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By Barry Rubin

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday condemned violence in Syria and said the Syrian government must stop the arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of prisoners.”

There’s a problem with that word “must.” See, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot help overthrow or move away from allies, stress your own weakness, decry your past leadership and use of violence, and appease radicals without losing a certain amount of credibility.

What’s the United States going to do if the Syrian regime continues arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of prisoners? Isn’t Hillary Clinton the person who called Syria’s dictator a reformer? Isn’t head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and potential next secretary of state John Kerry praising the repressive Syrian dictatorship?

Didn’t the U.S. government abandon Lebanon to Syrian control? Help consolidate the rule of Syrian client Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Make clear its strong criticism and limited backing for Israel? Rush to bring down the regime in Syria’s main Arab rival, Egypt?

Hasn’t it tightened relations with Syria despite that regime’s human rights violations, sponsorship of terrorism, and even involvement in murdering Americans in Iraq?

So why the [expletives deleted] should Syria’s anti-American, Iran-backed, dictatorship care about such people telling it what it “must” do?

What will the Obama Administration do if Syria’s regime shoots 500 or 1000 opponents? Issue a press release?

Even warnings from experienced U.S. diplomats and advice from senior military officers have been largely ignored.  Everyone in the Middle East–and all too few in the White House–understand how totally ridiculous this government appears in the region.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center’s webside is: http://www.gloria-center.org/. His blog is on PajamasMedia: http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/  

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