The State Department’s Syria Revolt

June 22 2016

Last week, over 50 U.S. diplomats submitted an official letter of protest criticizing the White House’s Syria policy and calling for air strikes and bombardment to enforce the U.S.-sponsored cease fire and protect civilians. Elliott Abrams comments:

Diplomats rarely do this sort of thing—official, written dissents—because it is not generally good for their careers.

A cynic might note that in this case, the Obama administration has only six months to go, and the policies being proposed are not far from those supported by Hillary Clinton. But I would not be so cynical. I think this memo reflects anguish and disgust by dozens of career diplomats (I will bet every single one of whom voted for [Obama]), and I wish the president were sufficiently open-minded and humble to ask himself how we got to this place. He is not, but this is nevertheless a moment worth reflection.

There are eight million refugees and displaced persons and perhaps 400,000 dead in Syria, a reassertion of Russian power, and an extensive presence of Hizballah and Iranian forces. Those are the fruits of the president’s policy—a policy that in 2012 Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff rejected when they recommended that the United States support the rebels. But Obama [in turn] rejected all that advice.

Career diplomats in the State Department, in my experience, do not run around calling for bombing campaigns very often. Unsurprisingly, they usually call for diplomacy—but at least in this case are able to see that diplomacy unsupported by strength is foolishness, mere words, not a policy but a substitute for policy. They have manned the desks handling Mr. Kerry’s Syria negotiations in Geneva, and been embarrassed by the effort.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Politics & Current Affairs, State Department, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy