Advancing a Free Society

The Cost of Leading from Behind

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Syria continues to fester, the United States continues to scold others to do more.  Seven months and six revolutions (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen) into political upheaval in the part of the world most in need of political change, the Obama Administration still cannot bring itself to take the side of freedom.

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, risibly described by our Secretary of State as a reformer, reformed his government yesterday by replacing his defense minister with the Army chief of staff to more efficiently bring military force to bear against the people of Syria.  The Army is shelling cities, killing 43 people in Deir el-Zour yesterday and opening fire on a funeral procession in Daraa.

Even the king of Saudi Arabia withdrew his ambassador and called for ““an end to the killing machine and bloodshed.”  The government of Saudi Arabia is doing more to condemn a repressive government than is the United States of America.

It is discouraging but at this point no longer surprising that the Obama Administration is doing nothing to help the people of Syria in this once in a generation struggle.  Yesterday, when the Syrian government again turned guns on its people, the State Department spokesman welcomed action by the governments of Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain, and said they must do more.

Reporting by the LA Times sums it up well: “There were signs that Washington was looking to Turkey to use its influence.”  Is that really what American diplomacy has come to in the Obama Administration?  Their strategy would seem to be an unwillingness to use our might and leverage coupled with insistence that others do more.

This is no way to help people yearning to breathe free from the crushing burden of authoritarianism.  The people of Syria know it.  People living under other despotic regimes know it.  The only mystery is whether the Obama Administration knows it.

The Secretary of State must -- she was in Cairo when the Administration was making its decision to half-heartedly participate in limited military attacks on the government of Libya.  Her advance people had scripted an historic walk through Tahrir Square with the young resistance leaders.  The only problem was that the young resistance leaders refused to participate.  They resentfully pointed out that the United States had not helped them to overthrow Mubarak.  They said how dare you show up now and try to take credit for what we achieved.

We are playing ourselves into the same corner with a Let Others Lead policy on Syria.  When that government falls, the United States will have had no hand in that triumph and will deserve no special consideration from what emerges subsequently.

(photo credit: PanARMENIAN Photo)