How many thousands of civilians does Bashar al-Assad have to kill before the world says "enough"?
A soldier walks near an army tank on a street in Hama, in this still taken from amateur video after a tank onslaught in Syria's Sunni Muslim tribal heartland / Reuters
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On Saturday, the Arab League suspended Syria. No doubt this was a difficult decision for a body that, although it was the creation of the British Foreign Office has stood--at least rhetorically--for Arabism. Syria, the so-called "beating heart of Arab nationalism," is not Libya. Still, the move and possibly economic and political sanctions are an important step in trying to either bring Assad to heel or end his regime altogether. I am profoundly skeptical of the former and, since almost the very beginning of the Syrian uprising, saw tremendous strategic benefit (to the United States) in the latter. The question is now that the Arab League has taken an important step in further isolating Damascus: What next?
Syria watchers, human rights activists, foreign policy realists, and others have been engaged in a rather detailed debate about what to do about Syria, but for all the ink spilled on the issue, there haven't been any creative ideas. The advocates of the so-called "right to protect" principle, which gives the international community sanction to violate the sovereignty of another state if civilians are at great risk, have called Syria "tragic," but have maintained that "Syria is different from Libya." Indeed, it is. On the eve of Operation Unified Protector, about 1,000 people had died in the fighting between Libyan rebels and Qadhafi loyalists. As of last Friday, the United Nations reported that Bashar al Assad has killed two and a half times that many Syrians.