In his column for Tablet, Lee Smith asks, "The recent massacres in Oslo, Norway, and Hama, Syria, were both carried out by heartless sociopaths. Why does one of them—Syria’s Bashar al-Assad—continue to enjoy diplomatic relations with Washington?"
What if Anders Behring Breivik, who’s charged with murdering 77 people in Norway two weeks ago, was not a twisted loner but the country’s prime minister? And what if in the middle of his killing spree, when he mowed down young Norwegians and bombed Oslo, the public began debating whether he had a right to rule or a place in the international community? It’s unimaginable—we’d never think of granting legitimacy and prestige to a mass murderer.
So, why are Washington policymakers working overtime to find a way to do business with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?
Yet the United States, and many other democracies, still have diplomatic relations with Assad’s regime. And while the media put Breivik on a shrink’s couch, no one’s trying to figure out why Assad instructed his security forces to open fire on unarmed protesters over the last five months and perpetrated further acts of mass murder this past weekend in several Syrian cities, leaving at least 145 dead. Unlike for Breivik, no one in the Western press is wondering what Assad reads on the Internet, or if the god he worships made him a murderer.