Lead from Behind in Syria; the Arab States Are Steps Ahead of Obama Foreign Policy

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Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Arab League is taking the initiative on dealing with the crisis in Syria. It remains to be seen if the White House is ready to fall in and lead from behind.

On Saturday, the Arab League voted overwhelmingly to suspend Syria until a way could be found peacefully to end the eight-month uprising against the regime of Bashar Assad. The vote comes in response to Damascus flouting a league-brokered plan that was supposed to have ended the violence. More bad news for Mr. Assad quickly followed. On Monday, Jordan's King Abdullah II called for Mr. Assad to step down and help usher in a new phase of Syrian political life. Beijing broke with Damascus and came out in support of the Arab League's actions. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the future could not be built on the blood of the oppressed, and Syrian rebels rejected proposed talks with the regime. They just want Mr. Assad out.

The Arab League vote clears the way for the United States finally to take concerted action against Syria. It meets the Obama administration's key foreign-policy litmus test of never doing anything that might offend an Arab leader, except those too weak to fight back. America already has announced a policy of seeking a regime change in Syria. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way, President Obama said in August. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.

Syrian rebels have taken heart from NATO's role in the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya, which the Obama administration said was a model use of smart power. …