In Damascus, a mob organized by the Asad regime attacked the U.S. and French embassies. The French guards fired into the air, wounding two, and the demonstrators stopped. Three French embassy workers were injured. At the U.S. embassy while Syrian guards fired teargas, the U.S. Marines didn’t fire and the mob surged into the embassy breaking windows and wrecking at least part of the building for two and a half hours as Syrian security forces stood by.
Those are the basic facts. The question is: what does this mean and what will the Obama Administration do about it.
What this tells us about Syria’s government
Syria, unlike Mubarak’s Egypt, is a real totalitarian regime. The rulers believe, and experience has taught them, that violence and intimidation always wins. It is the kind of government that President Barack Obama and the well-meaning peace processers and those holding university degrees in conflict resolution can’t understand. It is Saddam Hussein’s Iraq without any more-human face.
This is a regime that sponsors terrorism to kill Americans in Iraq. It has sponsored terrorism against Israel for 50 years and continues to do so. It has assassinated political leaders, journalists, and judges in Lebanon. A few blocks away from where visiting U.S. officials a few months ago were tweeting about the wonderful coffee in cafes, dissidents were being tortured.
And so let’s reconsider the following exchange:
Question: “Aren’t you concerned that your outstretched hand has been interpreted by extremists, especially [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, [Hizballah leader] Nasrallah, [Hamas leader] Meshal, as weakness?”
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s not clear to me why my outstretched hand would be interpreted as weakness.
And yet this is precisely what’s happened. The previous Bush Administration took a hard line on Syria with sanctions and other pressures. That didn’t work, said the Obama team, so we’re going to try a little tenderness. For 2.5 years it let Syria get away with murder. Senator John Kerry and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attested to the reformist and moderate nature of this murderous regime. The White House did everything possible to reduce sanctions against Syria.
But that didn’t work. The two sides were playing entirely different games. The idea that the United States had the slightest chance of splitting Syria from its Iranian patron was always absurd but the media and academia largely censored out the multiple, persuasive arguments on that point.