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Free Minds & Free Markets

Putin Is in Syria: So What?

America has nothing to lose (or prove) in Russia’s meddling.

Putinwww.kremlin.ruVladimir Putin is having a field day in the Middle East. He has sent Russian planes to bomb rebels in Syria. He has reached an intelligence-sharing agreement with Syria, Iran and Iraq. At the U.N. Monday, he reaffirmed his commitment to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He seems determined to fill the regional vacuum allegedly left by the United States. 

What should the Obama administration do? Let him. 

Republicans regard this as a calamity. But what's the downside? There are two main ways this gambit could go. And neither would be a bad deal for us. 

The first possibility is that he will inflict significant damage on Islamic State. In that case, one of our most vicious enemies would be weakened—at little cost or risk to Americans. The only thing better than defeating Islamic State is getting someone to do it for us. 

In that scenario, of course, another enemy, Assad, would survive. But someone named Assad has held power in Syria since 1970. We managed fine before this civil war. If Putin can bring it to an end with the Assad government still in power, we'll manage fine afterward. 

The second possibility is that Putin will fail: His bombing raids will prove unavailing, the insurgents will gain ground, and the regime will be in jeopardy. Then he may be forced to send ground troops. 

He could find himself in a costly, bloody war. Or he might decide the prize is not worth the effort and pull back, which would dash his dreams of regional power and discredit him at home. Either way, he's worse off, and we're not. 

Why should we stand in his way? It's not as though we have a better plan. President Barack Obama has largely stayed out of the Syrian war because 1) there are no "moderate" rebel factions with a plausible chance of prevailing, 2) he's never been willing to take the risks of intervening in a way that would matter, and 3) the outcome could be awful even if we somehow got our way. 

Critics regard Syria as a colossal tragedy that Obama could have prevented. More likely, it's a colossal tragedy that he could not have prevented. Removing a hostile regime by force, as we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, is not a ticket to tranquility. Syria is a disaster. But it's a disaster that has claimed no U.S. soldiers and very little U.S. money. 

The assumption is that anything Putin seeks in the Middle East will come at our expense. Marco Rubio declared, "Putin wants nothing less than the recognition of Russia as a geopolitical force." I hate to break the news to him, but Russia is already a recognized geopolitical force. Those alarmed about Putin supposedly displacing us in the region mistake symbolism for substance. 

His latest move suggests anxiety, not strength. If Assad falls, Russia stands to lose its only naval base outside of the old Soviet Union—not to mention its closest ally in the Middle East. 

For a long time, the U.S. has been the dominant military power in the region. What has been so great about that? Instead of making us safer, our role has given us more enemies. If Putin wants to invite jihadists to turn their attention from attacking America to attacking Russia, more power to him. 

We got involved in the region mainly to assure access to Persian Gulf oil. That imperative is less urgent than before, since we are producing more oil at home and consuming less. In any case, the U.S. is not about to leave and let the chips fall where they may. Our power has rested mainly on our Navy, whose continued presence and supremacy are not in doubt. 

Plenty of countries in the region will lean toward us regardless of what Putin does—including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Others will be uncooperative regardless, notably Iran. Russia's venture isn't likely to make much difference either way. 

Obama's critics portray him as weak and lost in the face of the bold Russian challenge. But the truth is he's engaged in geopolitical jujitsu, using the opponent's strengths against him. He's avoiding risks that carry no commensurate rewards. 

The president understands that we don't know how to restore peace and stability to Syria. Putin probably doesn't either, but he may have to find out the hard way. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Photo Credit: www.kremlin.ru

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  • Alsø alsø wik||

    Steve, serious question: are you the nom de plume of some random Oberlin soph?

  • EndTheGOP||

    I'm glad to see Reason's staff is finally on board with Trump.

  • Rockabilly||

    Last time I looked, Syria is in the middle east and not part of the USA.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    See all the "libertarians" here advocating intervention in Syria or butting heads with Putin over that shithole?

  • soflarider||

    Uh, no.

  • Rockabilly||

    No I -

    How does that Buttplug smell?

    I'm sure you must sniff it from time to time.

    Do you masterbate when you sniff it?

  • soflarider||

    The diehard contrarian in me is having a hard time finding anything in this article to disagree with. The only thing I can remotely come up with is concern for the innocent people caught up in the crossfire.

