In 1982, the United States said very little about Hafez al-Assad's shelling of Hama and no one suggested that the United States intervene. In the wake of the Arab Spring, Washington is willing to speak out against Bashar al-Assad's crackdown in Homs, but is not yet willing to send in troops.
Last week, after two years of uneasily watching the Syrian crisis from the sidelines, Israel staged a bombing run near Damascus. So far the political fallout remains limited -- but the episode shows how easily Syria's civil war could spark a broader conflict.
American peacekeeping turned into American bloodletting in 1983. More than any event since the war and oil embargo almost exactly ten years earlier, the October 23 suicide bombing of Marine headquarters in Beirut brought the Middle East conflict home directly to vast numbers of Americans stunned by the carnage that eventually claimed 241 lives--more casualties than in any other single incident since the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam.