In Syria, the enemy of America’s enemy is still a lousy friend

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: History is being rewritten. Syrian president Bashar Assad is about to emerge as a moderate peacemaker, a warrior against terror, and a secularist bulwark holding Islamist hordes at bay. His violence will be seen as no more than the tough love of a benevolent patriarch, eager to restore order amid spiraling chaos. The beast moving toward Bethlehem, it turns out, is really a dove.

These thoughts were not filched from the regime’s PR dispatches. Nor did they originate from the political fringes, where the far left and far right have long portrayed Assad as a man warring against the same governments they loathe and/or feel oppressed by. No, these are the recent opinions of respectable mainstream voices.

The ball was set rolling by Ryan Crocker, the whiz diplomat who made his reputation as the US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan. In an article for the New York Times, he argued that it was “time to consider a future for Syria without Assad’s ouster.” His reason? “It is overwhelmingly likely that is what the future will be.” His circular logic found few takers, though notable among them was former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden.

Crocker and Hayden represent the id of US foreign policy. The instincts they embody have often been kept in check by the civic values to which, in rhetoric if not in practice, every American leader pays homage. One cannot speak of human rights, rule of law, individual freedom, civil liberty, or self-determination and be seen openly pursuing policies that violate these principles. To change course, principles have to be reconciled with preferences. [Continue reading…]

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