The American political right has a new hero — Vladimir Putin!
Andrew Sullivan MUSES on the latest developments regarding the Syrian situation:
President Putin’s op-ed in the NYT today is fantastic. It’s a virtual end-zone twerk, as this botoxed former KGB hack brags about restoring a more peaceful world order, basks in the relatively new concept of Russia’s global stature, asserts obvious untruths – such as the idea that the rebels were behind the chemical attack of August 21 or that they are now targeting Israel – and generally preens.
Good. And whatever the American president can do to keep Putin in this triumphant mood the better. [Fox News boss] Roger Ailes was right. If the end-result is that Putin effectively gains responsibility and control over the civil war in Syria, then we should be willing to praise him to the skies. Praise him, just as the far right praises him, for his mastery of power politics – compared with that ninny weakling Obama. Encourage him to think this is a personal and national triumph even more than he does today. Don’t just allow him to seize the limelight – keep that light focused directly on him. If that also requires dumping all over the American president, calling him weak and useless and incapable of matching the chess master from Russia, so be it. Obama can take it. He’s gotten used to being a pinata.
All this apparent national humiliation is worth it. The price Russia will pay for this triumph is ownership of the problem. At some point, it may dawn on him that he hasn’t played Obama. Obama has played him.
[T]he upshot right now – so far as I can see – is that Russia and not America now owns this conflict. It is Putin who is on the hook now – and the more Putin brags about his diplomatic achievement the more entrenched his responsibility for its success will become. And that is perfectly in line with Russia’s core interests: Putin is much closer to Syria than we are; he must be scared shitless of Sunni Jihadists who now loathe him and Russia more than even the Great Satan getting control of WMDs. Those chemical weapons could show up in Dagestan or Chechnya or the Moscow subway. It is Putin – and not Obama – who is therefore much more firmly stuck between the Sunnis and the Shia in Syria – not to speak of the Christians.
Of course, this argument only makes sense if you don’t believe the US is best served by being responsible for the entire Middle East, and by being the only major power seriously invested there. If your goal is US global hegemony, this was a very bad week. But if your goal is to avoid the catastrophe that occurred in Iraq, to focus on the much more important foreign policy area, Asia, and to execute vital domestic goals such as immigration reform and entrenching universal healthcare … then the result looks pretty damn good. Or at least perfectly good enough.
So when the inevitable cries of “Who lost the Middle East?” are raised by the neocon chorus, one obvious retort remains. Of all the regions in the world, wouldn’t the Middle East be a wonderful one to lose? You want it, Vladimir? Be our guest.