Some in the U.S. claim we’re approaching a “civil war” of ideologies and ideas. But let’s not forget that some on this earth are struggling through a real civil war.
Anything less than the real thing is no comparison. Syria is a skeleton of its former self after six long brutal years of civil war. Now that conflict may worsen as Russia and the United States, long-time players in this war, are clashing over a Syrian warplane the U.S. shot down over the weekend.
Russia notably supports President Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian rebels in the struggle for power of the regime. Assad is an all-around terrible person, but then again, so is Russian President Vladimir Putin. He claims to support Assad because they are making a joint effort to fight ISIS. The United States’ stance is more nuanced, given the cacophony of factions vying for power. We don’t like Assad, but we’re not sure who could replace him.
The time for a moderate coalition to form and take power has long passed (thanks, Obama), and now lovers of stable government are left up the proverbial creek.
American forces have been careful to avoid full-scale intervention because there is no one to support. They’ve mostly relied on airstrikes, such as the one against a Syrian airbase in April in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. In Eastern Syria strategists worry that intervention is becoming inevitable, as the White House doesn’t seem to have much of a strategy at all.
We can only go without a strategy for so long.
Every time the U.S. makes a strike against Assad’s forces, intentional or otherwise, tensions between Moscow and Washington rise. On Monday, the Pentagon was working to re-establish the de-confliction line with Russia, which is typically “used to avoid unnecessary conflict and miscommunication in military movement.”
Russia is not taking this well. The Defense Ministry indicated that “all flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets.” They also demanded a full explanation of the incident.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford assured members of the press on Monday that he and his staff are working to settle things diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to de-escalate the tension.
Only time will tell whether Russia is truly committed to cooperate for good, or for evil, against ISIS.