In Praise of Robert Ford, the Saving Grace of America’s Syria Policy
October 20, 2011
Since the Syrian people began their uprising against the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Americans have been told repeatedly that there is little they can do about the situation. Experts in think tanks, universities, and the halls of U.S. government have been eager to remind us that the conditions in Syria—with its fractured opposition, brutal and loyal military forces, and fragile regional neighborhood—simply didn’t leave much room for Americans to make a difference. But Robert Ford, our ambassador in Damascus, never seemed to accept this simplistic line of thinking.
What Europe Isn’t Doing to Stop Syria and Iran
October 12, 2011
As the world witnesses the Syrian and Iranian regimes commit countless human rights abuses and, in Iran’s case, move ever closer to perfecting its nuclear capabilities, there’s a common belief that, short of military intervention, there’s nothing that can be done. As it turns out, however, that’s far from the truth—but the majority of the initiative must come from Europe. The European Union has thus far failed to confront the Iranian and Syrian regimes to the full extent of its ability.
Syria and Its Progressive Friends
October 10, 2011
It’s just about a week since Russia and China, in a rare joint action, vetoed a European-sponsored resolution that “strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by Syrian authorities.” The only thing strong about this defense of civilians was the use of the word “strongly.” And, as Colum Lynch reported in The Washington Post, the resolution demanded that Damascus “cease the use of force against civilians” and grant “fundamental freedoms” to prisoners.
On-the-ground reporting from the journalist who was just released after a year in captivity.
Throughout the Arab spring, analysts and policymakers have debated the proper role that the United States should be playing in the Middle East. A small number argued that the U.S. should adopt a more interventionist policy to address Arab grievances; others, that Arab grievances are themselves the result of our aggressive, interventionist policies; and still more that intervention was simply not in our national self-interest.
August 31, 2011
-- Maybe one reason Jewish Republicans like Romney is that he too is a religious minority. -- The truth behind the "CEOs who make more than their companies pay taxes" study. -- Our heroic ambassador to Syria. -- The kerfuffle over the timing of Obama's job speech is almost a parody of the pathologies of political discourse.
Our Brave Ambassador to Damascus Puts Congress to Shame
August 31, 2011
While much of Washington was spending this past summer loudly conspiring to lower the country’s credit rating, one American official, in a far-off city, was offering a profoundly contrasting example of quiet professionalism. Robert Ford, America’s ambassador to Syria, has shown bravery, tact, and creativity in finding ways to bear witness to the protests and massacres occurring in that country over the course of this year.
Threading through the history of the United States is a long line of reviled newcomers. In the 1850s, Irish and German Catholics were vilified by the Know Nothing movement. In the 1890s, Italians were subjected to frequent lynchings. Jews of the 1930s were excoriated by Father Charles Coughlin, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Ku Klux Klan. In the years following September 11, America’s 2.6 million Muslims have often found themselves facing similar kinds of hostility.
Five Things Obama Can (and Should) Do to Topple Assad
August 20, 2011
On Thursday, President Obama issued a long overdue statement calling for regime change in Syria, declaring that the “time has come for President Bashar Assad to step aside.” But will that call to action amount to anything in practice? The gestures that Obama has made, including ending the U.S. import of Syrian petroleum products—totaling some 6,000 barrels per day—are little more than symbolic changes of policy.
“I’m full of anger and sadness when I think of Egypt,” emails a protester from Syria’s capital of Damascus, who asked to be referred to as Rana to protect her identity. Months earlier, when I met her during my stay in Damascus, Rana was full of vigor and excitement when talking about how the budding Syrian revolution could mirror Egypt’s. “The protests are growing.