The more Bashar Assad butchers Syrian dissidents, the more the world community expresses outrage — while it does little to stop the bloodletting. Why?
Ironies on top of ironies
1. The politics of intervention. Republicans might seem the most likely to push for an American bombing campaign against Bashar Assad. Some conservatives, in fact, are doing so. But most are silent — and for understandable reasons. Between 2005 and 2009, most liberals made the case that American intervention against an Arab dictator in the Middle East was intrinsically unwise. This liberal chorus included the likes of Hillary Clinton, who as senator had voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein. Barack Obama in 2007 started his presidential bid to the left of Senator Clinton, outlining a plan for near-immediate withdrawal from Iraq, while continuing his concerted attack on almost all the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols.
Republicans were relieved that Obama, once president, suddenly dropped almost all the demagogic criticism that had fueled his successful campaign and embraced the Bush-Cheney policies against terrorists. But they were not relieved enough to overlook the hypocrisy — and the prior damage done by Obama and others, whose rhetoric was revealed as more partisan than reflective of any principled positions against Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventive detention, and troops in Iraq.