The Next Crusade

By Javan Latson

Two hundred and fourty-one United States soldiers were killed in a bombing at the marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983.  It was the deadliest attack against U.S. marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima. These individuals were a part of a contingent of 1800 marines stationed in the country since President Reagan dispatched them in 1982. American, English, French, and Italian forces formed a multi-national force that was supposed to help pacify a country that found itself in the midst of a sectarian civil war. The conflict in Lebanon was complicated, involving numerous factions including Christian, Druze, and Shiite militias, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. This situation was further complicated by the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982 with the hopes of creating a buffer against PLO attacks, and the installation of anti aircraft weaponry by Syria in the north. The multinational force (MNF) was sent in to help PLO militants evacuate, protect civilians, and assist the Lebanese government in stabilizing Beirut in what was supposed to be a non-combat mission.

There was no definite timetable as to when the MNF would leave the area, and no clear objectives or methods as to how they were to help the Lebanese restore order in the country.  The mission was subject to frequent change and eventually the MNF was designated as an “interposition force” which is an armed group that serves as a buffer between two warring factions. The role of the U.S. continued to escalate and shift from that of a peacekeeping and humanitarian one to a military deterrent in what was becoming a more and more dangerous place. In the midst of the growing chaos, congress enacted the War Powers Act that authorized the marines to remain in Lebanon for 18 months. Furthermore it was advised that the troops be evacuated from Beirut offshore to one of the U.S. battleships in the region.  However, this was not done and as a result more than 200 lives were lost in attack perpetrated by Shiite militants backed by Iran. Thus President Reagan was forced to withdraw the remaining troops while the French retaliated against an Iranian Revolutionary Guards barrack the month after.

 About 10 years after the Beirut Bombing, President Bill Clinton and the American public watched in horror when seeing the footage of a dead American soldier who was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somali, amidst a crowd cheering Somalis. Simultaneously, Somali-warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed shot down two Blackhawk Helicopters and led other uprisings in the Battle of Mogadishu that killed 18 U.S. servicemen. The American servicemen were originally sent to East African nation in 1992 as a part of a United Nations mission to help provide humanitarian aid to provide food to the thousands of starving people who were enduring a horrible famine. During a speech to the nation, President George H.W. Bush painted a vivid picture of suffering children who were unable to receive assistance due to the anarchy that existed in Somalia. In fact when he sent the troops, he told the public that the men and women participating in the mission were “doing God’s work”.  However, much like the Lebanon campaign, the mission shifted from one of peace to a military endeavor to capture Somali Warlord Aideed after his forces had attacked a contingent of UN troops.  This episode would provide another example of good intentions gone badly, and the current situation in Somalia is no better than it was 24 years ago.

Fast forward to the present. The nation of Syria has been embroiled in civil war for over six years and more than 400,000 people have been killed with millions more being displaced.  What originally began as an attempt to pressure President Assad into making reforms has spiraled into a multisided conflict that now currently involves Russia, U.S., Turkey, Iran, ISIS, and consortium of rebel groups and militias. Under the Obama administration, American action in the region consisted mostly of airstrikes against ISIS and other terrorist groups. Funds, weapons, and training have also been given to anti-government forces that hope to depose the authoritarian Bashar Al-Assad. There is a lot of controversy in regards to supporting groups that we are still unsure of their motives, and even the United States support has led to some instances where rebels funded by the CIA and rebels funded by the Pentagon have fought each other.

Though there have been U.S. forces on the ground in Syria, these troops were mostly Special Forces that have been deployed to provide logistical support and training for our allies. The number of Americans had been kept very low due a cap imposed by the Pentagon under President Obama that limited the number to 500. However, on March 9th it was announced that 400 troops were being deployed to Syria to fight ISIS with plans to send 1000 more in the upcoming weeks. Among those that were sent was a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit, which raised the number of soldiers in Syria to around 1000. Their mission is to advise Kurdish militants in Northern Syria, share expertise on bomb disposal, help coordinate airstrikes, and provide artillery support. Another 2,500 soldiers are being sent to Kuwait with the expectation that they might also be sent to Iraq (where more than 5000 troops are already deployed) or Syria. U.S. soldiers have already made their presence known earlier this month where photographs were taken of armored vehicles flying American flags driving in the Syrian town of Manbij.

