Syria having Profound Effects

  Since March 2011 Syria has been in a civil war that has taken the lives of more than 70,000 people.  President Bashar al-Assad has used severe crack downs on a once peaceful protest for a democratic change.  Now with the help of Hezbollah and even with some help from the Russian government things in the country seem to spill over more than the world truly wanted.  However, let me be clear Russia is not the only nation which has had a hand in this civil war.  Israel on the 5th of May bombed Damascus because of Iranian missiles intend for Hezbollah to help Assad’s regime fight the rebel fighters.  Iran has played a role in assisting the Assad regime during the bloody fighting taking place in Syria.  All major players with a hand in a country that is seeing innocent civilians being caught in the cross hairs of this once peaceful demonstration.

  The world is seeking a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict however, with more outside forces becoming involved in the civil war the situation seems to have no signs for peace in the upcoming months or even another year.  In a Associated Press article Syria says Assad will remain president until 2014 states the following “Syria’s foreign minister laid out a hard line Wednesday, saying Bashar Assad will remain president at least until elections in 2014…” Words that no one wants to hear at this time.

  To add to the problems being faced in this civil war, the Syrian National Coalition have been at odds during talks that are being held in Turkey.  In order for transition to take place a new government needs to be forned if they plan to rebuild their country from the horrors of war.  Yet however, they are more divided than the United States Congress.  This setback is a thorn to the United Nations effort to broker negotiations to end this war in a peaceful transition.  Now with Russia planning to send weapons to Syria, Israel’s defense chief said “[A] Russian plan to supply sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Syria is a threat and signaled that Israel is prepared to use force to stop the delivery.”  The United States has not agreed with Israels plan to strike if such a shipment is made but have sided with them in condemning Russia and their supply to Assad.

   For the Russians to supply the Assad regime weapons is counter productive to belief of seeking a end to this civil war.  The regime is being assisted by Hezbollah from Lebanon and now Russian weapons will also aid the Assad regime in fighting anti-Assad forces.  Talks on whether the arming of Syria are still taking place as Europeans ended their arms embargo on Syria.  In a New York Times article European Nations End Weapons Embargo, Creating Path to Arming Syrian Rebels Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans stated “The only effect you could have — let’s be realistic about this — is that it will stimulate the Russians to provide even more arms. But they’ve been providing so many arms that I’m sure even more will not make much of a difference.” That even with the end of the embargo Russia’s supply would not make a difference in part because they have supplied the regime since the beginning of the conflict.  However, it now can give independent European nations the ability to supply rebel forces.

  However, no country has yet declared that they will begin to supply rebel forces with weapons.  The one item that has prevented the Europeans and the Americans from providing the rebel forces with weapons is the uncertainty of where those weapons go.  It is known that jihadist extremist have imbedded themselves into the ranks of rebel forces.  This is a result from a lack of support from major governments of Europe and the United States.  As the world stood by seeking to end the civil war quickly and peacefully, jihadist extremist saw this as an opportunity to help rebel forces and gain support.  

 With the help from Iran and Hezbollah just adds to an intense situation that appears to have no end in sight as the days go by.  There are signs that the Assad regime is begin to picking up some traction in its war.  As stated in a Associated Press article “The regime had seemed near collapse during a rebel offensive last summer but has scored a number of battlefield successes in recent weeks.”  If the Assad regime is successful and pushes back rebel forces and retakes key cities does this damaged the United Nations image as well as the United States and European countries?  Rebel forces will not allow for the Assad regime to gain victory but with the outside help he is getting is making it difficult for the rebels to hold their ground or even advance.  

 Two years have passed and world leaders have allowed the situation in Syria get to the point where it is now.  Assad is defiant to stay in power as we see from his foreign ministers statement that he will stay in power till elections in 2014.  Rebel forces as well as majority of the world want Assad to step down as soon as possible so a peaceful transition can begin to take place in the county.  But Assad even if elections are held will not allow for fair elections to take place.  It will be just a show for the world to believe that some form of a democratic process had taken place and the people voted for who they want. Assad will of course win the elections to stay in power.  

  Another problem facing world leaders is the possibility that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government.  In the New York Times article, mentioned earlier, reported the following “Le Monde [French newspaper] said that it had placed two journalists with the rebels for two months, and that a photographer working for the paper “suffered blurred vision and respiratory difficulties for four days” after inhaling a gas on April 13.”  If it is confirmed that chemical weapons were used this may be a game changer for President Obama and to the rest of the world leaders.  However, what will be the plan of action?  Going ahead with arming the rebels? or Working towards a plan of a No Fly zone or considering boots on the ground?  One key aspect of the possible usage of chemical weapons is that it makes one think if the Assad regime has opened its warehouses to use those chemical weapons is it possible that they may have hand some over to Iran or Hezbollah?  

