Thursday, October 15, 2015

Defending Russia in Syria

I don't agree with this article, but I am glad that someone is making the argument. Smith is right that Russia was invited to assist the secular government of Syria to fight against religious extremists. There are two problems with that argument, one is that the Assad regime may be secular, but it is pretty monstrous. So if you care about human rights beyond mere secularism, there's a problem with being Assad's muscle, which is what Russian policy seems to be.

Also, Smith overlooks the key fact that Russia is not just fighting along side Assad's forces against religious extremists. Putin and Assad are fighting anyone who opposes Assad, which includes the secular opposition (a shrinking group but I'm not convinced that they are entirely gone).

Smith tries to get around this by denying the existence of the Syrian Arab Coalition, apparently because of its name:
The fiction that moderates lurk somewhere continues. Out of the blue, they are now called “the Syrian Arab Coalition,” a moniker that reeks of the corridors in Langley, Virginia, if you ask me.
Why does that name "reek of the corridors in Langley" (referring to the headquarters of the CIA)? Is "Syrian Arab Coalition" all that different from "Syrian Arab Republic" (الجمهورية العربية السورية), the official name of the country we call "Syria"? And if the CIA were to create an imaginary idealized group of rebels for the U.S. to support, why would they use a name that overtly excludes the Kurds?

Still, Russia's decision to overtly back Assad makes more sense than most American media sources portray. A while ago, I tossed out the idea of U.S allying with Assad to fight ISIS, a sort of team-up to fight a common enemy as the greater evil. Smith's argument is similar to that, but not really the same. Instead, Russia is bombing the U.S. backed rebels under the guise of fighting ISIS.