  • ||

    soflorider - My gut felt the same way. But what Steve left out is that Putin is doing what megalomaniacs have done throughout history, from Alexander the Great to Stalin - when you're having trouble at home start a war. If you can be a badass testosterone-pumped hero, and kill a few hundred thousand worthless Syrians, and make the U.S. look stupid, you're all set to be the president of Russia forever - no questions asked.

    The risk for us isn't that Assad stays in or that Russia gets to be the baddest kid in the Middle Eastern sandbox - that's all short term. The real risk is that once this war works out for him, then Putin will get carried away and start marching into Latvia, Estonia, the rest of Ukraine, maybe Belarus, Poland, Finland . . . who knows where the imagination of a power hungry ex-KGB guy can take him?

  • DenverJ||

    You know who else marched on Poland, etc.?

  • DevilDocNowCiv||

    Crus,

    If your fears are realized, we will do absolutely nothing if Obama is in power. Faced with a laughably easy to crush opponent when Syria challenged his "red line," Obama groped for a way out, grabbed a last minute Russian solution with amazing speed because it gave him some option to using our military. This reluctance was clear in Libya. Remember "our" war in Libya? We wandered in following France, and Obama's crew came up with the laughable "leading from behind" to explain our place in the leadership of that little war.

    If you want to save the former Soviet slave states, you'd better hope we get a Repub elected. That alone will stop Putin, who obviously has the kind of ideas you describe. The Poles know this, and have offered to help both the Ukrainians and Georgians. For all who support a minimalist foreign policy, see Obama and be glad-your dream is coming true before your eyes.

  • ||

    "Obama's critics portray him as weak and lost in the face of the bold Russian challenge. But the truth is he's engaged in geopolitical jujitsu, using the opponent's strengths against him. He's avoiding risks that carry no commensurate rewards."

    Obama didn't do this by design. He stumbled and mumbled his way into it and people then scream, 'smart policy!'

    Looks like Chapman too.

    Putin has been dying to thump Russia's chest at the first chance he could and Syria presented itself given Russia sees itself as a primary player there. Not surprising he's trying to out Alpha-Male the USA here. And quite frankly, he's doing it probably because he calculated Obama isn't an Alpha-male. Just a guess on my part.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    "Don't Do Stupid Shit" is a design, dumbass.

  • Vulgar Madman||

    Arming "moderates" who go on to join Isis, is smart policy. Go tell em, buttplug!

  • Free Society||

    You're saying Obama's design is "Don't Do Stupid Shit" ? How's that going for him?

  • Rockabilly||

    You're saying Obama's design is "Don't Do Stupid Shit" ? How's that going for him?

    ===========

    LOL - not too well, I'm afraid !!

  • Suicidy||

    Not with a weakling like Obama.

  • ||

    Every action ,or inaction, Obama has taken in the middle east has left the devout Muslim crazies in a stronger position than they were before.

    If Obama's goal is to not do stupid shit he is a complete failure at his own designs.

  • soflarider||

    As in, don't pass sweeping regulation that has minimal public support, that fucks up the US healthcare system even worse than it already is, before you've addressed the problems with the economy you were elected to fix? Is that the kind of stupid shit you're not supposed to do?

  • John DeWitt||

    That worked well in Libya.

  • Eric||

    The Russians are filling the power vacuum left by the US. Good for them (and Good for us too).

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    Well, it may be good for them and it may be good for us, but will it be good for the region? Will it promote peace and prosperity? Will it be good for Israel and Saudi? Will it be good for a Europe currently preoccupied with an on going financial and migrant crisis?

    Long term stability and peace matters - even to the USA.

    I agree that the US should pull back from the ME, but the manner in which we do it is going to have long term consequences.

  • Eric||

    Any attempt to understand, or be responsible, in the near east has resulted in blowback for us. Every soothsayer who seems to "have a plan" for that region has failed miserably. I'm all for a "let the chips fall where they may" approach of willful neglect. If Russia wants to step into that shitstorm let them.

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    Yes. Well, just because we pull back doesn't necessarily mean we won't be pulled into the shit storm. We've been damned if we do and damned if we don't in the ME for about 20 years now.

    My point is that there are consequences to letting the Russians expand their influence in the ME. If we're okay with a terminally weakened EU that's completely dependent on Russia for it's energy and regional allies under constant threat of real war then not giving a shit is a fine policy. But those are the likely consequences.

