I think it’s pretty clear by now that I dissent from some people on the topic of Russia in Syria. According to a rather misguided idea, everyone who has a beef with the Russian government should take a decidedly contrary position to what ever is perceived to be the Kremlin’s position in any and every dispute around the globe. I’m terribly sorry but this idea is bullshit, and it actually plays right into the hands of Putin and his mythmakers. The fantasy they are constructing to dupe their own exploited people is one in which Russia is again a world superpower, and it commands a league of friendly nations and regimes around the world in a struggle against the Anglo-American-Atlanticist hegemony, or whatever the hell they’re calling it now. People who subscribe to the “every enemy of Russia everywhere is my friend” mode of thought are merely feeding this very fantasy, essentially completing the work of Moscow’s propagandists.
Let me make this absolutely clear. I do not “support” Russia’s intervention in Syria. It’s nothing but another absurd “reality show” to distract from the failed, problematic sideshow in Ukraine, which in turn was intended to distract from the fact that Russia is controlled by a dictator who is running his country aground. The Russian people are paying for this war, as well as substantial costs of the Donbas Debacle. Together with the tumbling Russian economy, the results aren’t pretty. That being said, American and Western policy on the matter of Syria hasn’t exactly been stellar since 2011, and the West has thus far utterly failed to come up with any better alternatives. My position on Syria is very clear- unlike the establishments Graham Phillips frequents, there are no happy endings. Prop up Assad and more barrel bombs will fall. Let him fall, and heads will continue to roll. Count on it.
Having got that out of the way, I liked the sober analysis on the topic delivered by the venerable “War Nerd” of eXile fame. Like the recent work of Mark Adomanis and more recently Fareed Zakaria (mentioned in the previous post), War Nerd Gary Brecher gives his take on some of the hysterical reactions to Russia’s Syrian involvement. I have to say though, that there was one point I had to take issue with and it demonstrates another absurdity of the Kremlin establishment’s thinking.
War Nerd takes issue with the US Secretary of Defense’s claim that Russia’s campaign is “doomed to fail.” On the contrary, he explains:
“Actually, Russia’s campaign is much more simple and logical than the USAF’s messed-up mission in Syria. Russia is using its air force to try to blast out a viable territory for an Alawite/Shia state along the Syrian coastal hills. Assad’s people are longtime Russian clients and allies, and the Russian air force is helping them maintain their key turf against a much more numerous enemy. It may fail, but at least that’s a reasonable plan.”
He then goes on in more detail, and indeed, from a strategic point of view this is all rather reasonable. There’s just one problem with this- when it comes to the Kremlin’s plans in Syria, they never said it was to “blast out a viable territory for an Alawite/Shia state.” No, folks, they were very clear- this was all about destroying ISIS. Russia was going to save the world from ISIS, and numerous Russian outlets and even idiotic American social media sites were claiming that Russia had devastated ISIS in the first 24 hours of bombing, with 24 ground attack aircraft, no less. Of course this wasn’t true. Russia’s activities in Syria have been pretty much what everyone expected them to be, and War Nerd’s calculations are most likely right.
Here’s the maddening part though- if Russia had just admitted this from the very beginning, i.e. that they were trying to shore up Assad so as to force a settlement, something they have all but admitted only a couple weeks in, no rational person could accuse them of failure right off the bat. There are many ways they can spin this and come off looking much better, at least more honest for once. Instead, they claimed they were going to fight ISIS, then they directed nearly all of their small force against everybody but ISIS, save for a few token strikes. Ergo their anti-ISIS crusade was indeed, “doomed to fail,” largely because it was never intended in the first place.
While the Kremlin mantra about how “moderate rebels don’t exist” isn’t exactly true, it’s not bullshit either. “Moderate rebels,” outside of certain areas, are few and far between, and we do not know how “moderates” might act after the collapse of the regime and the conquest of its territories. The end of a bloody sectarian conflict and the thrill of victory as well as the memory of losses and pain may erupt in an orgy of violence against the conquered people, “moderate” views notwithstanding. And even if secular rebel forces could somehow rally and defeat the regime, what’s to stop them from getting knocked over by Al Nusra and other Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, ISIS, or both? These are all valid points the Russian foreign ministry could have made, had they not decided to lie instead, starting with trying to conceal involvement, then declaring a jihad against ISIS that wasn’t to be.
So you have to wonder why they lied when they actually could have had truth on their side (albeit with a standard helping of spin). I’ll admit I have no more than a hunch here, but I have a feeling that the top brass and the political technologists actually did this on purpose, because they think it’s somehow clever. A logical tactician would capitalize on the fortune of having a valid case, but this is Russia, dominated by experts in geopolitics and hybrid warfare! The proper hybrid warfare technique would be to say you’re going in for one reason, then do the opposite without regard for the fact that everyone can easily see what you are really doing. Elementary geopolitical expertise tells us that executing a plan with this hybrid deception element woven in means that the acting country receives a bonus of +10 prestige for pulling it off. Add that to the +50 resource points Russia gets for controlling Syrian coastal territory, and the whole gambit makes sense according to the brilliant science of geopolitics!
It kind of reminds me of those bullshitters who actually have fairly interesting life stories or accomplishments, and yet still feel the need to inflate their records by making up things that never happened. For fuck’s sake, man, quit while you’re ahead. So here we have yet another example, albeit a minor one where Russia could have scored some points yet didn’t because the geniuses in charge had to lie. It’s akin to the way Putin’s regime made real accomplishments that could be attributed to globalization and foreign investment, but Putin was unable to openly “claim” these benefits in front of his base because his own system constantly marinated them in xenophobic, jingoistic propaganda. Imagine how differently things would be today if in 2005 Putin went on TV and said something like: “Hey guys, America’s dumping a lot of money into this country, along with Europe, and we’re benefiting from this, we’re on our way to being a part of Europe and the leading industrial nations in the world! Personally I hope it happens before 2008 too, because of course that’s the end of my term and I plan to retire from politics.”
In the end it’s just one of dozens of irreconcilable internal contradictions that make it impossible for the Russian regime to truly succeed. This is why as I’ve said before, this “New Cold War” isn’t going to last long. If Putin had gone into Syria with the honest motive of propping up a small Alawite enclave to force a settlement to the process, he might have been able to achieve that goal and appear victorious in front of his base as was the plan. Even if that enclave were overrun later, Russia’s forces could be long gone, and the Kremlin media could already be talking about the next Russian crusade against Masons or reptiloids or whatever. Instead they said they were going to wipe out ISIS, and ISIS is just fine. And if they fail to prop up Assad, the campaign will look like even more of a failure. Putin’s probably not going to commit any sizable number of troops to fight Assad’s war, so it will appear like the crusaders arrived to fight ISIS and then left with their tails between their legs while Assad’s government collapsed. Smooth. Real smooth.