When protesters first took to the streets in Syria, the government’s response was brutal: It opened fire. Four days later, Hillary Clinton called dictator Bashar al-Assad “a reformer.” The US and its European allies have been sluggish throughout this Arab spring, but “nowhere has that fecklessness been more obvious, more damaging, and less defensible than in Syria,” writes Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post. It’s not like Syria is any less important than Libya—in fact, it’s probably more.
The Obama administration has been clinging to the idea that Assad could help them deal with Syria's allies: Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah. “The bloodbath of the past few weeks has mostly snuffed out this fantasy of ‘Assad the reformer,’” writes Diehl, but now the administration is dithering over fears of an Iraq-style sectarian conflict. It’s a red herring. “The only ones talking about sectarian conflict are the regime,” one Syrian activist assures Diehl, who is convinced it’s time for President Obama to say Assad has to go. “Better late than never.”