NOTE: I drafted this posting three days before the New York Times called Syria "a quagmire". It's always nice to get the jump on the NY Times. It's even better to get the reassurance that I'm not alone in perceiving Syria as I do. You can see the NYT piece at:
Mr. Putin’s Motives in Syria
"Clowns to the left of you. Jokers to your right." And you're stuck in the middle of Syria, Putin.
That's where you're headed. You're going to be in a mess in Syria, with no good way out.
This is what President Obama believes will happen if Putin insists on propping up Syria's hated dictator Aasad. As Pete Seeger used to sing during the Vietnam War when the U.S. was propping up one South Vietnam leader after another: "We're knee deep in the big muddy and the damn fool says to push on." But Syria won't be our big muddy. Per President Obama we are leaving that stupid position to Putin alone.
We are not going to fight Russia over Syria. We are not going to send in ground forces as long as Obama is president. (Hillary is another story on this point.) There's nothing in Syria's future that merits our intrusion. It's already rotten with ISIS versus Aasad and can't seem to pull together enough sane forces to rid itself of these demons.
With such a wobbly situation, if we send in weapons to anti-Aasad forces, how do we prevent them going to pro-ISIS groups? When we armed Afghans against Russia we created the Taliban.
Can't we be grown-up enough to let the Syrians figure out what to do by themselves? They won't have to put up for long with Russia hanging around helping Aasad because Russia has a lot of troubles of its own. Like Syria, its economy rests primarily on oil. Already drowning in the world's oil glut, Putin will have to realize that hanging on to his sort-of-satellite Syria, which has nothing to offer except oil, makes no sense. Once Russian soldiers start getting killed in Syria, the Russian people are going to blow a whistle.
Putin recently used aggression-by-proxy in the Ukraine and the Crimea, and the Russian people were delighted to be back in the empire game because it costs them no friends and relatives. And, golly, those two places were once part of the Soviet Empire. But Syria? What nostalgia can Russians drum up about Syria?
Better for Putin to do as China is doing: trim the military force and instead focus state funding on the burgeoning industry of the 21st century, i.e. developing equipment for non-fossil fuel generation. China now leads the world in solar panel production.
Oil is over, Putin. Yours and Syria's. You can't distract your people forever from their sinking economy by playing military big shot here and there. Further, we have a smart president who won't play into your game. You want to be a big shot in a stinking mess. Well, go right ahead, mister. You're like North Vietnam, desperate to immerse South Korea in the tottering make-believe of communism just in time to watch that train pull out of the station.
Yeah, that's a messy mixing of metaphors, but not as messy as your mess in Syria, Putin. Have fun with the clowns and the jokers. We will have the last laugh.
Let's be content to just let Putin be Putin.