Michael Totten

Damascus Gripped by Insurgency

The Syrian army briefly lost control of suburban Damascus, but seems to have retaken it, at least for the moment. Things are moving fast there, though, and the regime could lose control again at any time.

Much of the country is apparently now a war zone. Syria has come a long way from non-violent demonstrations that were answered with repression and murder. Its people are fighting back, and for real. I’m frankly surprised it took them this long. If I were a Syrian democracy activist, I would have pushed for armed insurrection early last year. Sometimes it’s necessary. And even if democracy isn’t a likely outcome right now, Assad has long passed the point where it’s possible to put up with him.

It’s too bad NATO isn’t likely to help. Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi was a championship bastard who needed to go and I’m glad he’s gone, but Bashar al-Assad causes far more trouble internationally than Qaddafi has since Ronald Reagan bombed him back when I was a teenager. NATO most likely had only one shot in the region for now, though, and it was fired in Libya.

The butcher of Damascus does not have to know that, however.

Assad has long had a strategy of making himself the second biggest bastard in the Middle East. Being second protected him from an Iraq-style regime-change, and being a bastard gave him the clout he needed to be “indispensable.” He’s the biggest bastard at the moment, though, and he knows it.

If Barack Obama has it in him to bluff, now is the time.