James Poulos repeats a flawed interpretation of Russia’s recent moves to support the Syrian government:
Russian military equipment and personnel are flowing into Syria — signaling a fresh humiliation for America.
It’s not true that the U.S. is being humiliated by Russian actions, but the more important point is that increased Russian intervention in Syria is a mistake that will impose additional costs on Russia at no expense to the U.S. It is not really a bad thing for the U.S. if another major power chooses to blunder and allow itself to be pulled into an unnecessary conflict. Regardless, the impact of this expanded Russian involvement in Syria is already being exaggerated, and it is very likely that Russia’s direct role in the conflict will remain quite limited. To believe that the U.S. is being “humiliated” by a Russian miscalculation, one would also have to believe that Russia has been humiliated by ill-advised Western interventions in the region, and that is not the case.
By funneling in forces, Vladimir Putin isn’t just embarrassing us, or capitalizing on our mistakes. He’s creating an opportunity for others around the world to spring unwelcome surprises of their own.
How exactly is Putin creating this “opportunity”? Which “others” are likely to take advantage of the supposed opportunity that is being created? This is an exceedingly vague and unfounded argument, and it is trying to play on the ingrained instinct of many Americans to assume that if another major power is mucking about in a foreign conflict then the U.S. has to follow suit or risk being seen as “weak.” Poulos mentions the Chinese, Turks, and Israelis as those that might exploit the situation, but in none of these cases has deeper Russian involvement in Syria made any discernible ifference. Whatever China has been doing in the South China Sea, it has done and will continue to do with no regard for what is or isn’t happening in Syria. Turkey was always very likely to pursue its vendetta against Kurdish forces no matter what anyone else did or didn’t do, and this is clear from the fact that Turkey has been bombing Kurdish targets for weeks while feigning concern over ISIS.
Poulos warns about a “wave of revisionism against our interest,” but never spells out what U.S. interests are actually being jeopardized or undermined by that so-called wave. He says that Russia is “expanding its influence at our expense,” but never demonstrates that the U.S. has lost anything. The U.S. can hardly lose influence in Syria that it never had, and it is foolish to think that a misguided Russian policy is a setback for America.