Syrian President Assad has not been silent over the increasing number of Americans in Syria, and has gone as far as to call them “invaders” because he hadn’t given them permission to operate within Syrian borders.  In an interview with Chinese network Phoenix TV he went on to say that U.S. forces being in Syria would not improve the current situation and cited the military failures in Somalia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to support his belief that Americans only make things worse. In addition President Assad expects the Trump administration to take a more constructive role in the conflict since both U.S. political parties are against ISIS, but has yet to see him act accordingly.

All things being said, it seems as if the Syrian Civil War is about to get a lot more complicated. Much like Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton before him, President Trump is placing American men and women into an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. Although our soldiers volunteer their lives for the betterment of our country and others, their lives are precious and shouldn’t be thrown away without cause. It’s hard to believe that there will not be a casualty as the troop presence increases, and if something drastic occurs how are we going to respond? Are we going to escalate what is already hopeless situation? What history has taught us is that before entering into enemy territory, there needs to be a clear and definite mission objective as well as a timetable. The frequent change of mission for the MNF in Lebanon and the shift from humanitarian endeavor towards a military excursion only resulted in death and a dissatisfied public. If President Trump truly is America first, then he will take a course of action that values the lives of Americans first and won’t hastily rush into battle in Syria. In order to truly make America great again, we must learn to stop making the same poor choices that have been a detriment our nation.

Persistent Surveillance: the Repercussions of Snowden and the Bundesnachrichtendienst

By Jackie Olson

Edward Snowden, four years after his monumental exposure of U.S. governmental efforts to hack and surveil domestic and international computer networks, remains in Russia without fear of expatriation back to the United States where he would face numerous charges including his violation of the Espionage Act. While Snowden now plays the role of motivational speaker, just last week he was part of a panel discussion on the role of surveillance in the Trump Administration with Daniel Ellsburg, famous exposer of the Pentagon Papers whose 2013 leaks still linger today.

Last month, German chancellor Angela Merkel testified in the on-going investigation of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of international personal networks. Their investigation included Chancellor Merkel’s phone calls, and the questionable link to the NSA’s German counterparts, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), in a few of the suspicious activities Snowden exposed in 2013. While Merkel, like in 2013, held to her “spying among friends is unacceptable” stance at the hearing, her position is a reminder of the German government’s failure to adopt a “no-spying” agreement with the United States in 2013.

Even though Germany has many protections against domestic surveillance of journalists, recent reports have accused the BND of tapping into international news outlets such as the BBC, New York Times and Reuters. Recent disclosures have indicated that the BND since 1999 has surveilled journalists’ communications with private sources, ranging from the Congo to Afghanistan.

In 2006, Spiegel journalist Susanne Koelbl’s email server was intercepted by the BND to observe communications with the Afghan minister for industry and trade. In 2008, the agency apologized for the interception, however, nine years later public scrutiny is still fervent in the belief that the BND has faced little regulation, with their many incidents of rule-breaking and misconduct.  

In fact, late last year the German Bundesrat, the German legislative body, approved expanding the power of the BND to have more discretion in foreign-foreign signal intelligence: a policy that allows for increased gathering of information of people and locations from foreign targets. In addition, while the BND was previously under direct control of the Chancellery, a new independent body was formed to increase oversight on the intelligence organization. The Federal Chancellery is now required to receive authorization from the independent body before any action is taken. Even though there have been mixed opinions on the restructuring of the intelligence service, after this new leak of international press eavesdropping, some people fear the law will just exacerbate the already problematic situation.

Reporters without Borders has claimed that the new law will still allow international journalists little protection against the intrusive BND whereas domestic journalists receive the fullest securities. Along with Reporters without Borders, the Society for Civil Rights is preparing a legal challenge to the expansive BND law that went into effect in January.

This controversy comes at a time when Angela Merkel’s popularity with her open-door stance for refugees has been largely criticized and has inspired neo-Nazi and alternative right groups, such as Pegida, to gain momentum with their anti-immigrant, pro-German national rhetoric.

In September, Angela Merkel’s seat will be in question during the upcoming elections. Recent polling suggests people care most about their country’s future refugee policy and how it relates to their position in the EU. While Merkel’s stance may hurt her, especially after the Berlin Christmas market terrorist attack, her party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is polling at 38% in the proportional government. Yet supporters of Merkel fear a left-wing alliance that would put her out of office.

Germany is not the only European country to have elections this year. France, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic also will have monumental elections that will not only determine their stance on asylum seekers, but will determine how fervent and important nationalistic identity will be in the European continent.

