Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is Vladimir Putin Right on Syria?

As regular readers know, I am no fan of Vladamir Putin dictator president of Russia.  As noted many times, Putin has used arguments and tactics that look right out of Adolph Hitler's playbook.  Now, he seems to be reverting to tactics of Josef Stalin during World War II when Stalin pleaded for joint efforts between the Allied forces to fight Hitler who posed a huge menace to Russia, or the Soviet Union as it was called at the time.  In his address to the United Nations, Putin even made specific references to the WWII alliances that defeated the Nazi juggernaut in his call for an alliance of Russia, Iran and America to defeat ISIS and restore some semblance of stability to the Middle East.  In doing so, he also called on America to admit it's responsibility in creating the political vacuum in which ISIS came into being and took shots at the idiotic myth of American exceptionalism.  Can Putin be trusted?  No more than Stalin could be trusted.   Moreover, I despise Putin - and was nauseated by his claims that gays are fine in Russia - but as an op-ed in The Guardian notes, perhaps Putin may be right.  Here are column highlights:
Putin is right. Everyone knows Putin is right, that the only way forward in Syria, if not to eternal slaughter, is via the established government of Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese and Iranian allies.

That is the realpolitik. That is what pragmatism dictates. In the secure west, foreign policy has long been a branch of domestic politics, with added sermonising. “What to do”, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, even Ukraine, has been dictated not by what might work but what looks good. The megaphone is mightier than the brain.

The result of American and British grandstanding at the UN this week – seeing who can be ruder about Assad – is that Vladimir Putin has gathered ever more cards to his pack. Putin has already performed the two primary duties of a Russian leader, bringing stability and pride. He now faces turbulent Russian minorities across his European frontier and a serious menace from Muslim states to his south. He is perforce becoming a player on a wider stage. He has read Iran, India and Syria correctly. He is no fool.

On a visit to London last June, the veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger pleaded with his audience to see Russia as an ally, not an enemy, against Muslim fundamentalism. Russia and the west shared a civilisation and long-term interests, he said. They had to work as one. It is easy for western democracies, centuries in the making, to sneer at Russia’s imperfections and at Putin’s cynical antics in Ukraine. But the idea that economic sanctions were going to change Moscow’s mind or weaken its kleptocracy was idiotic.

Syria is experiencing the most ghastly anarchy anywhere on earth. If ever there were a case for humanitarian “troops on the ground” it must be here. Those who seek this end cannot pick and choose their merchants of atrocity.  

The true nature of the west’s commitment in Syria was revealed in Barack Obama’s remark to the UN that “because alternatives are surely worse” is no reason to support tyrants. In other words, American feelgood is more important than Syrian lives. That cosy maxim has guided western policy in the region for over a decade. It has been a disaster. If we have nothing more intelligent to say on Syria, we should listen to Putin.
One thing that Putin did get right is that America's incredibly stupid invasion of Iraq (with no plan for after toppling the Saddam Hussein regime - set the stage for much of what  has unfolded since.  And sadly, Putin is 100% on the mark with his derisive comment about a “single center of domination” that believes “if we are so strong and exceptional then we know better than anyone what to do.”  That remark describes the foreign policy of Bush/Cheney to a tee.  It also accurately describes the opponents of the Ian nuclear arms agreement who always see war as the first and only solution.

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