At the National Interest blog, Paul Pillar explores the – somewhat expected – musings in the media of regime change in Syria in light of the increasing instability there:
Accelerating unrest in Syria, with the regime scrambling to find some combination of concession and repression to stay in power, has regime change juices in the United States flowing. The Washington Post editorial page says “it is time to recognize that Syria’s ruler is an unredeemable thug—and that the incipient domestic uprising offers a potentially precious opportunity.” Elliott Abrams declares that with regimes “falling like dominoes” in the Middle East, “Syria is next.” He issues a clarion call to rid the world of the “murderous clan” and “bloody regime” of Bashar al-Assad.
Coupled with that are words from Secretary of State Clinton that are all too familiar:
We support the timely implementation of reforms that meet the demands that Syrians are presenting to their government, such as immediately eliminating Syria’s state of emergency laws.
Washington and the establishment media tend to categorize Middle Eastern regimes in two camps: either their autocratic rule smacks of unredeemable thuggery and must be disposed of, or their dictatorial grip on power maintains so-called stability and must be lavishly supported. Apparently Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Pakistan and Egypt (before Mubarak’s ouster) reside in the latter category. Libya, and now perhaps Syria, apparently belong in the former category of disposable regimes.
This sort of framework, of course, leaves us with no third option for non-intervention and – recalling Obama’s own 2006 criticism of U.S. foreign policy — no coherent, principled policy.