DC’s Wonder Woman much more than a movie, represents a growing political, cultural shift (6/11/17)

In its second weekend, Wonder Woman cruised to another #1 finish at the North American box office, bringing in an estimated $57.2 million dollars.

As of June 11, Wonder Woman grossed nearly $435 million dollars, as per Box Office Mojo and has received rave reviews from critics, with many critics calling it the best movie in the DCEU so far. Currently, it holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a rating of 8.2/10 on IMDB.

After seeing the movie a couple days ago, I firmly agree that Wonder Woman is the best DCEU movie so far. While that may not be saying much, considering how Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were utter flops and how atrocious Suicide Squad was, for us movie fans Wonder Woman was extremely refreshing to see, and also a good sign for upcoming DC movies in the future.

And while the movie has garnered some controversy in the Middle East, mainly because of Gal Gadot’s heritage and her having served in the Israeli military, Director Patty Jenkins should be extremely pleased with the movie.

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Wonder Woman’s impact is being felt culturally more than any movie in awhile. (Pic: Warner Bros)

Yet what makes Wonder Woman so very special, though, is its cultural impact.

When most people think superheroes, they think of Batman or Superman or even Spiderman.

And while these superheroes are undoubtedly some of the biggest cultural icons and symbols around the world, it’s worth noting that they are all men.

Never before had there been a real successful movie about a woman superhero or super villain. Everyone knows how much of a disaster Catwoman (2004) was. And while there have been major portrayals of some women superheroes in big movies, like Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Zoe Saldana as Gamora, most of the portrayals of women in superhero movies have been as love interests who constantly need to be saved.

Wonder Woman completely turned that conception on its head, with the titular character constantly saving several of her male adversaries, and even going up against one of the strongest male super villains in all of the DC Universe (no spoilers here). The movie showed that a female superhero can do just as much as male superheroes, and that she  didn’t need to be saved.

Growing up, boys dream of being heroes like Superman and Batman. Boys see these heroes in movies and books and try to emulate them. Before Wonder Woman, there were really no movies of women superheroes for little girls to emulate. But finally, Wonder Woman has given little girls everywhere a hero to emulate.

It’s what Wonder Woman represents that makes it so special. We see women getting more and more involved politically and becoming icons of power everyday. Wonder Women is a direct representation of that. She represents the growing political shift of the world today. Women, in positions of power, are here to stay.

It’s already become the most tweeted about movie of 2017. It’s inspired a movement for women and girls everywhere. Wonder Woman is so much more than a movie. It’s become a symbol of inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off the court, Lebron James is greater than Michael Jordan (6/2/17)

While Lebron James may not have surpassed Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball on the basketball court (well, at least in my opinion), it is a different story, off the court.

Both Michael Jordan and Lebron James are icons of their time.

During the 90’s, Jordan was must see TV. His sneakers were top sellers (and are still to this day), he was an endorsement magnet for commercials and advertisements, and he was the greatest basketball player in the world.

However, ‘His Airness’ never used his platform to get involved in any political affairs or social issues, at least not until recently.

Lebron will be the first to admit that he wants to be like Mike. And to be fair, Lebron is a lot like Mike. He, too, has amassed enormous wealth and fame, and is also the greatest basketball player in the world (sorry, it’s not Russell Westbrook or James Harden).

Yet, while Lebron might not have had the career, at least so far, equal to that Michael Jordan had, it is undeniable that his impact on the black community, as well as his impact politically, is much greater than Jordan’s.

Michael Jordan declined to endorse Democrat Mayor Harvey Grant in his bid in the 1990 and 1996 election for Senate against known racist and bigoted Republican Jesse Holmes. Jordan famously stated, “Republicans buy sneakers too” implying that he didn’t want to lose valuable sneaker sales by potentially alienating Republicans.

Jordan took a lot of flack for his comment, particularly from the black community, with some African Americans feeling that he was more concerned with money than racial fairness and civil rights.

