Jackson Diehl doesn’t want the U.S. to cooperate with Russia on counter-terrorism:
Far from being a partner in counterterrorism, Vladimir Putin is one of the larger sources of the problem.
Does Diehl normally believe that governments that have repressive and coercive policies radicalize people and produce violent resistance against them? Only when those governments aren’t on “our” side. He would not describe the many other authoritarian client regimes that provide counter-terrorism assistance to the U.S. in this way, and I doubt he would ever argue against cooperating with these governments because they are authoritarian and abusive. The main problem for Diehl here isn’t that Russia’s government is an authoritarian one. Despite some similarities, he would never call the Indian government’s rule in Kashmir as “one of the larger sources” of Pakistan-based jihadism focused on Kashmir. Of course, India does provide valuable assistance to the U.S. on counter-terrorism despite the brutality that has accompanied its suppression of separatist groups in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Diehl isn’t consistently opposed to cooperating with governments that crush separatists and rebels. When a U.S. client or ally faces a violent insurgency, the U.S. normally not only continues to support that client’s suppression of the uprising, but often treats the insurgents as terrorists. At least some of the time, that treatment may be justified. This has been U.S. policy in the Philippines for over a decade.
Diehl’s argument would be a lot more credible if it weren’t being made mainly to score points in the Syria debate. It’s obviously true that the U.S. sometimes picks and chooses which violent and radical groups it chooses to treat as terrorists and which it chooses to support as “freedom fighters,” and it’s also true that hawkish interventionists outside government do this even more often than the government itself. Indeed, Diehl wants the U.S. to do more of the latter in Syria despite the acknowledged involvement of jihadist groups in the opposition. He doesn’t like it when anyone draws attention to the double standard at work here. If one wants to make the argument that the U.S. shouldn’t cooperate with abusive regimes on security issues, that is a debate worth having. That isn’t want Diehl is arguing. He is rejecting the existence of common U.S.-Russian interests in security cooperation because it makes it harder to justify getting the U.S. into another war. That is an absurd position to take.