photo by Saleem Al Homsi
Let’s take a break today from speculating about whether Donald Trump’s real or imagined mental health problems make him a threat to the world’s survival. (I’m talking to you, Keith Olbermann.)
Instead, let’s look at a little corner of the planet wedged between the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, and consider how the levelheaded and indisputably clinically healthy American policies of the past eight years have worked out.
First there is Syria. Close to a half-million Syrians have died according to the latest estimates, and millions more have fled the country to escape a rebellion against strongman Bashar Assad that we could have helped – but didn’t. We drew a red line against Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and then we failed to enforce it. Instead, we relied on the good offices of Russia to enforce it for us.
The Russians have been busily bombing those anti-Assad rebels we could have helped. On at least one occasion earlier this summer, they actually bombed us. And now they are flying bombing missions from bases in Iran, Assad’s chief supporter.
Take a good look at a map of the region. To reach Syria from Iran, those Russian planes must cross the airspace of either Turkey, a NATO member, or Iraq. We can assume they are not crossing Turkey, which has already shot down at least one Russian warplane that violated its airspace. Instead, the Russians are crossing Iraq, over territory that was once patrolled by our own air force. But the current administration and its first secretary of state, who happens to be opposing Donald Trump in this year’s election, neglected to forge an agreement that would have kept us in Iraq. So now Russian planes fly over ground we vacated in order to bomb what is left of the anti-Assad insurgency in Syria.
Down on that vacated ground, along with the spaces in Syria that the forces we backed could not take and hold, lies the Islamic State group, whose barbarism has now spread from Syria all the way west to France and east to Iraq, where the unfortunate city of Mosul has been in that group’s grip for two awful years.
And those millions of refugees flooding out of Syria are threatening to tear apart the very fabric of Europe, whose divisions Russia is only too ready to exploit. Witness: Crimea.
OK, now we can go back to talking about what is really important – Donald Trump’s hair, Donald Trump’s hands, Donald Trump’s general rudeness and childish insults, Donald Trump’s willingness to lease his name to all sorts of businesses he doesn’t control but whose shortcomings we lay at his feet, Donald Trump’s insistence that people arriving in this country ought to come through official ports of entry and be subject to some sort of consideration before they are admitted, any endorsement of which is irrefutable proof of racism and xenophobia.
We certainly don’t want to waste any time this campaign season talking about what has actually happened during the past eight years, what caused it to happen and whether we want to continue down the same path. There are about a half-million Syrians who will offer no counterargument, if only because they are prematurely dead.