On the other hand, Lebron James has been much more active politically, endorsing Hillary Clinton in this past election, claiming that he wanted to build a better America for his kids. He even spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

James has also been involved heavily in civil rights activism, publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter protests, even wearing the famous “I Can’t Breathe” warmup shirt after the death of Eric Garner. At the ESPY Awards last summer, he and a few other fellow NBA players, spoke out on the need for political activism. He has also done much for his community of Akron in Ohio, donating millions of dollars to public services and helping impoverished children.

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Lebron speaking at one of his foundation events after proposing to build a new school in his hometown. (Pic: Ohio News)

So, why do I bring this up now?

Well, Lebron James has been in the news recently, and while it might be because of the devastating 113-91 loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, it is also because Lebron James was recently the victim of a racist hate crime.

Earlier in the week, James’ Los Angeles home was vandalised with racist graffiti. The “n-word” had been spray-painted on the front gate of his home. James spoke about the incident in a press conference before the finals.

“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” James stated.

Lebron also referenced the death of Emmett Till and spoke about how Till’s mom wanted to show the world about the true horrors of racism. He spoke about his concerns for his children and the world they are growing up in.

While I have been a little bit concerned about athletes taking political stances in the past, Lebron’s messages on race that he spoke about during the press conference are extremely important. Lebron not only showed that racism is still very much alive, but that even successful, famous people can be targets of racism.

That’s a big deal, because for a lot of us, it’s hard to imagine these super star celebrities as regular people. While many of us associate racism in America with the lower class, Lebron reminded us that all African-Americans, regardless of social class or celebrity, are still  fighting racism today.

Lebron’s statement, “Being black in America is tough” is powerful because it is so true. Even with the world appearing to be more and more accepting, racial hatred still exists and surfaces too often.  While America has certainly come a long way, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Changing Mind in the Middle East and about Islam (5/21/17)

“I think Islam.. hates us.”

“I watched when the WTC came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.”

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Extreme.

Perhaps that’s the word that best describes Trump’s language when talking about Islam during his Presidential election campaign.

Aggressive.

Certainly this is the word that best describes Trump’s policies towards Muslims and the Middle East. His travel ban sparked protests throughout the world. His choice to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Syria raised questions on his true intentions in the Middle East.

It was clear that Trump was steering towards a more “hostile” policy in the Middle East.

Yet, Sunday, a change of heart seemed to have occurred.

In the early evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Trump stood and delivered a powerful message of unity to the Middle Eastern world. Trump focused on the subject of terrorism, urging Arab leaders to work closely with the United States to eradicate terrorism.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations,” Trump said. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.”

This, of course, seems like a complete turn-around for Trump, who claimed that there was a “great hatred over [in the Middle East]” against the United States.

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In a past article I have written on this blog, I raised questions about Trump’s goals in the Middle East.

 

I emphasized Trump’s need to tell Middle Eastern nations that the United States cares about Arab interests.  I felt he needed to show a positive attitude towards solving  problems in the Middle East, especially terrorism.

As someone who has felt very uneasy about some of Trump’s policies, I felt that Trump’s speech today was a step in the right direction, at least in terms of foreign policy in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern leaders are probably suspicious of Trump’s recent calls of unity, but still it is reassuring to know that Trump is looking to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern allies.

Trump’s speech was not all-unifying, though, as he had harsh words for Iran.  Trump pushed for neighboring nations to “isolate” Iran, who he claimed was responsible for “spreading destruction and chaos throughout the region.”

A policy of “isolating” Iran would mark the end of the United States’ recent goals to work together with Iran, most specifically the progress made during the Obama administration.

Still, following Trump’s extreme and harsh rhetoric towards the Middle East, it is good to see Trump making attempts to set a new course and work together with the leaders in the Persian Gulf region towards achieving mutual goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crisis in the White House: Trump, a Nixon 2.0? (5/19/17)

“I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.”

