As Syria escalates its deadly crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators, the Obama administration is clinging to hopes that it can use diplomatic pressure to help ease the crisis. The White House has stopped insisting that Syria's president, Bashar Al-Assad, is a reformer at heart, but it has yet to close the U.S. embassy in Damascus. President Obama is reportedly considering targeted sanctions against Assad and members of his regime. But has the time come to get tougher?
There is no excuse for going soft on Syria: "Even before the tanks rolled into Dara'a," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, "the idea that Assad was a 'reformer' was a patently ridiculous statement." He's buddies with Iran, and backs Hezbollah in Lebanon. Now it's clear his regime is at war with its own people. That was Obama's excuse for attacking Moammar Gadhafi in Libya — the least the president could do is demand that Assad leave power.
"Syrian dictator goes to war against ... Syria"
Military intervention is out of the question: Now is definitely the time to send a stronger signal that Assad will pay dearly — economically and diplomatically — if he continues to choose murder over reform, says The Economist. But "it would be folly for the West to intervene militarily in Syria." It "has a far more serious military than Libya's," and the democracy movement would vanish if it was seen as an invitation for attack by outsiders.
"The limits of humanitarianism"
Obama will do more, but it won't change anything: Obama moved slowly because he and his advisors doubted Syria's crisis would get this serious, says Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy, but "the administration now has no choice but to increase its involvement." The trouble is, "the United States does not have good relationships with either the government or the opposition, and lacks the leverage to affect events in the country."
"Inside the Obama team's 'shift' on Syria"
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