Now the Syrians have taken to the streets in their thousands. Again, the regime is a terror-sponsoring, American-killing (Syria helped ferry terrorists into Iraq), Lebanon-undermining thugocracy -- Iran's one friend and ally in the Arab world. Obama had declared that Mubarak had to go. He has not said the same about Bashar Assad.
One almost has the sense that Obama resents the people of Iran and Syria for complicating his outreach efforts. How embarrassing that the streets should be thronged with demonstrators asking for freedom when Obama was going to strike deals with those very withholders of freedom. (The U.S. had just dispatched an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.) How awkward that the people in the streets are not expressing frustration at the lack of progress on Israeli/Palestinian peace but instead outrage at the repression, brutality, and lack of opportunity in their own societies.
All of the American modesty in the world cannot correct that. Quite the opposite -- our unwillingness to take the side of liberty against monstrous regimes increases the sum total of oppression in the world.
Only in the case of Libya has the Obama administration acted decisively against an American antagonist. In that case, the president was able to follow the lead of others (the U.N., Britain, and France) and convince himself that he was averting genocide. He may have been. And there's nothing illegitimate in acting to prevent genocide. What's inexplicable is Obama's resistance to the truth about other thugs in the world. Gadhafi is a vicious killer. On the strength of that knowledge, Obama was able to join a coalition against him (though not to finish the job).
Yet the world is well stocked with Gadhafis. Most of them are fanatical enemies of the United States. The people in the streets of the Muslim world proclaim that it is they, not we, who most need to change. This was not at all the way things were supposed to go, when Barack Obama steered his new course.