The infamous “I’m not a crook” speech was delivered 44 years ago, by President Richard Nixon in the White House, at a time when the nation was midst of the Watergate scandal.

The United States was in crisis. Distrust of the highest office continued to mount as more damaging news came out about Nixon and his “dirty tricks.” The United States could not effectively focus on other domestic or foreign problems due to the deep suspicion around the President and the White House.

It was clear that United States politics had changed forever. Americans began to look at the government in a much different way.  Elected officials became cloaked in an aura of “dishonesty.”  While the United States seemed to move on from the scandal, there were more scandals in the years following the Watergate scandal.

There was the Iran-Contra Affair under President Reagan. There was the infamous “Lewinskygate” and Whitewater scandals during the Clinton Presidency.   There was also the scandal concerning “weapons of mass destruction” under President George W. Bush.

And now, there is the Donald Trump-Russia probe.

Once again, the nation finds itself deep in a crisis.

Trump’s election in the fall of 2016 had already caused a big divide in the United States. This divide only widened after Donald Trump took executive and legislative actions.  First, there was the controversial travel ban.  Then, there was also the very unpopular healthcare bill.  There appears to be much doubt about Trump’s policies. Americans wonder whether his controversial, and even border-line offensive campaign, is a sign of more things to come.

The reality is, we might never find what four years under President Trump will be like.   We might never know if he will be able to effectuate any of his policies or if his policies are successful.   Due to increasingly disturbing information about Trump’s possible ties to Russia, it is uncertain whether he will be able to serve out his full term.  While the investigation of Trump’s ties with Russia is ongoing, it seems that the White House lawyers have already started researching possible impeachment process.

Talks of impeachment gained traction after Trump’s recent firing of FBI Director James Comey and Trump’s revealing of classified intelligence information to Russian officials in the Oval Office. This is, of course, not Trump’s first connection to Russia, as accusations of him colluding with the Russians and Russia’s interference in the 2016 Election have been growing for months.

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Ties to Russia have clouded early Trump presidency and have been a major distraction from other, more pertinent issues that America must deal with. (Pic: Politico)

Trump’s current situation seems eerily similar to the situation that Richard Nixon was in during the Watergate scandal.

Like Nixon, Trump has also proclaimed his innocence and honesty.  Trump has echoed words similar to those used by Nixon, claiming that the ongoing investigation was “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Oddly enough, Nixon described the Senate Watergate Hearings as a “witch hunt” as well.

Just like Nixon, Trump is extremely paranoid of the media, and seems to be convinced that Washington D.C. and the media are against him.

However, while there are parallels between the two Presidents’ situations, upon a closer inspection, the situations are vastly different.

President Nixon, while flawed, was in many ways, a successful president. Before the Watergate scandal, Nixon had successfully developed the policy of detente, signed the Paris Peace Accords, visited China, and effectively supported Israel during its Yom Kippur War. He had established himself as a competent leader, and he easily won the 1972 Presidential Election. In the end, Nixon’s paranoia brought him down.  Even though he had put the nation through a crisis during the Watergate years, he did have some great accomplishments.

Donald Trump, however, does not have the luxury of “accomplishments.”

With just a little over 100 days in office, Trump has yet to accomplish anything substantial, and he has no real significant accomplishments to date. Because of his short time in office, if impeachment or removal proceedings were to be successful, Trump would not be able to speak of any real accomplishments, like Nixon did in his resignation speech with foreign policy, simply because he has had no time to do anything.

Both presidents had to deal with the investigation of illegal interference with their election, yet oddly enough, Trump is the only one that had to be concerned about losing the election. The majority of polls heading into the 2016 election stated that Hillary Clinton was extremely likely to win. Nixon, on the other hand, was predicted to easily win the election, which he ended up winning by a landslide.

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Will Trump face a fate similar to that of Nixon? (Pic: SJ Kerrigan)

As stated earlier, the White House is currently in a state of emergency.

