A Philosopher's Blog

Syria & Russia

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on October 5, 2015

Apparently following the lead set by Hollywood, Putin is remaking the classic cold war series. After getting things started in Ukraine, he has switched to that zone of endless conflict that is the Middle East. While Russia has long supported the Assad, Putin has sent Russian military forces to shore up the crumbled regime. Russian jets have already hit targets in Syria and Russia has tried to tell the United States to stay out of its way. The US has declined to abandon its operations, but has agreed to discuss steps to “de-conflict” the operations. That is, to coordinate with the Russians to avoid dogfights between American and Russian combat aircraft.

The conflict in Syria has been largely to Russia’s advantage in that the refugees fleeing to Europe have caused conflict among the European nations that threatens to damage or even destroy the union. The influx of refugees has also strengthened the right wing nationalist parties in Europe. These parties are often seen as being on reasonably good terms with Putin and any advances they make are a plus for him.

Given the value of keeping up the flood of refugees into Europe, it might be wondered why Putin is finally intervening. The easy and obvious answer is that he believes he has something to gain by this intervention. This does seem to be true—Putin does stand to gain.

First, Syria is Russia’s only real foothold in the Middle East. Syria is a Russian ally and plays host to a Russian naval base in Tartus. Having Syria collapse completely would cost Russia an ally and make maintaining a military presence very difficult.

Second, Russia has its own substantial Moslem population and is worried about terrorism. It is currently estimated that around 2,000 Russians are fighting for ISIS in the Middle East and Putin is no doubt concerned that they might return to cause trouble in Russia. Put bluntly, he can simply kill them in the Middle East and solve that problem.

Third, by acting on the world stage Putin hopes to create the impression that Russia is a major player again. The cynical might regard this as Putin engaging in “look at me! Look at me!” behavior, but even the cynical must acknowledge that it is working—the United States and other nations now have to deal with Russia and that gets Putin into the media spotlight.

Fourth, Russian adventures in Syria pull the eye of the media cyclops away from Ukraine and to Syria, thus providing Russia a media shadow in which to operate.

Fifth, Russia gets to boost its reputation by looking tough relative to the United States. It has been claimed that Russia’s initial attacks did not hit ISIS but targeted anti-Assad forces that are backed by the United States. Putin is confident that the United States will not shoot down Russian planes to protect the pitifully few US backed rebels. This allows Putin to poke the US in the eye with no risk—it would, after all, be stupid for the US to get into war with Russia over a handful of rebels.

While Russia sees the potential for gain via this intervention, there is the blindingly obvious fact that things always go wrong in the Middle East. Pundits are already making the obvious reference to the last Russian adventure in the region—the meat grinder that was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While Putin has emphasized that Russia will be engaged only in an air campaign, interventions often escalate and both the United States and Russia have shown a willingness to jump into quagmires. Should Syria turn out to be a quagmire, this will be bad for Russia. Cynically, it could be good for the United States in geopolitical terms. It would, as always, be horrible for the people who live in the quagmire.

A second possible problem for Russia is that its intervention in the region will make it into a Junior Satan or even a Co-Satan to the original Great Satan (that is, the United States). Russia could find itself subject to increased attention from foreign terrorists and also domestic unrest from its own Moslem population. This, clearly, would not be a plus for Russia.

A third possible problem is that the intervention could go badly and damage Russian prestige. For example, Russian pilots might be captured and executed by ISIS. As another example, the Russian bases of operation might be overrun and captured, which would be a blow to the reputation of Russia.

A fourth problem is that backing Assad might have a negative impact on Russia’s relation with other countries. However, the countries that are likely to be upset by this are countries that already have poor relations with Russia.

While analogical reasoning is inductive and thus subject to the usual practical problem of induction (namely that the premises of an inductive argument can all be true and the reasoning strong, yet the conclusion can be false), the history of the Middle East has shown that such interventions always end badly. As such, it seems reasonable to expect that Russia’s intervention will slide into disaster. That said, perhaps Putin can pull it off and make history.

 

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15 Responses

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  1. TJB said, on October 5, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Democrats at work, Russian edition:

    • TJB said, on October 5, 2015 at 8:53 am

      “We worked hard to get the right Russian word.”

      This was a major international event. Hillary had the resources of the entire State Department at her disposal.

      Please Joe, run…

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 5, 2015 at 9:06 am

    • ronster12012 said, on October 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      AJ

      No news there…..why wouldn’t they welcome Russian airstrikes? Perhaps they are more clear eyed than the average westerner and know who their real enemies are…

      • ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 6, 2015 at 10:38 am

        I thought it was interesting that the mayor who was interviewed said ISIS grew stronger, not weaker, after the US air strikes. Anyone who knows anything about the situation in Syria knows the US air strikes are air support for US backed Islamic militants.

        Syrian archbishop rips US support for Islamic rebels

        Catholic World News – October 02, 2015 – A Syrian bishop has reacted strongly to Senator John McCain’s claim that Russian planes are bombing US-backed rebel forces, saying that McCain’s statement is “a blatant admission” of American involvement with Islamic militants.

        Speaking to the Fides news service, Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo said that Russian air strikes were targeted against positions held by Islamic militants. He went on to say that McCain’s statement reflects the “Western propaganda” that the US has been providing support for “moderate rebels, who do not exist.”

        The admission of US support for Islamic radicals is disturbing, the archbishop said. “What does it mean? Al Qaida is now a US ally, just because in Syria it has a different name?”

        CWN: Syrian archbishop rips US support for Islamic rebels http://dlvr.it/CKwfLV 

        • ronster12012 said, on October 6, 2015 at 10:54 am

          AJ

          Thanks for that.

