If The Obama Administration Doesn't Understand Syria's Dictator is No Sensitive Westernized Wimp, It Understands Nothing
By Barry Rubin
Why was Egyptian President Husni Mubarak so evil in the eyes of the Obama Administration while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems to enjoy endless indulgence?
If you cannot explain this fact then the current government's policy cannot be justified in terms of U.S. interests. And if the media and most "experts" were not solidly soft on the incumbents that policy would be torn to shreds and held up to public ridicule.
Consider this simple comparison
Mubarak: Ally of America; Assad: Enemy of America
Mubarak: Enemy of Iran; Assad: Ally of Iran
Mubarak: Fights revolutionary Islamism; Assad: Sponsors revolutionary Islamism
Mubarak: Opposes international terrorism; Assad: Sponsors international terrorism
Mubarak: At Peace with Israel; Assad: At War with Israel
Mubarak: Supports peace process; Assad: Sabotages peace process
Mubarak: Repressive; Assad: Extremely repressive
Mubarak: Dictatorship with some pluralism; Assad: Total dictatorship
Mubarak: Mixed economy; Assad: Largely Soviet-style statist economy
Mubarak: Limited reforms; Assad: No reforms at all
Obama Response to Egypt Upheaval: Mubarak must go! Yesterday isn't soon enough!
Obama Response to Syria Upheaval: I'm sure if we show a little patience and understanding Bashar will show himself the Westernized, sensitive reformer we expect him to be.
Well, you get the idea.
No matter how much you favored the overthrow of the Mubarak government and the success of that revolution, you should support all the more the overthrow of a worse government that is far more hostile to the United States and the West.
And yet there is this bizarre illusion in the Obama Administration that somehow--despite two years of total failure by American flattery and concessions to get Assad to do anything, anything!--he's a good guy.
And despite the fact that he's shot down hundreds of demonstrators--more than Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen put together--the most minor response is acceptable.
The failure of the Obama Administration effort to engage the UN human rights council is shown by that body's total uselessness in dealing with Middle Eastern dictatorships. No, it's worse! It's largely comprised of Middle Eastern and other dictatorships.
Here's an administration official quoted in the New York Times on these points:
"Administration officials say that while they lack many effective economic tools, they believe Mr. Assad is sensitive to portrayals of his regime as brutal and backward. `He sees himself as a Westernized leader,' one senior administration official said, `and we think he’ll react if he believes he is being lumped in with brutal dictators.'”
\Is this for real? How cannot one be sarcastic and hypercritical when leading U.S. officials think that a ruthless dictator--in fact, the most cleverly ruthless dictator in the Arabic-speaking world--really cares if people in the West say mean things about him.
Look, anyone who has read any of Bashar's speeches and watched his action should know that the exact opposite is true. He knows he looks like a giraffe and has a most non-macho past. He has based his career on trying to be like his father, tougher than his father. Bashar has constantly posed as the toughest of the tough, the patron of Hamas and Hizballah, the chief resister who taunts Israel and spits in the face of Uncle Sam.
It would be impossible to find someone more eager to be a brutal dictator and who does not see himself as a Westernized leader. If this were the "Godfather," Bashar would be Michael, not Fredo.
If the Obama Administration doesn't understand this, it understands nothing. Yes, that's the point. It understands nothing.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/.