The Trump administration has had a devastating week, climaxing with Trump’s  suspicious firing of FBI Director Comey.

Trump’s comments to Russian officials about Comey added fuel to the fire when Trump stated that Comey was a “nut job” and that with Comey’s firing, “pressure faced from Russia was now taken off.”

Today, Trump boarded a jet to start off a nine-day Middle Eastern tour, which begins in Saudi Arabia.  As for now, we must await more information.  Until a full investigation is completed, impeachment callings are premature.  At this point in time, impeachment could prove to be fruitless, especially with the Republican controlled Congress supporting Trump.

However, once the smoke clears and Trump is proven to be innocent, American citizens must recognise that, even if they do not agree with him, they must give President Trump a chance to effectuate policies and have a successful presidency.  After all, he was elected by American voters to do just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Islamophobia warranted?? (5/9/17)

Since the 9/11 terroristic attacks, and even a little earlier than that, the religion of Islam has been controversial in the United States.

Some Americans have a negative view of the religion as a whole, mainly due to the recent incidents involving radical Islam, and to several terrorist attacks that have been carried out by “Muslim” perpetrators in the name of Islam.

There have been attempts to portray the Islamic religion in a more positive light.  In the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush spoke about the importance of Muslims to American society and the need for Muslims to be treated with respect.

However, the issue of Islamophobia still remains large today, with the United States even being called an “islamophobic nation” due to the recent travel ban signed by President Trump.

The ban on Muslims, and specifically profiling Muslims, has become the subject of great debate, with defenders claiming that the “hunt for Islamic terrorism starts by looking at Muslims”, and with opponents claiming that this profiling is wrong and unethical.

This debate came up today and left me pondering the issue for the rest of the day.

I was in my Ethics class today when the issue of the recent travel ban came up. After we discussed the ban, our teacher then switched the topic around a bit, and began to ask us of the ethics behind Islamic profiling. The direct question dealt with the issue of “additionally searching Muslims at airports”, and pretty soon, a very heated debate ensued.

One student defended this action, stating that “if you want to catch Islamic terrorists, naturally you are going to have to look for Muslims, just as if you are looking for members of the Mafia, you go to an Italian neighbourhood.”

I was quick to point out the ethical violations of this problem, most specifically referencing the “KKK” and how the United States doesn’t profile white Christians, even though the KKK is a white supremacist group.

The debate seemed to quell towards the end of the period, but it brought up an interesting question in my mind: Is Islamophobia in the United States warranted?

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Islamophobia has spread to many other parts of the world due to recent terrorist attacks. An anti-Islam poster is seen here in an Australian anti-refugee rally. (Pic: Al Jazeera)

While some would argue that Islamaphobia is justified in view of recent terrorist attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere, I disagree.

First, in regard to the Islamic ban, America is a country built on diverse cultures, immigrants, and many races. Each country or ethnicity  has its share of bad apples, so by banning Islamic immigration because of a few radical terrorists, the ban sets a dangerous precedent.  It bans a certain group of people from entering the United States due to the actions of a few bad apples.

Not to mention, there are millions of Muslim-Americans who not only contribute greatly to this country, but also help fight for it. Army Captain Humayun Khan (who’s family made headlines due to a speech made at the Democratic Convention, and their feud with Trump) is a great example of a Muslim-America who died protecting the nation.

Also, the ban is not applied equally and fairly.  For example, the IRA, the notorious Irish terrorist organization, was known for violent incidents. However, the United States never put a ban on immigrants from Ireland. This proves that the ban is unfair and wrong.   People are letting anger and fear take over their rational thinking.

Now, when it comes to profiling, specifically searching in airports, some argue that this type of profiling would be warranted and would reduce terror attacks.  However, upon a closer examination, this argument is flawed.

First, what does a Muslim look like? How does one know if someone is a Muslim? Is it the stereotypical view of a Muslim which includes a turban and a long beard?

