The Syrian Civil War continues to hold the attention of the international media like few other stories, yet the more than five-year long conflict is important to the world for two major reasons. First, the Syrian Civil War demonstrates the impotence of the International Community. Not only has the toothless United Nations failed to broker peace between warring parties in Syria, the strength of the United States and other major military powers has been rendered useless due to the strategic need to avoid entanglement and mission creep. Above all, the Syrian Civil War is not just a war; it is the conflict that has drawn the most attention in the Arab Spring Revolutions-era Middle East, thus the failures in Syria are symbolic of the failures seen across the region.
Second, the Syrian Civil War is a proxy war between Russia and the United States. The ongoing Ukraine Crisis is also a proxy war between Russia and the United States, but Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to make the Middle Eastern struggle into a proxy war when he intervened on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the fall of 2015. Hoping to capitalize on the Islamic State threat, it appeared Putin’s strategic goal was to force the United States and Europe to choose between the defense of Ukrainian sovereignty and the threat of terrorism. Instead of bogging down NATO forces in Syria and reversing punitive measures against Putin, the West has chosen to maintain the status quo, which has meant disaster for the Syrian People.
When the victims of conflicts like the Syrian Civil War plead for help from the International Community, particularly the United States, they reveal themselves as desperate souls in need of a superhero. To many, the US is not just a country. It is a symbol of strength, prosperity, and hope. Because the US is a flawed nation with limited strength, it often falls short of expectations. The US is not a superhero. For this reason, many others resent the United States to the point they see US influence as a top threat. Under the patriotic mindset of men like Russian President Vladimir Putin, the US is the greatest threat to the nation of Russia. For this reason, the suffering of the Syrian People is an easy sacrifice in his efforts to subdue the United States.
In many respects, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad are holding the Syrian People hostage. Al-Assad would rather raze all of Syria and kill all the Syrian People than relinquish control, because he and his cohorts believe Syria is lost without the Assad regime. Putin would rather bomb Syria into rumble than withdraw, because he will not leave a terrorist threat to Russia intact nor will he allow the US to gain influence over Syria. To Putin and Assad, the lives of the Syrian People are irrelevant. It is Syria as a nation-state that matters to these two patriotic authoritarians. Because the wellbeing of the Syria People does matter to the Peoples of the International Community, the US and its allies are under pressure to make strategic mistakes.
With that in mind, the United States officially recognizes the Islamic State as the greatest threat in Syria to US national security interests. In accordance, it is allegedly supporting anti-Assad rebel forces to fight the Islamic State. If the Islamic State was destroyed today, however, another group would immediately take its place. Fighting the Islamic State in war-torn Syria is like washing dishes in the middle of a house fire. Unless the US, its European allies, and Middle Eastern allies can establish common objectives with Russia to address its counterproductive military campaign in Syria, the status quo is the best case scenario. This means the ultimate outcome is likely the failure of the Syrian-state and the creation of a terrorist safe haven.
Considering Putin’s efforts to reorganize his government and recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine over alleged Ukrainian-sponsored terrorism in Russian-seized Crimea, as well as suspected Russian involved in the DNC hack and the Shadow Brokers attack, the Russian President appears to feel threatened enough to lash out against perceived threats. While the 2016 US Presidential Campaign largely neuters President Obama’s options to resolve US-Russian grievances, his lack of options does put him in a position to stand his ground and bluntly confront Putin for his wrongdoing. Putin faces uncertainty that could either be detrimental or fortuitous to his agenda, which means it is time to force Putin’s hand by bluntly confronting him.
Read old posts