The Empowerment of Russia
From Contempt to Acquiesence
Those of us old enough to remember recall that we came of age schooled in the hatred of Russia. The United States had never been very fond of Communism. It is probably still studied in universities, and may, occasionally, spawn a bookstore with the word Revolution, painted red, on its sign. But that is about the extent of it. The latter is somewhat doubtful, since even Communists do not want to lose money. I listened to virulent tirades against Russia and Communism off and on when I was a boy. That was because the old man sometimes liked the standard two drinks prior to dining. All it took was a sip, I think, and he was off and running. He would go down punching and kicking. I envisioned rough and tumble hand-to-hand combat on the sidewalks to grammar school.
Before terrorists took center stage, it was always Communists who gave us chills. The President himself cannot remember (at age <2?) how depressing it was, for fifth and sixth graders, too, to learn how the invasion of Cuba had come to naught. Castro despised America. The Berlin Wall, when it came, was also a downer, replying as it did to the Berlin Airlift of 1948. Soon Eisenhower's Domino Theory would become a dark, foreboding specter. In 1956, Hungary's rebellion had been violently put down. The free world panicked. It was on television: China was lost; Eastern Europe was lost, Southeast Asia was next. How did it happen? Combined with anti-American antics in Latin and South America, there was a real sense that Democracy and Communism were on a collision course. We had won the war and lost the peace. 1962 might well have been our very last year. America faced an imminent nuclear attack. President Kennedy, it is averred, removed or re-pointed Turkey-based missiles, offensive to Russia, as if all it took was to slide a game piece on a chessboard.
In WWII, General Patton wanted to continue from Berlin to Moscow. General MacArthur had similar plans for the conquest of Asia. But it is the White House that gives the final okay or denial. Today, it is a challenge for the oldster to sit back while the nation also sits back. So that's that. Civilian and Military, both stationary, huddled round the television set. This was true up until the last few days. Things are beginning to roll again. Another multi-nation coalition is set, again, to attack ISIS. It may not work. Still, I refuse to pronounce judgment on the present administration. Simply put, it is not yet over. There might be something to this latest, accidental empowerment of Russia. Its naked aggression is once again, after Ukraine and the Crimea, out in the open.
Syria has many borders.
Nothing New Under the Syrian Sun
This is for sure. ISIS gained the most attention, stealing the stage from Bashar al-Assad. But the situation has been stewing and simmering for quite some time. Out of all the incendiary actions occurring simultaneously in the Middle East, the Syrian conflict is far and away the most complex. You are going to have to at least look up "Alawites", referring to neither Sunni nor Shia, adding yet another strong, unyielding faction to the essential, diverse worship of Allah. I am using a text dated a couple years back and already significant changes have occurred, most conspicuously the entrance of the Russian military. On the surface, its new presence is surprising. For us, as Americans, we merely note that this was not an anticipated development. Precipitating imagery from heartrending video coverage of refugees scrambling for safety might have been an indicator. The mass exodus from Turkey to Hungary, then upwards to Germany and the Netherlands, has brought their plight (as well as the strain of countries receiving them) to the attention of mainstream television audiences.
Assad, himself an Alawite, rules with an iron fist. His minority rule is not without serious concerns, condemned by watchdog agencies. Assad governs with an extra dose of oppressiveness. His government regards itself in a state of emergency. Some of the results have been hideous. The Hama Massacre is frequently cited, though it pre-dates the current Assad. It was, nevertheless, responsible for upward to thirty thousand killed. Nevertheless, it is the Assads whom Russia aims to restore to power. America objects, being on the side of Freedom and Democracy, though it has had its share of dictatorial alliances, too. My own, conciliatory point is that democracies are virtually impossible in some geographic regions. This appears to be one. The exception of Israel is a happy anomaly. But it is unhampered by Muslim polemics, which shape and form Muslim states.
Syria is a mess. Not being a quick-study in any field of scholarship, I have tried to play catch-up, if only for the sake of an article. To be honest, I do not see a solution to the hair-raising problems this unfortunate country endures. I have read many well-meant but weak, temporary solutions (buffer zones, no-fly zones, shipments, drones, armament, sanctions) by informed journalists. The Saudis, incidentally, are vehemently opposed to Assad. My emphasis, however, is on Russia, which seems to want to dominate the whole territory. I read in the New York Post, of all places, that either Obama has refused to meet with Putin or vice versa. Either way, it seems to me, having no experience in the big leagues, that Russia has put America in a bad place. Its paper-agreement with Iran has not won hearts and minds, nor has its refusal to stand in the way of Basher al-Assad's latest helpmate.
