In general, my view with respect to the turmoil in the Middle East has been that we should support governments that are friendly toward us, while using the uprisings as an occasion to prod those regimes toward liberalization. As to those governments unfriendly to us, the natural course is to support the opposition in hopes of helping something better to emerge.
The Obama administration’s policies have not been quite the opposite of this formula, but at times they have seemed perverse. Why would we demand that Mubarak go, while at the same time hailing Syria’s Assad as a “reformer?” That had to be one of the low moments in the history of American diplomacy, a judgment that seemed to be confirmed by news reports that Syrian troops have killed another 22 demonstrators in rebellious towns like Deraa.
But then, there is this:
Syria’s embattled secular authorities have closed the country’s sole casino and eased restrictions on the wearing of the veil by school teachers, a leading human rights activist said on Wednesday.
This is the casino in question; before today, would it have occurred to you that having a casino in Damascus is a good thing?
So, who are the rebels in Syria? Are some of them, at least, even worse than Assad’s government? Could a regime that is a client of Iran, a patron of Hezbollah, an ally of North Korea and the chief underminer of Lebanese democracy possibly get worse? Sadly, the answer may be Yes. But if that is the case, why in the world were we so eager to drive Mubarak out of power?