A little over a year ago, almost to the day, President Trump carried out a retaliatory missile strike against Syria’s Al Shayrat air force base in response to a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians in Khan Shikhoun in Idlib Province. Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad was obviously undeterred. Since Trump’s strike, Assad has continued to act with impunity—deploying chlorine gas at least three subsequent times. The latest atrocity was reportedly ordered by Assad over the weekend in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma. This latest chemical carnage may have killed at least 42 civilians and injured scores more. The pictures emerging from Douma of the latest atrocity are gruesome. In response to the chemical weapons attack President Trump tweeted over the weekend calling out Russia’s Putin by name—implicating Russia in Assad’s attack. A first for Trump. At his Cabinet meeting yesterday, President Trump stated that he is reviewing options against Syria: “We cannot allow these atrocities…and nothing is off the table in the way of options,” Mr. Trump stated. Just days after the President stated he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, the threat of a “big price” against Assad now looms even as Mr. Trump wants to wash his hands off Syria. Apparently, no amount of international outcry will stop Assad from using any means he deems necessary to liquidate anyone left in the remaining rebel-controlled suburbs around Damascus—especially when he is enabled by Russia’s President Putin. Consequently, is there any decisive action which the U.S. can take, either unilaterally or in concert with U.S. allies such as France, which will force Assad to desist in his use of chemical weapons? Another cruise missile attack by the U.S. against a Syrian military base like the 2017 Al Shayrat military airfield is not going to cut it. It amounted to a mere slap on Assad’s wrist given his subsequent resort to more horrific chlorine gas attacks. Since the 2017 Tomahawk missile retaliation the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Assad’s forces killed another 42,000 civilians—including 375 by chemical weapons. After last year’s retaliation a Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times that the attack on Al Shayrat air force base was “…at the more limited end of the military options presented by Secretary of Defense Mattis to Mr. Trump.” So, what is on the other end of the spectrum of possible military options which would severely punish Assad that likely is under Presidential consideration? I do not know what the Pentagon may present to the President in the way of military options, but here is my own list of target recommendations that will hit Assad where it really hurts, yet avoiding to the maximum degree possible collateral damage and civilian casualties. The Bassel al-Assad Joint Civilian/Military Damascus Airport. This is Assad’s major aviation link to the outside world. A concerted attack on its sole runway, aviation fuel farms, military and civilian aircraft hangars and joint control tower will take this airport out of commission for months—a very painful blow to Assad’s clique and supporters who are dependent on Damascus Airport for foreign travel and luxury imports. Ditto for Aleppo International Airport. Latakia & Banyas Mediterranean Ports. Latakia—located in Assad’s Alouite redoubt—is Syria’s major seaport through which almost all of Assad’s essential imports pass. It is THE essential link for Assad’s Shiite supporters who live in and around Latakia Province, to the outside world, including the essential ferry connection to Cyprus. Taking out the berths, cranes, loading jetties and warehouses in Latakia and Banyas would cripple Assad’s ability to wage war and place a huge strain on Russia’s military seaport based of Tartus—forcing Assad to triage between military and essential civilian commodities at the sole operating port left for Syria. For good measure, I would add to this target rich environment the major road links in and out of both ports linking them to Damascus and Aleppo. Syria’s Western Oil Pipeline Network.  Ironically, after liquidating ISIS in the area, U.S. Special Forces and our Syrian Kurdish allies in Syria control the territory in Deir el-Zour Province where Syria’s major oil wells are located east of the Euphrates River. However, located between Damascus to the south and the city of Homs to the north lies the major gas and oil pipelines serving Damascus—readily identifiable by Google Earth. With his oil fields largely cut off from him—courtesy of the Americans for the time being, Assad is dependent on oil imports (and aviation fuel imports) through the Russian-controlled military seaport of Tartus. While not targeting the Russians in Tartus directly, the pipelines and tanker trucks lined up outside Tartus should be fair game. Syria’s Missile Air Defenses. Last year, Russia formally linked Syrian and Russian air defense systems together, including its S-300 and S-400 long-range missile systems and its Pantsir-S1 short to medium range missile. The nexus of this air defense joint operation is located at the joint Russo-Syrian air force base located at Hmeymim air force base south of Latakia seaport. When Israel launched a massive retaliatory strike against Syrian air defense installations following an Iranian military drone incursion in February, Putin forced Israel to back down before it could finish destroying the remaining S-400 missiles based at Syria’s T-4 air force base near Palmyra and at other bases around Damascus.  Syria’s Russian-controlled integrated air defense system—particularly those S-400’s—are an essential component of Assad’s military and are the backbone of Russia ability to keep Assad’s air force in the skies dropping those dreaded barrel bombs. Undertake a “Reagan”Attack.  On April 15, 1986 President Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya in response to Col. Kadhaffi’s terrorist attack on the “La Belle” West Berlin nightclub. President Reagan targeted a good number of Libya’s military barracks and, for good measure, the U.S. air force dropped a bomb not too far away from Kadhaffi’s personal compound. The U.S. attack on Libya substantially ended Libya’s terrorism abroad. The challenge for President Trump is that all of Assad’s air bases are under joint Russian control (increasing the risk of Russian military casualties), but Syrian barracks are not under joint custody. Since Trump has signaled an attack is imminent the broader strategic dilemma confronting the U.S. is NOT whether an escalated retaliation will deter Assad from resorting the chemical weapons. Rather, it is whether the President will be satisfied with a “big price” retaliatory attack, but then follow his impulse to withdraw American troops from Syria “within several months” as he declared, over the objections of his military advisers. And when, not if there is a retaliation what will Russia do against U.S. forces in Syria in response? Danger of a confrontation with Russian forces in Syria is a real possibility however the noble reasons may be for hitting Assad where it really hurts—especially since Putin warned Russia would not turn a blind eye to a further American intervention against Assad. U.S. allies in the region, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia, have appealed to Mr. Trump not to withdraw American forces. They know all too well that Assad is winning his civil war, and that as he consolidates his victory there will be no American boots on the ground in eastern Syria to prevent Iran’s recapture of Syria’s oil fields or deter the deployment of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps troops opposite Israel’s Golan Heights. Once again, Assad has presented to the U.S. another bad chapter in the Syrian civil war where American tactical options are in search of a strategy. About the author: Ambassador Marc Ginsberg is former White House Mid East Adviser & U.S. Ambassador to Morocco. He is currently Senior Global Adviser to the Counter Extremism Project.  

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.