Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia attacking by air, land and sea

Perhaps it’s just as well that we our hands full with immediate problems here in South Carolina. Otherwise, I’d really be stressing about Putin’s new adventure in Syria.

  • Day after day, his air assets are attacking our allies — the Syrian rebels to whom we have been providing aid as a balance against both Assad and ISIS. And lying about it. The one silver lining in this is that they are presumably attacking the forces Assad, their buddy, sees as the most immediate threats. Which indicates that maybe our aid to these rebels is actually having an effect.
  • Now they have a battalion-sized ground force in place, including their most advance tanks. Sure, a battalion isn’t all that huge, but it’s a start.
  • Russian ships have entered the fray. For once, the BBC’s practice of putting everything any nation says in quotes is justified (“Russia ‘hits IS in Syria from Caspian’“), there being such a gap between what Putin is doing and what he says he’s doing.

This is a serious problem, people. I’m having trouble remembering any time in the Cold War that the Soviets moved this boldly, outside of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which they considered their own turf. Sure, they advised the North Vietnamese, but how many Russians actually went into combat there?

That’s because the Soviets weren’t nearly as reckless as Putin.

He’s playing with both matches and gasoline, and doing so right next to some of our people…


23 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia attacking by air, land and sea

  1. bud

    I can’t believe Putin is so stupid. After watching us flounder around in Iraq and Afghanistan for 14 years what does he really expect to accomplish for the good of the Russian people? Oh well. If he wants to get into a quagmire there’s really nothing more we can do other than warn him of the dangers. Sort of like those folks who drove around the barricades in Eastover ending up in the river. What a sad and preventable tragedy. But what we really, really don’t need to do is follow the Russians onto the washed out road.

  2. Phillip

    “I’m having trouble remembering any time in the Cold War that the Soviets moved this boldly, outside of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which they considered their own turf.”

    Maybe you’re blocking it out, because the one you’re forgetting is in a place that continues to bedevil us, as it has every foreign army that’s ever entered there: Afghanistan.

    Another one of course that was far more dramatic and directly threatening to America was the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    By attacking and eventually eliminating all of the moderate groups, Russia is making the conflict binary: you can either have ISIS or you can have Assad. Eliminating all the moderate options means that Assad stays in power. If you eliminate all the other options and make everyone choose between Assad and ISIS, you’ll get Assad.

    Russia thereby keeps its client state in power and extends its sphere of influence. After four years of dithering and doing absolutely nothing, the USA has been shoved out of Iraq and Syria completely. Sounds like it’s completely in Russia’s interests to do exactly what they’re doing.

    Some here may cheer that. I do not.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis
      It’s still a dialectic with the Soviets, oops, sorry not sorry, Russians

  4. Bryan Caskey

    Russia is also intercepting our drones. This is bad. While they may not be shooting them down (yet), they’re gaining live-fire experience in what it takes to intercept and shoot them down if need be. If they decide that they don’t want our drones there, then our main ability to gather intelligence in Syria goes away. Russia is going to gain experience in dealing with US Military tech in the next few months.

    And they’re shooting cruise missiles? That’s a good live-fire way to see how accurate they are. It’s also a nice demonstration for anyone who wants to buy them. Pretty sure Russia is okay with selling their military hardware.

    1. bud

      Bryan you’re naively reciting the age old fear-mongering about the Russians that’s been going on since the mythical days of the missile gap of the 1950s. The Russians will rue the day they got embroiled in the Middle East quagmire. Our best strategy is to let them have it. So what if they secure a “toe hold” in Syria. They can have the damn place. Hell give them Iraq while we’re at it. History indicates involvement in the region always ends badly. It started with the ever hawkish Winston Churchill in the 1920s. Sometimes history has a nasty way of repeating itself. Vladimir Putin really isn’t that smart. Just give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself. So let’s get out of the way and let the hangman do it’s job.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        But whatever we do, we mustn’t let them in the briar patch of Afghanistan…or is it a Tar Baby of Afghanistan—an Uncle Remus mashup of a place….

        1. bud

          Is the use of “tar baby” considered a racial slur? It would seem to be an appropriate term for Afghanistan but don’t want to offend anyone.

            1. bud

              My building is closed for today, no water. Given the chaos trying to fix the breach in the canal levee probably best if traffic be kept to a minimum while the Klapman Bridge is closed.

              Bryan, I think this is an area that we can find common ground. If the “tar baby” reference is indeed a “racial slur” then we have an example of PC run amok. This doesn’t seem to be an insult the same way as “Redskins”.

              1. Mark Stewart

                Ummmm, I would kind of like to be reassured that SCDOT had its entire staff mobilized to address the destruction that’s occurred and get temporary fixes in place ASAP, even as the flood waters recede.

                It’s troubling that people can’t work simply because they might have to drink less coffee given the lack of water.

                I think we have an agency in denial. And one in need of a political ass-kicking. “Do your job”, in the words of Bill Belichek.

              2. Doug Ross

                “Ummmm, I would kind of like to be reassured that SCDOT had its entire staff mobilized to address the destruction that’s occurred and get temporary fixes in place ASAP, even as the flood waters recede.”

                Mark, you are a true comedian! Thanks for the laugh out loud moment.

