Sunday, October 4, 2015

Syrians deserve better.

Russian planes, tanks and combat infantry troops have moved into Syria. Putin's boldness is being debated around the world, and his brazen style is being held up as a guide for a modern world leader. A brash decision to tackle a thorny situation that has confounded leaders across the globe.

But, on further review what is there to gain from such a daring, costly move? Whether the goal is to destroy the combat ability of the ISIL forces or to support a despotic, minority dictatorship there is no clear exit strategy. It is not a fight that can be won, at least not through invasion.

Even now thousands of Sunni Jihadist are flowing into Syria to counter the new threat. In many ways this could be the best recruiting tool the fledgling caliphate could have hoped for, the only move they would have appreciated more is America sending troops (thank you, Vladmir). As despicable as Assad is, and he is a brutally repressive Shiite minority leader, he is nothing compared to the foreign nationals who brought their jets, tanks and guns to prop him up.

Putin should have looked at the American experience in Iraq to see the scene list for this play. If that seems too remote to apply perhaps he should study the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Despite an overwhelming superiority in weaponry and a mutual border things did not proceed as planned.

This may not be the Mujahideen, but it is the same brand. And they will fight just as furiously. And Russian forces will be bogged down in protracted war against an enemy with no plans to engage in a set piece battle.

So, what does Putin have to gain? He can prop up Assad, but for how long, only a little bit longer than he is willing to stay, without Russian might there is little hope for the brutal despot.

Does he think all of that might is going to scare ISIS into a full scale retreat? Of course not, there is nothing in recent history that would support that conclusion. For all his weaknesses Putin is not stupid.

Is it just the need to intervene, and be a world power, that drove this decision. The same old game, on a different field, with a new opponent. The game that quit working years ago?  Sooner or later, there will be "peace with honor," and a hasty retreat. But how many will have to die before?

If Russia wants to be seen as part of the solution they will pressure Assad to step down. ISIS will only be defeated by an Arab solution. Rescuing a war criminal with a history of slaughtering Sunnis is not the solution the Syrians need. Syria is being destroyed from within, civilians, those that survive, are facing unimaginable nightmares. Democracy never comes from the barrel of a gun, no matter how large. As painful as it seems democracy is going to require distasteful compromise with unsavory people, that is how it always works.