Archive for September, 2012

America Unwilling to do the Job in Syria

The Washington D.C. based “Syrian Support Group” continues to lobby the United States government to contribute more to the conflict in Syria to overthrow current president, Bashar al-Assad. The Obama administration has expressed multiple times that it supports the rebel groups in their coup, but has yet to take any direct action to support the rebels, whether militarily or monetarily. SSG, which is an incorporated non-profit in the U.S., hopes to collect $7 million to buy arms for the rebel groups in Syria so that they can overthrow the current government.


The United States has yet to get directly involved in the conflict in Syria because of the diplomatic consequences; they have already started two publicly unpopular wars in the Middle East. But even if the government refuses to send direct aid, the sanctioning of non-profits such as SSG means such aid-oriented organizations receive special benefits and tax exemptions. SSG in particular has received sanctions from the Department of Treasury allowing it to sidestep normal policy and have direct contact with high-ranking members of the rebel groups.


To avoid mentioning that it is an election year is impossible in this case. Even though Obama has said that he supports a change of government in Syria, to send troops to aid the rebels would be election suicide. Usually, in the case of foreign aid, the issue of direct involvement can be avoided by just throwing money at the problem, but in an election year with hard economic times in America, (almost) every dime our government spends is being scrutinized, an unfortunate circumstance for Syria.



Clinton “Calms the Waters” in the South Pacific

This week, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton embarked on an 11-day, six nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region. On Monday, September 3, Clinton gave a speech in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia and headquarters of the regional political bloc Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN) that elaborated the American position on the maritime disputes flaring in the South China Sea between China and various ASEAN-member nations.  Clinton staked out the national interest of the U.S. in maintaining peace, stability, and unimpeded commerce and navigation in the region’s waterways.  Additionally, Secretary Clinton endorsed an ASEAN-sponsored push for a regional code of conduct in a press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa regarding the controversial territorial claims seeking to “literally calm the waters and enable people to work together toward better outcomes.”

Secretary Clinton’s trip is widely seen as a response to the recent spat of diplomatic rows over disputed maritime territories between regional U.S. allies and the People’s Republic of China. Clinton’s stop in Indonesia is almost certainly a nod to the country’s efforts to preserve ASEAN’s integrity in the aftermath of the disaster that was July’s Phnom Penh organizational meeting. For the first time in its history, ASEAN failed to issue a joint communique, owing to internal bickering over how to handle China’s overlapping territorial claims with ASEAN members.

China has sought to handle the diplomatic disputes unilaterally with each ASEAN country it has territorial disputes with (Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines) rather than deal with the unified political power of the ASEAN bloc as a whole. Secretary Clinton’s specific rhetoric calling for Southeast Asian states to present a united front to the Chinese concerning the territorial disputes is certain to lead to an awkward visit to Beijing, the next stop on her visit.  Given the raw emotions and unbridled nationalism already revealed by this latest round of diplomatic brinkmanship in the South China Sea, Clinton’s language and clear rebuke of China’s increasing assertiveness is unlikely to have any calming effect in the near future.  In the context of America’s strategic ‘pivot to the Pacific’ and the rise of China’s military power (not to mention the increasing defense capabilities other regional powers), the roiled waters of the Pacific are unlikely to subside any time soon. Beijing will read right through Clinton’s purported mission to ‘calm’, and instead see America’s challenge to China’s current diplomatic trajectory in its own backyard. How’s that for subtlety.

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-William Kyle

Islamist Forces Fall Short of Takeover Expectations

The Islamic forces that have taken over Bamako and the rest of Northern Mali are having difficulties managing the region. Their lack of knowledge for running a government is apparent in their inability to provide basic services to inhabitants. Consequently, they are asking state officials who have fled the country to return for assistance. Nonetheless, they have implemented elements of the strict Islamic code of law, the Shariah law. Efforts to remove the jihadists’ control of the North have been lagging despite a military intervention plan formulated by the West African Regional Bloc for UN Security Council to revise.

Because the jihadist are linked to Al-Qaeda and their potential success in governing Northern Mali could mean a proliferation of Islamist movements in West Africa, it is important for the United States to keep an eye on the events. However, direct involvement such as arms dispensation to Malian troops or other military assistance should be withheld as Malian military officials themselves “have expressed hostility to the idea of significant outside help”. Perhaps the one thing the US should provide is financial support to UN humanitarian efforts that cover the needs of affected peoples in the region. Otherwise, the Obama Administration should simply stay alert and keep watch to ensure their ability for a quick response in case of a jihadist attempt to take over Western Africa.

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