If so, then the method is entirely flawed. It is racist to assume a person’s religion because of the way he or she looks.  Further, even if we can overcome this racism,  finding who to search would be a problem.   There are African-Americans  and Asians who are Muslim.  Muslims do not always fit the stereotypical view of what a Muslim looks like.  Yet because they don’t fit the stereotypical view of Muslims, they most likely would not be searched.  Similarly, there could be Arabs who are Christian or Buddhist or Hindu. Is it right to search people based solely on the way they look?

This isn’t the first time that the United States has had to deal with a radical sector of a certain segment of its population. This also shouldn’t be the first time it treats a certain group differently because of the actions of a few.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affirmative Action: Good or Bad? (4/24/17)

In my school, each student has to select two minor elective courses to take each semester. The choices range from art to music to sports and various other topics.

So last semester, when choosing electives, I decided to take an Ethics class.

In this class, we usually debate over ethical dilemmas. These dilemmas are wide-ranging. For example, we have discussed everything from the ethics of sexting to the use of drone warfare in the Middle East.

Class is usually a little bit slow, with most of us running out of things to say about 3/4 way into the class period (the class is small, only about 7 or 8 people).

But today, we discussed the issue of affirmative action, and I have honestly never been in a class that heated in my life.  Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion on this topic.

Perhaps it’s because we’re in high school and the college admissions process is imminent. Or maybe some of us had a relative or a close friend who felt that he or she was somehow impacted by affirmative action.   Or maybe the Trump presidency caused some young people to shift to a more conservative view point.

Well, maybe not the last one, but still, there was no denying that affirmative action was a touchy subject for my classmates.

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Protestors in favor of affirmative action waiting outside the Supreme Court in October of 2012. At the time, the Supreme Court was reviewing the UT Austin case which raised the question of the constitutionality of using race in college admissions. (Pic: Getty Images)

As seen from the image above, affirmative action is a hot topic today, with questions being raised over the morality and legality of favoring certain racial groups (underrepresented minorities) over others.

While affirmative action may help promote diversity, I am against affirmative action because I feel it does more bad than good.

It is important for schools, universities and businesses to be diverse, and achieving diversity is a true American value. America prides itself in being the “land of opportunity”, a place where anyone – regardless of race, gender, or religion – can succeed. Underrepresented minorities should believe that they can succeed and should believe that by working hard, great opportunities will come.

However, this is where I feel the problem lies.

In America, we were told by the great Martin Luther King Jr. not to judge people by the color of their skin. We were taught to judge people by their character and their merits, and not on their skin color.  A person’s acceptance into a university or a person’s employment should be based on their qualifications and their accomplishments. This system is fair and affords everyone, of all races, equal opportunity of getting a job or getting into a college.

While it may be true that some groups of minorities have not enjoyed advantages and have not had the same opportunities due to past discrimination that they had no control over, it is also true that the majority did not personally participate in and had no control over the past discrimination against these minorities. It would be unfair to blame the majority for the discrimination of the past that they had no personal part in.

Finally, I feel that affirmative action is racist against the underrepresented minorities.  The policy of affirmative action sends the subtle and insidious message that these minorities are not good enough to get into a certain university or get a certain job.  Rather, they need a “leg up”– the assistance of affirmative policy — to achieve success.  This is not a good message for minorities who benefit from affirmative action.

Fifty years ago, during the Civil Rights movement, African Americans and other minorities fought to be treated EQUAL. They fought discrimination but they didn’t seek special treatment. The goal of the Civil Rights Movement was for everyone to be treated equally and for everyone to be judged fairly – not by the color of their skin.  I am for giving everyone equal opportunity to succeed.   Affirmative action which favors certain groups over others sends the wrong message and goes against the ideals fought for during the Civil Rights Movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MOAB, Syria, and more airstrikes: Trump’s drastic foreign policy change (4/14/17)

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article titled “Trump’s Foreign Policy: What exactly are his goals in the Middle East?” which raised questions as to what approaches Donald Trump would take towards the Middle East.

