Hey there. I’ve never done this before, but with today’s video I’ve re-purposed a snippet of a longer conversation I had last week with Jon Coumes of the Safe For Democracy podcast. I’m doing this because I went on a (somewhat profane) rant that answers a question I get from a lot of people. What is Obama’s foreign policy legacy, and how should we look at it historically speaking? It’s way too early to tell of course, but I have a pretty good idea. The channel usually tries to deal with current issues, and though we’re still dealing with all of his wars, Obama is not a current issue. So I won’t be doing a more produced video on the topic.
But I think this video answers the question pretty handily…
Ahh the joys of half-remembered college courses! This week’s video is about Syria, but it’s also about the concept of agenda-setting, something I barely remember from my Political Science classes, back in Ann Arbor around the turn of the century. I couldn’t track down the book, or even the exact concept I was remembering, and I fear I may have made a bit of a hash of it. The video communicates what I wanted to say, but I think I mixed the concepts of agenda-setting and attention in a way that may not fit the model I learned back then.
Attention, what we pay attention to, individually and as a country is a very important concept, and one that I play with a lot on this channel. Agenda-setting, as I remember, is a good deal drier. There are a number of stakeholders in government and society that compete to bring about legislative action. Social media and our great orange president change the calculus. It may actually make sense to include the attention span of the individual voter, and that voter’s media consumption habits in any discussion of agenda-setting today.
I’m not sure that clarified anything, but I wanted to at least mention that the version of “agenda-setting” here may not fit what my professor was talking about. I remain very proud of today’s video however.
This one is part sequel, part explanation. A couple weeks back I published a video entitled “Washington, DC Has Won The War In Syria”. One of my central points was the thought that while the US government had met many of its messed up priorities, the US people and the world and general had in fact lost. It became clear from the comments that this did not get across.
So I put together the video I’m uploading with this post. I think it answers criticisms, but it also does more with that. It reckons with the larger consequences of the Syrian war for geopolitics, and the prospects of world peace and prosperity in general. It starts specific and gets very very general. Syria is a depressing issue, and my weariness with its unrelenting horror may come across in this video. But I try to end on a hopeful note.
The conflict in Afrin may have been my most requested topic ever. I’m glad that folks have forced me to at Syria again. I was dreading it a bit, though, because the subject is super depressing. The war is both horrific and infantile, where some players are desperately hanging on, and others are just idly running around destroying things and destroying people.
The United States would be the prime example of the latter. We’re barely aware of what we’re doing, and what has happened. We are constantly told that Syria somehow means that US leadership is waning, or that other actors are “winning” the war. Believing this requires complete ignorance of the real power dynamics here. The US is much more powerful than any other belligerent, and by any objective analysis my government is the only entity that has “won” anything here. If Syria was a board game, Washington, DC would be the winner. But Syria isn’t a board game. It’s a country that has been destroyed. It may take decades, but there will be consequences. This video lays out the whole depressing state of affairs in Syria today, and yes, it also deals with Afrin.
Russia and China have never made a secret of it. They are more interested in sovereignty than human rights. Considering the way that the US has weaponized human rights concerns recently, it’s hard to blame them. But as we watch the brutalization of East Aleppo, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s cries of “Shame!” make a lot of sense. IF you ignore one of those very important things that nobody talks about. This video takes you back to 2011, and the US decision that made The UN’s impotence in Aleppo inevitable.
A certain UN resolution is pretty central to this video. Here it is if you’d like to review it.
Yeesh. This one is heavy. I was lamenting recently that my videos weren’t using clever editing, and didn’t have much emotional range. Coming across the Ambassador’s speech allowed me to deal with both of those issues. I really like the result, I hope you do to.
Lest you think I’m being unfair to Ambassador Power, a bit of explanation is in order. Power was initially famous for writing a book called The Problem From Hell: America In the Age of Genocide. She’s also famous for only seeing America as the solution to problems, and not making much allowance for the downsides of intervention. So far, so average. If I’d read the book, maybe I’d have a stronger opinion, but on that alone I’d be happy to see her make a speech like this. But she’s also been involved in the decision making on Syria from the get-go. She was an adviser to Obama when he was a Senator, and she was on the National Security Council before starting at the UN in 2013. So she was in on the ground floor with both Libya and Syria, and she’s had a hand on the meat grinder this whole time. She’s used her reputation as an international do-gooder to help destroy both of these countries. She’s not alone in that, but she’s the one using this particularly horrific moment to preach from pretended moral high ground. So no, I don’t think I’m being particularly unfair to her.
The topic of this video has bugged me for a while. It strikes me as one of the central blunders of the Obama administration, but nobody talks about it. I thought diplomacy was about being able to see things from the other guy’s perspective. This is right up there with NATO expansion as failures of understanding go…