The situation in Syria should be a cautionary tale for the upcoming presidential election. Voters should do their due diligence in vetting the candidates’ foreign policy experience. That obviously didn’t happen when it came to Barack Obama, whose resume was not only thin on the domestic front but practically non-existent when it came to understanding the intricacies of global affairs.
The same could be said for George W. Bush, whose flawed concepts led us far deeper into the Middle East morass than we ever should have gone despite the 2001 attack by terrorists. Not only did he not understand the dangers, he failed to grasp the agenda of his top advisers, which had more to do with the concerns of Israel than this country.
The so-called neo cons who held out the specter of atomic capability in the hands of Saddam Hussein sold him and his team a bill of goods that has resulted in a mess that with only a slight push could become a world conflict.
While Obama followed with campaign pledges about quickly extricating us from a long war, he obviously failed to understand the difficulty of that. Burned once, he steadfastly ignored warnings and allowed the situation in Syria to get completely out of hand. He now seems to watch almost helplessly as Vladimir Putin moves expansively into the vacuum, increasing the threat of a much wider conflict.
In the meantime, the Taliban is now on the verge of a major resurgence in Afghanistan. So much for the benefit of electing a freshman senator with only two years of experience in that August body, none of it of a nature to acquaint him with the troubles of the world. Much like his Republican predecessor, his foreign policy acumen and the policies it brought are disastrous.
If he still doesn’t know who he is dealing with when it comes to Putin, there are several not too difficult to understand resources that will give him some accurate insight. One is the book Red Notice, written by Bill Browder, who was one of the earliest financial wizards to venture into the Russian chaos following the fall of the Soviet Union. It is a frightening account of corruption and murder and deceit at the highest levels.
Browder grew up in the most liberal of intellectual households. His grandfather was Earl Browder, the chairman of the American Communist Party in the 30s and 40s and a presidential candidate several times. His father was a mathematical genius. To carve out a niche for himself, he decided to become a capitalist and was quite successful at it as he moved to outwit the Russian oligarchs and beat them at their own game. His fascinating report reads more like a mystery thriller and ends in a clear conclusion — Putin is a thug who manipulates those around him to undercut a lawful society for his and their benefits — and he presents plenty of evidence to support that.
The other required reading for Obama takes only a short time to digest. It is a column by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that appeared in the Oct. 9 Washington Post. They contend that Putin is protecting Russia’s Middle East interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. They predict that Putin and his Iranian ally will make a peace proposal once the military facts on the ground dictate that.
Rice and Gates offer three suggestions for the U.S. response to this, including rejecting the argument that Putin is “simply reacting to world disorder.” They argue that he merely sees “a vacuum created by our hesitancy” to engage in Libya and stay the course in Iraq. Second, we must create our own “facts on the ground” with no-fly zones and safe harbors for populations. Third, we must do all we can to “de-conflict” our military activities with the Russians. They even say Putin is concerned about physical confrontation with the United States.
It’s probably too late to hope for great diplomacy from this president. But a careful choice in the next election might save us a great deal of global agony.
Contact Mr. Thomasson at firstname.lastname@example.org.