Damascus earlier this month.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Bad, bad stuff is going down in Syria. The regime itself has admitted responsibility for the violent crackdown that human rights advocates say has taken 200 lives and resulted in the detentions of at least 800 (although Iran disagrees with Syria’s government; you can probably guess whom they blame instead). The coastal city of Baniyas has basically been put on lockdown (here is some personal testimony about what’s going there). Syrian security forces have also fired on crowds in a nearby village. Protesting Damascus University students are being beaten. And if you are a Syrian policeman who refused orders to fire on protesters in Baniyas? Reportedly, you were shot, too.

Yet unlike in Egypt, where the Obama administration acceded (after some time) to the (pro-American) hated dictator being escorted out; and unlike in Yemen, where the administration has basically done the same to the basically cooperative, hated dictator; and unlike in Libya, where the administration is strafing the compounds of the basically cooperative, hated dictator; in Syria, the most we have heard, so far, is a “deeply concerned” White House statement calling on Syria to, you know, stop.

All of which makes this week a good time to reread Lee Smith’s column last week, in which he argued that the administration—and the administrations before this one, going as far back as the 1980s—have traditionally given Bashar al-Assad (and his father, Hafez, before him) an exceptional pass. Which would make a certain degree of realpolitik sense if Assad were exceptionally useful to the United States. But, Smith adds, if anything, the opposite is true. He concludes, “It’s just plain illogical that Washington won’t come out against Damascus.”

Syrian University Protests Violently Suppressed [NYT]
Syria Cracks Down in Two Cities on Coast [NYT]
The Revolution Strikes Home [Syria Comment]
Syrian Security Forces Attack Village [Al-Jazeera]
Student Killed After Syria Forces Attack Damascus University Protest [AP/Haaretz]
Syrian Soldiers Shot for Refusing to Fire on Protesters [Guardian]
U.S.: Syria Must Stop ‘Outrageous’ Repression of Anti-Government Protests [Haaretz]
Related: Fashionable [Tablet Magazine]