The Depravity Factor - David Brooks (New York Times)
By now you have probably heard about Hamza Ali al-Khateeb. He was the 13-year-old Syrian boy who tagged along at an anti-government protest in Saida on April 29. He was arrested that day, and the police returned his mutilated body to his family a month later. The family bravely put video evidence of the torture on the Internet, and Hamza's martyrdom has rallied the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's Baathist regime.
The Syrian government is one of the world's genuinely depraved regimes. Yet for all these years, Israel has been asked to negotiate with this regime, compromise with this regime and trust that this regime will someday occupy the heights over it in peace.
For 30 years, the Middle East peace process has been predicated on moral obtuseness, an unwillingness to face the true nature of certain governments. For 30 years, diplomats have flown to Damascus in the hopes of "flipping" Syria - turning it into a pro-Western, civilized power. In any case, their efforts were doomed.
In fact, the current peace process is doomed because of the inability to make a categorical distinction. There are some countries in the region that are not nice, but they are normal - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. But there are other governments that are fundamentally depraved. Either as a matter of thuggishness (Syria) or ideology (Hamas), they reject the full humanity of other human beings. They believe it is proper and right to kill innocents. They can never be part of a successful negotiation because they undermine the universal principles of morality.
There won't be peace so long as depraved regimes are part of the picture. As long as Hamas and the Assad regime are in place, the peace process is going nowhere. To have a peaceful Middle East, it was necessary to get rid of Saddam's depraved regime in Iraq. It will be necessary to try to get rid of Gaddafi's depraved regime in Libya. It's necessary, as everybody but the Obama administration publicly acknowledges, to see Assad toppled. It will be necessary to marginalize Hamas.
It was necessary to abandon the engagement strategy that Barack Obama campaigned on and embrace the cautious regime-change strategy that is his current doctrine. The machinations of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are immaterial. The Arab reform process is