  The situation in Syria is just faltering.  Innocent civilians have been killed and countries stand deadlocked on what to do.  Russia arms the regime and Iran with Hezbollah are fighting rebel forces.  Israel has bombed missiles intended for Hezbollah only for their interest.  To protect their homeland from any threat they deem to label as a threat.  Syria has responded by saying that if it happens again that they will attack Israel.  The conflict in Syria is severely far from repair and the more that the United States waits to play a role in leading to the road of peace Syria becomes a much more difficult situation and takes away any options that once were in discussion to have the conflict end.  

  Russia needs to put its mindset of completing the arms deal that they have with Syria to the back burner and realize that it needs to assist world powers in being able to cease the killings and bring peace to a nation at war for two years.  A plan which is already being discussed must include Russia in placing trained chemical experts in the warehouse inside of Syria.  Securing those facilities needs to be a priority.  The United Nations must also send a coalition to provide security if Assad and his top military officials step down.  Also sending investigation teams to validate allege accusations of the usage of chemical weapons and  human rights violation.  Both sides need to be held accountable not just one.  Countries such as the United States and European nations should commit to investing in the rebuilding of Syria.  In no way am I saying that they should have involvement in the political process meaning that they pick someone they want.  The people of Syria should be the ones who select their new form of government.  Investments in its infrastructure and providing humane services to those affected by the war.  This may seem all to unrealistic because it is difficult to predict the next events in the country.  Whether Israel will strike again depends on the United States.  They must show Israel that the United States will condemn any further attacks by Israel.  Giving Israel a pass to do as they please will only complicate the situation.  

The effects of what happens in the future will surely have an impact on many countries foreign policy especially when dealing with Iran.  As mentioned earlier Iran has supplied weapons and personnel to the regime if Assad stays Iran will have a very strong alliance with Assad spelling problems for the United States and even Iraq who faces a unstable government with sectarian violence.   Leaders need to cease the stalling and drill out a plan and include Russia in the talks because things are looking worst then have been since this began.



The Eurozone Recession A Lesson For The United States.

 People who advocate for austerity here in the United States need to take a look at the current state of the eurozone.  Currently the United States government has been deadlocked on what to do with the nations economy.  People from the left are arguing that we spend and tax more where the right is arguing that we go ahead and begin deep cuts to bring ourselves back to a responsible deficit.  The only issue I have with the right is that by implementing a policy of just cuts will just have a downturn affect on our nation.

  First off the current state of the European Union is described in a Washington Post article in the following way “Austerity measures have inflicted severe economic pain and produced social unrest across the eurozone, where the average unemployment rate is a record 12.1 percent and higher in some places.” When the article mentions that in some places the unemployment rate is much higher they are in no way exaggerating that claim.  The unemployment rate in Spain is currently 26.7% and in Greece the unemployment rate stands at a high of 27.2 percent.

  As people rush the streets with their concerns of the nation the government continues to follow this style of economic policy.  The people of the nations with in the Euro-bloc are being affected by a policy which does not sway in the interest of the people but for the banks.  Banks have recorded record profits over the past couple of years and yet they are reluctant to begin investing into public infrastructure projects that can spur some economic growth.

  Second of all German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been very stringent in holding nations who have borrowed from the IMF, European Central Bank, and the European Union to the strong austerity measures that has held the eurozone in its longest recession in fourteen years.  As stated in a Washington Post article “The recession is not nearly as deep as the one in 2008-09, which ran for five quarters but it is now the longest in the 14 year history of the euro.”  The program that this country is so hungry to apply is damaging the chance for citizens of their respected country gain a foothold into the middle-class system.  With cuts to programs such as education and no investment to the countries infrastructure jobs will seem far from coming back.

  To add to how austerity has not affected the eurozone but also other parts of the world can be seen by looking at the American car company Ford and their profits for last month in Europe.  The Washington Post article stated the following “Last month, U.S.- based Ford Motor Co. lost $462 million in Europe and called the outlook there ‘uncertain.'”  With the gap between the Rich and the Poor growing the one important aspect that contributes to a strong economy is the purchasing power and how much of that is distributed.  

  As austerity continues banks as stated earlier are seeing record profits and the stock market is hitting record highs.  People then who have investments into the market are making a nice gain however, not a majority of Americans have stock options or 401k plans.  Even though companies are recording record profits as well and contributes to the gain in the stock market unemployment rate in the eurozone and even in the United States lay in double figures.  Austerity is not dissipating the economic problems it is continuing the sluggish growth we have seen over the years.

