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.
What Obama Should Do About Syria
July 28, 2011
There is a long tradition in American foreign policy of doing the right thing but doing it late. This is an understandable phenomenon: Democracies by their very nature move cautiously, and, for any number of reasons, this is often a good thing. But America is also the most powerful country in the world, and so our labored pace can be maddening to those who look in our direction for help, or at least for moral support. To take one example, our slowness was catastrophic for the people of Bosnia, whom we rescued—but not quickly enough.
July 13, 2011
The U.S. ship in the successor flotilla aiming to break the Israeli embargo of the Gaza Strip has been named The Audacity of Hope. It is a bad joke that Barack Obama deserves. His proven coldness toward Israel has emboldened these foolish and meretricious people (including the uproariously silly Alice Walker) to open yet another front against the Jewish state. Of course, their campaign is not really about the embargo. It is about the very existence of Israel. It is not genocide, but it is politicide, and this is also a crime against humanity.
The Syrian Opposition: Who Are They?
July 05, 2011
Last week, Dennis Kucinich seized headlines by traveling to Syria and expressing some degree of sympathy for the Assad regime.