Jeff Jacoby

At a moment like this, the Obama administration should be taking every reasonable step to encourage the Syrian uprising and undermine the regime. In his remarks on Libya the other night, the president cheered "the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa," and promised (in words reminiscent of his predecessor) that "wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States."

If Obama is serious, why has there been no White House denunciation of the murder of protesters by Syrian security forces? Why haven't US officials publicly exhorted the Security Council and the Arab League to take as strong a stand against Assad as they did against Qaddafi? Why hasn't the president ordered Ambassador Robert Ford, the new US envoy to Syria, to demonstrate American solidarity with the demonstrators by traveling to Daraa, where dozens of them have been killed, and demanding an international investigation?

Rather than intensify the pressure on a regime that is every bit as odious as Qaddafi's, and that arguably has more American blood on its hands that any other government in the Arab world, the Obama administration is bending over backward to reassure Assad. On the Sunday talk shows, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually gave Assad her seal of approval. "Members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer," she said. Reformer! Her characterization would be hilarious if it weren't so sickeningly perverse.

Assad is no reformer. He is a totalitarian criminal and an enemy of the United States, and his downfall should be an explicit American aim. Surely we owe the tens of thousands of Syrians bravely confronting their vicious government at least the same encouragement we gave Mubarak's opponents in Egypt. All Americans, from the White House down, should be cheering as Syria's people shake the House That Assad Built. Nothing could be more salutary than to see that awful, bloodstained dungeon come tumbling down at last.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for