Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sanctions against Syria. Really?

So, the U.S. government recently renewed a number of clumsy economic sanctions against Syria, including those on technology. Their value is questionable.

Yes, we know all the bad things that the Syrian government supports and has supported in the past. But we also know that it is trying to develop as a country, and that the government does not always represent the will or the heart of the people (uh, hellooooooooooo George Dubya!). Syrian NGOs and other non-profits are trying to build networks and infrastructure, educate their people, and provide access to a world outside of the conservative Middle East. Isn't that what we want, too?

But we have a friend working to try to develop legitimate technology infrastructure in Syria, and she is stymied by the fact that she can't buy a damn Microsoft product. She can't rely on support for SaS products that she would rely on in lieu of Microsoft. Her one channel to the Internet is controlled by the government. And while her IT development work, which ultimately aims to aid non-profits in the field of education, is definitely hampered by sanctions which nobody will say definitely DOES hamper terrorism, executives from top U.S. technology companies, including Microsoft, are meeting and building relationships with officials across Syria. That doesn't sound like economic sanctions to me. Or sanctions with any weight, whatsoever.

It's a complicated issue, and obviously one that I'm too ignorant to really address. Think tanks around the world are tasked to deal with this. But in my gut, I know it's wrong. Being in the Middle East is frustrating, infuriating, and more frightening, in some ways, than expected. I did not enjoy being there. But it seems like what we're doing is wrong. Much of the resentment is deserved. Why do we say one thing, and do another? How can we have any push as a moral authority - if we are one, period - when we are fucking lying about actions that just plain hurt people that want to help themselves?

Okay. Soapbox: Exit.

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