THE SPINE JUNE 16, 2010
They're in Damascus, two State Department techies, at the head of a delegation of commercial techies representing American computer combines (Microsoft, Cisco, Dell and some others) in an effort to lure the ophthalmologist Dr. Assad away from the Islamist camp. You see: Bashar al-Assad loves computer games (sort of like my grandson) and the idea is to entice him into playing with our software and networking eqiupment which he can't have unless he behaves.
The effort would have normally been led by Robert S. Ford, whom the president tapped as ambassador to Assad's court early in the spring. Alas, both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee aren't sure that this is exactly the time to send an emissary to Iran's faithful client and Lebanon's obsessive tormentor. The committe chairman, secretary of state pro tempore John F. Kerry from my own Bay State, made another of his several forays to Syria...apparently with nothing good to report. Kerry is an old and good friend, and I pity him and his visitations.
Anyway, with Ford kept in the hatch and Kerry having done the trip at least two times, Hillary Clinton has dispatched two of her young men, Policy Planning Staffer Jared Cohen and Special Adviser on Innovation Alec J. Ross, to lead the enticement mission. Cohen has written a book, Children of Jihad, the basis of which is that the new defining demographic is the roughly 60% of the "Muslim world" who are under 30. According to him, youth is the liberating factor in Islam. He has told this tale excitedly on Colbert, CBS, Glenn Beck, the BBC, and MSNBC.
And, of course, youth is also mesmerized by the technologies of immediacy, naughtiness, excitement. If you believe this leads to a sympathy for democracy...
In any case, here is a report on the two boys and their visit to the Damascus playground.