USA Today, November 2020
On the world stage, many foreign policy experts say President Donald Trump has slashed and burned his way through international agreements and commitments on climate change, trade, troop deployments, public health, nuclear weapons and more.
But for the mother of an American hostage held overseas, the outgoing U.S. president has been exactly the global “advocate and ally” she’s needed. “Obviously there’s only one measure of success in this situation, and we haven’t had it yet because Austin is not home,” said Debra Tice, speaking about her son, a 39-year-old former U.S. Marine who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 while working as a journalist. He has not been heard from since.
However, U.S. officials believe the Texan is alive and likely in the custody of either the Syrian government or a government-aligned militia. Trump has taken an active interest in the case and sent presidential envoys to Damascus to engage directly with President Bashar Assad’s regime, most recently in August, when Trump’s representatives discussed Tice’s disappearance with the head of Syria’s intelligence agency.
Tice said her family’s contact with U.S. officials during the Obama administration was dominated by “a constant shuffling of the cards” – being passed from official to official without clear purpose, and with little apparent strategy to secure her son’s release. By contrast, she said, Trump has made “Austin’s release a very high priority. He really has in his heart an intolerance for Americans being held against their will.”