Mexico, Syria, and the Executive Order

By Victoria Herring

President Trump signed an executive order on January 27, 2016 that banned immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries in order to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists”: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Citizens of these countries were banned from entering the U.S. for ninety days, and authorities were ordered to reject Syrian refugees from opening new visa applications. The order also set the quota for all other entering refugees at 50,000 – a drastic difference from the Obama’s administration’s 85,000 limit. A variety of reactions ensued from the general public – intense criticism and protests along with applause for this new law’s promise of protecting the American ‘homeland.’ Yet critics noted the apparent paradox with the seven-country ban: no person from any of those countries have killed any American in the U.S. since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Chaos reigned in airports where families were detained with no clear instructions for next steps. Dual citizens and green card holders were also detained, while large crowds of protesters accumulated in the vicinity of major international airports. Simultaneously, three federal judges questioned the constitutionality of the order, prompting the president to threaten to challenge the judges at the Supreme Court.

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Above is a map detailing the entry of Syrian refugees primarily in the year 2016. They are concentrated in four states, similar to the pattern with the total number of refugees: 10 states accepted 54% of them, demonstrating that the burden of immigrants is not equally spread out and that border states take the greater responsibility, which affects their economies and workforces significantly. If the weight were to be distributed, perhaps greater immigration numbers could in fact be a more feasible. The influx of Syrian refugees due to extreme turmoil in Syria was up 675% in 2016 as compared to the previous year.

After much confusion, a revised executive order has been proposed. What exactly does it entail, and how has it changed from the original? How will its novelty and controversial regulations affect the lives of millions of immigrants attempting to leave Syria, as well as those in foreign countries who are in the process of applying for Visas?

The new executive order is yet to be approved by the president, but its memos have been signed by John F. Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This new order exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they have not used it yet. The White House also said that green-card holders and dual citizens of the United States, and any of the seven targeted countries, are exempt. Nonetheless, the refugee problem in Syria is at a point of crushing immediacy and requires immediate attention.

The Syrian civil war is now in its sixth brutal year. United Nations emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brian describes it as “a slaughterhouse, a complete meltdown of humanity, the apex of horror”. This tragic war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 11 million Syrians from their cities. Children are unfortunately the most drastically affected, as they lose parents, family members and friends. The physical and psychological ramifications of the violence they have observed will undoubtedly manifest itself in coming years. These young Syrians have also fallen years behind in school hampering their already fragile educational efforts. Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Slightly more than 10 percent of them have left Europe, the majority of these seeking peace in the United States.

The embattled city of Aleppo became well known across the globe when the picture of a young boy salvaged from the remnants of his bombed house went viral on social media.

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While only ten percent of Syrian refugees seek shelter in America, this number still constitutes over one million people. With the Trumps administration’s cap of 50,000 immigrants, and blocking the entry of Syrians, the situation will undoubtedly grow worse. Peace talks have been underway since 2015, with both the rebels and the government struggling to maintain ceasefire and in the process destroying much of an innocent population.

Syria is not the only country to be drastically affected by Trump’s executive order. Millions of Mexican immigrants face the possibility of deportation, as the recently reported memos highlight an increase in the discretion of immigration authorities among previously unharmed groups. required While the Obama administration focused mostly on criminals, Trump executive order will rescind these regulations and seek out many types of undocumented people. Although he will not seek to deport Dreamers – individuals in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation but have assimilated to U.S. culture – parents of these young children along with their families face a fearful directive.

The contested story of Guadalupe is a tragic yet bold example of the danger faced by many people who are currently stateless – they do not have papers from the country in which they were born and remain undocumented in the United States. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, was deported to Nogales, Mexico on February 16th, 2017,  according to her attorney, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. A mother of two, she came to Arizona at age 14 and lived in the US illegally for 22 years, until the Trump administrations placed priority on any immigrant with a criminal record. She was convicted in 2009 of felony identity theft in a workplace raid for using a fake social security number, and thus was placed on the priority list for deportation.

The consequences for the economies of states where illegal immigrants constitute a large part of their workforce – like California, New Mexico and Arizona – could be detrimental to the nation’s GDP. A Mexican movement dubbed #AdiosProductosGringos on twitter soon received national attention last week to boycott American brands in Mexico, such as Starbucks and Walmart. Unfortunately, these corporations are staffed in Mexico by Mexicans, which would harm their own employment rate. These ramifications will continue if Trump signs the proposed executive order, and if authorities have clear directions on how to carry out protocol. While displaced immigrants in countries like Syria and Somalia, and fleeing immigrants in Mexico, await an action from the White House, the future of millions of people remains uncertain.