Obama Bets Ranch on Weak Syrian Hand; Putin Calls
show comments
  • thibaud

    When Mead starts piling on the adjectives, look out. The noise-signal’s ratio is about to go through the roof.

    The same man who today castigates the administration’s “fumbling,” “short-sightedness” and “shoot-from-the-lip” style was just a few weeks ago fumbling myopically and shooting from the lip himself re. Russia’s interests and calculations:


    Mead on June 3 [emphasis added]:

    “Putin and his Orthodox allies aren’t resisting the West because its commitment to democracy and pluralism is too strong. They are resisting the West in Syria _because they believe that the western commitment to Syria’s minorities is pathetically weak_.”

    /end excerpt

    This ludicrous analysis shows that for Mead, the Syrian conflict is a game, a pretext for claiming that Putin is strong and Obama’s weak.

    The weak hand here is of course Putin’s. As has been pointed out by Fouad Ajami and other analysts who, unlike Mead, actually know something about both Syria and Russia, the fundamental calculus for Putin is fear of the Libyan precedent. Putin and his entourage are terrified of western support for a wave of uprisings against authoritarian regimes, period.

    This is why Putin’s goons are now breaking into people’s houses in Moscow, searching for signs of “dissent,” tapping phones and in some cases simply burglarizing their houses. Russian expats are now striving to get their money and families out of Russia, reversing a mini-trend in which a trickle of expats was beginning to relocate to Moscow.

    Putin is terrified. Mead is, as so often happens wrt Russia, being played.

  • “Thanks to White House fumbling, Russia has been able to create a situation in which the Obama administration looks weak and ineffectual”

    No, thanks to the fact that the administration IS weak and ineffectual, Putin has been able to show that to the world.

  • 698uy08y9u8

    “But thanks to Washington’s strategic shortsightedness, shoot-from-the-lip leadership style and moral posturing over Syria, the Obama administration has given Moscow its best opportunity since the fall of the Soviet Union to reinsert itself back into the Middle East.”

    What exactly did Obama do wrong? How does that give Moscow an opportunity? What should Obama have done instead?


  • 698uy08y9u8

    “When Mead starts piling on the adjectives, look out. The noise-signal’s ratio is about to go through the roof.”

    When Mead starts piling on the adjectives, you can assume the post was written by an intern.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “Russia has been able to create a situation in which the Obama administration looks weak and ineffectual.”

    Ha Ha, I see someone else 2. Stephen M. St. Onge has jumped on the same quote that I have. It’s not an illusion, Obama is weak and ineffectual, so Putin doesn’t have to do much of anything to highlight the fact.

  • thibaud

    “What exactly did Obama do wrong? How does that give Moscow an opportunity? What should Obama have done instead?”

    Bingo. Mr Mead is way out of his depth here, and really should leave discussion of this to others who bring more knowledge and less excitability and spleen to the matter.

  • thibaud

    Mead on Putin = blogosphere’s version of Walter Duranty

  • vanderleun

    “When Mead starts piling on the adjectives, you can assume the post was written by an intern.”

    A convenient assumption, but often if not always wrong.

  • Kris

    “Obama Bets Ranch on Weak Syrian Hand; Putin Calls”

    Oh my! Three o’clock already?! 🙂

    @3: “What exactly did Obama do wrong? How does that give Moscow an opportunity?”

    The Administration has been talking awful big about Syria, while seemingly not being willing to do much about it. That allows Russia to become actively involved in Syria and to expose the Administration’s words as mere bluster.

    Seems simple to me.

  • gracepmc

    The Obama administration does not just look weak and ineffectual it is weak and ineffectual. Agree with St. Onge and JL.

  • People seem at a loss to understand Putin’s actions in moving anti-missile and anti-aircraft defenses to Syria. Is he empire-building? Re-starting the Cold War?

    I think there’s another reason, one that is both simpler and makes more sense than either of those.

    Islamist terror is of more moment to Putin than to America. Dealing with it is not just some R2P based on Western mores. Islam is his entire southern border – thousands of kilometers – and a good part of his Central Asian population.

    Sunni Arabs have been killing Shia Persians for 1400 years. The only intelligent response to Syria (or any other intra-muslim violence) is to let it play-out; they want to keep killing one another as they have been for centuries – let them. Putin is just ensuring no one stops the bloodletting. Kinda like no one stopped the Iran-Iraq war through an entire decade and a million lives. The more muslims killed by other muslims (most muslims killed throughout the ages have been killed by other muslims), the fewer he need worry about attacking Russia. That’s a problem?

    (And unless you are willing to sacrifice your OWN child to this mess, you don’t care enough to DO anything about it other than talk and demand someone ELSE sacrifice THEIR child.)

    But – what, you may ask, about the women & children?

    You mean the children having bombs strapped to their backs by the women who are their mothers? The children being raised by those same women to be killers based on religion? The children growing up to strap on their own bombs? Is that the question?

