Thousands of American-trained security forces in the Middle East have collapsed or defected despite the expenditure of tens of millions of American dollars.
The New York Times named three countries with the failures: Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Pentagon-trained army and police in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the heartland of the Islamic State, barely engaged the ISIS.
Several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province retreated when attacked by several hundred Taliban fighters. Nevertheless, President Obama abandoned his promise to end the war, announcing last Friday that 9,800 U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan through most of 2016.
In Syria a $500 million Defense Department program to train local rebels to fight the Islamic State produced “only a handful of soldiers.” It was so dreadful the Obama administration dropped the program recently.
“What the countries have in common is poor leadership, a lack of will and the inability to function while facing intractable political problems,” the Times said.
It quoted Karl Eikenberry, a former military commander and U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, declaring: “Our track record of building security forces over the past 15 years is miserable.”
Indeed. Yet Obama never learns enough.
Reparations for slavery
Apologies are not enough for the horrors of colonialism and slavery. Reparations are necessary.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Miller recently presented such a bill to visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Representing the 14 nations of the Caribbean, PM Miller catalogued the centuries-old grievances of colonialism and slavery. For those gross wrongs she demanded reparations.
Britain was the worst offender, shipping three million Africans across the Atlantic. The Dutch, French and Portuguese also gained enormous profits in the nefarious business.
Britain ended the slave trade in 1807 and abolished all slavery throughout the empire in 1833. Slave owners were compensated–but not the slaves.
Cameron told the New York Times that paying reparations was a “wrong approach.” And besides, he said, slavery and colonialism occurred under other governments centuries ago.
Britain has friendly relations with Jamaica, Cameron said, citing the $38 million from its foreign- aid budget that it would spend to build a prison in Jamaica.
Reparations are a nettlesome issue with their legal and moral questions but not to black scholars and human rights activists. They have called for African Americans to be “compensated for two and a half centuries of slavery,” the Times reported.
Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of the University of West Indies in Jamaica, pointed out that “colonialism stymied Jamaica’s development” and that Cameron should be held personally accountable.
Addressing Cameron, he said: “You are, sir, a prized product of this land and bonanza benefits reaped by your family and inherited by you.”
Beckles called on Cameron to create a reparations justice program.
Splendid idea. Such a program will not heal the wounds of colonialism and slavery but is essential for easing the pain.
Obama mercy strained
Presidential pardons and commutations are an important power to counteract the frequent excesses handed out in the federal justice system.
But the quality of mercy shown by President Obama is not just strained but barely evident. As the Times noted, “Obama is the least merciful president of modern times,” commuting just 89 sentences and granting only 64 pardons in nearly seven years in office.
Here’s a homework assignment for the professorial president: Portia’s mercy speech in “The Merchant of Venice.”
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)