  • ||

    Well tell your congressman to allow US oil and gas producers to be able to export their product without limits.

  • bassjoe||

    Who cares if it's good for the region? American meddling in the Middle East hasn't exactly been a net positive for anybody there (including Israel). Can Russia be any worse? That's, at best, debatable.

    If Putin wants to take up the "protect the Middle East from extemism" (or whatever he's calling this adventure) banner, let him at it. It'll at the very least divide the attention and resources of the jihadists.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    More to the point, who decides if it's good for the region? The only valid answer is "those who live in the region", just as I am the only one who decides what is good for me, and you are the only one who decides what is good for you.

    I am amazed at how many so-called libertarians think it is any of their/our business what those camel fuckers do among themselves.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    If it's good for the region, there won't be millions of refugees attempting to leave, which in turn is good for us.

    Generally, I'd apply two tests.
    1) are the natives at risk, or can they live a normal life?
    2) is the situation there threatening us here? either directly of thru stuff such as refugees

  • soflarider||

    I think we should take in ME refugees. Can we trade them one-for-one for refugees from South and Central America?

  • ThomasD||

    LOL

    Yeah, Putin is going to go the 'messy democracy' route as he attempts to impose order in his portion of the Middle East.

    Because imposing autocratic strongmen is bad, mkay....

  • Long Woodchippers||

    Obama's problem is that he had no qualms about kicking over Libya or Syria or Egypt or Yemen - but had no intention of trying to shape what came later, and what came later is the chaos we are currently engaged in.

    Russia intervening in Syria could very well defeat ISIS and provide us a partial victory in both the short and long term. However, even if Assad continues in power, as he had before, what does the Middle East look like afterwards, with a dominant Russia? Does this allow Iran and it's nuclear ambitions to proceed less fettered?

    This is the long term that Chapman chose to ignore.

  • Cavadus||

    The region has never been at peace. There will never be "afterwards." That's why none of this matters and we should be more than happy to let the ME be itself forever.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    There may never be peace, but there will be a next 50 years that we will have to live through.

    I was pointing out that the author chose not to address long term security concerns

  • ||

    Does this allow Iran and it's nuclear ambitions to proceed less fettered?

    There's actual fetters? Who knew?

  • Long Woodchippers||

    I'm studying fiction writing, so I have to expand my vocabulary

  • Uncle Joe||

    It's more accurate to say Obama declined the option of supporting Mubarak. He did a decent job of using our massive military support to convince their Army to overthrow Morsi.

    We could have tried to prop up Gaddaffi & Assad, but it would have taken a lot more than it's worth, IMO. And, it likely would have only delayed the shitstorm. The ME is a mess because of hundreds of years of meddling by the Ottomans, the British & most recently us. The less we interfere, the less excuse the jihadis have to paint us as the enemy.

  • DarrenM||

    Obama didn't do this by design. He stumbled and mumbled his way into it and people then scream, 'smart policy!'

    Like Peter Sellers in "The Pink Panther"?

  • Ceci n'est pas un woodchipper||

    It's funny how Chapman and the rest of Obama's cheerleading section look at our not sending troops into Syria as some brilliant strategic plan on his part but blatantly ignore the fact that it was his idiotic saber-rattling about red lines that put military intervention on the table in the first place, and it was Congress's resistance to Obama's willingness to engage in attacks on Assad's forces that kept us out. And even then, our Nobel Peace Prize Winner-in-Chief sent supplies and munitions to "moderates" who just turned them over to ISIS.

    So, in fact, if it was up to Obama, we'd be knee-deep in the Syrian civil war right now. It was Congress who stopped that train, thereby pulling the President's fat out of the fire and allowing him to be regarded as the Winston Churchill of our time by the editors of Salon and Steve Chapman.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This would be worse than when we let the godless commies make it to orbit first.

  • DJF||

    Whatever Putin is doing can’t be much worse then the Bush/Obama policy of destroying secular Muslim countries, allowing the crazies to gain strength, create masses of refugees and then inviting them to the US while paying out billions in taxpayer money.

  • ||

    It's too bad Turkey is run by a nutter. In a saner world, Turkey takes care of this since Syria is in their sphere of influence.

