Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Powell said the two sides of the conflict were too shaky for the United States to effectively take sides.
"In both Egypt and Syria, America has to take a much more clever role," said Powell, who added he considers the Syrian conflict to be a civil war. "We shouldn't go around thinking that we can really make things happen."
Powell advised the United States should wait for the war to be settled and then offer to help with recovery. The choice between President Bashar Assad and the Islamist-influenced rebels did not appear to be much of a choice, he said.
"I have no affection for Mr. Assad. I've dealt with him. I know him. And he is a pathological liar, with respect to my interaction with him," Powell said.
" But at the same time, I am less sure of the resistance," Powell continued. "What do they represent? And is it becoming even more radicalized with more al-Qaida coming in? And what would it look like if they prevailed and Assad went? I don't know."