Saturday, April 30, 2011

U.S. Acts More Cautiously on Syria Violence Than on Libya

You don't say?

At New York Times, "U.S. Announces Sanctions Against Top Syrian Officials":

WASHINGTON — A brutal Arab dictator with a long history of enmity toward the United States turns tanks and troops against his own people, killing hundreds of protesters. His country threatens to split along sectarian lines, with the violence potentially spilling over to its neighbors, some of whom are close allies of Washington.

Libya? Yes, but also Syria.

And yet, with the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown intensifying on Friday, President Obama has not demanded that President Bashar al-Assad resign, and he has not considered military action. Instead, on Friday, the White House took a step that most experts agree will have a modest impact: announcing focused sanctions against three senior officials, including a brother and a cousin of Mr. Assad.

The divergent American responses illustrate the starkly different calculations the United States faces in these countries. For all the parallels to Libya, Mr. Assad is much less isolated internationally than the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. He commands a more capable army, which experts say is unlikely to turn on him, as the military in Egypt did on President Hosni Mubarak. And the ripple effects of Mr. Assad’s ouster would be both wider and more unpredictable than in the case of Colonel Qaddafi.

“Syria is important in a way that Libya is not,” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There is no central U.S. interest engaged in Libya. But a greatly destabilized Syria has implications for Iraq, it has implications for Lebanon, it has implications for Israel.”

These complexities have made Syria a less clear-cut case, even for those who have called for more robust American action against Libya. Senator John McCain, along with Senators Lindsey Graham and Joseph I. Lieberman, urged Mr. Obama earlier this week to demand Mr. Assad’s resignation. But Mr. McCain, an early advocate of a no-fly zone over Libya, said he opposed military action in Syria.
Basically, easy pickings in Libya, with limited liability if things go wrong, and little collateral damage to Israel. Meanwhile, protesters in the streets of Syria can't call on the U.S. for assistance. Who knows, maybe an even more brutal regime could come to power in Damascus --- a stretch, I know, but it's an excuse for dawdling. Either way, continued instability across the region makes the White House look like a grade-school club in confusion. Iran, Egypt, Libya, and Syria? Hmm. Four regimes. Four democratization movements. And this administration's done jack to improve our strategic position in any of these, much less that of Israel's.


dave in boca said...

Remember that the Baath Party is at heart a socialist dictatorship, something like the End Zone which Obama is marching down the field to attain. Here's my longer take on this debacle.