  • Suicidy||

    You might as well say 'too bad there are lots of muslims'. Which pretty much covers all the bullshit from that part of the world.

  • DenverJ||

    Well, yes. It is too bad there are lots of Muslims.

  • DenverJ||

    Blame the Brits. They're the ones who broke up the Ottoman Empire. The only times the Levant has been at peace is when a strong empire ruled over it.

  • Pan Zagloba||

    Except by 1918 Ottoman Empire was not strong, and breaking it up was not up to Brits. Mustafa Kemal did more to destroy it than any other head of state, because he was sick as shit of dealing with Arabs and fucking around Levant.

  • DenverJ||

    Not the time period I am most familiar with. But I'm pretty sure that the Ottoman Empire had already been dissolved and portioned out among the winners of WWI.
    The Turkish revolution was partly fueled by the desire of the Turks to keep their country whole, instead of part being under control of the French, part being under the control of the Brits, etc. Like Germany after WWII.
    Not arguing, just that's what I thought happened, do you have a different take on it?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Putin probably doesn't either, but he may have to find out the hard way.

    So it turns out Putin and Dubya are soul brothers after all.

  • JPyrate||

    BOOOOSH !!!!!!!!

  • Suicidy||

    Well PB, something Bushy for you to jack yourself off to this morning. Something you will be doing for decades to come.

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    Oh, Good Lord. Someone please tell Chapman to just stop already.

    I'm unsure and confused about what US policy in the ME actually is and what our long term goals are. Obama hasn't articulate a clear policy. Possibly our pull back is a good thing, but the assumptions Chapman makes in this article are childish.

    Both Israel and Saudi look increasingly vulnerable to Iranian backed groups. I'm pretty sure Putin is enjoying the current chaos in Europe caused by the migration crisis. The whole region - from Northern Europe throughout the ME is unstable. I'm sure both Russia and China would like to carve out a piece of that. With the exception of Israel, our "allies" are not capable of defending themselves. Is that a good thing? Weakness promotes aggression.

    America's intervention in the ME promoted stability at the cost of human rights, oppression and war. It doesn't necessarily follow that our pull back will promote civil rights and peace. And, saying what follows isn't our problem is to abandon our allies - not a policy likely to promote stability.

  • Eric||

    The Neo-conservative foreign policy is soooo 12 years ago. How bout we try something different?

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    Right. Because there's no distinction to be made between our currently policy - Obama's policy and a neocon policy. There are no other alternatives. Thanks for your genius insights.

  • Eric||

    Please inform us of your grand Machiavellian plan then.

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    I don't have a grand plan; I just think "fuck 'um" isn't going to end well.

  • Eric Bana||

    Well, I don't see other policies that would clearly end noticeably better.

  • Wesley Mouch||

    Well, somebody has do to something, anything!

  • Cavadus||

    If we just get the right Top Men in charge they'll pass One More Law and save the ME!

  • DenverJ||

    I have a plan that would work, but it violates the NAP. (hint, it involves turning the whole place into a sheet of glass...)

  • ||

    Because there's no distinction to be made between our currently policy - Obama's policy and a neocon policy.

    Well, not much distinction. How many countries have had us intervening militarily? The only difference seems to be wider scale and more use of automation.

  • psCargile||

    I favor the glass parking lot policy.

  • ||

    Perhaps, but is it not better to let the Russians do all the grading and site prep?

  • brady949||

    Both Israel and Saudi look increasingly vulnerable to Iranian backed groups.

    Two horrible regimes vulnerable to another horrible regime? Tragic.

  • MacDaddy81||

    Israel is a horrible reigme? They aren't perfect, sure, but to equate them with the Saudis?

  • brady949||

    It's not as bad as Saudi Arabia by any stretch, but I'm not going to pretend it's not a de facto apartheid state.

  • MSimon||

    All them Arabs in the Israeli Parliament is a disgrace to any self respecting apartheid state.

  • brady949||

    Oh there are Arabs in Israel and even in the Knesset, but did you notice there aren't enough to actually accomplish anything? Did you also notice they keep that ratio roughly the same by keeping the people they booted out from returning?

  • MacDaddy81||

    Because the Palis aren't Israeli citizens. They left, and their "brother"Arabs wouldn't take them in. Read Dershowitz book, The Case For Israel. While critical of the Israeli government at times, it shows that the mess that is the Palestinians is clearly the Arabs fault. If they want to be Israeli citizens and follow Israeli laws, they can be part of Israel. They don't. They want to keep blowing shit up.