          What I find sad and disappointing is the lack of concern that many western Christians have for their middle eastern brethren…..who BTW belong to the oldest of all churches. Palestinians were at one stage 30 or 40% Christian,even Arafat’s wife was Christian, now their numbers are way down. Syrian Christians have been protected by Assad in a similar way that Iraqi christians were protected by Saddam. They have been slaughtered by ISIS.

          As for his question re Al Qaeda, it was an ally in the Balkan wars, and it was an ally in Libya and is now an ally in Syria. Doesn’t that mean that the whole ten year trillion dollar Afghan war was a farce and a fraud? Who was responsible for that? Neocons perchance? Whose interests do they serve? Not the interests of the american people, that’s for sure.

          • ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

            I know. Most people don’t realize Palestine and Syria, as well as Lebanon and Iraq, have had large Christian populations since the time of Christ. Look at all these ancient ruins the Sunni ISIS has been destroying in Syria. Places the Syrian government has protected for thousands of years. The US and its allies are the evil doers. Muslims are the scapegoats. I’ll post an interesting video after this. It shows how different the terrorism situation in Palestine was in 1946. And who were (and are) the real terrorists.

            • ronster12012 said, on October 7, 2015 at 11:40 am

              AJ

              Thanks for the vid.

              The US and its allies have been hijacked by the usual suspects who have no loyalty or gratitude only contempt.

              The video makes clear who the terrorists at that time were, blowing up the King David Hotel amongst other acts, killing in total 700+ British soldiers, some of whom no doubt had recently been engaged in fighting the jewish jihad against Germany. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that the Stern gang offered to fight for Germany against the British during WW2 as they saw British restrictions on emigration to Palestine a problem.

              As you note the moslems have been scapegoated. Despite my rants about moslems here, I don’t hate them, I just don’t want them in our countries(in anything more than trivial numbers) as that is the best way to avoid future problems. I also am against attacking their countries for no good reason( and I can’t think of one).

              This is how the jews have gotten the US, UK and others to do their dirty work of rearranging the Middle East for them, Eretz Israel and all that.

  3. ronster12012 said, on October 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Michael

    …………………………………………………..
    “After getting things started in Ukraine, he has switched to that zone of endless conflict that is the Middle East.’
    …………………………………………………..

    Who exactly got things started in Ukraine? I thought that it was the US that bought $5 bil(over 10 years) of Maidan that started it all, or at least Victoria Nuland seemed to think so.

    …………………………………………………….
    “While Russia has long supported the Assad, Putin has sent Russian military forces to shore up the crumbled regime. ”
    ……………………………………………………..

    Crumbling because of US/Saudi/Turkey/NATO/Israel sponsored Al CIAda/ISIS attacks.

    ……………………………………………………….
    “Fifth, Russia gets to boost its reputation by looking tough relative to the United States. It has been claimed that Russia’s initial attacks did not hit ISIS but targeted anti-Assad forces that are backed by the United States. Putin is confident that the United States will not shoot down Russian planes to protect the pitifully few US backed rebels.”

    ………………………………………………………….

    ISIS is obviously western/saudi backed……….or else they wouldn’t be allowed to exist. It is that simple. They are doing their job in destabilizing selected parts of the ME. They don’t attack Saudi, they don’t attack Israel, they don’t attack Turkey……….nuff said.

    ……………………………………………………………..

    “A second possible problem for Russia is that its intervention in the region will make it into a Junior Satan or even a Co-Satan to the original Great Satan (that is, the United States).”
    ……………………………………………………………..

    Probably not as Russia isn’t Israel’s bitch the way the US is. The US is totally jewed from Hollywood and the media to the Fed to the various departments of the US government to the bought and paid for politicians to the menorah on the White house lawn.
    Perhaps it’s different on the inside but from a distance that is certainly what it looks like to me.

    ……………………………………………………………………

    “A third possible problem is that the intervention could go badly and damage Russian prestige. For example, Russian pilots might be captured and executed by ISIS. As another example, the Russian bases of operation might be overrun and captured, which would be a blow to the reputation of Russia.”
    ……………………………………………………………………..

    Or perhaps they are serious about sorting out the problem instead of twiddling their thumbs as the US has done or even worse, actively supporting ISIS. The Iraqi government has said that it has various reports of both the US and the UK dropping supplies to ISIS in Iraq. This is somewhat credible only because of the complete lack of enthusiasm by US/UK/NATO?whatever, to actually confront ISIS. This lack of enthusiasm is entirely understandable, as why stop them doing precisely what is the geopolitical aims of the main players?

  4. ronster12012 said, on October 6, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Seems that Russian action may be having an effect….700 terrorists allegedly surrendered to the Syrian government in exchange for amnesty. That sounds remarkably soft hearted for such an allegedly ‘evil’* regime.

    http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13940712000488

    http://rense.com/general96/usrogue.html

    So the question that springs to mind is what the hell has the ‘Coalition’ been doing till now allegedly attacking ISIS……but in reality it seems that they were protecting them…..if after a week of Russian activity the terrorists are pissing their pants and surrendering?

    People were hanged at Nuremburg for this sort of shit, waging a war of aggression was the charge….but then they were on the losing side.

    *Evil in this context means opposed to being ‘regime changed’.

  5. ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

  6. ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 7, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    One of the terrorist leaders they were looking for — Menachem Begin — later became the 6th prime minister of Israel. Begin was “the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944, against the British mandatory government, which was opposed by the Jewish Agency. As head of the Irgun, he targeted the British in Palestine…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menachem_Begin


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