  As the purchasing power is only limited to a small group of people it becomes very hard for companies to sell their product.  Because if only a small group of people can have the purchasing power to drive an economy then the car will stay in park and not move.  The minority who has the purchasing power can only buy so much before running out of things to buy.  This resembles to what happened prior to the Great Depression one group had the power to buy and another group who struggle to even have something to eat before going to sleep.

 If Europe continues their plan of austerity then we will only see the unemployment rate increase and more unrest in the streets.  Once you have the people of a country protest the moves that the government is making maybe it should have those very politicians stop and seriously consider the moves that they are making.  Spending has to be a partner in economic growth without it you continue to slash jobs and contribute to an already sluggish economy.  

  However, when a country begins the planning for spending it has to be aimed at a project which can be useful not only for the short term but also for the long term.  If a country has a advanced infrastructure system in placed, companies are more inclined to invest within those advanced nations.  Revenue is an important piece to the engine which makes the government run.  With out the revenue the government can not pay its military or federal employees.  

  The eurozone should be a lesson to the members of Congress and Senate who have boosted the austerity plan that Europe has been utilizing since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  The real unemployment rate here in the United States sits at 13% not the 7.5% the country tends to use.  If we adopt the very same European policies that have had a adverse affect in the eurozone then our unemployment rate may rise to 20% or even higher.  Fiscal responsibility can be attained if political ideology can be held outside the doors of the Capitol.  The article by the Washington Post stated the following “Instead of keeping the spending taps on – as the U.S. has largely done – the region concentrated on austerity even though able to plug the gap left by the retrenching state.”  Suggesting that the United States and its “stimulus” package has helped the United States stymie away from another recession unlike the eurozone.     

  Parts of the eurozone have begun to advocate for spending to spur economic growth and their have been hints that some European leaders may begin to follow the growing call for spending to help boost the economy.  Time can only tell what way the United States will go for our economic policy but it is important to know that straight cuts will only hinder our country and hurt any future prospect of economic growth.

Politics Behind Benghazi,Libya

  This past Wednesday The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had a hearing in regards to what occurred on September 11th, 2012.  On the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center a group of Islamist extremist attacked the American Consulate and killed four of our Americans who served in the consulate.  Now the timing of the attack to me played a significant role that may have affected the talking points that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice stated in the Sunday morning talk shows.

  Five days after the attack U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice stated the following:

  “They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of– of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that– in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.”

Now I myself believed that these attacks orchestrated by militant extremist resulted from an anti-muslim movie made by an American.  However, as details of the attack began to service either through the Media or through congressional hearings it was evident that this attack was coordinated.  Months prior to the attacks reports about weak secruity in the consulate were reported.  On top of that as the protest in Cairo erupted that very same day little action was taken to secure the consulates who may be potential targets for protest and possible attacks.

 After the attack occurred the President of Libya Mohamed Magariaf stated that the attack on the consulate was preplanned.  The following statements comes from a NPR interview “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous. We firmly believe that this was a precalculated, preplanned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the U.S. consulate.”  However, the adminstration went forward by declaring that these acts were spontenoues and from a anti-muslim video.  Those statements do two things to the image of the President of Libya it either makes him look stupid and unable to control the newly liberated Arab nation.  

  Common sense would suggest that there could be no way that the militants who conducted these terrorist acts executed it last minute.  Because after the initial consulate was attacked members of the diplomatic team were then evacuated to a safe house used for situations like this.  Once those team members began to arrive to the safe house mortar fire began to fall on the safe house.  Being a former mortar man in the Marine Corps, it takes a skilled three man team a minute to a minute and a half to assemble their mortar system and have their targets lined up.  The first mortar missed however, the ones after that were spot on.  If this attack was a last minuet idea how would these militants know where the safe house would be located and be equipped with the mortar system to execute the attacks?

  Former Secratray of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stated the same talking points that Susan Rice mentioned days after the attack.  The president of this nation the commander and chief of our Armed Forces reiteraited such talking points.  President John F. Kennedy admitted to the nation of his failed attempt to remove Fidel Castro from Cuba in the invasion of the Bay of Pigs.  Knowing that making such a move would have adverse effects on his presidency he felt as though he not only failed the people who took part of the attempted coupe he failed his American public by conducting such an operation behind closed doors. President Barrack Obama may have felt that his rhetoric about defeating Al Qaeda may be questioned with the recent attacks in Benghazi. So by attempting to say that the attacks were spontaneous gives some room for the administration from being labeled as being weak on foreign policy.

