David Calling

How Many Torments Lie . . .

No foreign journalists appear to be in Syria. It is hard to be sure what is going on there. Such reporting as there is depends on local demonstrators with modern pocket cameras. The film that comes through is flickering, obscure, perhaps with momentary glimpses of unfortunates killed by gunfire on the street. Our newscasters and editors have to intone each time that what they are showing cannot be verified. The Sky TV reporter of the Syrian crisis is actually broadcasting out of Israel. What a comment that is on the difference between a free society and a tyranny, though the media would not pause to make the comment.

The similarity of tyrannies is also striking. Moammar Qaddhafi and Bashar Assad, Abdullah Ali Saleh in Yemen and the al-Khalifa ruler of Bahrain are all engaged in having their subjects shot in the street during peaceful demonstrations. In the background, Iran and China and Russia back them out precisely because of their similarities.

These are important developments with the potential to change the balance of power in the world. Whether Syria ends up as an even more subservient colony of Iran in its campaign against the United States, or on the contrary becomes independent and — who knows — free, is an issue of life and death. Nobody would think so from the lukewarm responses of Washington and London. It is hallucinating to hear that the White House is examining policy choices towards Syria and considering imposing sanctions. How urgent is “considering?” The president is not even recalling the American ambassador who has just arrived in Damascus, which is inexplicable. William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, trots out the word “unacceptable” about the crimes of Assad against his subjects. Unacceptable, from the man who occupies the office once held by Lord Palmerston, Canning, Curzon.

Unable or unwilling to get into Syria, the British media instead report on such things as the color and consistency of the icing on the wedding cakes baked for Prince William and the bride he marries in a few days. Of course the British are fortunate to have a constitutional monarchy, and no doubt this attractive couple in due course will do their duty to the best of their ability. But there is only one word for the way their wedding crowds out the news of the future taking shape in the Middle East, and that word is — hallucinating.

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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