                I sure HOPE that SCDOT workers are working and not just getting paid leave for this week. Surely they can be doing something…

              3. Kathryn Fenner

                The “tar baby” of the story was an actual clump of tar. Thinking otherwise is more of a racial slur….
                Now the Uncle Remus stories–dunno…

              4. Brad Warthen Post author

                I don’t know if y’all can recall the “tar-baby” incident that Robert Ariail and I had to deal with 10 or 15 years ago…

                Robert used the metaphor, perfectly appropriately, in a cartoon. At the time, I was slightly concerned about the possible racial sensitivities involved in using ANYTHING bearing on Uncle Remus, and we had a brief discussion about it, but it was so apropos to what he was saying, I let it go.

                What we reckoned without was the absolute firestorm of protest from black readers who saw it as a racial slur, an intentional racial slur, and nothing else but. They honest-to-God, no kidding around, believed the only reason for the cartoon was to deeply insult black people. The fact that they could even conceive of such a thing, that they really didn’t know us any better than that, was a pretty shocking experience. One of those things that makes you think, “Why have I even bothered to write all of these things that I’ve written, my entire life’s body of work, if people are going to immediately think something like this of me?”

                One, we didn’t know it was a racial slur. Two, we had no idea that it was a racial slur used by some light-skinned black people to dismiss other, darker black people. There was the universe of stuff that we knew, and this information simply wasn’t in it.

                (In the midst of this furor, I was rereading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the first time in years. There was a passage in it in which one of the patients called the Black Boys — the orderlies — “you damn tarbabies.” So I read that, for the first time in decades, and reproached myself: “You SHOULD have known…”)

                Anyway, there was no denying that all this deep hurt out there was real. So I persuaded Robert to write a column explaining what he meant, and apologizing for hurting other people completely unintentionally. At my suggestion he added a lighthearted ending to the piece, something like, “Now I can go back to offending people on purpose…”

                From that day to this, Robert has taken ungodly amounts of crap from white racists for having apologized to those whiny black people.

                Altogether, an unpleasant memory, even though I remain convinced that we handled it appropriately.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        I just can’t imagine what it’s like to be an isolationist, to be able to say “They can have the damn place” and mean it. It’s just so contrary to everything I’ve ever learned about the world.

        No man is an island.

        1. Doug Ross

          It comes down to two things: priorities and practicality.

          From a priority standpoint, there are more important things our government should be doing for its citizens first before wading into the political and cultural issues in other countries.

          And practically speaking, we have ample evidence that shows we cannot do anything to fix these other countries. Our fixes end up breaking more things. We’ve tried, we’ve failed. It’s an impossible task. Some things are impossible.

  5. Mark Stewart

    I believe the binary depiction is the correct one. Russia is trying to create a two-sided world because it then instantly goes from being (once upon a time) a G-8 country to being the other Superpower; just like the old days.

    It is hard to fight a unifier by promoting multi-party co-existence, especially when Russia is demonstrating its force – and force of will.

    I think Russia’s goal goes way beyond eliminating the moderate rebels in Syria. Russia appears to be attempting to forge a Shii/Alawite block. Strategically, this makes sense for Russia both politically and geographically. In both cases they split the Muslim world, and raise themselves up as the alliance’s protector. Instant Superpower rebirth.

    That is why he fired his barrage of cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea across Iran, Iraq and Syria. He was showing he could protect them. In the southern border, Russia has a Turkey problem – Turkey is the strategic blocker they can’t get around. But Iran gives them access to the Mediterranean and to the Gulf that Turkey can’t block. I bet the only moderate Syrian force Russia won’t hit will be the PKK.

    Our focus should go to how we can keep Russia from forging this alliance. So maybe the agreement to de-escalate our opposition to Iran is the right one. That’s the country we don’t want to validate the alliance. And, unfortunately, that is going to give them enormous regional power. While a Superpower, Putin will have to answer to Iran to keep his dreams alive.

    1. bud

      Mark you sound like you’re describing an episode of Big Brother with all this alliance forging stuff. Sure Putin has these grandiose ambitions. I get that. But not sure how firing cruise missiles into Syria and hitting Iran is going to advance that ambition. Besides is this even a reasonable expectation: “I bet the only moderate Syrian force Russia won’t hit will be the PKK”. Heck we can’t even avoid bombing a hospital so why is it reasonable to expect the Russians to successfully hit just the specific factions that so desire.

      Everyone just needs to take a deep breath on all this. Our security is not at risk because Putin has an excess of testosterone that somehow gives him some sort of super power dementia. The Russians really can’t control events any better than we did. All of George Ws grand vision of “freedom on the march” is just not attainable in that region of the world. Eventually Putin will find that out. In the meantime lets worry about the unemployment rate and healthcare. The American people will benefit from that focus.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Agree that having 4 cruise missiles accidentally strike Iran was suboptimal for Putin. Also agree Putin has superpower dementia. And agree Russia cannot control events.

        But you are wrong, Bud, if you do not believe that there are people who actively work to shape outcomes. Putin is at the head of that list. Whether he succeeds or not is also not the point; the point is the mischief that occurs along the way – and how the disorganized are at a fundamental disadvantage when someone is working hard to rig the game.

        The world is rife with hunters, Bud.

  6. Phillip

    I recommend this for some informative background and context on the Russian intervention in Syria. Most intriguing are the indications of a lack of popular support in Russia for sending ground troops to Syria. This seems like it is going to play out in ways that Putin cannot control, including turning greater Islamic terrorist focus on Russia. This is a moment for caution and not for panic, and certainly not for getting into a p—-ing contest with Putin.


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