Now may congressional members are attempting to lay the blame on the former Secretary of State Clinton. However,what they tend to forget is that she had taken full responsibility for the lapse in the consulate. For those who use the argument that she authorized cuts to fund Embassy is misleading. I say this because it is a joint Congressional effort to past bills dealing with the countries economic responsibility and a lot of the advocates for cuts are coming from congressional leaders not just Mrs. Clinton.

The country and its administration handled the Benghazi attack in the worst possible way. We were led to believe that this resulted all in a video created by an American that resulted in the hostile attack and deaths of four Americans. Personnel in the administration took part I believe in steering this incident one way to not lose ground in the 2012 campaign. Obama should have been direct with the nation on the attacks. I say this because people from both sides of the aisle have boosted his foreign policy. The very same policies that the Bush administration created and the current president has enforced and expanded in one way or the other.

The American public and other world leaders knew that these attacks were coordinated and executed by militant extremist. The administration failed to lead its country and lied to the families of those who suffered a lost. This is not the first president to do it and will not be the last. I do support that congress is attempting to find out what truly happened and we must continue on this mission. The president will not step down nor will he be impeach. For the Bush administration did not face any impeachment or convictions for their misleading information that brought this country to war with a country who is now in political turmoil and secular violence. Politics is a dirty business and at times leaders of a nation fail to be true leaders just to win a seat that he may have won anyway. Without transparency how can a nation trust its leaders when they flat out lie. Obama will be plagued after his years with Benghazi as Bush will be plagued for Iraq. Maybe one day our leaders can be upfront as John F. Kennedy was.

Do the Pakistan Elections Complicate American Foreign Policy?

  Today Pakistan held its election for parliament and the votes have come in to project the new prime minister.  For the first time in the countries history it has experienced a democratic transition from an democratically elected government five years ago to another democratically elected one.  Today there were a spread of attacks through out the region to attempt and deter the people of Pakistan from making their ways to the voting booths.  Sixty percent of Pakistanis went and voted for who they believed in would shift their country in a better direction.

  This election as many that have taken place in the past couple of years or are on schedule to take place in the future all share the same common problems that plague all forms of government.  The economy in Pakistan is not treading water as some European countries are however, their unemployment rate has risen to 6.5% for the fourth quarter of 2012.  They are also facing a question that deals with the future policy between the Pakistani Government and the United States.  

  The reason why this election plays a role for foreign policy is because the man who is projected to win is Nawaz Sharif.  Mr. Sharif is part of the Pakistan Muslim League N and was exiled from the country after the military charged him with corruption and hijacking.  Now Mr. Sharif’s economic plan is more in the lines as the United States.  Mr. Sharif stated the following in a Reuters article “You see privatisation, free market economy, deregulation – have been hallmarks of our party in government. We are going to pick up the threads from where we left off.”  However, the one thing that makes me nervous and may make the Obama administration a bit frustrated is Mr. Sharifs stance on the operations conducted by the United States with their drone program.

  The United States has lost creditability amongst the Pakistani people.  A Gallup poll conducted in February displays the up and down trend of Pakistani sentiment towards the United States.  The article also states the following statement that indicates how we as a nation are losing face amongst the country “With President Barack Obama’s first term characterized by strained relations between Pakistan and the U.S., more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92%) disapprove of U.S. leadership and 4% approve, the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given.” Mr. Sharif has indicated that he will work towards ending the joint drone program insid of Pakistan.  

  The second runner for the prime minister Imran Kahan has sounded on the very same tune.  Both mean who share different ideologies share a common mission.  To attempt to lessen American influence in the region and the country.  It may just be a thought since the military in Pakistan holds majority of the say when it comes to Foreign Policy.  However, if the majority of Pakistani people believe that the United States has placed its footing with in their country too far then does this mean that our policy may need to change.  

  If two of the men who were on the ballots today preach less U.S involvement and even the closing of the N.A.T.O supply route to Afghanistan won’t the voices of the people be heard?  The drone program that the United States has run on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan has made relations with the country a bit fragile.  I do believe that the drone program serves a useful purpose from an intelligence gathering matter however, when you arm these drones and use them in populated areas with civilians you are breeding the potential for terrorist propaganda.

  With the Pakistani military in control of the foreign policy that is followed by the government the voice of the people may have the military rethink their postion.  However, it can all be rhetoric to win their seat as prime minister.  However, with a rise in drone attacks and civilian casualties it may be rhetoric that may prove to be a thorn in the side of the United States.  But I believe that the aid that we provide Pakistan may be suffice enough to maintain our military influence in the country.  These men speak change and time will now become the bearers of their visions of change.  

