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Our Incoherence in the Face of Brutality

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
April 19, 2011
National Review


The news from Syria reveals once again the incoherence of Obama administration policy. With the Asad regime murdering peaceful protesters, the State Department spokesman had this to say on Monday, April 18: “We are very concerned ... about the Asad regime. President Asad needs to address the legitimate aspirations of his people.” The problem is that he is addressing them, the only way he knows how: brutally.

The administration that said Ben Ali must go, then said Mubarak must go, and keeps saying Qaddafi must go cannot find a basis for saying that Asad must go. The president has yet to say a word, though the White House issued a statement in his name on April 8, about 200 murders ago. It began well enough: “I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government today and over the past few weeks.”

Nice start, but it was downhill from there. For some reason the president felt compelled to add as his second sentence “I also condemn any use of violence by protesters,” as if that were a major problem instead of a major Asad propaganda line. He then added his trademark “the waters will stop rising” trope: “... the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of prisoners that has been reported must end now.” That was ten days ago; is he unhappy that they did not “end now”? The final paragraph was dismal: “Until now, the Syrian government has not addressed the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. Violence and detention are not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people. It is time for the Syrian government to stop repressing its citizens and to listen to the voices of the Syrian people calling for meaningful political and economic reforms.”

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