After spending ten days in a state of spiritual bliss, we reluctantly emerged from the joyous embrace of nine days of Yom Tov (for those of us in the Diaspora), followed immediately by Shabbos, to rediscover a world gone berserk.
In a nightmare scenario that reads more like a chapter from a scary novel than current events, a dreaded, deadly illness that has already killed thousands in Africa has now infected two nurses in a hospital in Texas, sending waves of fear throughout the country. As the local federal government scrambled to formulate a comprehensive response, legitimate questions have been raised about the competence of the leadership of some of the key figures charged with dealing with the crisis.
When it first became apparent that a medical worker in full protective gear contracted the virus from an Ebola patient who had arrived in the United States from Liberia, Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was quick to blame the caregivers.
“At some point there was a breach in protocol,” insisted Frieden, whose previous stint as head of the New York City Health Department was marked by controversy. “That breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”
That arrogant assumption was deeply hurtful to the men and woman who bravely put aside their own concerns and fears and fulfilled their professional responsibilities to care for a critically ill stranger. As days passed, it became increasingly likely that Frieden was wrong on the facts as well. It appears that the nurses had, in fact, followed the instructions that had been given and it was the protocols themselves that were at fault and are now being revised.
Frieden also declared that one of the two nurses who got on a plane in Ohio and flew to Dallas with a mild fever “should not have traveled on a commercial airline.” But what he neglected to point out was that it was an official in his very own agency who advised the nurse that she could go ahead and take that flight.
Compounding the public malaise is widespread lack of trust in the Obama administration’s ability to handle this issue along with the array of other pressing domestic and foreign crises.
This medical scare comes as the Pentagon’s ten-week-old war against the Islamic State is showing little signs of stopping the terrorists’ momentum.
The U.S. is still banking on enlisting Syrians and Iraqis to fight the ground war so that U.S. troops won’t have to, but so far no one seems to know when the unstable Iraqi army will be up to the job, or when a viable opposition force will be ready in Syria.
The American general overseeing the campaign, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, predicted on Friday that the jihadists will be “much degraded” by airstrikes — a year from now.
In the meanwhile, as Islamic State terrorists continue to make gains in Iraq, especially in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, the U.S. is upping its airstrikes near the dusty, remote Syrian town of Kobani. This city, which once housed about 60,000, has been besieged for weeks by Islamic State terrorists, and the U.N. estimates that fewer than 700 of its residents remain. Lacking any significant resources and far removed from any capital, Kobani is an unlikely choice for such intensive battles. But in many ways it symbolizes the complexity of the battle with IS.
The U.S. isn’t sure why the terror group is fighting so hard for Kobani. But the very fact that the Islamic State wants it so badly is enough for America to do what it can to prevent the terrorists from claiming victory and earning the resultant propaganda points that will help recruit more terrorists to their nefarious cause.
Most telling is the fact that Kobani is located right at the border with Turkey. Though Turkey is a member of NATO and a supposed U.S. ally, it not only has refused to lift a finger to help the Americans battle IS terrorists; it has openly said it is blocking Turkish Kurds from joining the fight.
The Kurdish minority in Iraq, Syria and Turkey are key to any successful effort to reign in IS. But to the Turkish government, the Kurds are the enemy and not IS, leaving Washington out in the cold.
As the Obama administration struggles to answer its critics about its handling of Ebola and IS, Vladimir Putin continues to play a masterful chess game with Washington, skillfully using every pawn on his board to make a mockery of the West.
Though Moscow is hurting from the EU-U.S. sanctions slapped on Russia because of the dispute over Ukraine, Europe-brokered talks last Friday focused not only on the conflict over Eastern Ukraine, but also on Russian gas that Europe desperately needs this winter. Obsessed with power, Putin sent a clear message going into the negotiations by keeping German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting for a meeting, and then showing up in the middle of a dinner with European and Asian leaders. Despite the insults, both sides sounded optimistic that a deal will be struck, but what is left unsaid is that any agreement will likely reward Putin’s aggressiveness, leave Crimea in Russian hands, and further weaken America’s foreign policy standing.
Our brethren in Eretz Yisrael, who must deal on a daily level with the constant threat of Arab terror, face their own challenges of a government that, like the United States’, has proven to be a failure on both the domestic and foreign fronts.
While shutting out the world and seeking shelter by returning to the physical sukkah isn’t a viable option, allowing ourselves to be guided by the concepts of emunah and bitachon that the sukkah represents is the only real solution.