    Just checking…

    One can look at the 20th Century as a century of America getting in the way of natural selection between nations, to the detriment of hundreds of millions. Had Britain let Germany take Belgium & France in 1914, and had America been smart enough to stay out (the policy on which Wilson was elected), a case can be made that none of the following could have occurred: the USSR (strong Germany on its western flank preventing it), the famine/show trials/purges, WW2 ETO, the Holocaust, the PRC, Cultural Revolution, Great Leap Forward, Korean War, DPRK, French Indochina/Vietnam, French Algeria, destruction by the West of the Ottoman Empire (which would have collapsed on its own without America & Britain to blame), no France refuge for Khomeini, no Islamic Republic in Iran, no Gulf I, no Gulf-II/Iraq, no Afghanistan, no 9/11… And the only losses would have been Belgium and France as independent nations. Well, Belgians have been unable to create a government for two years, right? And France just voted to go bankrupt… So France and Belgium really don’t exist as independent states anyway, right? Belgium waddles along supported by the EU, and France, well, we’ll need to see if the Franco-Prussian wars now re-start based on the willingness of Germans to work until they are 67 to pay the retirement bills of the French now again retiring at 60…

    We could have accomplished this same result a CENTURY ago far more easily… just by letting natural selection play out.

    Net of our interference? 20th Century American interference in other peoples’ wars cost over 200M lives, and trillions of taxpayer dollars in the unintended consequences of our using our manufacturing might and wealth to impose our values on others.

    A big “Thank YOU!” to our first Progressive, Academic, Know-it-All president, Woodrow Wilson (D). Rasing an army of millions and sending them to europe to kill and get killed – and bequeathing the bloody 20th Century on his successors and the world, all because a German telegram to Mexico was intercepted asking Mexico to invade the US.

    Maybe Putin is just smarter than a West that demands to pretend that the entire world accepts Western norms…

    … What will Obama pretend?

  • Jim.

    Was this what happened to the Jews in the 30’s, then? Everyone too busy scoring points off of the situation to do anything effective about the atrocity that was about to committed?

    So guys, what exactly is the US doing to help Syrian minorities in this situation?


    Anything at all?

    I stand by my earlier assertion — this entire Arab Spring has the potential to unleash a wave of Islamicist ethnic cleansing against Christians, with a massacre that would surpass the Holocaust. Anyone out there that’s ever said “NEVER AGAIN”, this is your chance to shine.


    Anything at all?

    We fought to prevent that against Muslims in Kosovo and won; we ignored what was going on against Christians in Iraq and they were wiped out. All it took was for us to be silent. Well, the Leftists weren’t silent, but they sure didn’t have anything effective to say.

    Putin’s motives are sure as [heck] not pure as the driven snow. But to look at the posters here — on the Left, defending Obama’s inaction (or ignoring it), and on the Right, taking cheap shots at the administration without any recognition of what’s at stake. It’s a disgrace.

    At least Putin’s words and actions have the potential to make some sort of difference, which is more than can be said of anyone here.


  • john haskell

    Yeltsin dispatched troops to Pristina Airport, and it was in 1999, other than that you got everything right.

  • Vincent Mohan

    What makes you think Putin cares about his image, either at home or abroad? He is the direct descendant of the Czars and Commissars, and, as such, is only interested in himself.

  • Kris

    [email protected]: “So guys, what exactly is the US doing to help Syrian minorities in this situation?”

    Syria is a dictatorship, with the rulers coming from the Alawite minority. They have brutally oppressed the majority, with the other minorities being either acquiescent or complicit. Now it is certainly reasonable for those minorities to be concerned about the majority gaining power, but the minorities cannot claim the moral high ground.

  • QET

    @thibaud–you are missing WRM’s point; deliberately, I think. What we have here is a pretty garden variety incident of international power politics, and in the responses are many expressions of what used to be called realism (maybe still is). Stuff like this, and not climate conferences in Copenhagen of G-20 meetings wherever, is the stuff of international politics is and always has been about. And Obama descended on the nation like the Holy Ghost on Pentecost proclaiming that in his kingdom, all would be different, that he and he alone had the power to “reset” relations with Russia and everyone else, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in advance in recognition of his special gifts. Yet here we have people being massacred by one government, and another sending in its storm troops, and Obama appears powerless to do anything about it. If we’d wanted this level of incompetence we could’ve just elected a Republican, right?

  • Jim.


    The thing about minorities- there are frequently more than one of them. Christians are definitely a minority in Syria, and they are also definitely not the dominant minority.

    Is your attitude really “those who support an unpopular government for fear of the majority just have to take their chances”? Would you have said the same about Weimar?

  • QET

    On the other hand, I confess that until just now I had no idea of the power of insurance.

  • Kris

    [email protected]: “Would you have said the same about Weimar?”

    Surely you’re not comparing Weimar and the Ba’ath? That is simply senseless (as opposed to your previous invocation of the Holocaust, which seems merely highly exaggerated).

    Going back to your original point, you can take it as given that I wish the Syrian Christians to survive and even prosper. What’s your plan?

  • Ali

    Adonis you are so far off base, you’re not even really in the game. Yes, the Golan Heights were cprauted in the Six Day War in 1967, after years of shelling of the Galil by the Syrians, and only a few days into the war did Israel respond to Syria’s one-sided war in defense of the farmers who could not safely till their fields. Ergo the Golan Heights were cprauted in a defensive war. Regarding peace if Syria ever has a peaceful, long-lasting, relationship with another neighboring country, Israel should then maybe reconsider negotiating on its own terms.Kennedy Carter’s access to data and his traveling experience do not lead to the conclusion that he has any grasp on international relations. He continues to make a fool of himself with his misguided, nay harmful, quixotic ventures around the world. He is wrong, time and again, so regardless of his experience and access to data, I posit he has no relevant grasp on international relations whatsoever.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.