Paul Greenberg

Back in the long-ago year 2007, when Gen. David Petraeus was putting a whole new strategy called the Surge into action, an integral and indispensable part of his plan was the Awakening; a revolt of tribesmen in Anbar Province against the forces terrorizing Iraq. The general foresaw that revolt spreading throughout Iraq with American support.

Despite the opposition of prominent senators who would go on to hold prominent positions in this administration -- Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Hagel -- the Surge saved Iraq in surprisingly short order, and gave birth to a new hope of freedom in the Middle East.

Now, another key country is being vivisected as the old dictatorship in Syria joins forces with the familiar Islamist terror, like Hezbollah, to crush what were rising hopes for freedom in that country. Other tyrannies now rally to support their fellow dictator in Syria. The suddenly challenged old order in Iran, together with a new Russia that is very much like the old Soviet Union, aims to fill the vacuum in Syria left by America's failure to lead -- and they're on the cusp of winning this war-by-proxy.

This time, it is America that has begun to have an Awakening. And about time, for this president, as one of his apologists once put it, has been "leading from behind." Way behind. With the result that even more innocents have died, even more refugees have fled, and even more atrocities are committed as a fresh hell comes to Syria every morning.

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If you want to see a world without American leadership, just look at what has happened in and to Syria. Our happily former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, aka Our Lady of Benghazi, had nothing but sympathy for the victims of Bashar al-Assad's tyranny. And I mean nothing but. For words are one thing, deeds another. Except for lip service and some halfway -- no, quarterway -- measures of support, this country has had precious little to offer the increasingly desperate cause of freedom of Syria.

Our "experts" at the State Department have become expert at explaining what can't be done to help the Syrians, not what could be. It figures. For this administration tends to make its decisions on the basis of public opinion polls, and maybe nothing else. And it's clear enough that Americans are sick of involvement abroad, just as Americans were in the Roaring Twenties. Those now in charge of American foreign policy, if anyone is, have been content to just let the dust settle in Syria. And the blood.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.