25 January 2017   Leave a comment

A draft of President Trump’s Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals”,  has been circulating and a great deal of attention has been focused on the apparent decision to block Muslims from specific countries from entering the US.  But Section 6 of the draft should also attract critical attention.  That section directs the Secretaries of State and Defense to come up with plans to provide “safe zones” in Syria.  The section is designed to provide cover against charges that refusing to admit Syrian refugees is essentially a death sentence for an incredibly vulnerable population (a problem that will become significantly more acute is Syrian President Assad remains in power and conducts a vendetta against those he presumes fought against his rule).  But, from a strategic point of view, establishing safe zones in Syria would involve a massive military intervention by the US in the six-year old civil war.  Such a move at this point would be a disaster.

Image result for syrian safe zones

The Economist Intelligence Unit publishes a yearly “democracy” index.  It is a ten-point scale which ranks countries on the basis of “electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties”.  These are admittedly subjective criteria, but the Economist does a very good job of trying to develop appropriate and accurate measures of these criteria.  On the basis of these criteria, the Economist has downgraded the US status as a democracy from the first to the second rank.  The downgrade is due to a decline in the government’s effectiveness and to political participation in the political process.   The downgrade certainly seems warranted.

Americans' Trust in Government 1958-2015

In an interview with ABC News, President Trump asserted that torture works and that he would reinstate the practice.  Torture is currently illegal for any agent of the US, no matter where the torture occurs.  The vast bulk of evidence, including the opinions of President Trump’s Secretary of Defense and CIA Director, indicates that torture does not work and that it is profoundly counterproductive.  Let us hope that the current legal prohibitions against torture remain intact and that the US never again engages in this abomination.

Posted January 25, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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