Russia moved rapidly to prop up the Assad regime. They bombed the so-called “moderates” who were waging a war of attrition against Assad’s army. With air support from Russia, Assad’s army is trying to retake territory seized this year in Idlib and Hama Provinces by insurgent groups that include the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and American-backed units.
So, we countered, saying that Russia was killing our guys on the ground:
‘Our guys are fighting for their lives’ said the official, estimating up to 150 CIA-trained moderate rebels have been killed by the Russians.
“Our guys”? The unnamed DC official is referring to the CIA mercenaries who are fighting under al-Qaeda’s command. If the CIA is so concerned about the fate of its “assets”, then all it has to do is to order these moderate head chopper clowns to withdraw back to Turkey or Jordan.
The predominantly neo-con US Foreign Policy elite sees the reemergence of Russia along with the emergence of China, to the status of superpowers as a zero sum game. Therefore, specific, event-limited multi-polar cooperation with these global competitors is considered impossible.
What irritates Washington more than anything else is a display of Russian military prowess that we thought was relegated to 20th century history. Moreover, Russia showed up and started shooting with impressive speed and efficiency. Note that Russia didn’t require that the local military undergo multiple years (and $ Billions) of military training in order to get busy. In addition, they created an active coalition with Iranian and Hezbollah forces who coordinate action on the ground in real time with the Russians and the Syrians.
Russia has given Syria an air force, which we couldn’t do effectively in Afghanistan or Iraq, because their armies, despite all of our training, are weaker than Syria’s.
All of this has enraged the neo-cons and the media. They cannot believe Russia’s temerity, or that Mr. Obama has allowed the US to look weak and feckless. But weakness should be understood, since the US strategy has no clear goals, and is increasingly incoherent. We have a hodgepodge of “allies”, all with competing and often diametrically opposed agendas.
It is not so much a question of which US ally is the most dependable, but which is the least duplicitous.
While we mount a PR campaign to denigrate Russia’s motives, we are simultaneously taking steps to impede their efforts in Syria by arming Assad’s enemies, setting up a likely proxy war with possibly, more than one adversary.
Why are we doing this? We can never underestimate the extent to which the neo-con foreign policy elite believes in American Exceptionalism. It sustains a collective and individual need to appear to win today without giving a thought to tomorrow.
So what do we really have to fear from Russia?
• Russia has a GDP smaller than Italy’s. In fact, its GDP is about a tenth that of the US.
• Its population is currently about 143 million, but this is projected to fall to less than 130 million by 2050. That would be less than the 2050 population of any two of: France, Germany, or the UK.
Basically, Russia has a small window through which it can conduct force projection in the ME. Unless things change drastically, that window will effectively close sometime within the next 10-20 years. So, maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid.
But, they seem committed to using smarts, deep understanding of the local situation, and detailed planning to achieve their goals, while the US uses tactical thinking and blunt force.
And the US needs to remember that it was a Sunni force that became al-Qaeda. It was al-Qaeda that attacked the US. The simple fact is that the direct descendants of Al Qaeda (AQ) in Iraq are Al Nusra (AN) and ISIS. These are the people we are backing inside Syria, even as we attempt to fight ISIS in eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
Russia is forming an alliance of Shia nations, including Iraq. They will ultimately tackle ISIS.
The US tries to square the circle, attacking the Sunni ISIS, while considering most Shia nations as enemies.
Sunnis comprise the largest anti-Assad forces in Syria. Therefore, if the Assad government fell, it would fall to Sunni Jihadists. We should understand if that is what our government is wishing for: Russia beaten. The Syrian government shattered. The flags of ISIS, AQ and AN flying over Damascus.
That is a nihilist viewpoint, and a prescription for endless war in the ME. The neo-cons may want that, but the rest of us, not so much.
What has happened to America’s foreign policy is a form of dementia brought about by an almost complete disregard for truth, honor, decency or honesty by the neo-con elite and many others in the political class.
Our wrongheaded Middle East policy is but a symptom, the neo-con dementia extends throughout our society and our economy.