The Guns of October
The land of Syria is a hellscape. A desert ruin, a blasted place where fundamentalists clash with fascists as major powers—America, Russia, Turkey, Israel—drop bombs.
After a U.S.-brokered cease-fire collapsed in recriminations, Washington responded by saying it wouldn’t talk to Moscow about the war. Then Moscow announced its intention to pull out of a nuclear agreement with Washington, and moved an advanced anti-aircraft system into Syria. President Obama sought a “Plan B” (good luck with that). Meanwhile, at the vice presidential debate, both Tim Kaine and Mike Pence called for humanitarian “safe zones” protected by U.S. forces.
Where does this end? The Russian objective is clear. Vladimir Putin wants to rescue Bashar Assad, preserve access to warm-water ports, embarrass America, and become a player in the Middle East.
What is less certain is America’s objective. We want to destroy ISIS. And we say we want Assad out—though how that can be accomplished at this point without risking open war with Russia is unknown. As is who rules a divided, ravaged Syria after the total collapse of its government.
We are flying blind. And the problem is much larger than the Middle East. A rudderless America, in a moment of transition, is heedlessly reacting to events rather than influencing them. What Halford Mackinder dubbed the world-island of Eurasia is ringed by wars both hot and cold—from the Baltics to the Donbas, across the Shiite crescent, along the Indo-Pakistani border, through the South and East China Seas.
Putin tests NATO, fuels guerilla war in Ukraine, and pummels Aleppo. Turks fight ISIS and Kurds. America fights ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Iran sends aid to Hezbollah, militias to Syria, and swift boats to the Straits of Hormuz. India and Pakistan battle over Kashmir. Americans fight in Afghanistan. China builds its forces in the Pacific. North Korea flirts with nuclear war.
This planet is laced with dynamite. Only one spark is necessary to light it up. And the chances of miscalculation are immense.