The presuppositions of American global hegemony create some odd policy dilemmas. For example, will Barack Obama say that Bashar Assad must go? Should he?
Now if you ask me about it, I would say that ruling a country as a dictator is morally wrong. That’s true in Syria, it’s true in Bahrain, and it’s even true in friendly well-managed dictatorships like Qatar. Killing protestors is even more morally wrong. People shouldn’t do it! If your only way to hold an office you don’t deserve is to shoot protestors, then you’re deep in the weeds of some morally wrong conduct. That’s obvious and it would seem bizarre for Obama or Hillary Clinton or anyone else to voice any other kind of opinion on the matter. Certainly I’d be quite alarmed if I learned that Obama or Robert Gates or other senior officials in the US national security apparatus believe that killing unarmed demonstrators in a bid to hold on to political office is an ethically acceptable mode of conduct.
But that’s easy for me to say. Nobody expects me to follow it up by parachuting into Damascus, punching Asad in the face, and establishing a new regime to lead Syria in to the future. And nobody expects the Prime Minister of Portugal to do that either. He can just sort of offer a view, same as you or me or Joe Lieberman. But if the President of the United States says things, he’s expected to back them up with action. Which is fine. But action often isn’t warranted!