I raised a question yesterday about why so many insider types are soft on murderous Syrian dictator Bashir a-Assal (“Bloody Chic, If You Ask Me“). His wife was subject of a recent glowing profile in Vogue magazine, and Hillary Clinton called him a “reformer” (words she soon had to eat, but she said them).
I just don’t get it. Neither does the Wall Street Journal:
Washington’s Syria Lobby is a bipartisan mindset. “The road to Damascus is a road to peace,” said Nancy Pelosi on a 2007 visit to Syria as House Speaker. Former Secretary of State James Baker is a longtime advocate of engagement with the House of Assad. So is Republican Chuck Hagel, who in 2008 co-wrote an op-ed with fellow Senator John Kerry in these pages titled “It’s Time to Talk to Syria.” The Massachusetts Democrat has visited Damascus five times in the past two years alone.
Yesterday, the New York Times quoted a senior Administration official saying the U.S. was reluctant to criticize the Syrian President because he “sees himself as a Westernized leader” and that “he’ll react if he believes he is being lumped in with brutal dictators.” This was meant as a defense of U.S. policy….
Syria’s House of Assad is an enemy. The sooner the Administration abandons the counsels of the Syria Lobby, the likelier it will be that Syria becomes a country worth lobbying for.
It’s an excellent editorial. But it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter: Why do these people give Assad the benefit of the doubt? What has attracted a steady stream of congressional visitors, among them Nancy Pelosi, to Damascus, who return home with nice things to say? Why are some dictators popular with the intelligentsia (and Vogue magazine)? I’d love to know.