We need to start planning for it," says Ross, adding that such a bold move - which would likely entail some foreign troop presence on Syrian soil - may be necessary to convince Assad his days in power are coming to an end. In Ross' own words, it would change the "psychological balance of power."