Elliott Abrams’ comment below on Syria echoes much of the commentary on the protests there — that whatever follows can’t be worse than the current Assad regime:
There is only one counterargument ever seriously interposed, namely that what follows Assad will be worse. It is hard to see how. Syria is 74 percent Sunni. Will a Sunni regime make common cause with Hizballah and Iran? Will it seek to help jihadis kill Americans in Iraq, as Assad has done since 2003? Will it give more help to Palestinian terrorists, allowing Hamas to have its headquarters in Damascus? Will it kill and torture Syrians as Assad’s regime is doing now?
The answer to all these questions is: Yes, of course it will be worse. When a Sunni dictatorship takes power in Damascus (which is the only realistic near-term alternative to the current Alawite dictatorship), there’s no reason to think Syria’s foreign policy will change at all. It’s not like the alliance with Iran (or Hezbollah or Hamas) is based on religious commonality — the Alawites aren’t even Muslims in any meaningful sense. I’m sure Iran is willing to help Assad’s mafia stay in power, but if he loses, they’ll be perfectly happy to work with the new management in attacking the Great Satan and the Zionist Entity. And the current management is at least secular and violently opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members it killed by the thousands — tens of thousands — in the Hama massacre nearly 30 years ago. That means if and when the Sunni dictatorship is established, there will, first, be widespread massacres of Alawites and then killings and ethnic cleansing of Syria’s Christian population, as we saw in Iraq, only worse.
I don’t know that we can calibrate things the way we’d want, but it seems the best option for us would be for Assad to stay in power but be constantly challenged and have to keep putting out fires in his own country, making him that much less secure to cause trouble elsewhere. Springtime for Sunnis in Syria would be winter for Christians and Israel.