Ooo, see the fire is sweeping
My very street today;
Burns like a red-coal carpet:
Mad bull, lost its way
Oh, children; it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away…
The Rolling Stones, from, “Gimme Shelter”
Let me ask you something: if you had only recently wrapped up 24 years at the U.S. Army War College, finishing as Professor of National Security Studies; if you held a B.A. in Russian History from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Russian History from the University of Chicago, and were a recognized expert in defense strategy, arms control and Russia and the post-Soviet space…wouldn’t you think you could be expected to actually know something about Russia?
Dr. Stephen Blank of the Atlantic Council comes admirably credentialed, and doesn’t look crazy in his picture. But his analysis of what Russia – which he at least does not refer to as “Putin”, as if Russia’s real name were “Putinland” or something – is really up to in Syria reads as if it were written by Masha Gessen on Psilocybin. The implication that we are all being hoodwinked – gadzooks! – by the devilishly-clever former KGB man from St Petersburg is so clear that Newsweek reprinted the article under the title, “The Real Reason Putin is Sending Troops to Syria”.
Newsweek – typically, I have to say – got it wrong before they got past the title: “Putin” is, in fact, not “sending troops to Syria” at all, and indeed ruled it out just last week: you would think a publication which considers itself a “newsmagazine” could manage to go more than a week without forgetting everything that happened the week before. I’m afraid this attempt just looks like stupid laziness. But Dr. Blank himself does not get much further before jumping the rails, characterizing something as both “predictable” and “a surprise” in the first sentence. Unless he meant Russia’s intervention in Syria was predictably a surprise to the west because it is so terminally dozy it is completely oblivious to everything going on around it, a sort of Buster Bluth nation. And if so, dash it all, that’s just unpatriotic.
The west cannot wait, Mr. Blank tells us, to address Russia’s larger strategy, even though the west does not know what it is. Just do something, damn it, and we’ll figure out the details later. Can you think of a time or two in the past where an approach like that got the United States in trouble? So can I. Continue reading