Commentary Magazine


Is Obama Really that Different from Kucinich?

During the last few days, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has visited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, sung the dictator’s praises, issued a statement insisting he was misquoted, and was then caught in a lie when a video of Kucinich appeared in English on Syrian television.

Alas, if a story in The Guardian is correct, it appears the Obama administration really has no more moral grounding on Syria than the gadfly congressman. In its effort to find a solution to the unrest in Syria, the Obama administration appears to be pushing a plan to keep the murderous dictator in power. According to The Guardian’s report:

The U.S. is pushing the Syrian opposition to maintain dialogue with Bashar al-Assad’s regime as details emerge of a controversial “roadmap” for reforms that would leave him in power for now despite demands for his overthrow during the country’s bloody three-month uprising… Quiet US interest in the roadmap dovetails with public demands from Washington that Assad reform or step down. Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador, has been urging opposition figures to talk to the regime, said Radwan Ziadeh, a leading exile, who insisted the strategy would not work. “They are asking Bashar to lead the transition and this is not acceptable to the protesters,” he said. “It is too late.”

There could be no worse signal the Obama administration could send to the Syrian people and broader Arab population elsewhere than to throw a lifeline to a disgraced dictator who has lost all legitimacy at home and abroad. Nor is maintaining Assad in power in U.S. national interests: Assad cannot be trusted; he is a serial violator of agreements. He appears personally involved in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, has embraced and sponsored numerous terrorist groups which target civilians and seek to undermine Middle East peace; transformed Syria into a highway for terrorists targeting Iraqis and Americans working to rebuild that shattered country; and has become an extension of Iranian interests along the Mediterranean. It is time the man occupying the Oval Office begin to ground American policy in U.S. national interests, not in the moral compromises which his top advisers might believe sophisticated but which undercut American interests among Syrians and others struggling to be free.