A Crescendo of Violence in Syria

Yesterday, more than 80 demonstrators were shot and killed by security forces in Syria. Pajamas Media has graphic videos that document the violence that took place in several cities. Be careful, however; you should not watch these videos if you are squeamish.
The latest killings prompted President Obama to get tough, by his standards, with the Assad regime:

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators,” Obama said in a statement on Friday. “This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now.”

Obama likes that word “must.” Mubarak must resign; Qaddafi must go; Assad must stop shooting Syrians. Evidently he thinks that if he can command the oceans, commanding Arab dictators is a breeze. The Washington Post wasn’t impressed, however. Its editorial condemned President Obama’s “shameful inaction” on Syria:

The Obama administration has denounced the violence — a presidential statement called Friday’s acts of repression “outrageous” — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post.
The administration has sat on its hands despite the fact that the Assad regime is one of the most implacable U.S. adversaries in the Middle East. It is Iran’s closest ally; it supplies Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip for use against Israel. Since 2003 it has helped thousands of jihadists from across the Arab world travel to Iraq to attack American soldiers. It sought to build a secret nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea and destabilized the pro-Western government of neighboring Lebanon by sponsoring a series of assassinations. …
Yet the Obama administration has effectively sided with the regime against the protesters. Rather than repudiate Mr. Assad and take tangible steps to weaken his regime, it has proposed, with increasing implausibility, that his government “implement meaningful reforms,” as the president’s latest statement put it. As The Post’s Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson reported Friday, the administration, which made the “engagement” of Syria a key part of its Middle East policy, still clings to the belief that Mr. Assad could be part of a Middle East peace process; and it would rather not trade “a known quantity in Assad for an unknown future.”

The administration’s reluctance to take a hard line on Syria is no coincidence. The core principle of the administration’s foreign policy is to be unlike George W. Bush whenever possible. Bush was tough on Syria, so the Democrats have long sought to cozy up to Assad to demonstrate the superiority of supplication over military strength as the basis of foreign policy.
Remember Nancy Pelosi’s 2007 visit to Damascus, after which she pronounced Bashar Assad a “model Arab leader”? Or John Kerry’s three visits to Syria, and his spirited defense of Pelosi’s praise of Assad? The Democrats have long seen Syria as a test case for their accommodationist preferences. Thus, Hillary Clinton’s recent description of Assad as a “reformer” was no gaffe, but rather a continuation of the Democratic Party’s pro-Assad stance.
Our options in Syria are no doubt limited. Still, there are tangible actions that we could take. Tim Pawlenty said last night that the administration should recall our ambassador and seek economic sanctions and a condemnation from the U.N.’s Security Council. That would be a start.


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