  • DenverJ||

    Yeah, my sympathy for the Palestinians approaches zero.

  • Bgoptmst||

    Putin is right about one thing. If Asad's regime falls the end state will be like Libya, and there is not a moderate regime that will take over.

    We are being incredibly naive about this whole situation, and a large part of that is due to the continued rhetoric from the red team about our national security. News flash team red, bombing the shit out of countries with conventional munitions for a generation hasn't made us safer.

  • ||

    Just how detached is this administration? The other day Kerry called for Assad to 'walk off into the sunset.'

    He has almost 50% support from Syrians.

  • ||

    He being Assad.

  • Uncle Joe||

    The only Syrians left are either die hard supporters or die hard enemies.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    and Obama has done virtually nothing to promote reasonable alternatives to Assad, just like he did previously in Iran and Libya.

  • Trump-o-Matic 5000||

    One group of our enemies is fighting another group of our enemies. I think we should just sit this one out.

  • Trump-o-Matic 5000||

    I think Barry should set more red lines that he has no intention of following through on. That'll teach Putin a thing or two, I tell you what!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    One group of our enemies is fighting another group of our enemies. I think we should just sit this one out.

  • Trump-o-Matic 5000||

    MOAR RED LINEZ!!!11!!!111!!

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ?????? www.buzznews99.com

  • Chip Woodier||

    Good grief, Reason. Do these piece of shit spammers pay you to post here? How hard would it be to auto-delete this garbage?

  • Martin Brock||

    I oppose U.S. intervention in Syria, including U.S. intervention in Russian intervention in Syria, but Steve doesn't know how any of this intervention plays out in any scenario, and he may assume incorrectly that Machiavellian global engineers in the U.S. actually want radical Islamists, including ISIS, to fail in Syria at this point. They imagine themselves "playing Chess" with Putin in a "long war". The Islamists' defeat of the secular Baathists in Syria is only gambit in the middle of the game. People think in these simplistic terms, while bombing millions of people out of their homes, and sleep at night. People who see the folly of this game can only refuse to play it.

  • pronomian||

    If putin was smart, he'd fully arm the kurds and promise them their own country. That would put the kurds on their side and show that the US is all talk.

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    Yeah. Except that Russia wants Turkey as an alley in the region and to separate it from Europe.

    Look, Putin is looking to expand Russian influence at the expense of US and European influence, and he intends to do it on the cheap. He wants to get and maintain Russian military bases on the Mediterranean - better to influence the EU in negotiations on energy supply and the Ukraine - not to mention Eastern Europe. If he props up Assad, supports Iran and Iran's proxies Russia is in a better place to influence energy prices in the region and eventually get the Euro's to remove the sanctions imposed after Crimea. He desperately needs to have some control over energy prices. For him oil at $100 per/barrel is much preferable to $45.

    Putin is just being practical here. He's no alpha male genius; he's just looking after his own interests. He's interested in making Russia economically richer because that keeps him in power. Being able to set energy prices makes Russia richer. It's not brain surgery.

  • Suicidy||

    Exactly. Which is a hard concept to grasp for us here i the US, as all of your policy decisions for decades are about helping people who hate us at our expense.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Exactly. Well said.

    In the meantime, sitting on the sidelines watching the insanity of its two main adversaries, is China. Why? Because they understand that not every action around the globe demands a reaction from China.

  • DenverJ||

    + 1 jackandacefinallygetsoneright#

  • jace||

    What, Mr. Chapman, constitutes a geopolitical force? Banging one's shoe at the UN? Very next paragraph: "...Russia stands to lose its only naval base outside of the old Soviet Union." Bwahaha. Is geopolitical force like hashtag diplomacy? A James Taylor sing-along? Or does it need military backup?
    I'm all for Putin being it, if everyone is just playing tag.

  • Mudhen||

    Best case is it drags them into the same kind of mess we've been through over there.

  • Faceless Woodchipper||

    Everyone will still chant Death to America, though.

  • DarrenM||

    I'm sure the students at Berkeley will eventually find something more entertaining to pass the time.

  • bassjoe||

    Why will they if it's Russian warplanes doing the killing instead of American?

