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.
Why Turkey’s Alawite Community Thinks Assad Is the Victim
August 06, 2011
In a bustling park in the Turkish city of Antakya, Metin, a local merchant, is having a picnic with his family. His hazel eyes fixated on a large, turquoise pool by a grove of pines, he takes a sip from his raki and whispers as if he’s revealing a secret. “It breaks my heart to hear about it in the news,” he says, referring to the brutal government crackdown taking place across the border in Syria’s predominantly Sunni districts. “But, how can an Alawite be cruel like that?” Like the ruling Assad family in Damascus, Metin is an Alawite of Arab origin.
Almost no one in America cares about foreign affairs, especially not for Barack Obama’s foreign affairs. For he has made of almost his entire conduct of peace and war an amateurish mess, crude, provincial, impetuous, peaceably high-minded but stupid—and full of peril to the world, to its democracies, to the United States itself.
Is the U.S. Ambassador to Syria Being Unfairly Blamed for the Administration’s Bad Policy?
August 04, 2011
On Tuesday, as Syrian shells rained down on the besieged city of Hama, the White House took the opportunity to press for senate confirmation of its ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford. At his hearing, the ambassador described the regime of Bashar Al Assad as either “unable or unwilling to lead democratic transition, but either way it doesn’t matter: it’s not in our or [the] Syrian peoples’ interest.” After months of hedging and obfuscations from the Obama administration about the United States’ stance towards the Syrian regime, Ford’s words were a breath of fresh air.
Almost no one in Washington has emerged happy from the debt ceiling fight. But farther afield, there’s at least one person who had good reason to be smiling: Bashar Al Assad, the president of Syria. On Sunday, as the House and Senate inched towards an agreement on the debt ceiling, Assad’s regime sent tanks into Hama, the focal point of the protest movement, quelling the unrest by shooting at protestors as well as innocent onlookers, and killing more than 70 people. Assad’s security forces killed people in other towns as well, bringing the death toll to as many as 100, according to reports.