Boy, some people having a great time trying to pin what is happening in Syria and in Russian-American relations completely on the Obama administration. Situations that grew over decades, even centuries, simply aren’t solvable by one U.S. administration and its foreign policy, certainly not an administration that took the reins of government with two wars raging and a depression threatening.
What caused the rupture between the U.S. and Russia? Most of the recent problems arose during the Bush years. Russia and Georgia fought the 2008 South Ossetia war. Poland was one of the leaders in condemning Russia and supporting Georgia. The Bush administration and Poland signed an agreement to install an interceptor missile system in Poland, against strenuous Russian objections. Then-Russian President Medvedev reacted by stating that the missile system was a direct provocation to Russia, making Poland a legitimate target in any conflict. Also, remember that during the Clinton administration Poland joined NATO, upsetting Russia’s military strategy.
Add to all that the fact that Russia’s only remaining naval installation on the Mediterranean is in Syria in a deal worked out by Assad and company and you have the rationale for Russia’s adamant support of the Assad regime. Plus, you have the fact that Putin and Obama simply don’t like or trust one another, neither did Putin and Bush.
There is an ancient feud being worked out by war in the Middle East. The Sunnis hate the Shia and vice versa. Iran wants to be the regional power, but so do Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We’re hated by pretty much everyone there, and Russia and China are trying to take advantage of that fact. In many ways, the Middle East is a conglomeration of tribes, all distrustful of one another, at best. We’re caught in the midst for several reasons. We still need Saudi oil. We will never betray in any way our ally, Israel. We are still looked upon as the world’s remaining major power by the rest of the world (and by ourselves, too).
The American people are absolutely not ready for yet another war in the Middle East using American ground forces and American treasure. I hope and pray that we learned the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan well. Regime change is impossible to bring about by an outside force, unless we are ready to be as brutal as any dictator running some fiefdom. Consider the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed after we overthrew Saddam. And, they’re still killing one another. The Middle East does not have a history of slowly emerging democratic governance in the style of the United States or Europe. Nations don’t just become democratic because of the overthrow of some autocrat. The “Arab Spring” was about grievances of the people in those nations that overthrew their regimes. None of them have yet become democracies in our way of defining the term.
That we could magically create a democracy in someone else’s nation was the pipe dream of the neocons who were irrational and foolish in thinking that all we had to do was turn people loose in chaos and they would magically become just like us. The neocons actually believed that we could “control” the world for the foreseeable future. Life doesn’t work that way.
To end on a more hopeful note: As we ponder just what we can do in the Middle East and in Syria, for Jews all over the world tonight marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the new year. For my Jewish husband , L’shana tovah Tikatevu. May this new year be better and more peaceful than the last.