No, this is a bridge too far. It is 100% clear that the Syrian government, like the Iraqi government (both Ba’athist, though they hated each other) tortured and murdered its own citizens. Prior to 2011, the scale of this torture and murder was small by Middle Eastern standards, but it still happened. Since the protests began the brutality scaled up tremendously.
Your point about Assad being neither stupid nor insane is correct, but it hardly proves anything about bombing or gassing civilians. He’s in a war, after all, and worse an ethnic civil war, where his people could easily be massacred if they lose. Terrorizing potential enemies into peace by indicating, as you put it, that there’s no limit to the potential savagery he can inflict — this is a perfectly sane war policy. General Sherman did it to the South in 1864. We did it to Japan in 1945. But you refuse to believe that it happened, because Bashar said so in an interview? This has gone beyond naivete, and into willful blindness.
Ockham’s Razor! Is there a vast American conspiracy for war involving thousands of people and dozens of separate institutions ranging from the Pentagon and CIA to Amnesty International and Medecins Sans Frontieres (and which has not delivered the supposedly-desired intervention, I might add, either now or previously)? Or is Bashar’s military fighting a brutal war in a brutal way, as it must?
You can argue that Assad was the best government that a country like Syria could have — anything else would have collapsed and produced something like Muslim Brotherhood rule (see: Hama uprising). I have a friend who spent a year in Damascus (2009–2010) and felt this way, more or less. But what cannot be argued is that Assad’s government is smiles and sunshine. My friend specifically noted that Syria felt like a police state, which is exactly what it was.
Your conclusion — that the US shouldn’t mess with the Syrian War, except perhaps to help finish off ISIS, and especially that deposing Assad would be a terrible result — is still correct, but only because even a terrible Assad is far superior to the alternatives, which are (1) Permanent chaos, and (2) Jihadist rule (literally the worst two things, short of outright genocide, that could happen). One does not need to invoke a fictional view of Assad to come to this conclusion, and doing so only weakens the argument.