  • DenverJ||

    Remember the 80s? USSR in Afghanistan, China in whatever a Stan, the world is liable to go boom any day, and the U.S. is the only one keeping shit from going apocalyptic?
    Back then they were shouting death to America.

  • gordo53||

    There was a report on the web a couple of days ago that stated 800 of the US backed "rebels" in Syria were actually Israeli commandos. That might explain why we are so unhappy with the Russian bombing. The Russians are supporting Assad. Anyone who isn't is fair game. Not much doubt about where Putin stands. Wish we could say the same about our President.

  • The Grinch||

    A report on the web. From where, Stormfront or Alex Jones.

  • markskar||

    You forgot World News Daily

  • The Grinch||

    The worst result is the Russians get their nose bloodied and ISIS wins. Then again, if Russia manages to turn the tide against ISIS, how's that a bad thing? We should get out of Russia's way rather than pissing and moaning that it's not us doing the bombing.

  • Suicidy||

    Yes, letting someone like Putin consolidate power and influence in the middle east is a sound idea. That won't have any major negative repercussions in the years to come.

  • The Grinch||

    Putin is preferable to ISIS. His meddling is also preferable to us getting heavily involved in my view. After all, us getting involved, even with good intentions (and that's giving us the benefit of doubt I'm not sure we deserve), will have unforseen consequences even if we "win."

    In your opinion, what should we be doing?

  • soflarider||

    You're saying that Putin could consolidate power and influence in area that appears to be increasingly immune to those things? I realize that he and his proxies are probably willing to do things the US wouldn't do, but without a wholesale reorganization of the Middle East and it's actors, it would be a herculean task. Let him have at it.

  • ||

    The worst result is the Russians get their nose bloodied and ISIS wins.

    I'm confident the Russians will stop them at Stalingrad.

  • bacon-magic||

    No, the worst result is WWIII. Look at WWI & WWII, the scenarios that started them are awfully similar to the scenario right now. I do think we should stay out of Syria and other places where we have no interests. Nation building is not what U.S. should do, intervening in wars that have nothing to do with us is not what we should do, but I'm not a total isolationist...If some country threatens us or our interests I'm all for some Gun Boat diplomacy. We are currently going down a dangerous path that team RED & BLUE has led us, hopefully we learn from our mistakes before they ruin us.

  • bacon-magic||

    BTW - Crimea will probably be the spot historians point to that started WWIII. *takes tinfoil hat off and goes back to work(slightly)

  • Ron||

    Part of the problem in Syria is Obama's fault since he armed many of the insurgents who just handed their weapons over to ISIS making it strong enough to fight and re-enter Iraq. Other than that i agree the article let Putin use up his resources for a while. we can go tag team on them when russia gets tired they can tag us back in and we will say never mind.

  • Spinach Chin||

    "The first possibility is that he will inflict significant damage on Islamic State."

    ... except they're not attacking Islamic State.

  • Faceless Woodchipper||

    Not yet. They're getting rid of the riffraff first.

  • The Grinch||

    The Russians are pro Assad. They will attack anyone who's fighting against him, ISIS and supposed moderates included.

  • UCrawford||

    President Barack Obama has largely stayed out of the Syrian war because 1) there are no "moderate" rebel factions with a plausible chance of prevailing, 2) he's never been willing to take the risks of intervening in a way that would matter, and 3) the outcome could be awful even if we somehow got our way.

    Actually, the reasons Obama stayed out of Syria were 1) Congress wouldn't let him go when he didn't have a plan, 2) Congress still wouldn't let him go after he whined about it, 3) no other nations wanted to join his coalition and we'd be stuck doing all the heavy lifting ourselves.

    Your apologism and historical revisionism for Obama undermined what could have been a very good article.

  • Wesley Mouch||

    You completely ignored Obama's Red Line Policy.

  • DarrenM||

    Congress wouldn't let him? Since when did that stop him? He's just using that as the excuse (and I'm ok with that).

  • UCrawford||

    Since that was one of the few times during his tenure that Congress actually made a credible threat to withhold money.

    About the only time Boehner wasn't a huge, blubbery bitch.

  • Ceci n'est pas un woodchipper||

    Chapman, like most of this fuckwit's apologists, reads like Stalin-era propaganda. "The enemy continues his cowardly advance," and so forth.

