Saturday, April 14, 2018

Syria and the future of the world

Legislators in our country, on the left and right, can’t agree on anything, and because of this, we have no clear Syria policy or serious plans to help the Syrian people, so they continue to die and suffer at the hands of the Assad regime and other bad actors in the region. If Mr. Trump cared about Syrian children, as much as he claims, he wouldn’t bomb that country (as he did last night with limited air strikes), but rather, he’d open up our refugee program to more Syrians. The US has only taken in eleven Syrian refugees this year. Shame on the U.S. Shame on the world for allowing this carnage to continue while closing our borders to those desperate to escape the violence. 

If we decide to engage in an extended military campaign in that country--which may be necessary at some point--we must get more allies on board, especially those in the Middle East; establish a clear strategy and end game; strengthen diplomatic efforts with Turkey and Russia, and yes, even engage with Iran; and do everything in our power to minimize collateral damage (e.g., the killing of innocent civilians). 

The U.S. currently has no ambassador in Turkey, who is a NATO ally. An ambassador should be assigned, especially since Turkey seems to be working against the U.S. in Syria due to their own self-interest. Turks see the Kurds as their enemy, so they have attacked Kurdish fighters who are assisting American troops fighting against ISIS, thus undermining U.S. efforts. (Note: This is an extremely abbreviated version of Kurdish/Turkish animosities, given the length of this post. I encourage you to delve deeper into this relationship with your own research or read the excellent article, “Syrian Kurds: The Other Woman in America’s Relationship with Turkey,” in The American Conservative.)

Jon Huntsman, Jr's ambassador appointment to Russia was a smart move on Donald Trump's part. Huntsman is an honorable man and a capable negotiator. He possesses a cool head and that will be needed as ties between the U.S. and Russia become increasingly strained and/or deteriorate.

More complicated, is the non-relationship between the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. has had no formal diplomatic relations with Iran since April 7, 1980. The one negotiation with Iran in recent years that is cautiously promising is in the Non-Proliferation arena. Although it is controversial in some circles and could definitely be improved upon, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or a.k.a. the Iran Nuclear Deal) finalized in July 2015 is a step in the right direction to containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

I don’t give the Obama administration a pass on Syria either, but the American people were/are weary of war. He wanted Congress to approve a military strike on Syria, but they refused. (Remember: Congress is the body of government who declares war.) 

This is a moment in history when future generations will look back and ask: What were you thinking? It’s the same with climate change...what were you Baby Boomers and GenXers thinking? We hold the prosperity and health of future generations in our hands with the policy decisions we make today. Will those policies support short-term or long-term goals? I am nearly always in favor of policies supporting the long-term ones. Short-term policies are for emergencies, like financial crises or natural disasters. 

We hold future generations’ lives—be they domestic or foreign ones—in our hands. We can make a positive difference in the world, secure it for posterity’s sake, leave it a better place for them, if only we possess the will.