....There is no sign that the crude and callow tyrant gets the message. His response to the turmoil set off by his own criminal policies has been to adopt the standard formula of beleaguered Middle Eastern autocrats: appease the superpowers, blame Israel and appeal for "Arab unity."
....The unlikely but potent U.S.-French alliance can bring extraordinary pressure to bear on Damascus if it chooses: The freezing of a European Union economic agreement and U.N. sanctions are among the available tools. The West can also support monitors or peacekeepers in Lebanon to fill any gap left by a Syrian withdrawal. The potential payoff is a big one: another free election in the Arab world this spring, an independent Lebanon and, just possibly, a change in Syria. The old, corrupt order in Beirut, as in Baghdad, is crumbling. Whether Mr. Assad survives its passing may depend on whether he adapts in time.
Adapt or perish, and at this point I wouldn't rule out "perish" for this rash, insular despot.
As the winds blow ever more forcefully, even fiercely anti-Bush, EU sphincter-sniffers like Timothy Garton Ash have been forced into acknowledgment:
- What is happening on the streets of Beirut is not a result of the invasion of Iraq, nor does it retrospectively justify that invasion. But it does, obviously, have something to do with American policy. The truth is that, starting with the shock of 9/11, Washington has groped its way, by a process of trial and error, to a strategic position that is entirely possible for democrats in Europe and the Arab world to engage with, if we choose to. A key part of that groping was the realization in Iraq that, although the United States could win any war on its own, it could not build democracy overnight, out of the barrel of a gun.
....Now a remarkable thing is happening on the road to Damascus: The U.S. and France are walking down it arm in arm.
....And the France of Jacques Chirac — that friend of dictators from Baghdad to Beijing — has responded by putting in a word for freedom. One Lebanese opposition leader, Camille Chamoun of the National Liberation Party, commented: "The free world is really helping Lebanon restore its sovereignty." The free world! When was the last time you heard that phrase from someone in the Arab world?