By Aidan Dion
How many of you know where Aleppo is? How many know who the Badr Organization is? What region of Syria or Iraq is Shite and which is Sunni? How about which rebel groups fighting in the war are funded by Iran? What are your thoughts on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Those of you who are lost, you are not alone. Aleppo is a major city in Syria that has been the center of the war since its beginning in 2011. The fighting in the city was known for its heavy urban combat and sieges that devastated the civilian population. Sunni and Shiite militias are found in pockets throughout the country. Those that are Sunni have the possibility for aiding forces like ISIS and al-Nusra. Shiite militias are being funded by Iran which is a whole other problem that is beginning to manifest. The most infamous group, ISIS, is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (BBC) He has been the architect of the destruction.
Many people have strong feelings about what is happening in the Middle East, but base their arguments off Facebook memes and rants from family members at dinner. Some will fight tooth and nail that “no boots on the ground are needed” or “someone should do something.” The airstrikes, mass graves, refugees, foreign influence, and numerous advancing divisions make for an incredible epic with hundreds of thousands of lives on the line. Unfortunately, politicians seem to neglect foreign happenings when discussing what policy they will run a campaign.
In a recent interview on MSNBC, presidential candidate Gary Johnson said “What is Aleppo?” (MSNBC) Unfortunately, this echoes the situation of many Americans. Although one can argue that our elected officials should know more about foreign policy than everyone else, we should remember elected officials are representations of us. When politicians care more about appeasing the roaring majority to maintain their office, they stop doing their jobs. Clearly, more ground war in the Middle East would not make the voters happy. It simply doesn’t fit the agenda of any political party. The war and specifically ISIS are playing a significant role in the upcoming election and the next president will have send more than airstrikes. (Polling Report)
Many have laughed off the interview as a fluke and moved onto the next headline of this reality show we call an election. In reality, this is a sign of a larger problem. Politicians of any caliber are guilty of undermining events in the Middle East that have affected millions upon millions of people. Part of this is understandable in the face of some domestic headlines, however the time taken up by foreign affairs in political speeches and evening news slots is embarrassingly low.
Additionally, the Middle East isn’t the only area we are forgetting. The crumbling of Venezuela, wars being fought in Africa, corruption in Brazil, and cartel power in the Philippines are only a few stories that have glided under the American radar. These are well reported crisis’s that have not been addressed by our elected bodies. Every day The Wall Street Journal has updates on the wars in Africa and Middle East. (Wall Street Journal) Lesser followed media outlet Vice has done amazing in depth documentaries in Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine, and the Philippines. (Vice) Lack of reporting is not the problem, the lack of care by an uninterested public and disinterested politicians has visible effects on the international stage.
As events unfold around the world, ignoring them is not an option. Even if we decide that this is not our fight, that decision should made by well-informed politicians voted in by an educated public.