Remember when the Obama administration responded to Middle East dictators that massacred demonstrators by bombing them, and those that didn’t by demanding their resignation? Good times, good times. Once again, despite the fact that the Bashar Assad regime has killed hundreds and perhaps thousands of demonstrators, Barack Obama will send Ambassador Robert Ford back to our embassy in Damascus for more “engagement“:
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford is set to return to Syria on Tuesday, even as the Associated Press reports an “insane escalation” in violence around the city of Homs. The new round of violence, in which 34 bodies were reportedly dumped in the streets of Homs, appears to be sectarian in nature, pitting Syria’s majority Sunnis against “President Bashar Assad’s minority Alawite sect.” Homs-based activist Mohammed Saleh told the AP, “It was an insane escalation … There were kidnappings and killings in a mad way. People are afraid to go out of their homes.”
Ford got pulled out of Damascus two months ago, thanks to threats on his life. Give Ford full marks for courage, but Obama a big, fat F for consistency. Recall his words in mid-March, as he justified his bombing campaign against the forces of Moammar Qaddafi:
Now, here’s why this matters to us. Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qadhafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue.
The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.
The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun.
Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.
Indeed they could, and in fact, the continued “engagement” policy with the so-called “reformer” Assad has already rendered them hollow. Thanks to our Libyan adventure and our intervention to push Mubarak out of power in Egypt, we are already seeing destabilization in North Africa as Islamists come to power, although that outcome would have been difficult to avoid in the long run with or without our intervention. The calls of the Syrian people are still going unanswered, democratic values are being overrun, and the humanitarian crisis arrived in Syria months ago, as well as murders by the hundreds conducted by this regime.
We should be sending an envoy to a Syrian expatriates looking to form a government in exile in support of the rebels. Instead, we’re re-engaging with the dictator conducting the brutal oppression, a rather clear contrast to our policies with nominal ally Mubarak and EU trading partner Qaddafi. The lesson from the Obama administration in the region is that it is better for dictators to align themselves with Iran rather than the US and Europe when democracy threatens a regime.