As known from the White House yesterday, the United States dropped the most powerful, non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan. The bombing, which was described as a “tactical move” by the United States military, killed 36 ISIS members and destroyed several underground tunnels.

The bombing yesterday joins the United States’ airstrikes on Syria last week as another major military operation in the Middle East. There are also numerous reports that a misfired US airstrike killed 18 Syrian rebels early Thursday morning.

These military actions in the Middle East mark a drastic foreign policy change for Donald Trump.  Trump, who during the campaign season aggressively advocated for an “America First” policy, has recently overseen some of the most aggressive military action taken by the United States towards the Middle East in the past few years.

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Trump spent much of the campaign season advocating with an ‘isolationist theme’, arguing his priority would be “America First.” (Pic: The Realist Report) 

From the looks of it, Trump will look to be much more involved militarily in the region than his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump blasted the former President last week, blaming the severity of the Syrian conflict on the Obama administration. Trump was critical of Obama’s “red-line” speech, citing that it was a “blank threat”, and that it caused America to lose a lot of ground globally.

Interestingly enough, old tweets surfaced from the current President that showed that he was against military action in Syria, back when the first chemical attacks occurred in Syria in 2013.

Trump’s new foreign policy stance has been drawing questions, even from his supporters. While the majority of Americans do believe military action must be taken to combat ISIS, many are also hesitant of getting bogged down in a large conflict in the region due to the possibility of high casualties and heavy economic consequences. The current crisis in Syria eerily resembles the situation Iraq was in under the Bush administration, and Americans have made it clear that they do not want another type of Iraq War.

As for the conflict in Afghanistan, the decision to use the MOAB was apparently agreed upon once fighting in the country intensified between the Afghan-US allies and ISIS. While the war in Afghanistan has become less notorious over the past several years, largely due to other crisis in the Middle East emerging, it is still a country in which the U.S. is involved in counter-terrorism operations. The recent spread of ISIS to Afghanistan has caused an escalation in fighting, with ISIS setting up numerous underground camps and tunnels in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaping over the Red Line: Syria launches another chemical attack (4/4/17)

This past Tuesday, a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched on the Syrian people.

The attack, which occurred in a region in northwestern Syria, has killed at least 70 people and injured hundreds more.   The death and injury counts are still growing.

The United States was quick to blame the Syrian government for this all too familiar atrocity.  It also accused Syrian allies, Russia and Iran, of taking part in the attack.

The U.S. government immediately called for Russia to condemn the attack and told Russia to restrain Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad from carrying out any further chemical attacks.

Over the past several years, U.S. policy in Syria has shifted, initially focusing on deposing leader Assad to eventually a more singular focus on combatting ISIS.

The attack is raising serious questions about President Donald Trump’s policy in the Middle East, and whether or not his administration will effect a policy change in regards to the crisis in Syria.

In a recent press conference, United States Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stated that, “ the priority is no longer to sit [in Syria] and focus on getting Assad out.” Ambassador Haley  added that while Assad is a “war criminal”, the United States might need to work with him in the fight against ISIS.

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesperson, echoed the statements of Ambassador Haley, stating that “The United States has profound priorities in Syria and Iraq and we’ve made it clear that counterterrorism, particularly the defeat of ISIS, is foremost among those priorities.”

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A young baby is treated by a medical team. Reports have stated that at least 15 of the deaths have been small children. (Pic: Chicago Tribune)

Naturally, Spicer and Haley’s comments spurred some controversy, with some Congressional members being “deeply disturbed.”

Among those disturbed was Arizona Senator John McCain, who felt that the main goal of deposing Assad was being pushed aside in favor of new goals with no real strategy. McCain added that the Syrian people could not fight the power of Assad if they are too busy being slaughtered by [Assad].

