Syria is not Iraq

If we can agree on one thing, it’s that the Arab awakening has shown that the path to democracy is messy and uneven, pitted with potholes. The Syrian civil war has been no less messy. As much as we might wish it were so, the battle lines don’t break down clearly between good and evil. But let us agree on one more thing: Bashar al Assad is evil. He’s killed 100,000 people over the past two years, and he added at least 1,400 more to that tally with a series of chemical weapon attacks last week. 426 of these were children. Syria is not Iraq, where we tried to topple a stable regime. Syria is Bosnia.

Even the sun is bleeding in Syria

Even the sun is bleeding in Syria

President Obama and the Congress must act swiftly to do whatever is possible to prevent this tally from growing. We have already waited too long; had we acted a year ago to prevent this slaughter, those chemical weapons might never have been released. Just as in Bosnia our presence was able to end the wholesale slaughter of one ethnic group by another, we have a chance here to prevent the continued deployment of nerve gas against civilian populations by the Asad regime. Instead, I fear that we have learned the wrong lessons from the Iraq debacle. Continue reading

The Islamist Thought Police

In November 2004, a 26-year old Dutch-Moroccan named Mohammed Bouyeri ambushed filmmaker Theo Van Goh as he rode his bike to work. Bouyeri shot the filmmaker eight times with a handgun, and, as he lay dying, attempted to decapitate him with a large knife. Death was the treatment Van Goh earned for directing a movie that criticized Islam’s treatment of women. In both 2005 and 2007, European newspapers that ran cartoons featuring likenesses of Mohammed were met with riots and death threats. In April 2010, Comedy Central censored images of Mohammed, bleeped out his name, and—ironically—cut a final speech about standing up to intimidation and fear from an episode of South Park, in part because of death threats against the show’s writers.

The other week, a poorly-made YouTube trailer for a movie called “The Innocence of Muslims” that distastefully portrays the prophet as a bloodthirsty pedophile hit the internet. Again, the mobs have spoken. Again, there are bodies in the street as the civilizing principles of decency and diplomatic immunity are gleefully discarded. In Libya, the United States ambassador was killed along with three American soldiers. In Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia, crowds attacked the American embassy. In Sudan, apparently lacking either an American target or a map, a giant mob stormed the German embassy. Nineteen died in riots in Pakistan where rioters stoned a KFC and torched a church. Two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Even here in Australia, a mob formed in downtown Sydney, attacking police officers with thrown rocks and clenched fists, smashing windows, and chanting “Obama, Obama, we love Osama,” a chorus of support for the tragic murder of three thousand innocent American men, women, and children just over eleven years ago. In the same protest a five-year-old girl held a poster that called for the beheading of those who would offend the prophet. All over a YouTube clip.

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