Mitch Perry Report for 1.16.15 — Foreign policy priorities

There’s an anniversary today regarding U.S. foreign policy that I’m sure nobody will bring up, and why would they?  We like our anniversaries in round numbers, so maybe you’ll hear something next year on the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War, when the United States and a coalition of allies attacked Iraq,  with U.N. approval and with a mandate to force Saddam Hussein’s military forces out of neighboring Kuwait.

That was the first primetime war, captured live on CNN. We’ve been to war a lot in the Middle East since that time, but what about a place that we’re not at right now?

I’m talking about Syria. A year and a half ago Barack Obama stepped back from attacking Syria after it was reported that Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against rebel forces there. There were several reasons why that didn’t happen, and one reason it didn’t was that the American public just wasn’t into it (though others, like Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton, reportedly want to intervene).

But when you look at all the conflagrations going on in the world today, the worst situation  isn’t what ISIS is doing — it’s the crisis in Syria, which has led to millions of refugees escaping to other nearby countries like Turkey and Lebanon.

It’s being reported today that the U.S. military has announced it will send about 400 specialists and hundreds more “enabling forces” to train the rebel Syrian opposition as Washington takes its fight against the Assad government and Islamic State to a new level. The Pentagon mission is expected to begin in early March, and according to a spokesperson who talked to the Army Times, it will involve U.S. specialists training Syrian opposition forces from military bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

One reason why we haven’t been more committed to helping those opposition forces, of course, is that some are said to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. Hence the dilemma, as we essentially sit on the sidelines there.

In the 1990s, the U.S. led military campaigns in Bosnia and later in Kosovo, mainly for humanitarian purposes. But in the post-Iraq war II/Afghanistan era, we can’t afford to make those humanitarian interventions, and the public has no appetite for it.

Meanwhile, according to statistics from the U.N., the Syrian conflict has claimed 220,000 lives, placed 12 million people in severe need, left 7.6 million internally displaced, and made 3.3 million people refugees.

In other news…

Travel restrictions to Cuba have been substantially reduced, beginning today. And if you make it to the Communist island, you can bring credit or debit cards for the first time. This is how a 53-year-old embargo slowly fades away. Kathy Castor was ecstatic about the news, Marco Rubio not so much.

Tampa’s favorite private citizen these days, developer/Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, has been making a lot of presentations in the past week. Yesterday he went before the Tampa City Council to ask them to reimburse him for $15 million in road and infrastructure improvements he’ll be making in the Channel District. But will he share the wealth when it comes to the construction contracts that come with all this new activity? A group of black citizens say they believe Vinik is sincere in making sure they get a piece of the pie, but they want the City Council to monitor those developments.

And what do you do if you’re a conservative activist group working in Florida? Well, if you’re Americans for Prosperity, you don’t have a whole lot of requests. Things like “don’t expand Medicaid,” which doesn’t seem to be on the horizon at all. Read more about its wish list for 2015..

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


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