Once gain, President Trump was quick to point the finger at the Obama administration (shocker), asserting that the chemical attacks and the oppressive Assad regime were the result of the past administration’s “weakness.”

While it is easy to blame Barack Obama for the crisis in Syria, it is completely heinous for Trump to blame the disgusting actions of the Assad regime on the previous administration.   It cannot be disputed that Assad is a war criminal who has  absolutely no regard for human rights or international laws.

President Trump needs to stop blaming other people and start working to solve the problem in Syria. He accuses Obama of being weak, yet Trump hasn’t done anything to combat problems in Syria. Is he going to draw a red line?  Is he going to condone Assad’s unconscionable attack because Assad is helping to fight ISIS?  Blaming previous administrations does nothing to advance U.S. interests and policies in Syria.  President Trump needs to stop the rhetoric of blame as though he is still in campaign mode and must focus on crafting a real strategy to deal with Assad if there is going to be any progress in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Foreign Policy: What exactly are his goals in the Middle East? (4/2/17)

There are A LOT of questions President Trump has to answer.

Thus far, the 45th president has had a tough time in office, with allegations of ties to Russia constantly dogging him.   His recent health care bill, to put it mildly, was a “disaster”, and his executive travel ban appears to be indefinitely suspended.

While the American people have certainly had a glimpse of how Trump will run the country for the next few years in some areas, there are still other areas that are still murky.

One of these areas is foreign policy, specifically, U.S. policy in the Middle East.

While the travel ban gave the American people an idea on how Trump might try to keep them safe, there are still many questions on how Trump will deal with issues in the  Middle Eastern region.

Trump has revealed very little about how he will deal with ISIS, the continually escalating Palestine-Israeli conflict, and Syria.

Trump’s predecessor, Barak Obama, was extremely reticent when it came to real, physical American intervention in the Middle East.

Obama chose to keep American troops in Afghanistan, but in other areas of the Middle East, he decided to use drones and bombing airstrikes to eliminate terrorist threats. While Obama did decide to send troops to Libya and Syria, they were very small in number and were mainly used to gather intelligence.

During the Obama years, the United States seemed passive concerning issues in the Middle East, and it hurt America’s position in the Middle East greatly. Obama’s lack of strategy in the Middle East and his reluctance to use military power allowed Russia to gain considerable influence in Syria, saw the rise of the Islamic State, opened up a divide between Israel and the United States, and destabilized the Middle East, as the Middle East went through arguably its most violent period since the years following the end of World War II.

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Obama’s disagreements with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over various key issues hurt the U.S. relationship with Israel, its greatest ally in the Middle East. (Pic: AP)

It seemed that on the front lines, the United States was missing when its allies were trying to combat the problems of the Middle East. Not only did this hurt the United States’ reputation with its allies, it damaged its reputation globally, as America failed to be the “world deterrent” that it had once established itself to be in the years since the Cold War.

It wasn’t Obama’s intentions in the Middle East that were entirely wrong, but rather his attitude toward the region that was the problem.

During his presidency, Obama was bogged down with many domestic issues and he attempted to address them.  This focus on domestic issues gave the impression that Obama wasn’t concerned with the Middle East and didn’t care about its issues.

Most notably, Obama failed to help the Green Movement in Iran, which dealt with the issues in Iran’s presidential election.  He failed to follow through with his “red-line” threat in Syria, after chemical weapons were used.

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Obama’s refusal to support the Iranian “Green Movement” protests in 2009 allowed the corrupt regime to retake power and ended any hope for change in the country. (Pic: Reuters)

Under Obama, the United States failed to be the stabilizing presence that it had been in the Middle East for years.  Now that we have a new President, what role will the United States play in the Middle East?

