Remember when Hosni Mubarak send “troops backed by tanks, snipers, and knife-wielding security forces” to slaughter hundreds of protesters in Tahrir Square? That was right about the time Obama said it was “time for him to go,” wasn’t it? As the Mubarak regime launched pre-emptive strikes on unhappy citizens, and bullets found their way between the eyes of the innocent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the murderous dictator to work with “a broad and credible representation of Egypt’s opposition, civil society and political factions to begin immediately serious negotiations on a peaceful and orderly transition.” Wasn’t that how it went down?
Not to conjure a haze of nostalgia around Mubarak, but he never got around to doing anything like that. It’s Bashar Assad that has been sending goons with tanks, sniper rifles, and cutlery to murder peaceful demonstrators in “pre-emptive” atrocities, according to an Associated Press report. And yet, the Administration still hasn’t called on him to step down.
How much blood does Assad have to spill before he “loses the confidence of his people,” in the manner of Moammar Qaddafi? Eyewitnesses say the regime’s rooftop snipers are deliberately taking people down with head shots. Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, says the Assad regime has responded to international calls to “stop killing its own people” with “paper reforms followed by violent crackdowns on protesters.” CNN talks of “fear and panic” gripping the city of Daraa as people used mosque loudspeakers to howl for doctors to treat the wounded.
There were hopes the Syrian army would stand with the people, in the manner of the Egyptian military, but they marched right into Daraa when Assad ordered them to. Considering how the benevolence of their beloved military has actually worked out for Egyptians, maybe it’s better for the Syrian people not to torture themselves with false hopes.
The AP hopefully notes that “possible cracks could be emerging in the regime,” but it turns out that just means two members of the Daraa provincial council have stepped down. That sounds less like a crumbling regime than Daraa auditioning to become the new Misrata.
And yet, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, the Obama Administration is only now “drafting sanctions” against the brutal Syrian regime, after “weeks of treading lightly as it weighed its support for the protesters with a desire to engage with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” So Assad can keep his job, but he’ll have to take a slight pay cut. He’ll barely notice, unless the rest of the civilized world joins in… and in that case, the Syrian people will feel the pain more than their dictator. Has there ever been a case of “sanctions” halting atrocities in their tracks? Will U.N. “investigations” into the bloody crackdown get any further than the investigations into Assad’s role in the murder of the Lebanese Prime Minister six years ago?
It’s true that we have little real power to remove Bashar Assad. We can’t afford to play Tomahawk whack-a-mole with him, as we’ve been doing with Moammar Qaddafi, and the results would probably be similar in any case. We could, however, say the words Obama was willing to deploy against Hosni Mubarak after a week of dithering. The difference is that Mubarak was an American ally on his way out, while Assad is an Iranian ally who isn’t going anywhere.