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Posts Tagged ‘syria’

Obama’s Impossible Choices on Iraq

June 16th, 2014

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Iraq was a bold U.S. experiment in nation-building. It turned out to be a flop.

That’s what we’re learning as we watch what the United States achieved there evaporate after nine years of war, after nearly 4,500 Americans were killed, 32,000 wounded and $800 billion in U.S. taxpayer money spent.

When George W. Bush first ran for president in 2000, he expressed contempt for nation-building. It was a point he made in rally after rally. “I’m worried about the fact I’m running against a man,” Bush said, “who uses ‘military’ and ‘nation-building’ in the same sentence.”

But what were U.S. troops doing in Iraq four years later if not nation-building?

The U.S. military can do many things supremely well. They are all military things — like fighting wars, repelling invasions and providing security. But nation-building — the task that devolved upon them in both Iraq and Afghanistan — is political, not military. And politics is not something the military can do very well. Nor should anyone expect it to.

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It’s Good News When Terrorists Break Up

February 24th, 2014

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What happens when you’re the meanest player on a team with a history of violence (say, the Philadelphia Flyers from the 1970s), but you disobey the coach too many times? No matter how good on the field, pitch or ice you may be, the head office has no choice but to cut you from the roster.

This happened recently in the world of international terrorism, where al-Qaida Central became fed up with one of its franchises and disavowed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or ISIS. This is the first time al-Qaida cut ties with one of its regional groups — surprisingly so since ISIS has been successfully driving the jihadist agenda in the heart of the Middle East.

This split is good news for the U.S. and its allies. Here’s why:

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The World Is Failing Failed States

January 28th, 2014

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Representatives of the Syrian regime and rebel groups currently meeting in Geneva face an arduous task: ending a bloody civil war that has lasted three years, cost  130,000 livesdisplaced nearly 9 million people and turned a developed,middle-income state into a failed one. Syria’s problems — ethnic and sectarian tensions, weak institutions and little rule of law — aren’t uncommon in the international arena. What is common among failed states is the international community’s inability to effectively deal with them. According to the 2013 Failed State Index, there are 35 states that have already failed or are in serious danger of failing.

State failures rarely occur in a vacuum; they can destabilize entire regions, as Syria has already done. Some on the right and the left argue that military intervention is the best way to hasten a peaceful political solution and restoration of order. Perhaps they are correct, but only in the short-term; even if a political solution is found, it would be built upon an unsteady foundation of poor civilian institutions. Fixing failed states involves a long-term effort to help them build better, more inclusive institutions. Otherwise, a political solution will only prolong the inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »

How the U.S. Can Do More for Syrian Refugees

January 14th, 2014

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The conflict in Syria has created a massive refugee crisis. The number of refugees that have fled the country, already estimated at 2 million, is expected to double by the end of 2014. The refugee crisis is the largest displacement of people in decades, producing more refugees than either Rwanda or Bosnia.

So, how many Syrian refugees has the United States – a nation that prides itself on opening its doors to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – allowed into the country?

90.

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For Syrian Weapons, Quick-and-Dirty Beats Slow-and-Steady

September 20th, 2013

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Now that Syria has ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international community’s focus is shifting to how to destroy the country’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. The choice is simple: either the slow and methodical approach stipulated by the treaty that could take up to 10 years or more, as it has in the U.S., Russia and other countries; or a faster, cheaper approach that has been used in other countries such as Iraq after the Gulf War.

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How Much Will It Cost to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons?

September 17th, 2013

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Isolating and destroying Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons is, finally, within reach. But of course, any complex international endeavor involves price tags—monetary and otherwise.

Estimating the dollar cost of destroying the roughly 1,000 tons of Syrian chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war is challenging. But it’s possible to come up with a ballpark estimate.

First, let’s look at what the U.S. spent destroying its chemical weapons stockpile using incineration and neutralization processes, which both seasoned chemists and Breaking Bad fans should appreciate. The U.S. Army’s Chemical Materials Agency oversaw the destruction of just over 28,364 tons of chemical weapons—nearly 90 percent of the U.S. stockpile—for an estimated cost of $28 billion. That’s about $1 billion per 1,000 tons.

The remaining 10 percent of the stockpile—3,136 tons—will be eliminated by 2023. The U.S. Army’s Chemical Weapons Alternative program, which is managing the destruction, estimates it will cost $10.6 billion, or about $3 billion per thousand tons.

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