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As Syria seethes, the West finds its courage

Overcoming fear is half the battle in the Arab Spring. As Syria's violence worsens, the West gets over its fears.

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When the history of the Arab Spring is written, the narrative theme will be this: Fear was mastered.

The world has already witnessed how the Arab people’s spontaneous desire for freedom compelled them to cast out old fears of a dictator’s wrath and demand civic ideals.

But the West is being forced down a similar path, slowly dissolving its fear of the unknown and trying to end its hand-wringing anxiety over what might happen in the collapse of the Arab world’s old order of oligarchs.

By now, many of the West’s fears are well known: Will Islamists gain power? Can Israel survive? Will the oil stop flowing? Might Iran gain influence? Will tribal or religious violence erupt? And most of all, is it too costly to intervene?

These are all valid concerns, worthy of debate. But they can also be paralyzing – unless measured against the immense benefit of bringing freedom, democracy, hope, and respect for life to the Middle East and North Africa.

The West still needs reminders that those values are the universal norm, even for a region long regarded as “medieval” and a source of troubles for the world. Once reminded, though, the West’s fears often begin to dissipate and its diplomacy is governed by a focus on the inevitable advance of good ideas.

First in Tunisia and then in Egypt and Libya, the West faltered before finding its proper role in assisting these democratic revolutions. Now it is Syria that calls out for courage. Despite a virtual blackout of digital communications from there, evidence mounts of widening protests by Syrians and wholesale massacres by a cornered regime in Damascus.

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