When Libya exploded in rebellion against Muammar Ghaddafi, a lot of people wondered why the U.S. and other countries were so eager to support the rebels by unleashing air strikes against Ghaddafi's forces.
Then when Syria erupted in resistance against Bashar al-Assad, a lot of the same people wondered why the U.S. and its allies were so resistant to helping the rebels -- and so unconcerned that thousands were being killed.
To all factions, the Western response to these (and other) Mideast rebellions was a mixture of cynicism, hypocrisy, opportunism and double-standard.
The Syrian rebellion is the most serious.
A couple of reasons among many why there is such reluctance to get involved, include the reality the Ghaddafi was a nutbar with whom few could identify, while Assad looks cultured, educated and civilized, and wears suits instead of funny costumes.
Assad is also a hell of a lot smarter than Ghaddafi was, but just as devious and untrustworthy. Maybe more so. He's a bit like the late Kim Jong Il of North Korea -- willing to promise anything to get his way, and then renege on what he's promised.
After a year or so of killing people in areas that protest his dictatorship, Assad apparently has agreed to withdraw troops from killing zones -- starting some 10 days after making his promise to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who went to Syria to broker a deal.
Why Assad needs roughly 10 days to get troops withdrawn, and another two days for a ceasefire to be negotiated with rebels, is an issue replete with speculation. What the hiatus does is give Syrian forces breathing space to further crush anti-government elements and destroy towns that harbour rebels.
If events unfold as Assad probably anticipates, rebels will not agree to the sort of ceasefire he wants, and this will justify continued killing. Then the UN Security Council will meet again, and debate and wrangle and try to persuade cooperation from Russia and China, while Assad continues trying to eliminate his regime's enemies.
While Syria is a humanitarian disaster that defies compromise, it is also a situation that Syrians themselves have to solve -- just as Libyians should have been left to solve their problems with Ghaddafi, but which Western countries intruded to help rebels whom the thought were anxious for democracy.
Libya now verges on embarrassing those who thought democracy was the goal, and not just the acquisition of power.
U.S. and Western allies have no business in Syria. Nothing to gain by interfering, but lots to lose. Let the UN Security Council flounder its way through.
The current deadline is Tuesday, April 10, but if the anti-government faction is as shrewd as one suspects, they'll not trust Assad's promises nor accept any deal that will put them at the mercy of a tyrant of epic proportions, despite his Saville Row suits, silk neckties, and good-looking British-born wife (who seems also as tough-minded as he is).
We shall see . . .
With luck, next for the chopping block will be the mad mullahs of Iran, who victimize their own people and lust to acquire nuclear weapons with which to eliminate Israel.
What a world we live in! Happy Easter folks.