With the protests in Syria still just getting underway in the south of the nation, the US is already eying regime change. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cited Egypt as an example and called on Syria’s army to “empower a revolution.”
Which seems like a revisionist take on what actually happened in Egypt. The military refused (largely) to massacre Egyptian protesters, but it was the protesters themselves, in massive numbers, that ousted Hosni Mubarak. The protest movement in Syria, by contrast, is still in its infancy, and it is unclear if it will reach the sort of critical mass where the army will even be faced with an Egypt-style revolution.
But as with Egypt, the protests are growing, and it is the Syrian government’s crackdowns in the south that seem to be riling people up more than anything. Shooting protesters and attacking mosques is bringing a lot of new people into the streets, and adding to the long list of grievances.
The White House, for its part, is condemning Syria for “brutal repression.” The charge appears accurate from the accounts in the southern city of Daraa, but the White House claims ring hollow amid ambivalence over similar measures in Bahrain and Yemen, key US allies in the region. Indeed, the Syrian protesters will likely want to keep a safe distance from the US, as any whiff of an American imprimatur to their uprising will give officials more excuse to use violence.