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Why Not Support Syrian Democracy Out Loud?

The Obama administration has been rightly criticized for failing to speak out strongly in support of democratic reform in Syria. Ostensibly, this is to avoid the appearance that the democracy movement is being propped up by the U.S. But newly-released cables showing that the U.S. has, in fact, been assisting Syrian liberals illustrate exactly why this charade is unnecessary. As the Washington Post reported,

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria.

The financial support reportedly began under President George W. Bush, and had been continued by Obama despite his attempts at diplomacy with Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. According to the Post, the funding is part of a “long-standing campaign to overthrow” Assad.

So now it all comes out. Not that Assad needed evidence of this anyway—since the uprisings in his country began he has blamed them on a “plot” by (wait for it) the U.S. and Israel. So why can’t we just drop the pretense?

After all, it’s not as if diplomacy with Syria has done us any good. The Obama administration’s deployment of an ambassador to Syria has been a complete bust. And our diplomatic relations with the regime haven’t prevented it from butchering protesters in the streets.

American support for pro-democracy programs is laudable. Let’s continue quietly to lend assistance to reformers, while also calling for democratic reform out loud. Autocrats are going to accuse us of fomenting these movements either way.


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