The White House declared when it was time for Mubarak to go. It declared when it was time for Qaddafi to go. Obama himself declared that Qaddafi had lost his “legitimacy.”
“Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power,” the president said in the joint press conference at the White House with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “You’ve seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people.”
is it time for Assad to go? Or does he retain “legitimacy with his people”? Do tell. Here is yesterday’s White House statement on the violence in Syria:
I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government today and over the past few weeks. I also condemn any use of violence by protesters. The United States extends our condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims. I call upon the Syrian authorities to refrain from any further violence against peaceful protestors. Furthermore, the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of prisoners that has been reported must end now, and the free flow of information must be permitted so that there can be independent verification of events on the ground.
You have to love the even-handed doling out of the condemnation here. But you have to wonder: how those things that “must” occur are going to happen. And what happens if they don’t? We have two more paragraphs to examine for a clue:
Throughout this time of upheaval, the American people have heard the voices of the Syrian people, who have demonstrated extraordinary courage and dignity, and who deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Syrians have called for the freedoms that individuals around the world should enjoy: freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; and a government that is transparent and free of corruption. These rights are universal, and they must be respected in Syria.
Again, we learn that rights “must” be respected in Syria. How is that going to happen? Here’s our last shot:
Until now, the Syrian government has not addressed the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. Violence and detention are not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people. It is time for the Syrian government to stop repressing its citizens and to listen to the voices of the Syrian people calling for meaningful political and economic reforms.
Ah. It’s not time for Assad to go. Some of the “aspirations of the Syrian people” are “legitimate,” and Assad hasn’t addressed them. It’s time for Assad to enact “meaningful political and economic reforms.”
Perhaps the White House didn’t get the memo from its Secretary of State. Weren’t you paying attention? Secretary Clinton explained only two weeks ago, after the first reported wave of government killings in Syria: “There is a different leader in Syria now, many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”
One of the most basic distinction in politics is the distinction between friends and enemies. It is a distinction that seems to be lost on the Obama administration and its “smart diplomacy.”
I have my own quick and incomplete guide to American friends and enemies in the Middle East for the benefit of the Obama administration. It’s a difficult subject, and things aren’t always what they seem in the Middle East. But here’s the easy part. Israel — friend. They might be our only legitimate friend in the region. Have you got that yet? I don’t think so.
Iran — enemy. Syria — enemy. Egypt — used to be friend — might want to check on influence of Muslim Brotherhood. They’re an enemy. Gaza — Hamas is running the show, and they’re an enemy. Lebanon — might want to check on influence of Hezbollah. They’re an enemy.
If it’s not time for Basar al-Assad to go, it might be time for Barack Obama to go. Indeed, let me declare, Obama style, that he must go. It can’t be good for the United States when the president becomes a joke.
UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson puts it this way: “[I]t would be wiser just to shut up and keep out of the region rather than to make a bad situation far worse, which is what we [are] accomplishing now.”