CARRY A BIG STICK: If you walk too softly for too long you might have to actually use the stick, like we did in Iraq. Now we're back to walking softly again, but we're getting much better results than we were before. Imagine that!

During the past two weeks, the Syrian government has licensed its first three private banks, considered an essential step in modernizing the state-dominated economy, while approving two new private universities and four private radio stations. Officials are now reviewing the possibility of removing military training from the curriculum of schools and universities and eliminating a requirement that all students join youth groups affiliated with Syria's ruling Baath Party, according to sources close to the leadership. ...

In the three weeks since senior U.S. officials threatened retaliation against Syria, the government in Damascus has sharply changed direction. In addition to sealing the border, the rhetoric has shifted abruptly. Senior Syrian officials and the state-run press have stopped condemning the United States for "aggression" against Iraq and urging popular resistance. They now label the military campaign as a "war." ...

Syrians are increasingly saying that the disaster Hussein brought on his country underscores the need for a representative government in Damascus that will not invite a similar calamity.

"Whatever policy they make, whatever stance they take, people's lives and livelihoods will be affected. Seeing what happened in Iraq, it's not a joke anymore," said a university professor.

A university professor grounded in reality? We should get some of those here in America! It's too bad that it took a war to convince the Syrians that we weren't joking, but that's what happens if you feint with your stick too many times without ever following through. These developments are exactly according to Bush's plan, and if they are mirrored in other surrounding Arab states (such as Iran) then we may get to see an example of the domino effect, except with liberal democracy rather than communism.



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