This Is Why Foreign Policy Matters

Maybe it's not sexy or trendy, but foreign policy has life or death consequences for people all over the world. (Image Credit: Shaker Bison)

Maybe it's not sexy or trendy, but foreign policy has life or death consequences for people all over the world. (Image Credit: Shaker Bison)

Foreign policy. When you take a step back and just think about that phrase, it sounds like a graduate level course the cool 20-year-old coeds stay out of.

It doesn’t affect me us. Right? It’s “foreign.” It’s… “policy.” Those two words when stood apart generate enough American anathema to send them packing out to the nether regions of Earth’s atmosphere. Put together, and you’re looking at a loathed space satellite getting the official sendoff to Saturn. Or more like Uranus — a distant planet with no cool, pretty rings to recommend it.

Get. Out. Of. Here.

That’s the resounding message from the 2016 campaign, at least. Like education, foreign policy rarely featured in the debates or op-eds written about the big POTUS contest. In fairness, it rarely came up in Facebook screeds or tweet storms either. Left and Right were up in arms about other things — immigration, abortion, taxes, healthcare, jobs.

That’s fine. There’s reason to be passionate about all of the above, and more.

But you can’t kick foreign policy to the curb. The kid is scrappy, and he always comes back to absolutely bust your face wide open.

That’s what Syria is — our morally bankrupt foreign policy, impossible to escape, impossible to fix.

When the civil war first began in 2010 (that’s six years now — two more than the U.S. spent fighting WWII), it came as a by-product of the Arab Spring. After 15 boys were captured and tortured by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government — for the “crime” of writing graffiti in support of the Arab Spring — protests broke out across the country. Syrians called for Assad to step down.

Instead, he unleashed military force to stomp out the protests. Hundreds were murdered. Those who opposed him began arming themselves, first for protection, and later in all-out revolution.  

The atrocities Assad has committed in the years since are unquantifiable. Part of what we know came first from a Syrian escapee code-named Caesar. He worked for Assad as a photographer, and documented the evidence of torture systematically inflicted upon thousands of arrested Syrians. Caesar smuggled 52,275 photographs out of the country, and has testified before Congress on the mass-scale brutalization and murder conducted under Assad.

Does it remind you of anything?

The images we are most familiar with come from the bombed-out cities of Mosul and Raqqa. The tiny body of Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach. The blood-stained and soot-covered face of Omran Daqneesh in the back of an ambulance, sitting quietly after surviving one of Assad’s countless bombings.

Every time one of the tragedies becomes a national trend, certain questions arise: What kind of person barrel bombs children? What kind of person targets hospitals filled with kids? What kind of person does this to his own people?

But also, I have another question: What kind of leader does nothing to stop it?

Because, tragically and to our eternal shame, America now has two who fit the bill.

Both President Obama and President Trump say words like “unacceptable,” and “inhuman.”

But they do nothing. They have no plan. Their plan is no plan, unless you count allowing Russia — the country who fronts the money and equipment behind these mass child murders — to pretend it will remove chemical weapons from Syria as a “plan.”

Except we know now that removing those weapons didn't work. We know because Assad used them again (he unleashed sarin gas on civilians back in 2013, killing hundreds, including children). This time, the deaths number between 58 – 100. Or more.

Last week, Trump’s administration announced that regime change is no longer the goal in Syria. Imagine that! Imagine living under the murderous thumb of someone responsible for the death of half a million of your fellow Syrians.

So I have to ask: What is the goal in Syria? What is it? How many people have to die, I wonder? I really do. I wonder where the moral outrage is. Where are the protests? I wonder why we elected a man who openly said he was none too concerned about this issue, that there’s “nothing” we can do.

What kind of a person believes that?

And for us: Do we really believe that as the most dynamic, powerful economy in the world, there is actually “nothing” we can do?

Do we really think Russia’s air force is so much stronger than ours?

Do we actually believe Russia would risk a war with us in order to save Assad’s sick, evil reign of terror?

Or are we just bored? Are we desensitized?

I find the behavior of our leaders so appalling on this front.

Every life matters — every one. That sounds and looks so trite, sitting there in print, just another black and white truism that has lost its meaning, that provokes nothing more than a yawn, a patronizing head pat.

But if it’s all so boring and overdone, then I don’t want hear any more about how “unacceptable” Assad’s actions are. Doing nothing cannot be an option. Either put a plan in place, or admit the truth:

Mass murder of children is actually something you can sleep with at night. 

In the meantime, those who find that option... unacceptable can find ways to help Syrians here

And please remember the next time around that foreign policy matters. It matters so much more than we've been willing to acknowledge. Don't forget that when the next election rolls around. 

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