More Politics More Problems

Grind for December 27th, 2018
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

– Maya Angelou

On Again Off Again

The Headline

Trump kicks Mattis out of White House, makes changes to Syria withdrawal

The Grind

President Trump announced Sunday that Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would oversee the Pentagon until a replacement for outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is confirmed.

Mattis, who resigned last week after failing to convince Trump not to pull troops from Syria and Afghanistan, had been planning to remain until the end of February.

Pentagon officials expect a dozen or more civilian leaders to follow Mattis out the door.

The Details

Trump on Sunday also confirmed troop withdrawal from Syria would be “slow and highly coordinated.” While they remain, US troops are ready to help local forces launch an ambitious intervention against ISIS hideouts in Syria’s Euphrates River Valley.

“It’s a very sensible arrangement,” said one White House official. “We would work with Turkey to hand over responsibility to finish off the small amount of remaining work against the ISIS territorial caliphate” and “help out logistically if they need it.”

For Turkey, the primary goal is to establish a 20-mile-wide buffer zone along its border with Syria – penetrating into Syria risks conflict with Iran- or Russia-backed militias loyal to Assad.

“I think Erdogan may have gotten more than he bargained for,” says Soner Cagaptay, an expert on Turkey at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Trump’s new plan “slowed down what would have been a more speedy US withdrawal because Erdogan probably explained that Turkey did not have the resources and allies to reach deep into, and then hold, the Euphrates River Valley and territory beyond the immediate border area.”

In the meantime, Administration officials worry the Syrian Democratic Forces (previously our allies) will respond to US withdrawal by switching sides.

Playing Fair

The Headline

Facebook’s sole conservative executive is making a big impact

The Grind

Joel Kaplan is a former Marine and Harvard-trained lawyer who served as Deputy Chief of Staff under George W. Bush.

Kaplan was hired by Facebook in 2011 with support from Republicans and Democrats as a no-nonsense policy maker. In 2014, he moved up from VP of US public policy to VP of global public policy.

Kaplan’s job at the social media site is to “demonstrate to people that Facebook is being fair,” explains Josh Bolten, a friend of Kaplan’s who worked with him under Bush. “What he sees correctly is that a lot of people on the right are suspicious of most media outlets and social media platforms.”

The Details

In recent years, Kaplan has emerged as Facebook’s defender against claims of political bias.

His input has led the company to postpone or cancel projects that risk upsetting conservatives.

Last summer, he was influential in shutting down “Common Ground,” a project which sought to minimize toxic content and encourage users with opposing political views to play nice.

Kaplan insisted the program would exacerbate claims of bias against conservatives.

Unfortunately his push to partner with The Daily Caller’s fact-checking division was scrapped in November when the site lost its accreditation.

The Background

Facebook came under fire during the 2016 election for its support of Democratic candidates. And despite a crackdown on polarization and fake news, the company is increasingly accused of political bias.

These accusations have created a new work environment for Facebook employees, who must consider the political repercussions of their every move.

“People on different teams are getting used to having policy and product involved every step of the way,” explains Facebook VP Guy Rosen.

According to company insiders, Facebook’s effort to avoid criticism from Republicans is preventing it from addressing bigger issues on the platform.

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