True enough, the current administration inherited a rather fragile geo-political puzzle when it took office in '08. Like many of my fellow citizens, I also did not want to have our military personnel spread out and stationed indefinitely all over the worst trouble spots in the world. Thus, Obama's initial intention to call the troops home met with my approval. It was time -- I thought. The Middle East and other areas overseas easily lead to exhaustion and paralysis. Trouble never ceases. Redlines are always crossed. It is even hard to know what constitutes a crisis since the average day already consists of the unacceptable. It was a noble effort, I think, not without success, to place our greatest human resources out of harm's way. New battlelines are being drawn. Let's first see what and where they are.
Russia Versus The United States
A wrestling match is not implied. Nevertheless, eventually one has to reflect, "Why Russia?" The very latest developments are not at my disposal. All the same, the situation in Syria is not so very different now than how it began in the early months of 2011. True enough, Assad's soldiers fired blindly into crowds, applied gases and chemicals, killed and maimed, and ultimately drove hundreds of thousands into Turkey. An anti-Assad rebel group formed. It fought bravely, but failed to wrest control from the ruling party. ISIS got involved. Then, Russia entered, meaning to set the clock backward, not forward.
Americans are fond of referring to themselves as the world's one and only superpower. Rarely, if ever, is this fact elaborated upon. What does it mean? What does it imply? It certainly does not indicate that neither Russia nor China has any power whatsoever, or power so beneath respectability as to render them harmless. They will not do as told, to put it otherwise, having plenty of power, if less than super, to back up their decisions. Thus, Putin decided, unilaterally, to intervene in a beliigerent, politically sensitive region. The Russians do not appear to be blundering into another Afghanistan, as did their Soviet predecessors. In fact, there are reasons why the population that has not fled might welcome their intervention.
If they succeed in also punishing ISIS, kudos for Russia. Peace, order, and tranquility, even at the point of an AK-47, will not be totally unappreciated. After the terrible hysteria the world has witnessed, any arrangement would be better. Russia, if allowed, is well-positioned to achieve some sort of strategic victory. It is not a small matter since Syria, as it now stands, is battle-worn and -torn, at odds with itself. It will not be so easily pacified. Blood regularly flows and after more than four years of tireless gunplay, it is a mystery as to how survivors manage to survive. But assuming the Russians can bring about a more civilized Syria, then what?
Right now, there are many unanswered questions. America could well be the singular Superpower, but in the post-Vietnam world, its seniors are fond of saying we are not the world's policemen (and women). Sure enough, think how many armed conflicts are taking place this very minute. Our reluctance is fully warranted. As mentioned above, this inertia is about to be overturned. To be fair, there are many other provocations. I only just became aware of a knotty problem in the Sudan that is attracting the interest of the armed services. Now, at last, ISIS might get its just deserts.
An Older Map
A New Russia Rising?
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Iraq is also behind Russia's efforts to return Syria to normalcy. Again, one reiterates with reservations how nice it would be. How nicer still were it the handicraft of America. But, first, it (peace) has not yet happened, and second, the world does not run on dreams the way an automobile runs on gasoline. Videos indicate that ISIS is undeterred and unafraid. My own feeling is that if Russia wants, it can destroy this terrorist group. Perhaps efforts yet to emerge will at least puncture their egos. They are big enough targets. Or, maybe the coalition will zap them. But what does Russia want? To bring about an embattled Syria more or less presided over by al-Assad? Will he only be a figurehead? The rebels, one gathers, are going. ISIS might luck out and linger. It would take a Nostradamus to make a viable prediction. ISIS is attracting numerous recruits from all over. Terrorist groups are not loyal to their host countries. These parasites have the means to disappear, reappear, disband, re-form, or leave and come back. They have options established nations do not. Americans are against them. So are dozens of other nations. But Russia? Perhaps they are more philosophical, more lenient, more visionary. . . .
From Damascus to Moscow
From the Left
- Russia's new moves in Syria - English pravda.ru
Russia steps on the land of Syria to end the civil war there