Trump’s goals in the Middle East are unclear. During his election campaign, he bombastically promised to “bomb the hell out of ISIS” and to “kill terrorists and their families”.  He also promised a complete and total “Muslim ban.”  Further, he appeared to be cozying up to Israel and Netanyahu.   His campaign rhetoric gave small glimpses into his future strategy in the Middle East.  With Trump as President, it is unclear what his strategy in the Middle East is. He appears to have backtracked from some of his campaign rhetoric and does not seem to be in lockstep with Netanyahu.

The most important thing for Trump is his attitude towards the Middle East. He needs to let the Middle Eastern countries know that the U.S. is very concerned with their interests and concerns and that America is devoted to addressing the region’s issues. Trump also needs to rebuild the trust between the U.S. and some of its Middle Eastern allies- mainly Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

It is vital that Trump establishes the U.S. as the strong stabilizing presence it once was in the Middle East and reassure its allies of its commitment to fighting terrorism and its cooperation to ensure peace in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dashed dreams: Donald Trump’s failed healthcare bill (3/24/17)

“The first thing I’m gonna do when I get to the White House is get rid of the disaster that is Obamacare.”

Anyone who watched even snippets of news during the infamous 2016 election season knows that the previous quote belongs to the then-Presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

For Republicans, this was welcome news. After lambasting Obamacare for the past five years and promising at every election to repeal Obamacare, it appeared that they would finally get their wish of repealing Obamacare when Donald Trump was elected President.

For Democrats, the possible repeal of Obamacare was a disastrous prospect. Obamacare had been a founding part of the 44th President Barack Obama’s legacy, and fellow Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi, had spent years formulating the healthcare plan.

There was a clear split between the parties over Obamacare, which is why it was initially shocking when Donald Trump, as President, stated that there were “some things good about the [Obamacare] bill.”

In his first few days as President, Trump appeared to change his mind in regard to getting rid of Obamacare completely, stating that he would work to “repeal and replace” it, keeping some parts of Obamacare.

It is probable Trump’s change of heart occurred because of the positive meeting he and Barack Obama had a day after Trump was elected President. But as their relationship turned more and more sour, with issues about Trump’s links to Russia, and more recently, Trump’s unsubstantiated wiretapping claims, Trump seemed to change his mind again, introducing a new healthcare bill on twitter just a few weeks ago.

obamacare.jpg
Obamacare’s declining popularity in the last few years has opened up a door for Republicans to take action with a new healthcare plan. (Pic: ABC News)

Upon the new bill’s arrival, reaction was mixed.

House Speaker, Paul Ryan, who was instrumental in the creation of the new healthcare act, (formally known as the American Healthcare Act and dubbed Trumpcare/Ryancare), called the new bill a “Conservative’s wish list.” Ryan stated that the new bill was “monumental” and would be a first step for a series of future Conservative reforms.

Other Republicans, however, were not so pleased with the bill, claiming that the bill did not fully repeal Obamacare and leading some to call it Obamacare 2.0 or Obamacare Lite. A well-known Conservative, Ann Coulter, was displeased with the bill, claiming that while the tax cuts in the bill were great, the rest of the bill did not deal with the main problems of Obamacare, such as loss of jobs and illegal aliens receiving tax credits.

Democrats, too, were very vocal in their criticism of the bill, with many expressing that the bill removed the best parts of Obamacare.  They complained that the new bill would leave millions of people uninsured and would increase premiums.

There was obvious trouble for Trump when a significant number of Republicans didn’t back the bill, and it became obvious that there weren’t enough votes for the  bill to pass in the House.

It became increasingly clear as the day went on that the bill could not pass, if voted on today.  At around 3:45 p.m. today, President Trump pulled the bill.

Since then, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has come out to speak, stating  that “Republicans had come up short” and that it was “time to move on.”

This is a significant blow to President Trump.  The Conservative Republicans failed to back his new bill, and so did the moderate Republicans.  When you can’t get Conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans  to support a bill,  you are in trouble.

Ironically, President Trump had always promised his supporters that he would win so much that they would be “tired of winning so much.”

Perhaps his supporters are now beginning to wonder when all the “winning” will end?