Let’s have a foreign policy quiz this morning. In fact, let’s set this up as a media quiz, which means that if you’re a member of the Obama administration, there are no wrong answers. What does a “reformer” do when the people under his dictatorship strong central government erupt in protest against his regime? Does he (a) agree to hold immediate elections to form a truly representative government, (b) ask the UN to mediate the dispute, or (c) shoot unarmed protesters one at a time until that gets boring, and then send out tanks and troops to suppress dissent?
Oh, no fair peeking:
Syrian leaders deployed tanks and troops against unarmed demonstrators Monday in a sharp escalation of their effort to crush the widening protest movement, prompting the Obama administration to condemn the deadly crackdown and weigh additional sanctions against the embattled government.
The Syrian army entered the city of Daraa, the cradle of anti-government unrest near the border with Jordan, and other southern towns as protesters massed in the streets. According to witnesses and news reports, about 25 demonstrators were killed in Daraa and the coastal city of Jableh, where witnesses said snipers opened fire on the crowd.
The government’s show of force, the largest in weeks of street demonstrations, is sharpening the choice facing President Obama, who has attempted to balance calls for democratic reform in the Arab world with concerns of allies that have counted on President Bashar al-Assad to preserve stability in the volatile Middle East.
In case you don’t recall this, the current Secretary of State tried explaining to an astounded Bob Schieffer last month that the difference between Libya and Syria was that Moammar Gaddafi had threatened to use military force and that Bashar Assad was a “reformer” (via Greg Hengler):
Roger L. Simon at PJM couldn’t believe his ears at the time, asking whether or not Hillary Clinton was as moronic as she sounded:
No, she is not, but our secretary of State was certainly acting like an idiot when she branded Bashar Al-Assad a “reformer” on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” that is unless she was going for laughs. The Assads, pere et fils, are reformers in the sense Pol Pot was a reformer. The major difference between the Alawite dictators and the Cambodian was the extent of their brutality. Not only that, Bashar is now allied with Iran, the nation, as we all know, whose religious fanatic leaders are busily trying to construct nuclear weapons.
Not to mention that Syria openly supports Hezbollah’s stranglehold on Lebanon, despite (or more accurately, because of) their status as an Iranian-backed terrorist network. Even before the tanks rolled into Daraa, the idea that Assad was a “reformer” was a patently ridiculous statement.
Now that Assad has declared war on his own nation, the White House is in a very embarrassing position. The administration used that excuse to attack Libya after European nations got the UN to back military action to protect civilians their oil fields. The UN rested its mandate on a “responsibility to protect,” shorthanded into the R2P doctrine, which stated that the UN had the duty to intervene to protect civilians and to determine the validity of sovereignty based on a government’s handling of R2P. Rolling tanks into its cities in order to stifle dissent is exactly what Gaddafi did in Libya.
Will the UN act on Syria? Will Obama even go as far as he did in Egypt by demanding Assad’s removal, even though Hosni Mubarak hadn’t fired a shot on dissenters at the time? Or is this administration still more interested in keeping this “reformer” in place?