Before the war with Iraq began, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most hard line administration officials on policy toward Iraq, repeatedly offered Saddam Hussein himself one last chance to flee to a foreign country so that the United States could avoid an invasion to achieve regime change. In the wake of that invasion, standards have changedthe supremely confident U.S. government is now criticizing Syria for doing what the administration would have loved that country to do before the war startedgive refuge to Iraqi officials.
The United States is using its invasion of Iraq to begin demonizing another of the countries that our Middle East allies are uncomfortable with. This administration policy has already had an effect. A major American newspaper has already lumped Syrianot originally in President Bushs Axis of Evilin with the other two members of that club. Like Iraq prior to the invasion, Syria has an authoritarian government but poses little threat to the United States. Syriahaving lost its main military patron, the Soviet Unionhas not modernized its military and has been, therefore, diminished as a threat to Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.