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March 4, 2005
Bush: No Baby Steps For Baby Assad

George Bush has kept the pressure on Syria by completely rejecting Bashar Assad's attempt to resurrect the long-dead Taif Accord as an excuse to take his time leaving Lebanon. Bush insisted that Syria had to completely withdraw from Lebanon in order to meet its international responsibilities under the controlling UNSC resultion:

"There are no half-measures at all," Bush said during an event here on his Social Security proposals. "When the United States and France say withdraw, we mean complete withdrawal, no halfhearted measures."

During a speech Saturday to his parliament, Syrian President Bashar Assad was expected to announce a troop pullback to eastern Lebanon near the Syrian border but not a full withdrawal, according to Syrian and Lebanese officials.

"We need to see action, not words," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said a day ahead of that speech.

A fellow Arab nation, Saudi Arabia, has also called on Syria to pull out. On Thursday, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah told Assad their relations will suffer if Syria doesn't start soon on a complete withdrawal, a Saudi official said.

Assad still wants to play for time, perhaps because a headlong retreat might mean the collapse of his political support in Syria and the end of his regime. Some critics of the Bush administration want to give Assad a face-saving way out of Lebanon, but that completely disregards Bush's strategy in the Middle East. He doesn't want to play the old "stability" strategy any longer; that just means that dictatorships still oppress people and stir up rage, hatred, and extremism. Bush wants to topple the dictators, or better yet, set the conditions so that the dictators topple from within based on popular uprisings -- just as is happening in Lebanon.

Why would Bush want to go backwards now, just when his strategy has started to pay off? The more we see of George Bush and his vision, the more we also see that the people who stridently and axiomatically oppose his every move lack any kind of intellectual or moral stature, arguing for appeasing oppression and propping up the worst kind of dictatorships. Even in the West, apparently, some people just never learn.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 4, 2005 11:55 AM

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