Syria — US will say Assad has to go (better late in this case)

Word is that the US will finally come out and call for the departure of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, as part of new sanctions on Syria’s regime.

Many have asked why the US waited so long, while Assad called out tanks to invade his own cities and killed thousands of unarmed Syrian protestors.

Yet I think the US was wise to wait.  What I believe triggered the US move was several Arab states withdrawing their ambassadors from Damascus, and a rising tide of open condemnation from Turkey, Russia, and other countries.

For the US to condemn the Assad regime when no major Arab regimes had done so would make the US look like it was pulling an Iraq again — interfering in regional affairs to oust an admittedly awful dictatorship, but acting on its own.  However, for the US to condemn the regime when many countries within the region are doing the same thing places US action in a much stronger framework.  It looks like we are supporting regional trends, not interefering to act against them.

Some may say this is shackling US policy; in this case the delay of a few weeks in order to act with broad regional support seems to me well worthwhile. If the goal is for American policy to be effective in attaining our goals, then working with other regional actors is going to be far superior to acting without them.  So good for the Obama administration; it is going to do the right thing, and at the right time.

Now it just has to be persistent in keeping the pressure on both Libya and Syria for change of regime, make sure that sanctions bite, and have plans in reserve to help the new regimes when they do emerge.


About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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