Cold War redux?

By Sam Stevens

Staff Writer

Russia has taken the plate of the Middle East out of Washington’s hands.

Over the last couple months, President Vladimir Putin took steps to intervene in Syria, assisting the government of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian People’s Army to put down the ISIL led insurgency.

According to the Washington Post Russian forces launched cruise missiles into ISIS territory and sent in fighters to bomb insurgents. Thanks to Russian air support, the Syrian People’s Army launched an offensive.

U.S. government foreign policy toward the region is a record of total misunderstanding of the people of the Middle East and their governments. Neoconservative policy set by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama demanded that nations with no history of liberal democracy adopt it.

Liberal democracy took eight centuries to develop in the modern West, if we trace it back to the Magna Carta in 1215. Therefore, it is absurd to think the Middle East will transition to such a system in a matter of decades.

Putin recalled the Soviet Union’s similar policy of fomenting revolutions in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 28, “We also remember certain episodes from the history of the Soviet Union. Social experiments for export, attempts to push for changes within other countries based on ideological preferences, often led to tragic consequences and to degradation rather than progress.”

The refugee crisis resulting from the destabilization of the region has swamped European states. These same states’ social services are already in a poor state from the global recession.

Post-Soviet nations like Hungary and Poland do not close their borders to refugees out of irrational hatred. They simply cannot afford feeding, clothing, and housing tens of thousands of impoverished people.

Europe would not be in this situation had Washington stopped to consider the implications of overthrowing Assad, Gadhafi, and Saddam Hussein. They are men with poor human rights records, certainly, but in geopolitics we must abandon the good and evil dialectic.

If terrorism is to be stopped, policy makers need to set aside differences. They can work out other questions later.

No government is perfect. Putin had the Russian constitution rewritten to grant him more terms in office. President Obama extended the PATRIOT Act.

Washington claimed Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. According to The Telegraph and Wall Street Journal, there is strong evidence that he did. Yet, the Syrian President allowed Russia and the US to remove the chemical weapons.

Americans have nothing to lose by these developments. It is not the Cold War. Russia is not planning a “Red Dawn” style invasion. The United States can cooperate with Russia and other Arab states to bring stability to the region.

Rather than impose a vision on the Middle East, the U.S. government along with Russia can work out a plan that works in the best interest of the people of that region.

Russia is fighting ISIS, which has been the goal of the US for last year and a half. According to a New York Times article, instead of working with Russia, NATO moved missile systems into Turkey if Russian missiles or fighters move into Turkish airspace.

The United States government is playing a very dangerous game of brinksmanship with an ascendant Russia.

There is no doubt that many in the political class want a return to the Cold War, possibly to justify more interventions a la Iraq and Afghanistan.

The difference this time is that American leaders do not want to talk to Russia. Even during the Reagan administration, the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated.

Putin is not a perfect leader, but at least Russia is taking action to stabilize the Middle East. The least our leaders can do is try and find a compromise. The Allies came together after WWII under the U.N. to prevent another horrific world war. For 70 years, we have not had a major inter-state conflict.

I sincerely hope the Russian Federation and U.S. continue that tradition.

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