THE POWER OF OPTICS

Dear Mr. President,

This past week marked another new chapter in the interminable quagmire of Middle East conflict, as the world reacted to missiles falling on Syrian airfields. Pundits claimed that you were so moved by the slaughter of babies, as you attested to in your press conference, that you had a change of heart regarding foreign policy in Syria. Your policies, personnel, critics and supporters have changed position so swiftly, Americans now have collective whiplash. Your base opposes the missile strikes, arguing that it is a departure from your America first campaign pledge. Your Republican critics are finally applauding you, and the Dems are lukewarm on this issue, questioning why you didn’t consult Congress. We know the answer to that, after the failure of the healthcare bill. Speaking of which, it might be a good idea to mandate treatment for chronic torticollis in the new healthcare bill being considered.

A global map of all the parties with a vested interest in the Syrian civil war paints a disturbing picture. America’s usual allies, with whom you have had a shaky relationship at best, are pitted against Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea and China. The map makes World War II look tame, especially as several opposing countries now have those pesky, nuclear weapons. I think you are discovering the enemy of your enemy is not only, not your friend, but your enemy as well. Welcome to foreign policy in the Middle East!

After 13 million Syrians have been displaced and the Syrian death toll has climbed to half a million, we can now assess the utility of a forceful, military response. The last few weeks have been rough on the administration, politically speaking. At least these strikes were an optical win. Unfortunately, Assad bombed Idlib province again right after your military strike, and the humanitarian crisis keeps expanding exponentially. The hard part now is formulating a cohesive policy with regards to Syria and its allies. Meanwhile, humanitarian aid agencies are struggling to bring relief to Syria, as well as other hot spots around the globe. Bringing humanitarian aid to Syria is as problematic as devising an optimal foreign policy. The UN Relief Agency (UNHCR) was allowed access into the country by Assad, but Assad cherry picked funds from the agency to benefit his coffers. On the flip side, at least 20% to 25% of relief trucks are commandeered by ISIS brought into the region. Plus, western aid workers, irrespective of race or gender, are kidnapping targets for jihadists. Doctors Without Borders couldn’t even gain access to Syria, so they operate in the northern, rebel provinces in underground bunkers, as hospitals are favorite bomb targets. These same issues that humanitarian relief agencies face in Syria, can be broadly applied to the evolving crisis in Africa.

Mr. President, you should like these relief agencies; UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, Catholic Relief Agencies and Americares to name a few. Their linguistic style is similar to yours, as in: this is the greatest humanitarian crisis since world War II, this is the most financial aid they have ever requested, and this is the worst drought in half a century in the Horn of Africa. Superlatives just keep abounding.

Now your budget has called for a 28% reduction in foreign aid, while global aid agencies are calling for more: more aid, more workers, and more compassion. There are close to 60 million refugees worldwide annually, whereas 15 years ago there were on average only 10 to 12 million refugees in any given year. Besides Syria, Yemen is collapsing and a famine is spreading through Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of Nigeria and Kenya.

Oh, Donnie, Donnie, Donnie! If the pictures of the gassed Syrian children bestirred your heart, better leave the TV off. There are 17 million undernourished children in the world, and scores of children in eastern Africa are dying as they try to reach refugee camps in Kenya. Three million children die from starvation annually, and that number is rising. Fortuitously, the media hasn’t paid much attention to the famine, yet, so this issue is not part of the mainstream media diet. Drought, from the El Nino effect, political instability and terrorism have all contributed to this famine. Proponents of climate change mitigation will likely hitch their cause to this wagon, but ignore them. You can just denounce terrorism. That is a cause you can get behind.

The sight of millions of starving children should break even the hardest of hearts. Well, maybe not the hard right. It is curious that members of the hard right always speak of Christian values. Have they actually read the New Testament? That part of the Bible is rife with Christ instructing his followers to care for the poor, the sick and the abandoned. The hard right constituents must believe some radical left wing organization was able to influence the sacred authors of the Gospels. Fake Writing!

If you succeed in cutting foreign aid, you may need to reach out to the “B” entertainers, Beyonce, Bruce, Bono and Bruno and ask them to start writing the sequel to “We are the World.” Yes, they belong to the “liberal elite,” but they could help fill in the deficits of your budget proposal. Otherwise, ban all pictures of starving children from the White House, Mr. President, you may be moved to act. Or maybe Ivanka will be moved?

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