Jeff Jacoby
John Kerry finally got a clue on Syria last week. Is it too much to hope that the Obama administration might follow suit?

For years, the senior senator from Massachusetts has been an advocate of appeasement with Syria. He has insisted that Washington and Damascus have "shared interests" that justify warmer ties, and has championed diplomatic and financial incentives to coax the regime of Bashar al-Assad away from its partnership with Iran and its support for terrorism. Kerry has repeatedly traveled to Damascus to woo Assad, and was confidently predicting not long ago that "Syria will move, Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West."

But last week, with Syrian tanks shelling residential neighborhoods and the death toll in the government's savage crackdown on popular protests nearing a thousand, Kerry woke up to reality at last. He conceded that the Syrian dictator "is obviously not a reformer now" and that continued engagement with the bloody regime in Damascus is pointless. Given the carnage in Syria, it should never have taken Kerry so long to abandon his delusional belief that the House of Assad is anything but a tyrannical gang of thugs. But at least he abandoned it. That's more progress than the White House has made.

"The defining characteristic of the Obama administration's response to revolution in the Arab world has been its slowness," the Washington Post editorialized last month. Nowhere has this diffidence been more pronounced -- or less defensible -- than in connection with Syria.

Jeff Jacoby

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