  • Masponem||

    Though it is true that Obama is playing the smart role by staying out of Syria, he has seemed so desperate when trying to talk to Russia and when dealing with the Middle East that he seems weak. We could very easily come acrossed strong and still not do anything in the region but Obama doesn't choose to play those cards

  • Chris H||

    To be fair, Putin is not bombing ISIL areas, he is bombing non-ISIL anti-Assad forces. Should this change our calculus? No, but let's not do RT's job for them and propagate the myth that the Russians are attacking ISIL.

  • Nick H||

    no that's our war to fight not yours!

  • Wesley Mouch||

    Putin just better watch out or Obama will RED LINE him.

  • Loki||

    Either way, he's worse off, and we're not.

    "Never interrupt your enemy when he's in the middle of making a mistake."

    Obama's critics portray him as weak and lost in the face of the bold Russian challenge. But the truth is he's engaged in geopolitical jujitsu

    Chapman's giving Obama way too much credit here. He really is "weak and lost", not just when it comes to Russia but pretty much anything. It just turns out that that's not really such a bad thing in this case.

  • biljay||

    The USA war mongers are jealous. Their pride is hurt if Russia succeeds. Pride is a deadly sin. As long as there is pride, and patriotism, the world will be a violent place.

  • Foo_dd||

    all Russia has done is what everybody elsehas been avoiding. they picked a side, that they will stick to. we are actually on the same side as the Russians, they are just willing to let that side actually win. we keep saying Assad has to go, but when we bomb ISIS, we make that less likely. we want ISIS gone, but we won't do too much to them, because then Assad would win. (if we didn't bomb at all, then ISIS would already run the country. because of the arms we gave them in the beginning)

    my enemies enemy is my friend. if we seriously wanted ISIS gone, we have to admit that defeating them is going to mean Assad wins. first we armed them. then when we changed our minds, we do it by bombing them just enough to keep them in check, but not enough to let Assad win, we have only prolonged this civil war at every turn.

    just to be clear, not saying we should have gotten involved, but when we did, we should not have committed to a strategy of not letting anyone win.

  • ||

    To the extent that Chapman is saying, "Just stay the fuck away, not our problem," we should cherish the rare moment of intelligence and coherence emanating from his crayon scrawls.

  • XM||

    It's not even a given that Putin is going after the Islamic State. The first round of bombings supposedly hit the rebels, not ISIS. And some of the victims were innocent civilians.

    What kind of "win win" situation is Chapman envisioning here? If Putin hits only sworn enemies of his middle east allies and not the Islamic State, why would ISIS and Al Qaida target Russia? Russia's not like us, they could probably massively deport Muslims and close their borders to hostile middle east regions at their whim.

    Staying out of Syria is a prudent thing to do, but allowing Russia to bomb whatever cities they feel like will cost countless amount of lives. "We wanted to prevent a larger catastrophe" will sound like one sorry excuse to Syrians who lost their loved ones to Russian missiles. And they KNOW Obama already made a bunch of promises he didn't keep.

  • ace_m82||

    When 2 of you enemies start trading blows, should you:

    A. Stand between them and help the enemy on your left,

    B. Stand between them and help the enemy on your right, or

    C. Stand back and enjoy the show.

  • ThomasD||

    Which would be nice.

    If it were, in fact the case. But it's not.

    What we have is our enemy taking military action to prop up another one of our enemies. At least partially because another one of our enemies' elite forces (Quds) were failing to adequately prop up the enemy that is now getting Russian support.

    You don't think Vlad is actually going to go toe to toe with ISIS, do you? Why would he ever bother?

    No, his only necessity is clearing the deck of everyone else so that the only choice for the west is to accept Assad or to accept ISIS.

  • Marco Roberts||

    Exactly right. And this is backed up by the revelation (surprising the Obama folks, and perhaps the writers at Reason), that the folks actually bombed so far are not ISIS, but US-backed rebels.

  • mtrueman||

    "Why would he ever bother?"

    Chechens are disproportionately prominent among ISIS officers & elites, according to my sources.

  • ThomasD||

    If true they are Chechens who are not in Chechnya, nor heading north into mother Russia.

    Meanwhile Russia is extending it's presence down the Caucuses into the heart of the middle east.

    Putin is living out a 300 year old Russian geopolitical wet dream.

