As you might expect, I’ve been getting a lot of different opinions about Russia in Syria lately. One reader asked me to talk about the topic of American conservatives who are anti-Putin but who are now berating Obama for being “weak” compared to the Russian leader. It is said by some, though not all conservative, that Putin has “won” or “outplayed” Obama. I can’t say I’ve encountered a lot of these opinions, but they are bullshit for several reasons.
Let me start with the conservatives who both hate Putin while simultaneously whacking it to his picture in private. First of all, if you find Putin to be “tough,” “imposing,” “decisive,” etc., you are terribly ignorant about Russia and Putin. Apart from his Judo black belt, Putin is a small man with a soft voice whose wife left him and whose daughters prefer to spend most of their time outside of his country. Oh what’s that? You saw a photo of Putin riding a horse bare-chested? That’s your idea of tough? It’s pretty simple- mount horse, remove shirt, have person take a photo. Photos of him shooting guns? Big deal. I used to have a photo of myself in the field with my M249 slung over my shoulder. It looked badass but at the time I weighed around 181lb, which meant I was incredibly skinny, and it was long before I got into martial arts myself. The point is, it’s easy to look tough when you’re posing the photo. Incidentally, the opposite is also true:
Putin is also not a master strategist or a decisive leader. From the best information we have, Putin tends to give very vague orders or delegate to people he most likely does not fully trust, quite justifiably in fact. His actions are reactive, and however much they might look like victories on the surface, he has bought them at costs Russia cannot afford. Add to this the peculiarities of his dictatorial system, which has no known system of succession and which has destroyed civil society and the independent press, and what it all adds up to is something I’ve been saying for some time now- Putin has mortally wounded Russia.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s deal with the conservative argument once and for all. What would you have Obama do? Airstrikes? He’s been doing that, and hitting more ISIS positions than Russia is. Invasion? Again? Really? Remember what happened the last time you tried that?
How conservatives see the Syrian crisis
Conservatives need to understand it has long been time for them to stop talking on matters like this. These are the same idiots who thought it would be a brilliant idea to invade Afghanistan without a plan, and then go and invade Iraq in a move which severely undermined American credibility on the world stage. Yes, conservatives, you did that. Yes, your nose will be rubbed in it until you learn.
I cannot stress how harmful the “Global War on Terror,” and specifically its Iraq component was for the US. In fact, it was a great boon to Putin. He and his cronies had to be watching the invasion on their TV screens and thinking two things: 1. I wish we could do that. 2. We’re going to cash this in some day when we need it. They are trying to realize the first, and they have been doing the second for years now.
Add to this the disastrous conservative economic policies which disenfranchise large swaths of the American population, and which also led to massive investment in Russia while dirty Russian money flowed into Western banks and luxury condos. “Let the market decide,” they said, and the market decided in favor of Russia.
What you have here is a legacy of horrible policies at home and abroad which lead to widespread cynicism, and the Kremlin loves cynicism. In the case of Iraq, lies ended up killing tens of thousands of people and we all know that the horror show that is ISIS began with a US-led invasion in 2003. The effects of the Iraq War on Americans and American society were so profound that I and other people I know have personally seen people who were once 100% in favor of the war make a 180 degree turn. Even a conservative family member started badmouth the Bush administration. Relatively speaking, the cost in American lives was low, but there were thousands more who were wounded and maimed, and then you’ve got even more who suffer from mental scars and PTSD. There are those who might have made it through without a scratch, but whose family lives fell apart due to long deployments and other expenses.
I could go on and on about the horrible effects of the Bush administration’s policies, but one of the key results here is that The American population isn’t enthusiastic about backing Ukraine or liberating Syria because for far too long, US government officials, presidents from both parties, and pundits have tried to turn every potential conflict into WWII, complete with a simple black and white narrative. In other words, they cried “Hitler” instead of wolf, and when real wolves started to show their fangs, ordinary citizens are either automatically skeptical, or simply apathetic.
Some of us will never shake these feelings. Speaking personally I have actively researched the prospect of joining up with the YPG to fight ISIS and I’m more than willing to fight for a cause if it is just and in good faith, but whenever I hear some Republican talking about going to war the first thought that comes to my mind is, “Go on, pick up a weapon.” I know I’m not alone in thinking this either. Millions of other Americans here about how “We have to stop Putin, ISIS, or Assad,” knowing full well that “we” actually means “you.”
The bottom line here is that conservatives basically need to shut the fuck up about this topic, because they weren’t just part of the problem, they were the problem, and they still are. You want to stop Putin? Start doing something for working people in America so they believe in their society again. Start acting like you have values instead of talking about them. Maybe stop promoting ignorance, stupidity, and racism too, while you’re at it. You see, however much you hate Obama, he’s going to be gone for good in January of 2017. Maybe you could have a Republican president if you put up a candidate whose entire platform isn’t characterized as: “Fuck Mexicans and poor people.”
Oh and speaking of Obama leaving in 2017, here’s another tip. You guys are so fond of saying “love it or leave it,” except when you’re screaming about how America was ruined by Commies because retail shops say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” so here’s my corollary to that- If you love it, live under it. You still think Putin’s this great visionary leader? Take a flight to Moscow and hand in your US passport, assuming you can negotiate the labyrinth of infernal bureaucracy to get temporary residency, and see the results of his decisive style of rule and his brilliant gambits. Don’t like the socialized medicine and state intervention in the market? Hey why not organize a Tea Party rally in Moscow? Let me know how that works out.
So that it for the conservatives. For other people out there who are terribly concerned about Russia’s moves in Syria, don’t be. There’s no good way out of this. The US screwed things up early on and now Russia’s taking over the screw-up role. Let them have it. These military operations are extremely expensive, and the line in Ukraine is peaceful for now. Also, Putin’s plans at the UNGA have essentially flopped. People predicted that this was an attempt for Russia to take the lead, reconcile with the West, and get everyone to forget about Ukraine while they’re all bombing ISIS. That clearly hasn’t happened- the Western countries, however hypocritical some of their criticism may be, have not hopped on board Putin’s bandwagon and they continue to criticize his actions. So yeah, mission failed.