  I will close by saying that I applaud the people of Pakistan.  With the multiple attacks through out the country that took place during the elections the civilian population of the country stood in defiance of the Taliban who orchestrated these attacks and voted.  Maybe we should allow the government to handle their own affairs.  The people of Pakistan do not support terrorism however, if continue with drone attacks that kill innocent people then we are becoming the reason behind the creation of Taliban militants.  People will seek revenge for whatever reason they choose but once a family member is killed by a missile from the sky by a foreign country ones attitude of that country does not stay positive.  

  Even-though I say this, I understand that it is difficult to trust a government who missed that Osama bin Laden was in Islamabad, a military city in Pakistan.  Aid provided to the country has not illustrated results of counter terrorism efforts we classify for the aid.  Another tough issue in this chess game is the nuclear arsenal that the country possess which also creates some worries.  A stable government must be in the cards for the Obama administration in Pakistan.  Lets observe the future of Pakistan and U.S relations.

Sexual Assaults On The Rise In The Nations Military.

Recently a Lt.Col from the Air Force who was in charge of the sexual assault prevention unit was arrested for aggravated sexual assault.  Now recently there has been a spike in numbers related to sexual assault cases.  For example Democracy Now obtained a report by the Pentagon stating the following “The report estimates there were 26,000 sex crimes committed in 2012, a jump of 37 percent since 2010. Most of the incidents were never reported.” As a veteran who served in our nations finest military it is disheartening that we are seeing such acts occurring within our ranks.  

  The soldiers share a common thing that they cannot share with anyone outside of their units and barracks.  These men and women are sent to countries around the world to do a various amounts of missions from humanitarian aid to combat missions.  To be assaulted sexually by your fellow soldier can affect not only the victim but the team as well.  

   To me the bound that is created is comparable to that of the bonds we have with our family members.  As I see a Lt.Col who is in charge of the unit who’s mission is to prevent such crimes is committing the very same crimes he is to deter.  It is difficult for women in general to come forward when reporting such acts of aggravated sexual assault because they fear for reprisal or are not taken seriously.  

  The president in recent days has talked on the issue stating the following “I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.” Strong statement from the commander and chief.  However, words can only do so much and action must happen.  

  Military commanders need to establish a trust between their peers and their NCO’s to establish a open line.  As a government agency there has to be an example set by the military by showing that they are serious about handling the reports and claims by victims of sexual assaults. In a Times article titled Fear of Reprisal: The Quiet Accomplice in the Military’s Sexual-Assault Epidemic, it demonstrates that exact issue I just addressed.  Making the approach easier and more comfortable for the victim.

  With the current apprehension of the Air Foce officer in charge of sexual prevention the topic of how we protect our fellow military members has to be on the forefront of the Defense Department and Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel.  In the Times report written by  Nick Schwellenbach states “Victims are often being further victimized when they say something about the crime that was committed. Reprisal against the victim is the opposite of justice — the opposite of what should happen when a crime is reported.” Breaking that trust and closing that window between leadership and those who they lead major issues can arise with in the team.

  We can not allow the military to have a free pass from these allegations or the events surrounding sexual assaults.  We need to be as hard on them as we would be on a corporate business who has a high rise in sexual assault.  When you are serving in the military you expect to be treated like family.  It is understandable that in a perfect world that may be possible because in the military there are clicks that we see.  

   Just as we in the 0341 Infantry Mortar man squad had our own click we still treated everyone like Marines.  We helped each other when one of us was in need of advice or any other type of help.  That is what shoule be provided to our female counter-parts.  They are the resources in assisting us in our missions.  Whether it would be in Motor T or even in logistics they still provide the assistance needed.  

  We can make them feel like if they report an incident they will be punished, we need to hear them out and act on what we are told.  Investigate the details of the claim and the leadership in turn should not punish the one reporting an incident.  The military is a agency where it demands a lot from a mental prospective and from a physical point.  However, women should be protected just as women in the regular workforce.  They should not be afraid to step forward with anything that they went through or they witnessed someone else went through.  No man should take advantage of women especially women who men serve next to inside of the military.  Action must be taken however it must start with the leadership within the ranks and the NCO’s who are under these leaders.  Women should not be afraid to make their reports they should be able to work in an area where they are free from reprisal and where they are taken seriously.   Below will be a break down by percentage of the types of reprisal women face in the military.

– 3% experienced professional retaliation only.

– 31% experienced social retaliation only.

– 2% experienced administrative action only.

– 26% experienced a combination of professional retaliation, social retaliation, administrative action, and/or punishments.

– 38% did not experience any retaliation.