  • mtrueman||

    "Putin is living out a 300 year old Russian geopolitical wet dream"

    It's also possible that he feels forced into taking this action. He's not about to stand around doing nothing while the Orthodox co-religionist presence in Syria (surely home to ME's most populous and freest Christian communities) is extinguished.

    "If true they are Chechens who are not in Chechnya, nor heading north into mother Russia."

    They're in Syria now. That's the point.

  • ThomasD||

    "...Orthodox co-religionist presence..."

    Excellent point, this is a cultural affiliation issue that does resonate with the Russian people, so allows Putin to act more freely than he otherwise might. After all, that 300 (300+ really) year old dream does stem from somewhere and animates not only Russian dictators.

    And yes, the Chechens in Syria are likewise there because they believe it is the most fertile place to wage their holy war as well.

  • Pan Zagloba||

    Correct answer is

    D. Stand back and help whichever one is faltering, in order to prolong the fight

  • ThomasD||

    Because sustained instability on the eastern end of the Mediterranean will do wonders for Europe's refugee issue and their dependence on Gazprom.

    It doesn't have to be a zero sum game, but Putin will gladly play if that is what is offered.

  • ThomasD||

    Because sustained instability on the eastern end of the Mediterranean will do wonders for Europe's refugee issue and their dependence on Gazprom.

    It doesn't have to be a zero sum game, but Putin will gladly play if that is what is offered.

  • ThomasD||

    Putin has started a systematic process of eliminating all threats to the Assad regime.

    Of course he would start with the opposition forces most acceptable to the west.

    And of course Chapman would find no problem with this.

  • Piaggio||

    A much more sensible analysis, unlike the one I saw at The Ron Paul Kremlin report on youtube.

  • Piaggio||

    A much more sensible analysis, unlike the one I saw at The Ron Paul Kremlin report on youtube.

  • Marco Roberts||

    This analysis is so disingenuous, it is not worthy of even the inherent libertarian bias of Reason. I get it: Reason does not like involvement in foreign wars - period; and all analysis must somehow back up that ideological preference. In this case, "the rebels' reference either deliberately or though reporting incompetence neglects to point out that the folks actually bombed by Russia are not ISIS folks, but rebels supported by the U.S. What does it do to U.S. ability to recruit allies when we are shown to a worthless ally? Isn't having foreign allies the best way to avoid using our own personnel? No, we are repeatedly asked to believe that if we just keep to ourselves and allow the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and North Koreans to do as they please, our interests will be no worse off, the world will be just as hospitable to our commerce and way of life. Utopian fantasy. And yet, we know this: Afghanistan was left alone in the 1990's, and we got 9/11. It's the reason I vote libertarian at all state and local levels, but never at federal. Someone is always going to run the world, and given the choices, I'd rather it be us.

  • mtrueman||

    "What does it do to U.S. ability to recruit allies when we are shown to a worthless ally?"

    You don't recruit allies. You recruit servants and that's all these al Queda and ISIS forces are. They serve the stated US goal of regime change in Syria. They are not allies. Their work is bought and sold all the time.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Apart from some vital Syrian immigrants. But perhaps it's more humane to bomb them than let them cross over into your country, right? If Vladimir keeps this up, do you think there will be an even bigger refugee crisis? Nah. Reason isn't worried about. Neither am I.

  • macsnafu||

    The only problem I see with this analysis is that it gives Obama too much credit for smarts for staying out of Syria. And it ignores the fact that conservative warhawks will go batshit if anyone other than the U.S. is busy destabilizing the Middle East.

  • msimmons||

    Notice how it's got more unstable in the past couple years than it's ever been?

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  • Kratos||

    I am in Love with Putin This guy is really powerful
    http://www.mytricks.in/

  • msimmons||

    Consistent with a lowest common denominator mentality, Steve-O sayeth, "We got involved in the region mainly to assure access to Persian Gulf oil."

    No, you ignorant ass clown, we were there to maintain a stable supply of energy to the GLOBAL economy, of which the US is a part and of which the entire planet benefits. Putin is positioning Russia to take over that role, in partnership with Iran.

    Our leaders talk. Putin does. Our leaders react...barely...poorly.

    Checkmate, Putin.

    Today we have fewer allies, who have less respect for us than ever, while our enemies must be laughing their asses off at Barack Hussein 0bama.

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