Friday, June 20, 2014

Dexter Filkins strikes again

On Tuesday, a short post with a couple of topics was written here, with one concerning the current crisis in Iraq.  It was mentioned that if Obama and his team had read Dexter Filkins over the years none of today's events would have been much of a surprise.  Due to the "improved" mail service over the last two years, today we finally received the current issue of "The New Yorker", dated June 23.

Looking at the Iraq chaos and having followed it with strong opinions in recent years, I had felt compelled to write something here,  something that captured much of the truth of the situation as seen from this perspective.  Now there is no need to do that at all.  Filkins writes the lead "Talk of the Town" piece in this current magazine in a way that I never could.  There is little to be added here, except to say that everyone with access to this article should read it.

Of course, something must be said here, so a look back may be appropriate.  It is really impossible to say how one President would have fared versus another in such difficult situations, but it is fair to say that Obama's foreign policy, timid and mostly just hopeful, has probably not helped.  As always, only history will tell but right now it doesn't look too good.

First, there was his unwillingness to provide any aid or support, of any type, to the joyous regular citizens of Homs and a few other Syrian cities when all of the protest against Assad began three years ago.  For the most part they were not even close to being radicals, just oppressed citizens finally taking a stand and getting viciously attacked for doing so.

Second, Obama's faux tough guy "red line" comment on chemical weapons was just plain stupid if he had no thoughts as to how to back it up, as he did not.  It made both him and America look impotent to important forces, especially radicals on both the insurgent and government sides of the fight.

Third, Obama, NATO, or the U.N. never made any serious effort, at least publicly, to open up channels of distribution of humanitarian supplies to the suffering Syrians, those many people who were neither insurgents nor government supporters, just citizens who were leading normal family lives in their historic cities or with their small businesses and farms.  Opening up those channels may have required some limited warfare, but it would have been worth every ounce of it.  This must have been discussed, there were certainly more that a few things actually done with the adjacent and concerned country Turkey's help, but overall Obama's leadership in that overall effort appears to have been abysmal.

Fourth, everyone with an ability to think and read knew that Maliki was systematically excluding all Sunni's from any positions of even middle level power from any aspect of his government and the military.  In fact he was going further, and launching indiscriminate attacks on for the most part peaceful Sunni towns in the Aleppo district.  Obama, at least publicly, until very recently professed an ongoing and close partnership with Maliki as a way of respecting his democratic election, one in which Maliki's 33% of the vote carried the day.  Is that Obama's idea of a mandate to be embraced.  Guess so.

Of course this is all hindsight, easy to have, but in fact these opinions were intuitively held here at the times of the perceived mistakes described.  It would never be suggested here that Obama was handed an easy situation from the Bush/Cheney administration, not at all.  At the same time, it can seem like Obama hoped to wait this thing out and work on planning for the location of his Presidential library I guess, but now it has all imploded.

Filkins explains all of the current situation succinctly in this week's New Yorker, and has done such writing consistently for the last seven years at least.  My reading of his work goes back no further.

For now, there is no way to predict where all of this is heading.  The past is just that and must be accepted, so the question now is whether can we muster the leadership and intelligent decisions to address today's challenges.  One could make an informed guess that it's not going to be close to an easy resolution, and that it is unlikely to lead to anything especially positive.  Hopefully it will not turn into some catastrophic widespread middle east conflict across multiple countries.

Postscript --- fyi, Filkins has yet another commentary in the current June 30 issue of The New Yorker, not seen here in the always post office delayed magazine yet but noticed online.

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